Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

most severely, when their conduct deserved it. Thus, when the Galatian church was corrupted by false teaching, and seduced from the simplicity of faith, he faithfully reproved them, saying, “ Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth ? " Even with his beloved friend Barnabas he had a “sharp contention,” because the latter desired to take his nephew, Mark, with him on their missionary journey, after the young man had abandoned the work of the Lord for a time. But Paul was resolved to teach the young missionary a useful lesson, and to make him feel that he could only regain lost confidence by steady and consistent conduct; and therefore he denied even the earnest request of Barnabas, who had been such a warm friend to himself; and “the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder, the one from the other.” Still, there was no ill-will or grudge in Paul's mind, for when afterwards Mark proved himself worthy to be trusted, he became one of the apostle's most cherished friends; as he tells us, in writing to Timothy from Rome, a short time before his martyrdom, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry."

Another proof of Paul's fearless courage was given at Antioch, when he withstood his fellow-apostle Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed " for giving countenance by his conduct to the false doctrine that the observance of the ceremonial law

F

ought to be imposed upon the Gentiles as needful to salvation. It must have been a sore trial to him to be compelled to rebuke, before the whole church, one whom he so highly esteemed as a “pillar” in the house of God. But his fidelity and courage caused no estrangement between them, for Peter speaks subsequently of his “beloved brother Paul," and of the “wisdom given unto him." Good men may differ in opinion ; but if they are really good men, their love will be without dissimulation, and their rebukes will be without bitterness or enmity; and they will be ready to say, “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me,

shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head," but which shall heal wounds and soften asperity.

From all this it is evident that Paul was not a man of compromise or lax principle in any question of vital importance, but that he was bold and fearless in standing up for the truth as it is in Jesus. None was more yielding and accommodating in matters of indifference; but none was more firm and inflexible than he in the great questions of Christian doctrine and duty—such questions as that of justification by faith alone, and that of the necessity of personal sanctification.

Now, such courage as this must appear very remarkable to any one who is capable of appreciating it. We cannot but admire the courage of a skilful and brave general on the field of battle when he puts his enemies to flight; but how little could he do if he stood alone, and if he were not backed by the ardour and enthusiasm of his faithful and valiant troops ! And yet Paul stood in a great measure alone, in that life-long conflict which he waged with human passions and with the rulers of this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places. In his most trying and difficult positions he had occasion to say, “At my first answer” (before Nero) “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." Therefore even when alone, and destitute of all human help, his courage never failed and his resolution never faltered; and at length his struggles were crowned with victory and his labours with success. And the source of all his courage was his simple faith in Christ, and his realising sense of his Master's gracious presence with him. Having hold of Christ's almighty arm, he was held up amid all his trials and temptations, and was made strong in his conscious weakness; and therefore he could truly say, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”

A few years ago, when our country was supposed to be threatened with an invasion from France, thousands of our young men, influenced by loyalty and patriotism, volunteered their services in defence

of our homes and altars; and their noble deed averted the threatened evil, and secured for us the blessings of peace. But there is a still nobler warfare, which the Captain of salvation summons them to wage. What is living Christianity but a constant war with evil, without and within—a war of defence against sin and Satan, and a war that is waged with the view of ultimate peace? It is called a "great fight of afflictions," and the “good fight of faith," and a "wrestling," not only with flesh and blood, but also with “principalities and powers.” To secure the victory, we must be “clothed with the whole armour of God," with the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” There is no exemption, and no “ discharge in that war” .with evil, so long as we remain on earth, for either we must overcome sin, or sin will overcome us; and if we refuse to fight along with Christ, we must perish along with Satan. Should it not, then, be the highest ambition of every young man, not only to enlist under the banner of the Cross, but also to prove, by his strenuous resistance to sin, by fidelity to the great Captain, and by deeds of Christian valour, that he is not only a soldier, but a "good soldier of Jesus Christ ?”

The first duty of a soldier is to give implicit obedience to the orders of his chief. He must not please himself, nor follow his own inclination, but he must be ready to obey his general, in the face of danger and death. His motto must be to do or die. So the Christian must obey his “marching orders ;” and his constant inquiry must be, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and having learned from His written instructions in the Bible what the will of the Lord is, his simple duty is to obey without question or cavil. Then he must be ready to “endure hardness" in the Master's service, to encounter difficulties fearlessly, to bear trials patiently, and to resist temptations courageously. He is engaged in a life-and-death struggle, with corruption within, with an ungodly world without, and with the wicked one both within and without; and the only alternative is defeat or victory,

Taking Paul, then, as his model, let every young man aim at being a good soldier of Christ.

What are the qualifications of a “good soldier ?" One is that he must not be a craven or coward, who flees from the battle or yields to the foe, but a man of true courage, of unquestionable valour, and unshrinking resolution in contending for the right. Such was the apostle Paul, and such must we be, and such shall we be if we know the power of a living Christianity.

Another qualification of a “good soldier" is love to his general, combined with confidence in his military skill. We are told that the first Napoleon had a singular power of winning the affections of his armies, and that this was the grand secret of his wonderful

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »