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and more imminent, he found the ranks of his friends gradually thinned, until at last he was left to stand and fight the good fight alone. To this he repeatedly alludes with deep feeling, but at the same time with a composure which shows that he had overcome the distress which it once gave him, in this epistle to his beloved son Timothy, written during his second imprisonment at Rome, and only a short time before the martyrdom which he endured there for the name of Christ. “ All they that are in Asia be turned away from me," says he.“ Only Luke is with me.
first answer no man stood by me, but all men forsook me.” The selfishness, inconstancy, and cowardice, which were thus brought to light, could not but wound the spirit of Paul; but the wound was healed. Though cast down he was not dispirited—though deserted by his friends he was not left destitute. He could say with his Divine Master, that, though they left him alone, yet was he not alone, and he felt no lack. “ All men forsook me-nevertheless the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, and I was delivered from the mouth of the lion." At the bar of the Emperor he was enabled to open his mouth boldly” in confessing and pleading the cause of Christ; and when remanded to his prison, and when his timid friends in Rome stood aloof from him, the compassionate Master whom he served brought from a distance a friend whose seasonable and divinely arranged visit banished every remains of gloom from his mind, and inspired him with fresh alacrity for the approaching crisis of the combat. When Paul had landed in Italy, some of his brethren in Rome came out to meet him, “whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.' How ravishing to salute dear friends after escaping from the perils of a storm! And, amidst the wreck of our friendships, when, on first recovering from the shock which it produced, we thought of opening our eyes on blank desolation, how reviving to find standing by our side one friend whom we had not seen for a long period of time, but who had never lost sight of us, and who, heaven-directed, had flown as on angel wings to succour and comfort us ! One « friend who loveth at
* Acts, xxvii. 156
all times,” and whose visits are paid in the season of adversity, is sufficient to compensate for the loss, if loss it can be called, of ten thousand of those giddy pretenders to friendship who buzzed about our ears in the noon of prosperity, whom the slight shower brushed away, and who, in spite of all our caution, left upon us the spots of their vain and vitiating flattery. Such a friend Paul found in Onesiphorus. From the manner in which it is here mentioned, we perceive that the kind visit and Christian conversation of this friend had left a fragrance behind him which continued still to refresh the spirits and cheer the solitude of the apostle. He dismisses the Asiatic deserters with a single sentence : but having mentioned the name of Onesiphorus, he did not know how to break off ; so much did his heart overflow with gratitude and affection to his ancient and steady benefactor.
In point of expression and structure this episode possesses great beauty, not that which consists in the choice and arrangement of words, but a beauty which art in its highest finishings cannot reach, the impress of the moral and religious feeling which dictated it. The breaks and the repeated changes in the form of address forcibly depict the feelings of the writer—the eagerness and impatience which he felt to express his gratitude to that good man who had shown that he was not ashamed of the cross of Christ, nor of himself, his prisoner and champion, at a time when so many timid and worldly professors had deserted both. It is a rare example (the only one I know) of prayer and narrative, an address to God and to men intermingled, and in which the familiarity used with the latter does not diminish in the slightest degree the reverence due to the former, who “ will have mercy and not sacrifice.” He begins with an address to Heaven in behalf of his friend's family : “ The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus." But he interrupts this solemn address to acquaint Timothy with the obligations which he was under to him: 6. For he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.” He then resumes his prayer for him in still more solemn and fervent accents : 66 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord at that day.” And
he concludes by adverting to his early kindness and benefactions with which Timothy was already well acquainted : “ And in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus thou knowest very well.” Here, my brethren, you have two portraits drawn with the same pencil and by the same strokes ; and it is difficult to say which is most worthy of being admired and imitated—the Christian beneficence and constancy of Onesiphorus, or the Christian gratitude and piety of Paul. Let us contemplate each of them for a little.
I. Of the conduct of Onesiphorus.
This benevolent Christian was an inhabitant of Ephesus, and a member of the church there. Like many of his fellowcitizens, he most probably " owed his own self” to the Apostle; and he testified his love to the gospel, and his gratitude to his spiritual instructor, by ministering to him liberally of his substance during the time that he preached in that city. It appears
from Paul's farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, that, with the view of not being burdensome to them, he had laboured with his own hands for his
supBut as his labours were interrupted by public teaching, and by persecution, an opportunity was afforded to benevolent individuals to relieve him from straits, which, although his fortitude and self-denial would have enabled him to bear them, could not have failed to distress his mind, and to hinder him in the discharge of his official duty. In imparting this relief, Onesiphorus had distinguished himself, being, as is most likely, a person in good or opulent circumstances. Though the Apostle did “not desire a gift,” and had learned to “ suffer need,” as well as to “ abound,” yet he “ desired fruit to abound to the account” of those among whom he laboured. Hence he “ rejoiced in the Lord greatly” that “ the care” which the Christians at Philippi showed him, at their first acquaintance, had “ flourished again” after a season of suspension ; and he calls the things which were sent from them, “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”† On this account it “ refreshed” him to recollect the kindness with which Onesiphorus had treated him at Ephesus. He does not tell us in how many things he had ministered to him. This it would not have been easy for him to do, if it had been necessary. In how many ways, my brethren, may we serve others, and contribute to their comfort, even though our means be slender and scanty! Nameless, countless are the kindnesses performed by a zealous and vigilant benevolence, exerting itself in the spirit and after the example of Him who "prevents us with blessings of goodness manifold!” It is not the magnitude or costliness of gifts that proves the goodness of the donor, or does most good to the recipient; it is their number, their repetition, their seasonableness, and the considerate and delicate manner in which they are conferred. The goodness of Heaven, in nature and in grace, steals upon us, and its choicest blessings descend in drops so small as not to be perceived, and with such gentleness as scarcely to be felt. Largesses may be bestowed in such a way as to chill the heart and lacerate the feelings, while small and comparatively inconsiderable favours drop like the rain, and distil like the dew, which refresh and saturate the earth.
* Acts, xx, 33-35.
+ Philip. iv. 10–18.
The early beneficence of Onesiphorus was not forgotten by Paul. But what he was most desirous to record, was the kindness he had lately shown him in Rome. In the many proofs of affection which he had formerly given, he had “ done virtuously;” but this last “excelled them all.” And wherein did its surpassing excellence lie? It proved him to be a.
. friend indeed; one who " sticketh closer than a brother." A person may be capable of deeds both disinterested and generous—romantically generous, and yet he may want that quality without which he is not entitled to the sacred name of friend. Constancy is the cardinal, the crowning property of friendship, the only inimitable and imperishable impress of its genuineness. Though a man should be willing to give all his goods to feed another, yea, and his body to be burned for him, yet if he is liable to be fickle and changeable in his attachments, he is no friend,-he cannot be depended on. And here it is, my brethren, that the professions of regard and friendship which abound in the world fail, and are found to be nought. Behold this have I found, counting one by one to find out the accounts which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: One man that is generous and disinterested among a thousand have I found; but a man that is constant and unalterable among all those have I not found. True friendship keeps pace with time; changes not with the changes of fortune; sinks not with the opinion of the world ; rises superior to offences; views its object with the same unaltered eye through the atmosphere of good report and of bad report, in the light of honour, and under the cloud of disgrace. A man may grow old, and his visage and form be completely altered, he may fall into poverty and under reproach, he may incur the odium of mankind, and see reason to be displeased with his own conduct; but he cannot hate or forget himself; and as he is, so is his friend, who, in this respect, partakes of his personal identity. Paul continued to be the same to Onesiphorus that he had been on the first day of their acquaintance,—the same at Rome as at Ephesus,the same when deserted as when surrounded by his followers, the same when a despised prisoner as when an applauded preacher,--the same when chained with criminals as when seated among Apostles on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is not said that he came to Rome for the express purpose of visiting the Apostle. Christianity does not require such works of supererogation ; nor are such romantic deeds of generosity necessary to the maintenance of Christian friendship. However much Paul was gratified at seeing his old friend, he would have been displeased, we may venture to say, if he had undertaken such a journey merely for his personal gratification. It was enough, that, being in Rome, he did not forget his revered teacher, now the prisoner of the Lord, but sought him out very diligently, and visited him oft.
“ I was in prison, and ye came unto me,” is the top of the climax in that beautiful description which our Saviour gives of those who shall be acknowledged as his friends at the last day, and to which he subjoins this explanation, « inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” This was a stronger proof of friendship than giving him meat when he was hungry, or