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2 Corinthians 9:8 - Homilies By D. Fraser

Let us not take our standard of Christian life and experience from our own hearts, or from the customary piety which shows itself around us. The Lord requires and expects of us constancy—a life regulated by the steady action of principle, and animated daily by faith, hope, and love. Alas! how many are unsteady in his service! How their light flickers! how their faith wavers! how their convictions and affections fluctuate! This is so common that it seems to be regarded as inevitable. Vacillation and inconstancy are supposed to be not so much sins as very pardonable infirmities. But is constancy, while theoretically right, practically impossible? When called to maintain a steady tenor of Christian life and conduct, may we say, Non possumus? What says Reason? And what says Holy Writ?

I. WE ASK THE QUESTION OF REASON , AS A FAIR JUDGE OF THE NATURE OF THINGS . Physical life is maintained in us by certain natural processes which never cease from the moment of birth to the moment of death. The lungs play always, and the heart beats always. We call these automatic movements, as being not dependent on our volition. They continue when we are fast asleep. But moral and spiritual life rises above mere automatism, and requires for its continuance and growth a succession of moral volitions, a steady and well-directed purpose. Now, is this state of the will possible? Reason will answer that it is the proper habit of a healthy and vigorous mind. Weak minds are obstinate or fickle; dull minds are stolid and monotonous; but those that are strong and intelligent have a steady moral pulse, a wise tenacity of purpose, and a careful balance of temper and will. It is the most rational, healthy, and happy condition of man to believe firmly what he believes, and to maintain an even tenor of conduct in harmony with his belief. George Herbert is right to praise the man of constancy, who

"Doth still, and strongly, good pursue;

To God, his neighbours, and himself most true."

II. WE ASK THE QUESTION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE . Does it admit excuses for inconstancy? or does it assume and require that men who believe in God should live to him always? David said, "I have set the Lord always before me." No doubt this is absolutely true only of the great Son of David, of whom the Spirit of prophecy spake in the sixteenth psalm, as St. Peter taught on the day of Pentecost. But of all that was most worthy in the career of the poet king of Israel this was the sustaining principle; and of his character this formed the sacred charm, that he constantly kept his eyes upon God. In great deeps of sorrow, in dens and caves of the earth, in exile, in peril by the sword, among temptations of ambition, tumults of war, cares of government; in the obscurity of his youth, in the sudden promotion and the stirring adventures of his early manhood; in all the publicity of his later years, in "that fierce light which beats upon a throne;"—always and everywhere the son of Jesse looked to God, and sought to walk in the light of his countenance. Alas! he looked off, and sinned grievously. We find no perfect example but that of the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of David, who maintained a constant obedience to, and therefore a constant communion with, God (see John 8:29 ; John 11:42 ). In the midst of incessant occupations and in the face of frequent "contradiction of sinners against himself," he found it possible to look always to the Father in heaven, and do always the Father's will. So he knew that the Father heard him always. Now, every one admits that the life of Christ is, in its principles and motives, the supreme model for the life of Christians. But the force of the admission is sadly weakened for any practical purpose by the prevailing impression that actual conformity to so perfect a Pattern is not to be expected of any one. Let us take the example of a servant of Christ. It will not be disputed that we may and should emulate the attainments and experience of St. Paul. Now, he had extraordinary vicissitudes in the course of his ministry, and does not conceal from us the changing moods of his mind—now depressed and sorrowful, now bold and enthusiastic. But as respects the main current of his life and service, Paul was, ever after his conversion, gloriously consistent. In love to God, in zeal for Jesus, in fidelity to the gospel, in care for the Churches, in abhorrence of sin, in esteem of holiness, in vigilant resistance to the devil, and in tender affection for the saints, he was always the same, and wavered not. Accordingly we find the word "always" often used in regard to his own spiritual experience and missionary life (see Acts 24:16 on conscience; 2 Corinthians 2:14 on the career of a missionary; 2 Corinthians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:6 on sufferings and joyful hope). What a living sacrifice to God was this apostolic man! What singleness of purpose he had, what integrity of heart, what constancy, in serving the Lord always. Why may not similar constancy be shown by us? God is able to make all grace abound toward us. And all the injunctions for Christian life given in the Holy Book assume that we are to be always and wholly the Lord's. Our speech should be "always with grace, seasoned with salt." Our prayers should be offered up alway; and in active service we should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." The proper season for piety is always. Labour sometimes, study sometimes, recreation sometimes, sleep sometimes; but the fear of the Lord always, and the life of faith always. No day of the week, no hour of the day, without the Lord. This is not bondage: it is the best liberty. This is not being "righteous overmuch." It is simply to order our character and conduct habitually by the highest aims and models set before us. It is the aspiration of the meek and lowly, not of the proud. It is the path of the just, which shines more and more until the perfect day.—F.

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