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Thirdly: Our life is a stewardship, in which the strictest fidelity is demanded. “I have kept the faith.” This phrase admits of various modes of interpretation ; but however it may be explained, the statement is equally true. Paul “kept the faith" by continuing a believer in Christ, and in the revelation he had received respecting Christ. His trust in the Saviour was intelligent, cordial, unreserved, and unwavering. While he exhorted others to “continue in the faith,” and sought to perfect that which was “lacking in their faith,” his own life in the flesh was one continued act of implicit confidence in the Son of God. The trial of his faith was unusually severe, and defection was very frequent in his time. Some departed from the faith ; some denied it; some made shipwreck of it ; in others it was overthrown. But he was not of them who drew “back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”.
Again, when Paul said he had “kept the faith,” he might mean that he had maintained the system of evangelical truth in the same pure and perfect form in which it had been revealed to him. He spoke of the glorious gospel of the blessed God as having been committed to his custody-of being “allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel,” and of being “set for the defence of the gospel ” ; and considered as a steward, a guardian, and a champion, he was faithful and valiant. He made no parade of his fidelity, but he did not scruple to assert it; sometimes as shown in connexion with his brethren, sometimes in contradistinction from them. Of himself, and Silas, and Timothy, he could say—“As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” “We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” When false brethren came in privily to spy out the liberty enjoyed by believers in Christ, and to bring them again into bondage, he gave place by subjection to them, “no, not for an hour,—that the truth of the gospel might continue with them.” And when one of his true brethren, and one of the most venerable of the apostles wavered in his principles, and connived at what Paul deemed to be incompatible with the gospel, he “withstood him to the face,” and blamed him for his temporizing policy. Other Jews on that occasion dissembled with Peter, insomuch that Barnabas, one of Paul's most endeared fellow-laborers, “ was carried away with their dissimulation.” But when he saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, he remonstrated with Peter before them all, and applied his great reasoning powers to convince them of the grave practical error into which they were falling. In his personal ministry, therefore, and as far as his apostolic influence availed, he “ kept the faith.”
But he “kept the faith” in another sense. While as a guilty man he believed in Christ, that he might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; and while as a minister of Christ, he fully preached the true gospel, and repudiated any other gospel ;he was concerned to feel its vital power in his heart, and to exemplify its effects in his daily life. The faith to him was much more than a creed; it was a practical principle, a doctrine according to godliness, a ground of hope, a spring of consolation. He knew that there is a “joy of faith” to be experienced, and “the obedience of faith” to be maintained. Hence he lived unto God. “He walked by faith.” How holily and justly, and unblameably, he behaved himself among those that believed, his converts were witnesses and God also. “He kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway.”
Leaving this most refreshing retrospect of a life devoted to the service of Christ, we proceed to consider :
Il. THE DELIGHTFUL ANTICIPATION HERE EXPRESSED OF A RESERVED REWARD. “Henceforth there is laid up for me,” &c. This was not the language of blind credulity or selfrighteous presumption, but of enlightened conviction, of evangelical hope, and of well warranted assurance. The apostle was accustomed to speak confidently concerning his future happiness. “The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, therefore have I spoken ; we also believe and therefore speak; knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.” “We are always confident,” &c. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Observe the figure employed to describe this expected reward. Its symbol was a crown, a crown of righteousness; a crown already prepared, and was laid up; a crown which should be conferred by the Lord in his official character as the righteous Judge ; and a crown which that august Being will award, at the time of his next appearing, to all who love His glorious epiphany.
It will be seen that there are here many topics that might be, enlarged upon if time would permit; but a few remarks on some of them must now suffice.
Mark the exalted idea which Paul entertained of his future condition. His state on earth had been low, mean, and in a worldly sense, miserable. For Christ's sake he had suffered hunger, thirst, nakedness. He had no certain dwellingplace. He had been reviled and buffeted, persecuted and defamed ; treated as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things. But in this state of humiliation and endurance he could lift up his head, knowing that his redemption drew near. He felt himself to be a citizen of heaven, and he waited for his manifestation as one of the sons of God. He expected a royal life above;—to sit down upon a throne, to wear a crown, and to inherit a kingdom. This was his heart-elevating argument. “If by one man's offence death reigned by one ; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
The royal life which Paul anticipated in heaven will not only be a life of dignity, and power, and grandeur, but it will be all that, without any of the disagreeable concomitants which earthly royalty has to experience. In this world greatness and care are twins. Crowns more commonly prove curses than blessings to those who wear them. Isaac, the son of Comnenus, one of the most virtuous of eastern rulers, was crowned at Constantinople in 1057. Basil the patriarch brought the crown to him surmounted with a diamond cross. Taking hold of the cross, the Emperor said, “I, who have been acquainted with crosses from my cradle, welcome thee; thou art my sword and shield, for hitherto I have conquered with suffering.” Then taking the crown in his hand he added : “This is but a beautiful burden, which loads more than it adorns."* The crown of the triumphant Christian is a crown of righteousness, which will neither oppress the head, afflict the heart, nor imperil the life, of any that receive it. It will be the symbol of the glory, and honor, and immortality, which are to reward our patient continuance in well doing on earth.
As it devolved on the president of the ancient games to give the token of victory to the successful competitor, so will it devolve on the Lord our Judge to confer our final reward. Paul expected his crown from the hands of Christ; an expectation which is warranted by the very words of the Saviour. “Be thou faithful unto death ; and I will give thee a crown of life.”
This crown is to be waited for until our life-work all is done. We have a present recompense for every work and labor of love which we show to the Divine name. But our full reward will be withheld until our conflict has ceased, and our course is finished. It is related that when one of the Roman Emperors, after a great victory, presented to each soldier a
* Not long ago the present French Emperor frankly said : “In changing my destiny, I have but changed my joys and sorrows. Formerly I bore the afflictions of exile ; now I have to sustain the cares of power.”
crown of bays, one of them, a Christian, laid his crown upon his arm.
When asked why he did so, he replied “that a Christian could not expect to wear his crown before death.' An incident which led Tertullian to write his work “De Coronâ Militis."
J. UNDERHILL, Nottingham.
SUBJECT :- The Young Man Returning to His Father's House :
-The Heaven-ward Course.
(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 260.)
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him ; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet : And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again ; he was lost, and is found.”—Luke xv. 20—24.
Analysis of Homily the four Hundred and Sebenty-ninth. In the last view we took of this young man we saw him reach the crisis of his depravity. In this crisis we noticed three things :—The return of reason—“He came to himself;" The commencement of thought-"He said to himself,” &c. ; and The formation of purpose—“I will arise.” His reflection created the resolution. We have now to mark the purpose taking the right practical form. Some men's determinations are too feeble to urge on to the becoming course. The souls of men of feeble purpose are the graveyards of good intentions; the true things that rise within them wither in the germ. Not so with this young man, his “I will” had an imperial authority to marshal at once all the activities of his nature ; it was an invincible fiat. " And he arose and came to his father.” In this account we have at least three things,