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cidedly in opposition to the thirst of human applause" Do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of "Christ."
The desire of fame, nevertheless, is laudable, when kept within just bounds, and properly directed. He must have a very perverted judgment, or a very depraved heart, who is wholly indifferent to the good opinion of others. His judgment must be perverted; for without enjoying, in some measure, the good opinion of our fellow men, we cannot be useful either to them, or to ourselves; and of course, cannot promote any important or honourable purpose in life. He must have a depraved heart; for the desire of an honest fame is one of the safeguards, and the enjoyment of it one of the delights of virtue. To be indifferent to it, therefore, is indifference to goodness itself. Besides, wherever men are the objects of our love, the desire of being regarded by them with complacency and approbation necessarily follows. If we disregard their good opinion, then, that argues us to be destitute of the good will to them, which scripture emphatically denominates " brotherly love." And to be destitute of this, is to be destitute of the true principle of all social worth. In short, we cannot be careless of our reputation, without a total contempt of our fellow creatures: and if we so despise them, it is impossible we can be willing to exert ourselves to serve them. Their persons will appear unworthy of our kindness; and their interests too mean for our care.-To strive to please is an indispensible duty, when it does not require the sacrifice
• Gal. i, 10.
of our principles. And to a minister, in particular, good fame, or popularity, is not only agreeable, but absolutely necessary, if he would be useful. This the apostle uniformly inculcates, by his own example." I please all men," says he, in his first letter to the Corinthian church," in all things." Nay, he is not ashamed to declare, " I am made all things, to all men." Does Paul, then, here contradict his own sentiments, formerly quoted? No. For in what did he please all men? In those things only, as appears from the context, which were innocent and indifferent; in meats and drinks; in those things, concerning which" he knew, and "was persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is "nothing unclean of itself." And for what end did he seek to please? For an end the most disinterested and benevolent. It was "seeking not his
own profit; but the profit of many, that they might be saved." He was "made all things, to "all men; that he might, by all means, save some."§ And while he exhorts us, " Let every one of us please his neighbour;" he takes care to remind us of the proper end of pleasing-" Let every one "of us please his neighbour, for his good to edifi"cation." Paul then, sought to please, and urges us to copy his example, only for the ends of usefulness. And one mean by which he endeavoured to please, was his tenderness to infirmities, and to prejudices, not morally evil.-But we have another mean on record, a mean more exalted still, by which, if we may so speak, he extorted affection, end took popularity by violence. It is recorded in the context, with peculiar energy of expression,
1 Cor. x. 33. Ib.ix. 22. Rom, xiv. 14. § 1 Cor. ix. 28. || Rom, xv. §.
for the direction of ministers in all ages. May God grant us grace to use it; and bless it with the same effects!" We have renounced the hidden things "of dishonesty; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by "manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves "to every man's conscience, in the sight of God."* He endeavoured to recommend himself to his hearers to be esteemed, and beloved among them, But this he sought, not by indulging their evil pas.. sions or prejudices; not by exercising his ingenuity to make scripture appear accordant with their inclinations, or to justify their corrupt manners. That had been "handling the word of God deceitfully.” He, who withstood Peter" to the face, because he was to be blamed,"+ would have scorned to offer such a sacrifice of abomination, on the altar of popularity. He pursued his object, by the "mani"festation of the truth;" the simple and undisguised declaration of what he had been commissioned to teach, concerning the fallen state of man, and the way of his salvation, Jesus Christ.-Observe, also, to what faculty of the mind he chiefly laboured to commend himself. It was not to the imagination; which is ever apt to be captivated by splendid diction, and gay imagery. It was not to the feelings of the heart, which may easily be interested, even on the side of vice, by artful and pathetic description. It was not even to the understanding alone; for that is so darkened, as often to be ensnared by the most dangerous sophistry. But it was to conscience; that main pillar of the soul, which stands most entire amidst the ruins of the fall. 2 Cor. iv. 2.. ↑ Gal. ii. 11.
It was to that power, before whose sacred tribunal the proudest must tremble; and which demonstrates, by its reproofs, in spite of our presumptuous reasonings, that "all the world is guilty before “God ;" and that the gospel is adapted to the state and circumstances of men. But even conscience may be defiled. Self-interest will pervert it; and habits of wickedness will break its power. It may become so corrupt, as to call evil good, and good evil. Paul, therefore, did not "commend" himself to the conscience of every one, without exception or reservation. That would have been to give unlimited indulgence to those, who had arrived at the last stage of depravity. But he commended himself to "every man's conscience, in the sight of "God." He appealed to conscience, as under the immediate inspection of him, with whom there is neither darkness nor error; who can neither be biassed by partiality, nor misled by sophistry; and who, as he is now the witness of our thoughts and actions, will ere long be their judge.
Such, my brethren, is the only commendation, which we, as ministers of the gospel, ought to pursue. We should exert ourselves to be profitable, rather than to be admired; to gain your esteem and love, through your conviction that we have been useful to you, rather than to obtain an empty applause, by gratifying your ears, or amusing your imaginations. While this is all our aim, popularity, or reputation, will be followed only as means subservient to the grand cause, in which we are engaged; the advancement of our Master's glory, and the furtherance of your spiritual good. Then shall
we attain to a fame, innocent, unenvied, and immortal. While, like the apostle, we seek not glo.. "ry ry of men, neither of you, nor yet of others;"* ye shall be to us, as the Thessalonians were to him, our glory and joy :"+ and even" in the presence "of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming, ye shall "be our hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing."‡
3. If "we preach not ourselves," we preach not to promulgate our own peculiar opinions.
This is perhaps the express meaning of the apostle, in this part of the text. Taken in this sense, it gives to each clause an uncommon preciseness of language, and to the whole verse an unity of sentiment. We preach not ourselves as lords of your faith, or guides of your opinions; but Christ Jesus, as Lord of both; and ourselves, as but instruments subservient to him; for his sake. Such an assurance was peculiarly appropriate to the purpose for which the apostle wrote; and served advantageously to contrast his character with that of the sophists, by whom he was opposed. He preached no doctrine of his own invention, or on his own authority; but closely adhered to the instructions of his Lord. They added to the words of God and modified his revelation, so as to accord with their own opinions. The greatest part, too, of those who were converted by the apostles, were once votaries of heathen superstition. Hence, from the influence of habit, many of them attempted to introduce, into the faith and worship of the christian church, the maxims and practices, to which they had formerly adhered. Being accustomed, also, in their old religion, to have their own inventions, + Ibid. 20. Ibid. 19.
* 1 Thess. ii, 6.