Ephesians 5:2 .— RAGS OF THE OLD MAN AND ROBES OF THE NEW .
Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Lying or falsehood is pre-eminently a heathen vice, as missionaries in India and other countries abundantly testify. It is an attribute of fallen humanity: "They go astray from the womb, speaking lies;" and one of the earliest vices that appear in children is deceit. Not only is it God's will and command that we speak the truth, but it is peculiarly incumbent on Christians as children of the light, as followers of him who is the Truth, as having renounced the devil, who is the father of lies. Another reason is added. For ye are members one of another. Falsehood is always designed to mislead; but to deceive our own members is emphatically wicked. Says Chrysostom (quoted by Eddie), "Let not the eye lie to the foot, nor the foot to the eye. If there be a deep pit, and its mouth, covered with reeds, shall present to the eye the appearance of solid ground, will not the eye use the foot to ascertain whether it is hollow underneath or whether it is firm and resists? Will the foot tell a lie, and not the truth as it is? And what, again, if the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot?"
Warning against falsehood.
As the saints had put off lying at their conversion, it was their duty henceforth to speak truth with their neighbor's. Consider the social duty prescribed and the motive to its faithful performance.
I. THE SOCIAL DUTY . "Speak every man truth with his neighbor." What is truth? There is truth as opposed to falsehood, which is an express intention to deceive. There is truth of character, which is opposed to insincerity. Both kinds of truth are manifest in three circumstances—in common conversation, in bearing testimony, in making and in keeping promises.
II. THE MOTIVE TO THIS SOCIAL DUTY . "Because we are members one of another." This is a religious consideration that is not designed to exclude other grounds of obligation to truthfulness.
1. But the principle here laid down applies equally to mankind in general.
2. The principle here laid down specially applies to Christians. They are not only members of Christ, but of one another. Chrysostom supposes the impossibility of the eye lying to the foot or the foot to the eye, in the presence of danger. Thus it would be equally unnatural, by the very law of their union, as members one of another, that believers should deceive one another by falsehood. The consideration of this membership suggests a relation
1. Let believers be careful as to truth. "If any man seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue"—particularly from lying—"that man's religion is vain." Let them pray with the psalmist, "Remove far from me the way of lying." Let them not tolerate liars in their society.
2. Mark how religion tends to promote the well-being and comfort of society. Truth is the cement of society.
3. Remember that the devil is the father of liars ( John 8:44 ), and that "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" shall not enter the heavenly Jerusalem ( Revelation 22:15 ).—T.C.
Raw material for Christian unity.
It comes upon us with something like a surprise, the exhortations of the present passage after the glories which have gone before. But they are instructive in that they bring out the raw material out of which Paul hoped to manufacture Christian unity. It is evident that he despaired of none, even supposing they had been guilty of the gravest crimes and characterized by the deepest pollution. Does not his grand hope rebuke our faint-heartedness?
I. CONSIDER THE MORAL BEACONS HERE BROUGHT BEFORE THE EPHESIANS . ( Ephesians 4:17-20 ) Paul presents in the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans a frightful picture of the immorality of the heathen. He had studied the question carefully, as a missionary to the heathen must. He here gives a briefer analysis, but one exceedingly vivid and instructive. The terrible fact was that many of the Gentiles had "given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness," and Paul gives us here the reason of it. They had got utterly "hardened" and "past feeling." This was through their ignorance of the holy God, from whose life, with all its purifying power, they were consequently alienated. They had nothing for it in these circumstances but to follow the glimmer of their own darkened understandings, and to walk in the vanity of their minds. It was a case of alienation and isolation from the only Source of purity and of life. Paul consequently holds up the licentious Gentiles as beacons to warn the Ephesians away from the paths of sin, that they may walk worthily as the children of God.
II. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL RENEWAL TO WHICH HE SUMMONS THEM '. (Verses 21-24.) The unconverted and lascivious heathen only showed to what excess of sin the old nature within each of us will proceed, if it be not put away. The beacons show the possibility of every sinful soul if it be not converted unto God. Hence Paul counsels the Ephesians to "put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Revised Version). The "old man" is the sinful nature which we all possess as children of Adam; the "new man" is the better nature which God creates within us. But this new nature does not assert itself as new faculties and new powers, but utilizes the understanding and affections and will, which it finds already within us, so that according to proper mental laws we experience our renewal. The means by which this renewal is brought about are Christ and his offices and benefits; in other words, it is effected by "the truth as it is in Jesus." The moral manifestation is in "righteousness and holiness of truth."
III. CONSIDER THE SERIOUS SINS AGAINST WHICH HE WARNS THE EPHESIANS . (Verses 25-29.) It is evident, from the way in which he mentions them, that they prevailed in heathenism, and that the Ephesians had been previously guilty of them. They bring out vividly the raw material with which he had to work, and they should sustain the hope of missionaries still.
1. Falsehood . It is evident that the veracity of the heathen could not be calculated on; and what was true in Paul's time is true still. The testimony of missionaries is to this effect, that you cannot rely on the word of the heathen. An interesting fact may here be quoted in illustration. "A Christian Santal was once going through several villages to make an extensive purchase of rice. In the first of the villages he got part of what he required, in the second also he got some baskets, and so forth, all for cash payments. But when he had brought out his money at the last village, he saw that he had not enough. He was twelve shillings short of the sum necessary to pay what he had bought. It is a thing unheard of among the Santals to give any goods on credit, so that the man saw that he had no alternative but to ask the seller to take back twelve shillings' worth of the rice. Meantime the seller had perceived that he had to do with a Christian, and as this impression was confirmed on his directly putting the question, he declared, without more ado, that he would be content in the mean time with the partial payment, and would trust to the buyer that he would soon bring him the balance. Unfortunately, the tax-collector came next day to the village to collect the dues. The man who had given his rice on credit was not able to pay his dues fully at once, and told, by way of excuse, what had befallen him. But the official deemed it incredible that a Santal should part with his goods without getting the money for them. His suspicion was confirmed by the fact that the man could give neither the name nor the residence of his debtor, and only took his stand upon this, that he was a Christian, and would certainly pay the twelve shillings ere long. Even the other villagers did not believe the story, and the collector sentenced the supposed liar to a suitable measure of stripes. A few days after, that Christian returned and paid his debt. His creditor had scarcely recovered from his undeserved ill treatment; but he forgot his pains through the joy of being able to vindicate himself and his honorable debtor before his neighbors and acquaintances. He called them all together and said triumphantly, 'You laughed at me lately because I trusted the word of a Christian. There he is. Look well at him. I have not dunned him for his debt. I knew neither his name nor where he lives, and yet he has come to pay me the twelve shillings.' "This interesting circumstance brings out at once the falsehood that exists in heathenism and the veracity fostered by the gospel. Before leaving this first sin, however, it is well to notice on what Paul grounds his appeal for veracity. It is on our being "members one of another." "Truth-speaking," says Mozley, "is not a universal isolated obligation which we are under—a law to say truth under all circumstances, and in whatever relations we stand to the other party; but it supposes certain relations, viz. the ordinary relations of man with man, the natural terms of fellowship with man—that we are bound to perform all the offices of humanity to him, and to behave to him as a brother. When we speak of the certain and obvious obligation to sincerity, these are the relations which we suppose; and St. Paul places the duty of veracity upon its proper basis, and gives the law of truth its proper position in the frame and system of morals, when he assigns the duty of truth-speaking this large and deep source, this intelligible connection, and this inclusive rationale ." We do not proceed further in the quotation, but he infers that the relations of man to man may so vary, as when a man turns out assassin, that we are under no obligation to tell truth to him, if it would further his diabolical designs.
2. Sinful anger . This is another sin which is prevalent among unregenerate men. Paul's appeal implies that there is such a thing as sinless anger. God is angry with the wicked, for example, every day. David, again, at the very time when he was calling on God to search him and to try him, could say calmly in the Divine presence, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred : I count them mine enemies" ( Psalms 139:21 , Psalms 139:22 ). But a great deal of the anger indulged in, both in heathen and in Christian lands, is selfish passion, and so sinful anger. It is against this selfish phase Paul warns them, and as we are peculiarly open to assaults from Satan when thus angry, the Ephesians are warned in this connection not to give place to the devil.
3. Laziness . The heathen will not work if they can help it. They would rather steal than work. Hence the gospel has always had an important mission in the "exaltation of labor." The monks in the Middle Ages did immense service in this direction, and really prepared Europe for the vast development of modern industry. This is one great feature also of modern missions. They give an impulse to industry wherever they are established. But it is to be observed that "the apostle does not honor all industry: far from it. He always reprobates the covetous, money-getting spirit. Fie even says, 'The love of money is the root of all evil,' and he calls covetousness idolatry.... He admires industry, but it must be industry which is consecrated by the nature which he requires; for it is that of duty—when a man fulfils in the fear of God the task which is allotted to him." In the present instance he exhorts them to give up the laziness which would prompt a man to steal, and to work earnestly that they may be able to help others. Labor is exalted when disinterestedness enters in and consecrates it.
4. Filthy conversation . We need not tarry upon this. It is known to be one of the great trials of missionary life in heathen lands. What they hear is something awful. Some time since an enterprising and able young man disguised himself and spent some nights in the model lodging-houses of Glasgow, to report on the way in which they are conducted. His testimony was that it was not so much what he saw or smelt which gave him such pain, as what he heard . This exactly illustrates the point before us. Paul's ear, we may be sure, had been the avenue of exquisite torture as he heard "the filthy conversation of the wicked." He calls upon his converts, consequently, to cultivate a gracious and edifying discourse. It is by speaking that human usefulness is chiefly realized. Men are to be talked into better things ( Romans 10:17 ).
IV. CONSIDER HIS WARNING AGAINST GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD . (Verse 30.) Now, if Paul's ears were grieved with the immoralities of heathenism, how much more must we believe will the Holy Spirit be offended! How needful that those in whose hearts he dwells should abstain from all appearance of evil, and so give no offence to the holy Guest! More especially should this be the case when he condescends to seal souls "unto the day of redemption." If he has come to abide with us forever, surely we ought not to trifle in his presence or to offend his pure and blessed Being!
V. LASTLY , CONSIDER HIS APPEAL FOE MUTUAL FORBEARANCE AND KINDLINESS . (Verses 31, 32.) He brings in the forgiveness of God to us as a reason why we should be forbearing and forgiving to one another. In this way he expects to bring the Ephesians, who bad been so unholy, into the glorious unity of Christian love. The material on which he worked was raw and rough indeed, but not worse than human nature still. But out of the roughest stone hewed from the quarry of nature Divine grace can make polished stones fitted for God's palace.—R.M.E.
The apostle here enumerates five vices pertaining to the old man , or Gentile state , and shows how they are contradicted by Christianity.
I. LYING .
1. The negative of Christianity . "Wherefore, putting away falsehood." Lying sufficiently indicates what is meant, if we take it as including falsehood in act as well as falsehood in speech. It is the intention to deceive that makes the lie, whatever its manifestations. The goodness of the motive does not alter its character. We may be saying what we do not think, to convey a compliment. Or we may be advancing an argument in which we do not believe, to serve our party. Or we may make a strong denial, to cover the fault of a friend. We may, by some half-truth, be getting rid of a slight inconvenience to ourselves. But all the same, there is an offence committed against truth. And we must understand from the teaching here that Christ emphatically says no to it in every form. We are to put away lying, and the context plainly suggests that we are to put it away as belonging to the old man. We need not wonder at it characterizing the old man, when we remember that Scripture dates the original of evil in us from the result of a lie told by the father of lies. Many of the heathen were like the Cretans, of whom Paul testified, in a quotation from one of their own poets, that they were always liars . It is a vice which is known to be very prevalent among non-Christianized peoples. There is not so much of shameless lying among Christian nations; but in less open forms, where there is not saving grace, there is the same disposition to be false, to state false reasons for our conduct, to keep up false appearances, to cover our faults by a denial of fact. "Do not," says Ruskin, "let us lie at all. Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside; they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, and it is better that our hearth should be swept clean of them, without overcare as to which of them are largest or blackest."
2. The positive of Christianity . "Speak ye truth each one with his neighbor." In Zechariah 8:16 it is said, "Speak ye every man truth to his neighbor." The change from "to his neighbor" to "with his neighbor" has the effect of defining the circle contemplated here as the Christian circle . Why are we to hold the truth sacred? The ethical reason given by Kant is that we are to do so out of reverence to the humanity subsisting in our person . The Christian reason as given by the apostle here is virtually this, that we are to do so out of regard to the Christ that is in us. His words are, "For we are members one of another." That is, my Christian neighbor is a part of myself; and why should I wrong him? Not inaptly Chrysostom says, "If the eye were to spy a serpent or a wild beast, will it lie to the foot?" We must do by our Christian neighbor as we would do by a part of ourselves which we would not see hurt. But what is it that makes our Christian neigh-bout so closely related to us? It is the Christ that is in him and in us. And in lying we are not only dishonoring our common humanity, but, in the Christian circle, we are dishonoring Christ who has made us one. The habit of speaking the truth each one with his neighbor is of difficult acquisition . There is so much that is false in the conventionalism of society, and such a desire in men to appear better than they really are , that there is often the spectacle of truth "fallen in the street." The way to acquire it is to put Christ before us in our neighbor as him whom, by the slightest divergence from the truth, we must not demean.
II. SINFUL ANGER .
1. The negative of Christianity . "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." The word is rather exasperation (already an evil form of feeling), which, if nursed , fast settles down into wrath . It was a custom of the Pythagoreans that, if betrayed into railing by passion, before the sun went down they shook hands, kissed one another, and were reconciled. It is one of the uses of night that it is a call to be placable. "We are not bad gods or demons in our impetuosity, but men, men that go to sleep as children do and. must. Being spaced off in this manner by stoppages, we consent to limits. We are softened and gentled in feeling more, perhaps, than we would like to be. A man must be next to a devil who wakes angry." The Christian reason against nursing wrath is that it is a giving place to the devil. For it is in connection with wrath that it is said, " Neither give place to the devil ." He who rises from his bed unsoftened, who seeks about for new reasons for his wrath, is giving the devil peculiar opportunity. And when the devil gets in through the door of passion that is nursed, a man will do deeds then that, in his cool moments, he would have shrunk from with the utmost abhorrence. Vindictiveness was a characteristic of the heroes of the ancient heathen world, and does not call forth from such a delineator of them as Homer an expression of disapprobation. It is still found in not dissimilar form in the savage, who ruthlessly pursues his enemy until he has scalped him. Within the Christian sphere indulgence of anger is peculiarly unbecoming, and must result in the ejection of Christ and, with him, of peace and right guidance.
2. The positive of Christianity . "Be ye angry." And we need not wonder at the injunction when we take into account that anger is a hundred times in Scripture attributed to God, and also that it is said of Christ that he looked round about on the hypocrites among his hearers with anger . "We are so made that pity is not more naturally awakened by the sight of suffering, fear by the approach of danger, delight by the vision of beauty, gratitude by deeds of generous kindness, than anger by many kinds of wrong-doing. The men whose hearts never glow with enthusiasm at witnessing lofty self-sacrifice, never burn with indignation against cowardice, falsehood, and profligacy; the men whose eyes never flash, whose pulse never quickens, whose words move on m an unbroken flow, and never rush along tumultuously like a cataract, either in praise or blame,—never yet did any work worth doing either for God or man" (Dale). But, as if special danger attended anger, the injunction to it is followed up, and thrown into a certain subordination, by the caution—"And sin not."
III. STEALING .
1. The negative of Christianity . "Let him that stole steal no more." Whether we translate the first part of the injunction "him that stole," or, as is often done, "him that steals," the latter part, "steal no more," implies that there was danger of some in the Ephesian Church falling into this sin. And we need not wonder at this, when we consider their pre-Christian state. They were accustomed, in heathen society, to theft being punished (which would keep up a certain moral sentiment against it), but at the same time, they were brought up in a certain laxity with regard to what was theirs and what was their neighbor's. And is not the Ephesian Church in this respect representative? While there are very few connected with our Churches who will steal, so as to expose themselves to the punishment of the law, there are those who are chargeable with what, if strictly looked into, is dishonesty. They do not give value in labor for money received. Or they contract debts, or come under obligations which they have no reasonable expectation of meeting; or they are not doing their utmost, in the way of exertion and economy, to get out of debt. Or, under the pressure of competition, they fall in with the evil custom of the trade, and adulterate. There are many ways of unjustly hindering the wealth or outward estate of our neighbor. There may be dishonesty even in the desire to have what does not belong to us. But nothing could be more emphatic than the declaration here that, whatever our temptations, whatever losses it may entail, we are not to steal at all.
2. The positive of Christianity . "But rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need." There is presented here the Christian aspect of labor. It is according to the rule of Christ that we should work and not be idle. And if it is in literally working with our hands that we spend our energies, yet is that not demeaning, for Christ sanctified such work by working as a carpenter. It is further according to the rule of Christ that we should work the thing that is good , that is to say, have an honest business and do our best (time and circumstance considered). There is further the motive with which we are to work. There is the incentive of providing for our own, and specially our own household, and of providing for our household not merely for the present, but, in view of the uncertainty of our life, also as we can for the future. And if any one of ours needed special nourishment or change of air, that would be a reason for our working hard that what was needed might be supplied. But in the language here employed there is a look to the needy in body or in soul beyond our own immediate circle. And it is taught that the Christian is to labor with the view and in the hope of having something over , after making all reasonable allowance for his own, to bestow on the poor and to send the gospel to the heathen. It is this in our aim which is needed to make labor, however assiduous and lawful, distinctively Christian. And the exhorter here himself set a Christian example, "In all things I gave you an example, how that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." And he, even the humblest laborer, who strives in his labor to have something over for Christ (in him that hath need), will not fail, or if he can be said to fail, yet will his effort lead to his labor being accepted of Christ. And if this is the true gospel of labor , then how much labor is there which must be rejected in which there is a wrong done to Christ in his not receiving his dues or acknowledgment?
IV. UNWHOLESOME SPEECH .
1. The negative of Christianity . "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth." "Perhaps the image which the word (corrupt) calls up was not distinctly present to the apostle's mind; but it might have been, for it is a very just one. The epithet is used to describe vegetables, meat, and fish which are beginning to go bad; and there are some people whose conversation is quite as unwholesome as food which is not quite fresh. Unsound itself, it injures the moral health and vigor of those who listen to it." Without being poisonous , words may be unwholesome. Falsehood he has already condemned. Violence and detraction in speech fall under the next head. Filthiness and foolish talking and jesting come up in the beginning of the next chapter. Words may be neither false, nor violent, nor defamatory, nor foul, nor senseless, nor profane, and yet be unwholesome . And to such we limit our attention here. There are some who give the chief place in their conversation to business or household affairs. There are others who give it to fashion, pleasure, amusement. There are others again who give it to the little affairs of their neighbors or to politics. Conversation may properly enough turn upon these things; but when it is so occupied with them as to rouse the impression that the world in one or other of these forms is everything, as to shut out the thought of God, as to take away the feeling of the seriousness of life, then (like food that is not quite fresh) it is fitted to do harm. There is not, in such conversation, nutriment for the moral being, exercise for the moral powers. It is to be said, too, that the spirit of worldly conversation is gathered up in certain worldly maxims such as these: that we must look after ourselves; that we must take the good of the world; that we must have our time of gaiety; that we must be like our neighbors. These maxims (as excuses for selfishness, thoughtlessness) are unsound; and the apostle, speaking for Christ, would say emphatically, "Let no such corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth." And the peculiarly Christian reason against that kind of speech is given in the words, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption." It will be seen that the apostle regards speech in a sacred light—he would have it as a medium or organ of the Holy Spirit. It is taught that the Divine Spirit is intensely interested in all the movements of our life . There is not a department to which his interest does not extend, and which he would not have permeated with his holy influences. And when he is thwarted in his holy ends he is grieved as a mother is grieved when a son whom she loves as none else can is not acting according to her wishes and prayers. And it is to be noticed that what is represented as grieving the Spirit is that which is hurtful, not so much by its heinousness as by its commonness . Against graver faults we are placed more on our guard; but we do not think how we grieve the Holy Spirit by the feeble moral tone of our conversation. The Spirit is grieved with the conversation of the unconverted (which is necessarily unwholesome); but he is especially grieved when Christians thwart him by a conversation which is not of him. For on them, as already expressed in the first chapter, his seal was placed, against the day of their final redemption. You, then, who have the seal of the Holy Spirit of God on you, as marked for redemption, grieve him not by unedifying conversation.
2. The positive of Christianity . "But such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear." The Christian element in conversation is that a regard be paid to edification. We are made to communicate with others by speech, not that we may impose on them, or play with them, or regard them carelessly, but that we may edify them. There is not only that which is edifying, but edifying for the occasion . And "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." And what constitutes its fitness is not its mere artistic form or reconditeness, but especially a depth of feeling in it, and a moral discrimination , that make it meet a need and prove a blessing to them that hear. A word of this kind, that may not be wanting in sharpness, but can convey comfort too and direction and incitement to good, what an accomplishment it is to be able to speak it! And, however far we are behind, let us strive after the Christian ideal of conversation which is here placed before us.
V. BAD TEMPER .
1. The negative of Christianity . "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you , with all malice." By bitterness here we are to understand all want of sweetness of temper. This is indicated by what are mentioned as its manifestations. It takes the form of wrath , or a sudden outburst of passion. Or it takes the form of the more settled feeling of anger . The wrath, again, takes the form of clamor , or violent speech. And the anger takes the form of railing , or more deliberate and continued speaking against a brother. And the evil temper in these its manifestations, in all the varieties that belong to it (as is indicated by the word "all"), is represented as having its subsistence in malice , by which we are to understand ill feeling, and that not simply in its worst form, but (as is also indicated by "all") in all its forms. This apostolic analysis of bad temper shows that he regarded it in a serious light. He did not regard it as some would, as a mere physical infirmity. Constitution has to do with it in this respect, that some have more to contend against than others. But, whatever our constitutional temper is, we are bound to bring it under law to Christ. Bad temper, therefore, is a sin, an unchristian state, of which we are to repent, and from which we are, according to the thought here, to be forcibly delivered. For "put away" here is stronger than "put away" in the twenty-fifth verse, and implies the putting forth of something like force upon us (by the stronger than we), in order that we may get rightly away from it.
2. The positive of Christianity . "And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you." The kindness here inculcated is that good feeling toward others which keeps us Prom unseemly manifestations, and sweetens our whole bearing as brethren. And this kindness is to extend (where there is occasion) to tenderness of heart (or, as it used to be in Colossians 3:12 , with the same allusion as here, "bowels of mercies"). And this tenderness of heart is to take the very beautiful and distinctively Christian form of forgivingness . For God in Christ forgave us . The allusion is to the historical fact of Christ once for all putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Thus God not only showed himself forgiving, but actually made forgiveness a gospel reality. It is after the manner of the apostle to ground deep human duty. He has especially a satisfaction in falling back on the great fact of the atonement. Forgiveness is not an optional matter with us, or something that we may want without losing our Christianity; but it is that to which we are peculiarly, indissolubly bound by the fact that God has gone before us in it in his dealing with us. Let us, then, have that nobility, generosity of disposition, that emanation from God himself, which will lead us to forgive those that sin against us.—R.F.
The abjured and the enjoined in Christian life.
"Wherefore," etc. In the preceding verses, as we have seen, under the head of The true method of studying Christianity , the apostle exhorted the Ephesians "to put off the old man and to put on the new man." He here proceeds to particularize and urge this the great practical work of Christianity. He abjures the elements of the old man and enjoins the elements of the new. Our subject is the abjured and the enjoined in the Christian life .
I. THE ABJURED IN CHRISTIAN LIFE . There are certain things here which are, alas! often found in connection with nominal Christians, and which are therefore too often regarded as identified with the Christian system, which are here abjured in language most earnest and strong. What are they?
1. Lying speech . "Putting away lying." A lie is a falsehood intended to deceive, with an immoral design; it is a misrepresentation of that to another about which he has a right to know the truth. What, then, is fiction and parable, say you? There is no justifiable fiction that does not agree with fact and serve the cause of reality and morals. Lying is one of the most prevalent sins. The ancient heathens everywhere practiced it, and moderns too. All travelers and missionaries bear testimony to this. Heathens are not to be believed on their oaths. Alas! the vice is not confined to heathendom; it prevails throughout the civilized world. Lies fill the social atmosphere. Men in every department of life are deceiving and being deceived by their fellow-men, and often for selfish and immoral ends. Christianity condemns lies. "Lying lips are an abomination unto the Lord." And "liars at last shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." Christianity is essentially and eternally antagonistic to all insincerities and unrealities. Vanity, cowardice, and greed are the prolific factors of falsehoods,
2. Sinful anger . "Be ye angry, and sin not." We say, "sinful anger," for the text implies that there is an anger that is not sinful. Anger is the mind in emotional antagonism, and in a world of unreality, sin, and crime there is much to justify the strongest antagonism of the soul. Christ himself looked upon the conduct of the Jews with anger ( Mark 3:5 ). Indignation sometimes fired his breast, and "woes" like thunderbolts rolled from his lips. The stronger a being's love for the right, the mightier his indignation for the wrong. The text implies two things concerning sinful anger.
3. Social dishonesty . "Let him that stole steal no more." Stealing in some way or other is a vice as prevalent as lying. Our popular ideas of larceny are not deep or broad enough for Christianity. Englishmen regard those as thieves only whom the law has convicted of pilfering, and who are generally amongst the poor and needy. But in the eye of Christianity he is a thief who takes from another his rightful due. The tradesman who deals in short weights and measures, and overcharges for his wares, is a thief; the servant who does not occupy faithfully in his master's service the hours and faculties for which he is paid, is a thief; the physician who prolongs his visit to his patient beyond what is necessary, in order to get gain, is a thief; the rulers who tax the people to pay them enormous salaries for offices inefficiently and often injuriously filled, are thieves. To all these Christianity says, "Let him that stole steal no more;" be honest.
4. Corrupt language . "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." It is a putrescent language that is here abjured. What is a foul speech in the sense of Christianity? Not the ungrammarie in structure or the inelegant in style. The irreligious speech, which treats sacred things with frivolous profanity and sneering ridicule, is foul and corrupt; the selfish speech, which argues and persuades solely for personal gratification, is foul and corrupt; the malicious speech, which endeavors to undermine the influence, damage the interests, and injure the reputation of others, is foul and corrupt; the sensuous speech, that seeks to influence the animal passions and pollute the pure love of mankind, is foul and corrupt. All such language—and, alas! it abounds amongst us—is indeed putrescent. As heaps of decomposing vegetable and animal matter send forth gases into the atmosphere injurious to the physical health of the world, all corrupt communications proceeding from the mouths of men impregnate the mental atmosphere with elements damaging to the moral health of souls.
5. The anti-Divine . "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Of course we are not to suppose that the eternal Spirit literally endures grief. He is the ever-blessed God. What is meant is, "do not do that which is repugnant to the heart and desires of the infinite Spirit." And what is thus repugnant to the Spirit? All that the Spirit here abjures, as well as moral evil of all kinds. A good reason is here added by Paul, "Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." This expression implies two things.
6. Malevolent conduct . "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice." Malice, or malevolence, is the root of all. It is malice that generates the bitter things in social life; it is malice that kindles the fires of "wrath and anger;" it is malice that makes the tumultuous "clamors" and the contentious brawls. Let this malice be destroyed, and social love and purity anti peace shall prevail. Such are some of the evils that Christianity abjures, and, in abjuring, it abjures that which is the disgrace, the guilt, and the curse of mankind. With an exulting confidence, I say to infidels that whatever is had in the world or the Church, instead of growing out of Christianity, is in direct antagonism to it. All wrong is antichrist; all right is Christian.
II. THE ENJOINED IN CHRISTIAN LIFE . Christian life is not a negation. It does not consist in the mere deprivation of the morally wrong; its essence is the spirit of goodness—love . This love, in its social character, is forcibly inculcated in these words. We are here taught:
1. That the social love enjoined is courteous . "Be ye kind one to another ." Christianity requires us to cherish a benignant spirit, and maintain an amiable and considerate deportment towards all mankind. Where this kindness of nature is there will be true courtesy and a gentle bearing in all our intercourse with men. There is a politeness of manner in society which has no heart, no nature; it is mere mechanism and polish; it is often in alliance with the coarse in thought, the selfish in spirit, the putrid in moral feeling. Such politeness is theatrical. The coarse-minded churl on the stage assumes the costume and plays the part of a gentleman. The spirit of Christianity is antagonistic to all that is coarse, crabbed, and morose. Love " doth not behave itself unseemly."
2. That the social love enjoined is compassionate . " Tender-hearted ." There is suffering in society—physical, mental, moral, social. Children of sorrow and trial are found in every walk of life. Towards those Christianity inculcates " tender-hearted " compassion. " Put on .. as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" ( Colossians 3:12 , Colossians 3:13 ). "Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" ( 1 Peter 3:8 , 1 Peter 3:9 ).
3. That the social love enjoined is forgiving . "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Few men pass through life without meeting with those who commit offences against them; those who seek to damage their secular interests, their social enjoyments, or their moral reputation. How does Christianity require its disciples to act towards them? Not with the spirit of vengeance, but with that of forgiveness. "Forgiving one another." The words contain three facts.
(a) Freely. No urging required, no constraint.
(b) Abundantly. "He will abundantly pardon." "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" This was Peter's question to Christ; and what was the reply? "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" ( Matthew 18:21 , Matthew 18:22 ).
4. That the social love enjoined is God-like . "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." "Become, then, followers of God, as beloved children (Ellicott). "God is love." Seek to become like him in love. His love is disinterested, compassionate, forgiving, boundless, and ever-acting. This is the standard to be aimed at; nothing lower.
5. That the social love is self-sacrificing . "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
CONCLUSION . What a sublime system is Christianity! It abjures in the life of its disciples all that is false, malign, unjust, impure, and profane, and enjoins that spirit of love which purifies, ennobles, and beatifies.—D.T.