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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 40 - Philemon 6 - The Influence of a Holy Family Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Influence Of A Holy Family.


"That the communication of thy faith may become effectual, by the acknowledging of every good flung which is in you in Christ Jesus."

-Philemon 6.



     A small epistle this! To one man, too, and upon a private, personal, or family matter! Paul, the prisoner, writes it from Rome; and writing it, he associates Timothy with himself,-Timothy, in one place called his son, but here his brother. He writes to Philemon, the beloved fellow labourer; and to his wife Apphia, also 'beloved;' and to Archippus, perhaps their son, a young servant of the Lord; and also to the church in their house. Thus Philemon and Apphia and Archippus come before us as partakers of faith, like Abraham and Sarah and Isaac.

     Then Paul tells us how he mingles thanksgiving with prayer, as he hears of the love and faith of this believing family; lovingly linked one with another, and with the whole Church of God. Next he comes to speak of Philemon's faith, and its happy influence.'[6]

     A Christian man's life was intended to tell,-to tell upon the Church, and to tell upon the world. He, like his Lord, is a light, and as such he must operate upon a dark world. He is to be fragrance, diffusing itself all around. He is to be a magnet, exercising attractive and energizing influence. He is to be a city set upon a hill, to which thousands of eyes are turned from all the region round. He is to be an epistle of Christ, known and read of all men, out of which men learn what Christ is, and what a Christian is.

     A Christian man's life is to be a telling one. It is to be a productive walk,-not barren or unimpressive; it is to be effective; fruitful not only in what it bears itself, but in what it provokes others to bear, in what it calls forth from all who see it.  Every man's life,-even that of the poorest,-tells either for good or evil upon those around. No one is wholly isolated. What he is, what he does, what he says, must work. And here is responsibility; from this no man can shake himself free. Specially is this the case with the Christian man. His is a greater responsibility; for his life is meant to tell upon the highest characteristics and destinies of all who at any time come within his circle, either in seeing him or hearing of him. The salt is meant to season the world. If it retains its savor, it will do so without any special effort; if it does not, then what is it fit for? What a call to watch our lives, that they may tell! What a call to consistency, that we may not make one part neutralize the other; doing and undoing, building up and pulling down alternately. What need of circumspection, holiness, and vivid reflection of the Master's own image in all things!

     It is specially Philemon's faith that is here dwelt upon; a faith that is seen taking on all the features of Christ's character,-receiving and reflecting every good thing which is in Christ Jesus, so that all who beheld him saw the various excellencies of Christ in him. Thus his faith was diffusive, operative, telling. In him there was a full and detailed ('every good thing') exhibition of Christ. Bystanders saw these, recognized them, imitated them. In the highest, widest sense, his was an influential life. It was a 'power' in the Church, and it was a 'power' in the world. No life is wholly dumb; but some lives speak with a louder voice than others. Such was Philemon's. Such ought ours to be. There is no need of what men call demonstrativeness. In consistent, tranquil, holy silence, there is often a more effective model given us than in clamorous proclamation or obtrusive zeal. We do not need to lift up our voice in the street in order to work on others; silence, in some cases, is better than speech. There is a too silent, and there is a too noisy witness bearing; both extremes are evil, but the results of silent consistency are always deep and enduring.

     1. Let our faith be alive.-Let it be instinct with life. A dead faith works no miracles; does no mighty deeds; speaks no mighty words.

     2. Let our faith be awake.-Sometimes faith, though alive, falls asleep. Let us not thus slumber, but be roused up. A sleepy or a sleeping faith does nothing.

     3. Let our faith speak.-It must be no dumb faith. It ought to speak. The faith of Abel and Enoch and Abraham spoke; so let ours do. Faith ought to find utterance for itself, and to give no uncertain sound. The words of faith are telling words; they are irresistible.

     4. Let our faith be energetic.-There may be life without energy. A living faith is not always energetic, or vigorous, or aggressive. It ought to be all these: devising, doing, enduring, sacrificing; full of fervor and zeal, full of power and devotedness.

     5. Let our faith be single-eyed.-All men seek their own, said Paul, not the things that are Jesus Christ's. So let it not be with us. Self-denied, not self-seeking,-single eyed, straightforward, and sincere, should a believing man be. No double-mindedness, no crookedness, no self pleasing should be seen in him. Without guile, without hypocrisy, and without vainglory should he be.

     6. Let our faith be reflective of Christ.-It should exhibit every good thing that is in Christ Jesus. All the good in us is to be copied and derived from Christ. We reflect Him, and this reflection tells upon others. We are to be like the moon and planets, which shine with borrowed light. Yet ours is not to be the feebleness of moonshine, but warmer and brighter, because our sun is more glorious.

     Let our faith, then, be communicative, influential, infectious,-telling on all around. Let our life, as believing men, help to mould the believing life of others. Let us not be useless or unimpressive; but decided and unmistakeable, holding forth the word of life, giving light to a dark world, and increasing the light of our fellow believers.