Things That Differ

Philippians 1:10
PRINCIPLES or precepts which sound as though they did not agree very well together make their demands upon us at times, and we are somewhat at a difficulty to decide between them.
So in Matt. 22; He was challenged, Israelite as He was, to answer the claims of Caesar. It was, apparently, a difficulty; but we know in what perfection of wisdom Ηe silenced those who challenged Him. He was as the remnant, or the returned captives, who, in the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, knew how to distinguish between such claimants upon them as the word which God had of old given to them, and the Gentile whom He had lately set over them. For the Persian of that day was as the Caesar of the Lord's day, it was still the Gentile authority in Jerusalem.
Again, in Matt. 23, the Lord decides as to the comparative claims of such different things as tithes and judgment-money and faith. See ver. 23.
In the course of the Apostle's teaching, he speaks of the spirit of "liberty," as in Gal. 5:11Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1), and of the spirit of "reverence," as in Heb. 12:2828Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 12:28). The saint has, therefore, to cherish each of these; but he may often make mistakes, finding a difficulty in giving to each of these holy claimants upon him its due place and measure.
So, in acting on the demands of "charity" and of "strength," as we read in 1 Cor. 16:13, 1413Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. 14Let all your things be done with charity. (1 Corinthians 16:13‑14), we may find like difficulty, and often again make mistakes. This latter will he, of course, in our dealings with one another. The former (that of deciding between the claims of " liberty" and " reverence") will occur in our carrying ourselves with or before God.
In this present day, and with the light of God's peculiar principles in our minds, we may be painfully perplexed, when we think, for instance, of the claims of purity on the one side, and of largeness on the other. The peculiar holiness of the house of God is to be maintained, and yet the greatness and abounding of divine grace is as surely to he exercised and testified.
Does Scripture afford a direct help in this difficulty, and cast a clear and steady light by which we may distinguish things that differ, and know our answer to each of them? I believe so. I read 1 Cor. 8:1010For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; (1 Corinthians 8:10); and there I see that the apostle would sacrifice himself, but not God's truth, to love. He would not eat meat while the world lasted, if it offended a brother; and yet he would not open the door of God's house to one who came from an idol's temple, even though he were a brother. He was ready to sacrifice himself, but not God's house, to love. The grace or large-heartedness that becomes saints called for the sacrifice in the one case, but holiness refused it in the other.
Again, it appears to me that the same apostle, in his own person and actings, beautifully distinguished things that differed, though apparently they were very kindred to each other, in Acts 16 From the " vision" he assuredly gathered that he was to go into Macedonia; from the " earthquake" he assuredly gathered that he was not to go out of the prison; though, to an unskilled eye, an eye not practiced to exercise itself in the light where God dwells, the one might appear to be a providence fitted to the moment, just as surely and distinctly as the other.
Thus, there are things that differ and appear to be at variance, yet each is to be honored ·, and there are things that appear to be kindred, yet are to be distinguished. Who is sufficient for these things? We make many blunders; but we must know our relief in One who appears for us in the presence of God as with "Holiness unto the Lord" upon His forehead.
I would further notice this subject as to quantity and quality in service. This may be suggested to us by the parable of " The Laborers in the Vineyard."
That parable, I judge, instructs us in the fact that the quality as well as the quantity of Christian service is appreciated by the Divine Mind; so that the finer quality of a little service may give it an equal place with the much.
Not that we are to be measuring or comparing ourselves too nicely. This I should dread, and would guard against. It would generate bondage and nourish the legal mind. Still, however, we are to recognize the fact, that service has its quality as well as its quantity.
"God loveth a cheerful giver," most surely intimates this; and who would part with such a little sentence as that? It rebukes indeed our selfish, calculating mind, but it is an excellent oil that will not break our head, but rather deeply comfort our heart, letting us learn a sweet secret about God Himself through it, even this, that He is a cheerful giver. We are to exhort one another unto love and good works-surely we are; but we are not to do good works either by constraint of others, or in imitation of others. Such qualities would ruin all service. Peter, having listened to the Lord's notice of the case of the rich young ruler, puts in his claim, and the claim of his fellow-disciples, his companion apostles, on the ground of the quantity of their service, or of the surrender they had made in following Jesus. "We have forsaken all," said he to his Master, " and have followed thee, what shall we have therefore?"
This was offensive in Peter. We resent it ourselves at once. I somewhat feel as though Peter were more unlike himself at that moment than on any occasion. He was not the free-hearted, earnest, uncalculating Peter then. He spake out, it is true, as he commonly did; for all that is wrong in him shows itself; still, the words offend us. But they only the more illustrate the perfectness of his Divine Master; because, in the full forbearance of grace, as. He resents these words of His servant, He calmly admits the claim which quantity has in the account of services. " Every one," says He, " that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." But, having said this, He added, " but many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first;"-words, which tell us that there were rules for measuring the services of different servants which, it would seem, Peter had not apprehended, but which the Lord would have him now to know. And these words introduce to us, and prepare us for, the following parable. See Matt. 19; 20 For, in this parable, "the laborers in the vineyard," the Lord is seen, as I judge, distinguishing things that differ-that is, quantity and quality in services rendered to Him, or for His sake.
The man who began to labor at the first hour of the day, made a bargain. He agreed with the lord of the vineyard for a penny a day. None of the others did this, but went to their work on the faith of the promise that, whatever was right they would get; and this gave a finer quality to their service (though it was but for one hour) than what theirs, who had borne the burden and heat of the day, possessed. Therefore, they received the like wages. Each of them was given a penny; and yet the Lord of the vineyard did no wrong to those who labored for eleven hours. They got what they bargained for, and if he did what he pleased with that which remained to him after they were paid their due, if he were good in using what was his own, they had no ground of complaint.
We will not refuse to own, that difficulties and perplexities often beset our minds, in the moral path that lies before us, day by day, amid present confusions. But, beloved, there are two consolations: the fault is in ourselves only, and that fault we may take by confession to Him, while the sunshine of the soul, gathered from the grace and salvation of God, suffers no cloud or dimness.