Chapter VI. The Service, by Thomas Hughes Milner
CHAPTER VI. THE SERVICE.
We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 28, 29.
We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 28, 29.
- THE Scriptures contain quite a variety of terms expressive of the Christian service in its numerous relations and aspects. There is doulos, a slave or servant; there is diakonos, a servant, attendant, or minister; there is hypeeretees, a servant or officer; there is oikonomos, a steward; there is latris, a hired servant; there is litourgos, a public servant. The first two are of far the most recent frequent occurrence. They and all the rest are applied to all believers, which, of course, shews that whatever variety of service there be in the Christian ecclesia, and whatever the particular duties in which the faithful individually serve, they unitedly constitute the Christian ministry. It proves that the ministry does not consist in a class of persons in the Church: it demonstrates that every Christian is a Christian minister. This will appear abundantly evident as we proceed.
- The word doulos, slave or servant, being applied to all disciples, proves their common standing in relation to Jesus the Christ as their one Lord. This term is of so general application that it refers to all the relations of life, and yet from it the most express argument for the sole supremacy of the Messiah, and the unequivocal submission of all who call him Lord are thoughts plainly made out from its use in Scripture. He that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord’s freeman; likewise, also, he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant or slave. Ye are bought with a price: be not ye the servants of men, 1 Cor. vii. 22, 23. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart; with goodwill doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that of the Lord shall ye receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ, Col. iii. 22-24. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven, Col. iv. 1.
- In the foregoing quotations the term is employed in reference to the servitude of Christians to their fellowmen, and shews that whether master or servant, the disciple is the doulos of Christ the Lord. But in those following we have it in application to the more immediate service of the Master. In Acts xx. 19, Paul, referring to the manner in which he had fulfilled the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus, describes himself as serving the Lord with all humility of mind. In Rom. i. 1, he (as do the other apostles) calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.” In Rom. xiv. 17, naming the characteristics of the reign of God as righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, he adds: “for he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God.” In Phil. ii. 22, he speaks of Timothy “as a son with the father, serving with him in the gospel.” In 1 Thess. i. 9, he reminds the Thessalonians that on their conversion “they turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.” And the Saviour, in Matt. xxiv. 42-51, warns the disciples to watchfulness in his absence, and describes that as the faithful and wise servant who watches against robbery, and gives to each his meal in due season, in contrast with the evil servant who says, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” And in chap. xxv. 14-30, he likens the kingdom to a man travelling into a far country, who previously called his servants and delivered to them his goods, giving to one five talents, to another two, and to a third one, according to ability; then returning and reckoning with the servants, rewarding and punishing them according to their works. So far, then, as this epithet is concerned, it includes all the faithful in all their relationships and duties.
- So is it with diakonos, from which our word deacon is derived; but it will be immediately seen that the diakonia of the New Testament is not at all that restricted service which the deaconship of modern churches would imply. Our translators have rendered diakonos by the three words, servant, minister, and deacon. Why they have given the latter word in Phil. i. 1, and in 1 Tim. iii. 8, 12, instead of servant or minister, as elsewhere, there is no reason. That more than one particular class of servants is meant in these passages, is unquestionable. Suppose Paul so invidious as to name the overseers and table-servers, leaving out of mention the preachers and teachers who were in the diakonia as well as the others! The scope of this word will appear from the following examples. Matt. viii. 15, Jesus touched the sick woman’s hand, and she arose and ministered unto them. Matt. xxvii. 55, Many women were there beholding afar off, who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him. Luke viii. 3, Johanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and many others, who ministered to him of their substance. Luke x. 40, Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Jesus and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? The primitive use of this word among the disciples, as with others, was expressive of the rendering of temporal, substantial service. On the constitution of the Church at Jerusalem the contribution of substance was so large and general that the brethren “had all things common,” which led to “the daily ministration.” This, pressing on the time of the apostles, they said, It is not meet that we should leave the word of God and serve tables; wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of spirit and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word. Here the diakonia branches out in a twofold direction, one comprising the ministry of the table, and the other that of the word.
- 1 Cor. xii. 5 says there are differences of administrations, diakonion or ministries. Though beginning with temporalities, it is not confined to them. In 2 Cor. iii. 6-9 it is applied specifically to the entire Christian institution as the ministry of the Spirit, and of righteousness in contrast with the old economy, which was the diakonia of death and condemnation. In this context the apostolic ministry is designated the diakonia of the new institution, and in 2 Cor. v. 18 the ministry of reconciliation; in Acts xx. 24, that of the gospel. Eph. iv. 12 intimates the giving of apostles, prophets, &c., to have been for the adapting of the saints for the work of the ministry. In 1 Cor. xvi. 16 Paul commends the house of Stephanas to the acknowledgment of the brethren, as having addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11 reminds the brethren, that as every man has received a gift, they are to minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; that he that ministers is to do it as of the ability that God gives, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ. And the Saviour also repeatedly employed this term in explanation of the principles of ministry, which were to obtain under his sanction and example. “If,” says he, “any man will serve me let him follow me, and where I am there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour,” John xii. 26, 27. “Whosever will be great among you (my disciples), let him be your minister (diakonos), and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (doulos), even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” Matt. xx. 26-28. This term, then, like the previous, covers the whole Christian service, including that of the Messiah, his apostles, their coadjutors, and the brethren generally, alike in the ministration of their substance one to another, and in their individual and united labours for the edifying of the body and the spread of the gospel.
- None of the other terms is of such frequent occurrence, yet the same communion of ministry is evident from them. Hypeeretees is said to be a more official word. Of military extraction, it denoted those under command or in office, and the mention of both douloi and hypeeretoi––”servants and officers”––in John xviii. 18 indicates this distinction, but in the Christian use of the term the difference is manifestly dropped. Luke i. 2 describes the apostles as eye-witnesses and hypeeretoi––ministers of the word. 1 Cor. i. 1 calls them hypeeretoi of Christ, evidently because the same term was used by the Saviour in giving Saul his commission as recorded in Acts xxvi. 16. John Mark is in Acts xiii. 5 called hypeeretees, i.e., attendant or minister to Paul and Barnabas. In Acts xxvi. 34 Paul says his own hands ministered to his own necessities, and to those who were with him––not a very official ministry, certainly. Felix commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and to forbid none of his acquaintance to minister to him, Acts xxiv. 23. Thus even this very official term is witness to the fellowship of ministry obtaining in the ecclesia of Christ.
- We have already seen that oikonomos––steward, is no exception to the rule, for while 1 Cor. iv. 1 calls the apostles the ‘stewards of the mysteries,” 1 Pet. iv. 10 designates all the brethren as ‘stewards of the manifold favours of God.” It is required of stewards that they be found faithful. This was in effect the answer that the Saviour gave Peter, when, having delivered the parable of the absent lord, that disciple asked whether it was addressed to all; for said Jesus, The faithful and wise steward, is he who gives to each his portion in due season; adding, Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh, shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But, and if that servant say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming; and he shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
- It is remarkable as shewing the free character of the Christian service that latris, a hired servant, is found in Scripture only in the form of the substantive latria, service, and the verb latruo, to serve, and never with regard to Christians, except as respects the service of God. They are never spoken of as hired by men for this service. It is itself a hired service in the best sense of the word, that is to say the disciples are bought with a price––they are redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ; and, therefore, as in Rom. xii. 1, they are besought to consecrate themselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, as their reasonable service. Zecharias, speaking by the Holy Spirit of the visitation and redemption of Israel in the advent of Jesus, speaks of being thereby delivered in order to serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, Luke i. 67-75. The service thus indicated engrosses the idea of worship, and the word is so rendered in Acts vii. 42; xxiv. 14; Phil. iii. 3; and Heb. x. 2. When Paul said to the brethren, We are the circumcision who worship God in spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, he contrasted the “divine service” of the faith with that of the law. The former service did not perfect the worshippers; their conscience remained unpurged from sin: in contrast therewith, the apostle says, that the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, Heb. ix. 1-14; x. 1-10. It is this same word which the apostle uses in conclusion of his argument––Therefore, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire. It is that word also which is employed in Rev. vii. 15, respecting the heavenly and eternal service of those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, who are therefore before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple, and among whom he who sits upon the throne for ever dwells; so that they hunger no more, nor thirst any more, neither find the sun light upon them, nor any heat, for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. The service indicated by this word is what is commonly called “religious” or “divine,” and, as we have just seen, the participators in it are those redeemed by the blood of Christ, having their consciences purged from sin expressly in order to the fulfilling of it. To hire men into it otherwise is altogether to profane it. The redeemed alone participate in it. It is their peculiar service.
- A litourgos or public servant of God is the Messiah who, in Heb. viii. 2, is called a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man. In Rom. xv. 16, Paul calls himself “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.” With himself he associates Epaphroditus, calling him, in Phil. ii. 15-30, his brother and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, but the messenger of the Philippians, and he that ministered to his wants. For the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply their lack of service toward the apostle. Paul besought them to hold forth the word of life that he might rejoice in the day of Christ, that he had not run in vain, neither laboured in vain, insomuch that if offered on the sacrifice and service of their faith he rejoiced with them all. To the disciples in Corinth, he said that the ministration of the service of their contributions supplied the wants of the saints, and caused abundant thanksgiving to God. So that from the Messiah down to the humblest of his followers, there is a fellowship in the Christian litourgia, vastly different, however, from that of the modern liturgy.
- Thus, by every term of ministry found in the word, the communion of all of the Lord’s people in his service is fully established. Doulos declares the Christian the servant of Christ, not of men; diakonos shews that the sisters as well as the brethren are ministers in the Christian sense of the word; hypeeretees is applied to all the brethren who ministered to Paul in his imprisonment; oikonomos points out every disciple as a steward of the favours of God; latris points out that the Saviour has purchased his people to himself with his Father’s service; and litourgos signifies the participation of the faithful in the acceptable service by their works of faith and labours of love, wherein they minister one to another.
- The Christian service is free and voluntary. It is not fixed, limited, and ruled by laws of human imposition. “If there be first a willing mind it is accepted.” But under human government of service, this principle is ignored. The law of human domination is––Though there be a willing mind, it is not accepted unless the person willing to serve subject his will to the rule of other men. Obstacles meet him at every turn by the laws which they have ordained for the regulation of ministry. Mere dissent from a church established by the state does not constitute men voluntaries in the true and scriptural sense of the term. There may be as much fettering of willing effort by the ecclesiastical rules of dissent, as by those of a church established by the state. Voluntaryism as commonly understood is a mere party cry. Certainly a church regulated by state law is a bond one, but it follows not hence, that congregations ruled by the legislation of dissent are free. True freedom is that emancipation with which the truth enfranchises. This is to be had alone in him who is at once the embodiment of the truth, the way to God, and the life of man. Said he, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free––and if the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed. True liberty is this––to be free to serve the Lord unrestrained by any control save that of the sovereign Jesus.
- This liberty of service is freedom from tyranny. Wherever there is the intervention of human law in religious service there is tyranny in one degree or other. Its form and extent may vary as the climate and seasons of the globe, but most certain is it that wherever man becomes an ecclesiastical legislator he occupies the throne of the tyrant and usurper. It is usurpation of the peculiar prerogatives of the Lord Messiah for any man to give laws, in things divine, to those who would serve God. Christians may be robbed of their liberty, and entangled in bondage either by the imposition of a ritual of service entirely of man, or by one which, though of divine origin, is yet abolished by God, and, therefore, not obligatory on the freed men of the Lord. That there were endeavours of this entangling sort in the apostles’ time is evident from their acts and epistles, and that these efforts to incorporate the law with the faith have not yet ceased appears from the fact that much of what is popularly called “divine service” is supported only by appeals to the law of Moses. In quite a multitude of points are Christians despoiled of their heaven-given freedom by this attempted incorporation of parts of the first and abolished institution with the new, perfect, and everlasting economy. Many of the religious usages of the day are supported only from the Scriptures of the law. A national or state church; membership by virtue of fleshly descent; worship in which the public indiscriminately are recognized as participants; an order or orders of priesthood apart from the sacred people; sacred edifices, peculiar habiliments, ecclesiastical titles, high or holy days, musical instruments, are all of them defended, so far as Scripture is consulted at all, only from the laws and usages of the Jewish institution. By these entanglements many endure the partial blindness which has happened to Israel after the flesh. Moses put a vail over his face that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished; but their minds were blinded, for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, which is done away in Christ; but even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it––the heart––shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now, the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
- Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, not only from that burden which neither the fathers nor their children were able to bear, but from all human religious impositions. Burdens grievous to be borne always have those been which human authority has imposed on its religious devotees. It is only by the distinct and total denial of religious legislative authority in men that true religious freedom is, or can be, understood or enjoyed. To the precise extent of the acknowledgment of the right of man to legislate in things divine is Christian freedom sacrificed. Therefore said Paul, Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free...Be ye not the servants of men...If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ...As ye have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving...Beware, lest any man despoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ; for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead substantially. And ye are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power.
- But this absolute freedom from the control of the will of man has reference to the will of the individual serving or worshipping, as well as to that of other men. A man may become his own despot, his own pope, his own deity; he may become a slave to himself. Rescued from the tyranny of their fellows many have rushed into this vortex. And in these times when the general question of religious liberty from state and ecclesiastical control is being so freely ventilated, and so generally maintained, there is perhaps no more immediate danger threatening than that this false refuge be run into instead of the true and only safe haven––the will of God, not of man. A somewhat popular maxim has induced this mistake in multitudes of cases. Being found that man has no right to control his fellows in the service and worship of God, it is concluded that men have a right to worship God as they themselves please. But this is an utterly false conclusion. Men have no such right. They have no right to serve or worship God but as God pleases. The will of God, not that of man––not that of the servant or worshipper, is the rule. It is preposterous that one professing to be a servant should assert his own will or pleasure as his rule of service! We question if that at all deserves the name of service which is not done at the bidding of the master. If that which the master has not bid be done, he is not served. Plainly, the so-called servant serves himself. His own will, fancy, notion, conceit, or pleasure, determines what he does, when, how, and why. But this is as much a dethroning of the blessed and only Potentate as ever was attempted by atheist, king, pope, or priest. The willingness of mind needed to serve the Lord is that which willingly submits to his will in all things, and at all times. “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind”––with entire, and constant submission to his good pleasure is the true idea of Christian ministry, Paul himself being witness. But a greater than Paul is here. Jesus pleased not himself: he did always the things that pleased the Father, whose servant he was.
- This cardinal principle of ministry adequately recognized is equally a guarantee against licentiousness, as against tyranny. If no one is to act the lord over the Lord’s heritage, seeing that each stands or falls to his own master, so neither is any one to forget that though free from all men, yet is he the servant of Christ. Keeping this in view, the service rendered is both directly and faithfully done. Each feels himself the freed man of the Lord, yet bound to him by the most sacred, solemn, and indissoluble ties. Each act of service is a matter immediately between the disciple and the Saviour. Not merely is it a matter of conscience, but of gratitude. It is truly heartfelt. The great obligation which the grace of God in Christ has laid its beneficiaries under, is realized in the directness of its constraining potency. The argument to duty ever is that of the devoted Paul when he wrote, saying: The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they that live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again. It is thus, and only so, that the work done is truly Christian, truly acceptable, that it is really a work of faith and labour of love. It carries with it a joyousness and a hopefulness which no other consideration can ever impart. The efforts of the grateful spirit are ever faithfully rendered, and by making the love of Christ, in his devotion unto death for our cause, the constraining principle of all action in the Christian life, the mightiest incentive to fidelity has been given the disciple which it was possible to supply. Not only is this a great principle, a great conservative principle, but the greatest of conservative principles. Under the power of this principle it was that the dauntless, heroic devotion of the apostles, and all the martyrs who loved not their souls unto death, was evoked and sustained.
- The thought which the apostle, in so constantly calling the disciples the douloi of Christ, wishes to impress them with is that of their common servitude to him who, though in the form of God, and regarding it no robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a slave. It is one of the most needful and sanctifying of thoughts possible. It makes the most unwelcome, irksome, and lowly of duties easy and joyous. Service under which the heart might break and the spirit despair, becomes fraught with ineffable pleasure under the power of the consideration that the work wrought, the submission yielded, the contradiction endured, the perseverance manifested, are all done for the sake of him who loved us unto death. The believer can do for the sake of Jesus what he cannot do for the sake of man. He may say of man, He deserves not this of me; such unworthy treatment as he has given me merits retaliation; Why should I suffer so much wrong at his hands? How can I do only good for such evil? There is nothing in him to call forth such repayment. True, O Christian; but Jesus, whom you love and serve, merits all and more than the best you can ever do. His name should be as all-powerful with you as it is all-prevailing with the Father. As the heavenly Father does to and for you for the name sake of Jesus what he never could do for your own sake, so requires he that for Christ’s sake you do what otherwise you never could have done. See Eph. iv. 32.
- Thus all work is holy. The secular is blended in the sacred. All is sacred under the service of the Messiah. And it is greatly to be lamented that, instead of this great all-pervading rule being duly recognised and carried into every avenue of life, blessing and sanctifying it at every step, in every stage, and through every relationship, the very opposite principle so commonly obtains. Instead of its being taught as the true doctrine of Christianity, that no man liveth to himself, and that no man dieth to himself, but that whether we live or die we are the Lord’s––that all work therefore is to be rendered as to him––that all duty is owing to him––instead of this, the distinction between secular and sacred duties is made as marked and wide as possible. But the distinction is unscriptural and pernicious, and never can the Christian character be truthfully developed nor the Christian service be fulfilled, until this false distinction is absorbed by the genuine conception of the entire sanctification of the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, to the service of the Divine Master.
- But it will be asked, Is there not a real distinction between the secular and the sacred? We answer, there is, but not of the kind commonly held. The Scriptures everywhere distinguish between the secularist, the worldling, and the sacred, the consecrated or saintly ones; him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not; those who are of God, and the world lying in the wicked one. But the word of God does not represent the duties of the Christian life as separated by a great fixed gulf, whose rolling waters divide them on opposite shores. Every true distinction is recognised in the oracles of truth, but this is a false one, and has no place in scripture. The grace of God that brings salvation to all men teaches (actually, trains) us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world, looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a purchased people, zealous of good works. Here in this training of the saving grace of God the true and actual relations of life are clearly distinguished; there is the self-ward, the man-ward, and the God-ward; sobriety, righteousness, and godliness; there is the present world and the future. But neither here nor elsewhere does the grace of God train its pupils in the doctrine that man-ward duties are secular, and the God-ward alone sacred; or, that the present may discharge God from its reckonings, that the future may be alone his! No such teaching. The sobriety and the righteousness are equally sacred as the godliness inculcated by the gospel; for this best of reasons, that the former are engrossed in the latter. That is, there is no true godliness without sobriety and righteousness; none without the fulfilment of those duties which we owe as the children of God to ourselves and to our fellow-creatures. These lower duties are sanctified by the higher. They cannot be fulfilled apart from the discharge of our supreme obligations, nor can our highest offices be followed out where our lower relationships are neglected. It is thus, and only thus, that the example of the Son of God and the many prescriptions of his apostles to the faithful can have their transcript in the character of the Christian. If it was meat and drink to the Messiah to do the will of him that sent him, so to be like him must his followers, even in eating and drinking, do all to the glory of God. The veriest trifles, so called, cannot lawfully be done by the Christian without respect to the will and glory of God. And in this way it is that the gospel of Christ sanctifies everything to this, the one true end of all created existence. It never speaks of things as having a merely secular or temporal object. It carries the design of all things up to the divine glory; makes all the music of the spheres combine in one grand hallelujah chorus; constitutes life in all the wide variety of its marvellous being, one solemn, grateful theodoxia; and thus it makes truly sacred what before was wrongfully secularised.
- No one can fail to perceive that the due recognition of this great conception lies at the very basis of the Christian character. Holiness in its gospel meaning cannot be developed where one-half or two-thirds of man’s relationships are regarded as merely secular, and, as not really consecrated nor devoted, nor to be fully yielded over to the divine will and glory. Such perfection as the apostles enjoin is an utter impossibility on any hypothesis that secularises any of the parts, or powers, or relationships of man. The exhortations, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”: “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” are negatived to the precise extent to which the idea is entertained that aught of the Christian life is not sacred. Nothing short of the subjection, the consecration of the whole man to God, in all that he is, and possesses, and is related to, exhausts the gospel ideal of the sacred. That which God hath cleansed, call not thou common or unclean...I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. To such extent goes the Christian service. Nothing less than this is reasonable. Is it reasonable that the Son of God should give himself for us––that he should die for all, that they who live through him should no longer live to themselves but unto him who died for them and rose again––is it reasonable that he should do this, and that those thus bought with a price, even the precious blood of Christ, should live as though their own? as mere secularists, worldlings, atheists? Impossible.
- In this light it is that we understand why the Messiah takes upon him imperatively to direct his followers in all the concerns of time; why he lays down laws to them in regard to kings and magistrates, parents and children, friends and foes, employers and servants, money and substance, professions and trades. Why this supreme and universal direction, if the ecclesiastical alone is to be regarded as sacred,––if all else is free from the law of Christ, and to be governed only by human law? But since he puts all under law to himself, does not this prove the whole to be sacred? That is sacred by universal consent which has direct relation to God: Christ brings everything in life unto direct relationship to God; and therefore all life is made sacred in him.
- A most magnificent revolution would this rule of ministry create in our so-called Christian country––in all the circles of its ecclesiasticism, politics, commerce, and domesticity. Admit the Christian calling to be what it really is––the service of God in all the duties and relations of life, and where were room for men in “holy orders” apart, from all the obedient to the high, the holy, the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus? Nowhere. For all the holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, would realize the equal standing of one another in “the holy ministry.” All having become the servants of the holy One, the peculiar sanctity still ascribed to a particular class or caste of men, not only in the parent church of the apostacy––the mother of harlots and abominations, but throughout all her Christendom, would come to be regarded in its true light, as a schismatic, heretical piece of arrogance. All the holy people recognising their individual consecration to their common Lord, would, with the apostle regard him alone as righteous who does righteously, and him holy who acts holily. And again could those brethren who might give themselves wholly to the preaching of the gospel be able to appeal to their converts, as did the first preachers when they said, Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe, as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, even as a father of his children, that ye would walk worthy of God who hath called you into his kingdom and glory.
- Admit the Christian profession thus to sanctify all to God, and where the possibility of Christian men sanctioning the vile horrors of war: devastating the fairest portions of the earth as with an infernal scourge: invading the homes of unoffending thousands: pressing millions of money per annum from the hard-earned resources of the people for the maintenance of its monstrous apparatus: lauding the profession of arms as worthy of the countenance, and prayers, and praises of the followers of the Prince of Peace? All this were impossible on the part of Christians were the sacredness of the whole man to Christ recognised as it is taught in the volume of the Book. There is an irreconcileable contrariety between the articles of war and those of the faith of Christ. The former says, If thine enemy hunger, starve him; the latter, feed him; the former requires that evil be overcome with evil; the latter, with good; the former demands the execution of vengeance by man; the latter declares, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. It is as impossible to effect a reconciliation between the doctrine of Christ and that of Mars, as to form a communion between light and darkness. And how any disciple of the former can be a son of the latter can be explained only by the inconsistency of man. Let the consideration that the service of Christ engrosses the whole man, and extends over the entire area of life, and no longer should Christians lend themselves as the tools of aggressive, and, therefore, of oppressive governments.
- Admit the full extent of the service of Christ, and however much the children of the world might continue to overreach one another in speculative enterprises, however much they might enrich themselves by dishonest gains, the names of Christian men would not stand associated with businesses which, even in the eyes of the world, are disreputable, nor with schemes so hazardous and disastrous as many now in prosecution. Owe no man anything but to love and good works...Provide things honest in the sight of all men...Let ours learn to maintain honest trades for necessary uses, are maxims not the less binding on the disciples of the Messiah that they are commercial. Convinced we are that they would evince their wisdom and discipleship all the more the closer heed they give them. Their submission to Christ as their Lord implies their obedience to his mandates, in the affairs of business equally with those of the sanctuary, and equally high and divine is the wisdom shewn by the heavenly legislator in the former as in the latter departments of life’s relationships. We are well aware that apostolic injunctions are held to be utopian, and out-of-the-way laws for the regulation of the commerce of the nineteenth century; but this proves nothing more than that said century is wise in its own conceits, and infidel as respects the wisdom of Messiah’s laws. It does not prove that it would not be better for all parties if these laws were reduced to practice. Certain it is, that, if under them some could not hasten to be rich as they do, there would be fewer unprofitable enterprises, fewer wrecked fortunes, fewer ruined homes; there would be every way less anxious thought, more contentment, and surer prosperity. But whatever the disesteem in which the nominal Christianism of the age holds these maxims, the disciple himself may not lightly esteem them. No command of his Lord is more imperative than that which forbids that anxious solicitude respecting the things of the present life, which overtrading ever induces; and no warning of the apostle is more solemn than that in which he says, Godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out...And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content; but they that will be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition; for the love of money is the roof of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have been seduced from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
- And, finally, admit that the service of the divine Master permeates and sanctifies all the relationships and duties of life, and where were those unseemly petty domestic despotisms and tyrannies, with their concomitant discontent and insubordinations, which make so many professedly Christian families as remarkable as others, in which the grace of God has no reign, for discomfort and unhappiness? Unquestionably the Christian householder grievously fails in his allegiance to his sovereign Lord, who serves him not daily at home; not only in stated worship, but in very thought, and word, and action in the midst of his family. The shameful license so generally regarded as at any rate excusable, by which the passions are allowed to run riot over the common sense, not to say the sanctified convictions of believers is at utter variance with the subjection of the whole man to the dominion of the Prince of grace. The affections have their play more in the home circle than anywhere else, and they, as home itself, comprise the larger share of life; but if in them, and in the true theatre of their exercise and development, there be little or no habitual bringing of them into subjection to the law of the Spirit of life, which in Christ Jesus is said to make the disciple free from the law of sin and death, how at all claims such a libertine to be a Christian? If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his...And if any man seem to be religious and bridle not his tongue, but deceiveth his ownself, that man’s religion is vain. Clear as day it is, that the government of the passions, the regulating of the affections, the ruling of the spirit, the subordinating of thought, and look, and word, and action to the benign will of the ever-loving Jesus, comprise no unimportant portion of the obligations of Christian discipleship. Not without these things can the Christian service be fulfilled. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit: for he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. The service of Christ is righteousness, peacefulness, and joyousness, in holiness of spirit, and nothing short of this, ensures divine acceptance and human approbation. Not otherwise is the good fight of faith––the true battle of life to be successfully fought, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
- “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” is the true cry of genuine discipleship, as that of sonship is, “Father, not my will, but thine be done.” The service of Christ thus recognised and extended through all the hours and days, and years of life; through all the varied ramifications of our complex relationships, is the sum of that glad service which finds its reward not in rusting metals, nor in the fitful applause of men, nor in a few years’ possession of lands and houses, but in a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man, and in the sure expectancy of the honourable mention of the Lord of lords at his coming in glory––Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.
- It is a most precious and cheering thought that the Lord takes as done to himself the meanest offices of kindness rendered to his followers; so that even a cup of cold water given to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward. But it is no less comforting that kindness shewn “even to the unthankful”––”not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” is acknowledge and accepted by the Messiah as so much that he will reward his servant for, when done as he enjoins, not as to men but as to the Lord. A fine proof, this, of the universal nature of that service which the Lord Jesus claims as his own. None better could we have that he holds his service to extend thus far than that he virtually says, “Do this for me, and I will pay thee thy wages.” Therefore argue we, that the Christian’s “full reward” is not to be expected when this branch of the service is neglected in the daily ministration of life’s labours.
- And while with parents, guardians, masters, governors, magistrates, seniors, and all in places of authority this unreserved subjection on their part, to the good pleasure of the blessed and only Potentate would guide them into a kind, considerate, and generous administration; not less effectually would this same principle ensure the fidelity of those in places of trust. The servant equally with the master, the governed along with the governor would be “blessed in his doing.” Not merely by the reign of love on the part of him in authority, but also by its equally efficacious rule in the heart of the subordinate, would blessing arise. Both are alike under the one royal law. There is not one law for the employer and another for the employed; but the one law for both––for all. It is one law which says to the master, “render to your servants that which is just and equal;” that speaks to the servant, saying, ‘serve with all good fidelity.” The having “a Master in heaven” “who will render to every man according as his work shall be,” is the ever-salutary consideration that alike effectually deters the ruler from tyranny, and the steward from unfaithfulness. In whatever office of life, then, this thought is forgotten, in that, be it high or low, is the chief guarantee of good service lost. This is one sure way in which the service of Jesus makes heavy burdens light, and weariness a pleasure; transforms the tyrant into a friend, and the master into a counsellor; fills up the brother-estranging chasms of human pride and caste; unites heart to heart, and rejoices sin-cursed homes; gives joy for heaviness, and the oil of gladness for mourning.
- Not except under the influence of this all-pervading extent of the service of the Messiah may any individual or church hope or labour consistently for the restoration of the faith. The service is not confined to ecclesiastical matters, and, therefore, any mere restoration of congregational order can only be a return in part to the old paths. The service of the twelfth of Romans comprises moral and ecclesiastical duties alike. And while we would condemn that expositor who would restrict the prophesying, the ministering, the teaching, the exhorting, the imparting, and the ruling there specified to a class in the ecclesia, so should we condemn those, who, arguing for the free combination of service as by the apostle urged upon all the disciples, and compared to the joint action of the many members of the human frame, yet overlook either by precept or example, that love, goodness, affection, esteem, diligence, joyousness, patience, prayerfulness, liberality, hospitality, blessing, sympathy, unity, condescension, humility, forgivingness, honesty, peacefulness, submissiveness, and magnanimity so specifically comprehended in the reasonable and acceptable service of the Lord. These things ye ought to do, and not to leave the other undone.