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1 COBI THIA S xii. 14. The body is not one member ^ but many. The chapter from which these words are taken, the lesson for this evening's service, is one of those passages in St. Paul's epistles, the wisdom and profit of which are most inexhaustible, and yet have been most neglected. or is this t6 be wondered at, when we know how little able men are to go beyond the letter for any good and wise purposes, however fondly they may depart from it in the way of fancy and superstition. ow this chapter speaks of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as they were enjoyed in the early church ; and as these gifts have long since ceased, it may seem to tliose who follow the letter of a rule without entering into its spirit, that the directions given with regard to these gifts have ceased to be of importance also. Whereas it is manifest that a moral rule applies to the reason of a case, and not to the particular form which it may happen to wear in any one age or countrv. And thiLs, as St. PauFs rule here is a moral one, and teaches us how we should act and feel with respect to God's gifts, it matters not that the particular gifts to which it is actually applied in the Epistle to the Corinthians are no longer in existence, if we know that other gifts of God are in existence, which, like those spoken
GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. 221 of by the Apostle, may either be used or abused ; may either excite in us good feelings or the contrary. ow, first of all, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were
given according to His will. * He divideth to every man severally as He will.' This is one point. And again, these gifts were not the greatest perfection of a man's nature ; he might have the very highest of them, and yet perish everlastingly ; ' Covet earnestly the best gifts ; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way ; for though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge ; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.' This is another point. Thirdly, these gifts were given to enable him who had them to do good to others ; ' The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.' This is a third point. ow then, if there are any gifts of God now enjoyed by us, in which all these three points are to be found : gifts given according to God's free pleasure ; gifts which we may have in the highest measure and yet perish ; but at the same time, gifts which may enable lis to do good to others, and therefore are highly valuable and earnestly to be coveted, — then St. Paul's rules, with regard to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are applicable to us now. It is most evident that there are such gifts ; and that we all are, more or less, partakers of them. ay, so close an analogy exists between what we call the course of nature, that is, the course of God's ordinary providence, and the dispensation of grace, that is, the course of His special providence, that it might be possible to go through the several gifts mentioned by the Apostle, and to find for each of them some strictly corresponding gift in God's dealings with us now. Yet, lest we should be driven into any thing like extravagance by so insisting on this paral-
222 GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. lei as to fiwicy a resemblance beyond reality, it will be
better simply to notice what are, beyond question, God's gifts to us now ; as freely given, as capable of being made useful, as capable also of being separated from that holiness which alone shall see God, as were the gifts of the church of Corinth. ^ Consider for a moment ; let each of us think within himself whether he has not some power, some talent, some taste, some advantage of one sort or another, in which he feels that his main strength lies ; something particularly capable of improvement, and which beyond other points in him, would reward the care spent on its cultivation. Perhaps some may doubt this, from being accustomed to confine the notion of God's gifts to something which they consider very high and important : they would never dream of carrying it down to little things. Yet what is the Apostle's comparison : ' those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary ; God hath tempered the body together, liaving given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.' I may safely use these words, as confirming what our reason will show us, if we apply to it, that God is the author and giver of the least of our gifts, faculties, tastes, talents, and advantages, no less than of what we call the highest. Bearing this in mind, and extending as widely as possible the notion that all that we have comes from God, these three great points form St. Paul's rule for us to follow : — that every gift is a means of good ; that no gift extends to our highest spiritual good ; that we should vidue every gift, however humble, and not despise our neighbour because his gift is not the same as ours. These are the great points of St. Paul's lesson, which we may now proceed to consider particularly, each in its order. I. Every gift is a means of good. It is easy to moralize, as has been done very strikingly and beautiftdly by various writers, on the vanity of human wishes, in beino-
GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. 223 anxious for wealth, for talents, for beauty, for influence ; things which so often tend to the ruin of their possessor rather than to his good. This has been truly said ; for the very fact of over-anxiously desiring these things, or of desiring them at all without desiring something better, — even that grace of God which keeps all our life and being in healthful order, — is a sign that we shall use them amiss. But God gives to some these gifts, and to others other gifts ; in many cases without their wishing for them at all. A healthy constitution, a strong understanding, a vigorous body, quick senses, acute and accurate tastes, the inheritance of a competent fortune, or of a noble name, — these are given without our searching, given before we were able to search, given at our first entrance into the world, or at any rate before our own exertions could at all determine our own destiny. But there are gifts also to be traced, not only in faculties granted, but in sensibilities withheld. There are constitutions of mind and body so acutely sensible to things painful, whether physically or morally, that to them certain situations and duties in life are almost necessarily closed; their nature would sink imder the effort which strove to force it to endure them. Then there come the mass of mankind, not feeling this pain so overwhelmingly, but yet feeling it strongly ; to whom the endurance of particular callings would be, if not an impossible effort, yet a great one : necessity alone could urge them to make it. But beyond these, there are persons also whose nature scarcely feels this pain at all ; who without distress to themselves can witness scenes most repulsive to many natures, and who are thus enabled to do great good. Who will deny that this less sensitive nature is a gift, as well as the more sensitive one ? gifts given, it is true, for different purposes, and leading to different lines of duty, but both given to us to profit withal ; to do good to our Christian brethren. This instance will be sufficient to show what I \s^<^»:c^\
224 GIFTS OF TEE SPIRIT, that every faculty, or talent, or taste, or advantage which we may possess, is capable of ministering to the good of others in some way or other, and that for this very purpose it was given to us. And I believe that it would be very difficult to find out any person who had not thus his own gift, and who was not capable, in some way or other, of benefiting or pleasing his neighbours in some especial manner. II. It is most clear that gifts of this sort, whether of the highest kind or of the humblest, do none of them imply our highest spiritual good. St. Paul speaks of one bestowing all liis goods to feed the poor, and yet being nothing if he had no charity. It may be asked, how can the giving our goods to feed the poor be called a gift, when it seems rather to be a grace. The answer is, because the giving to the poor here spoken of, appears to be connected with one of the offices in the church, that of the deacon or minister. It would be possible for a man to have in a high degree the gift of ministration, if I may so speak, — great activity, great interest in his office as 8uc]i, and therefore great readiness to make personal sacrifices to a very large extent to promote its objects, — and yet not to have a pure and humble and generally loving spirit towards God and man, in matters not connected witli his office. And so it might be now. ActiWty, love of business, love of doing well wliat we are well fitted to do, might make a man most hi^^^hly useful in his generation ; he mi^^lit know liis gift and improve it ; but yet it is very possible that he might value the gift more than the Giver, and so might never seek for that state of heart towards God and man, which, being an abandonment of self and a submission of our gifts, togi^ther with all other things, to Him who gave tlieni, is alone the state of the children of God ; that is, of the heirs of life eternal.
III. We should value every gift, however humble, and
GIFTS OF :fHE SPIRIT. 225 not despise our neighbour because his gift is not the same as ours. St. Paul's comparison, drawn from the human body, is as just as it is striking. If we were ever allowed to despise any one, it should be those alone who did not improve their gifts, or who, while neglecting what they had, foolishly aspired after such as were denied them. But the world of providence, — that is, the society of men, — and the world of grace, — that is, the Church or societv of Christians, — are alike formed out of various elements, and would alike be spoiled by uniformity. It is a well-known fable, that gold itself, the most precious of things, when made by its foolish possessor the only thing around him, punished his folly with death. He was starved, because he would fain have every thing gold. So would society perish, if there were no gifts of Grod but such as are accounted most precious ; if there were no faculties but the rarest and loftiest, no tastes but the most refined. Let any of us who is inclined to value himself most, consider the gifts which he has not, the things which he cannot do, the services to society which he cannot render. Would that all persons, that all classes, and all divisions of men of whatsoever sort, would remember this practically. It is not a dream of fantastic equality, which would pretend that all gifts are equal, that all services should be honoured alike ; that is not so ; in the natural body we may value our sight above all our senses ; we would gladly sacrifice other members rather than lose our eyes. This is well ; but it is true, also, that the eye cannot supply the place of a limb, or of the smallest part of a limb ; it cannot do the work of the limb, any more than the limb can do its work ; and by the loss of that limb there is a loss to the body which not its noblest faculties can repair. Even so common sense has spoken in the
social body, that there are some faculties more precious than others, less to be spared, and more highly to be VOL. VI. Q
226 GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. honoured. Yet there is that which these most precious faculties cannot do ; there are benefits to society which the loftiest mind may be unable to render, and which may be done by the stronger body of the rudest. So beautifully is this our social body knit together ; BO variously are we gifted that we may supply each other's wants. But the same Apostle who has used this comparison, and who has compared the society of Christians to the natural body of a single man, has also carried it further, and added one point more which we may not omit to notice. He calls us a body, of which Christ is the Head. We have relations to one another^ we may render services to one another, but there is a yet higher relation in which we all stand to Him ; and it is only when this relation is acknowledged and acted upon that the body goes on healthfidly. He is the Head of us all, of the greatest and of the humblest. Have we a high station, great influence, great powers ? — yet what are we to that perfect Man who is our Head? What are our faculties, what the value of our best services, when we think of His infinity ? Can we do but little, are our powers very humble, our means very small^ our opportimities of doing good next to nothing ; are we very young or very old, very sick or very poor ; are wo such as society would scarcely miss, whose place a thousand seem ready to fill ? — yet we are no less members of the body of Him who filleth all in all ; and He values us and loves us with an infinite love, and prizes our souls so deeply, that He gave His own life to save them. So in Him we each shall find according to our need ; humiliation, if we are exalted
in our own strength ; exaltation, if we are himibled in our own weakness. The state of union with one another, and with Christ, — of feeling ourselves to be, in St. Paul's words, the body
GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. 227
of Christ, and severally members one of another, — is the perfection of a Christian life; it is that perfect communion of which the outward sign is the act of communion at the Lord's table. For that body of Christ of which they who worthily communicate at that table become partakers, is and can be only His spiritual body; that body of which He is the Head, redeemed by the oflTering of His natural body once for all, and now so united to Him, that whoso is a partaker of it partakes of Him, and truly belongs to Him. It were then to separate what He hath made one, to look upon the conununion of the Lord's Supper as a mere act between Christ and our single selves, as if we alone were or could be His body. Rather is it our communion with Christ in all His fulness ; the being joined heart and soul into the fellowship of His body, and 80 as He himself expresses, the being one in Him and in His Father. Therefore we go thither to increase our love to one another as well as to Him. We go thither to learn the feelings that become His members : sympathy and kindness towards each other, a desire to minister to each other's good and to His glory, by the use of all the gifts which He has given us. So indeed would there be no division in His body, no unkindness, no neglect, no pride ; but all would care for one another, and value one another; and. all, whilst improving to the utmost their own gifts, and honouring those of their neighbours, would
have found out also that more excellent way of which St. Paul speaks ; the way of love towards God and man ; the way, in short, to express it in the highest possible language, of communion with Christ's body.
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