Sobriety, Watchfulness, and Charity; Improvement of Talents.
A. D. 66.
7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and
watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:
for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to
another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, even
so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace
of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any
man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God
in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise
and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
We have here an awful position or doctrine, and an inference drawn from
it. The position is that the end of all things is at hand. The miserable
destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is
now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings
is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come
to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long.
The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed
up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of
1. To sobriety and watchfulness: "Be you therefore sober, v. 7. Let
the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe
strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do
not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations,
v. 3. An watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm
sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers,
lest this end come upon you unawares," Luke xxi. 34; Matt. xxvi. 40, 41.
Learn, (1.) The consideration of our approaching end is a powerful argument
to make us sober in all worldly matters, and earnest in religious affairs.
(2.) Those who would pray to purpose must watch unto prayer. They must
watch over their own spirits, watch all fit opportunities, and do their
duty in the best manner they can. (3.) The right ordering of the body is
of great use to promote the good of the soul. When the appetites and inclinations
of the body are restrained and governed by God's word and true reason,
and the interests of the body are submitted to the interests and necessities
of the soul, then it is not the soul's enemy, but its friend and helper.
2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,
v. 8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one
another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their
welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must
not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting. This sort
of earnest affection is recommended above all things, which shows the importance
of it, Col. iii. 14. It is greater than faith or hope, 1 Cor. xiii. 13.
One excellent effect of it is that it will cover a multitude of sins. Learn,
(1.) There ought to be in all Christians a more fervent charity towards
one another than towards other men: Have charity among yourselves. He does
not say for pagans, for idolaters, or for apostates, but among yourselves.
Let brotherly love continue, Heb. xiii. 1. There is a special relation
between all sincere Christians, and a particular amiableness and good in
them, which require special affection. (2.) It is not enough for Christians
not to bear malice, nor to have common respect for one another, they must
intensely and fervently love each other. (3.) It is the property of true
charity to cover a multitude of sins. It inclines people to forgive and
forget offences against themselves, to cover and conceal the sins of others,
rather than aggravate them and spread them abroad. It teaches us to love
those who are but weak, and who have been guilty of many evil things before
their conversion; and it prepares for mercy at the hand of God, who hath
promised to forgive those that forgive others, Matt. vi. 14.
3. To hospitality, v. 9. The hospitality here required is a free and
kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian
hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity
of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged
Christians to be hospitable one to another. Sometimes Christians were spoiled
of all they had, and were driven away to distant countries for safety.
In this case they must starve if their fellow-christians would not receive
them. Therefore it was a wise and necessary rule which the apostle here
laid down. It is elsewhere commanded, Heb. xiii. 1, 2; Rom. xii. 13. The
manner of performing this duty is this: it must be done in an easy, kind,
handsome manner, without grudging or grumbling at the expense or trouble.
Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable,
one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of
hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely
you have received, freely give.
4. To the improvement of talents, v. 11.
(1.) The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever
power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister,
or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters,
but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God.
Learn, [1.] Whatever ability we have of doing good we must own it to be
the gift of God and ascribe it to his grace. [2.] Whatever gifts we have
received, we ought to look upon them as received for the use one of another.
We must not assume them to ourselves, nor hide them in a napkin, but do
service with them one to another in the best manner we are able. [3.] In
receiving and using the manifold gifts of God we must look upon ourselves
as stewards only, and act accordingly. The talents we are entrusted with
are our Lord's goods, and must be employed as he directs. And it is required
in a steward that he be found faithful.
(2.) The apostle exemplifies his direction about gifts in two particulars--speaking
and ministering, concerning which he gives these rules:-- [1.] If any man,
whether a minister in public or a Christian in private conference, speak
or teach, he must do it as the oracles of God, which direct us as to the
matter of our speech. What Christians in private, or ministers in public,
teach and speak must be the pure word and oracles of God. As to the manner
of speaking, it must be with the seriousness, reverence, and solemnity,
that become those holy and divine oracles. [2.] If any man minister, either
as a deacon, distributing the alms of the church and taking care of the
poor, or as a private person, by charitable gifts and contributions, let
him do it as of the ability which God giveth. He who has received plenty
and ability from God ought to minister plentifully, and according to his
ability. These rules ought to be followed and practised for this end, that
God in all things, in all your gifts, ministrations, and services, may
be glorified, that others may see your good works, and glorify your Father
who is in heaven (Matt. v. 16), through Jesus Christ, who has procured
and given these gifts to men (Eph. iv. 8), and through whom alone we and
our services are accepted of God (Heb. xiii. 15), to whom, Jesus Christ,
be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Learn, First, It is the
duty of Christians in private, as well as ministers in public, to speak
to one another of the things of God, Mal. iii. 16; Eph. iv. 29; Ps. cxlv.
10-12. Secondly, It highly concerns all preachers of the gospel to keep
close to the word of God, and to treat that word as becomes the oracles
of God. Thirdly, Christians must not only do the duty of their place, but
they must do it with vigour, and according to the best of their abilities.
The nature of a Christian's work, which is high work and hard work, the
goodness and kindness of the Master, and the excellency of the reward,
all require that our endeavours should be serious and vigorous, and that
whatever we are called to do for the honour of God and the good of others
we should do it with all our might. Fourthly, In all the duties and services
of life we should aim at the glory of God as our chief end; all other views
must be subservient to this, which would sanctify our common actions and
affairs, 1 Cor. x. 31. Fifthly, God is not glorified by any thing we do
if we do not offer it to him through the mediation and merits of Jesus
Christ. God in all things must be glorified through Jesus Christ, who is
the only way to the Father. Sixthly, The apostle's adoration of Jesus Christ,
and ascribing unlimited and everlasting praise and dominion to him, prove
that Jesus Christ is the most high God, over all blessed for evermore.