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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Preacher, May 1847
“Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20)
What do we mean when we say that what we hold is not our own, but another's? We mean that we have no right to use it as our own. We must be governed in our use of it, simply by the direction of the owner. If we appropriate it to our own use, we are dishonest. We are guilty of robbery. Or, if he allows us to use it, or any part of it, for ourselves, we must be governed in all respects by his will. If a man commit his property into my hands for a term of time, I must surely do with it just what he prescribes.
And, again, we must give up what is not our own, when-ever the owner calls for it. If we refuse, we are dishonest. We have no right to retain either the whole, or any part of it. All of it is the owner's, and he is the only rightful proprietor. If you lend a man a hundred dollars, and when you call upon him for it he declines to surrender your property, or puts you off with a shilling, you would never trust him again.
Now this is precisely what is meant, when, in our text, it is said, "Ye are not your own." Whatever we possess is not our own, but Christ's. A certain nobleman delivered to his servants talents, and said, "Occupy till I come." (Luke 19:13)
You are called by the name of Christ. You profess to be his. You say you are not your own. But have you ever reflected on the meaning of this confession? You are a professional man; your learning, and talent, and influence, are Christ's. What right have you to use them for the purpose of fostering your own ambition, or in any respect ministering to yourself? If you thus use them, you rob Christ.
You are a minister of the gospel. You have been in a peculiar manner set apart to the service of the Saviour. You have, by your own will, laid yourself upon his altar. Have you then a right to live as other men live? Have you a right to shrink from hardship, and reproach, and inconvenience, and toil, and declare that you will serve Christ, but it must be in a comfortable settlement?
Have you a right to pursue what studies you please, to read what books you please, engage in what enterprises you please, for the sake of reputation, or honor, or power; or, in a word, to make your calling as an ambassador for Christ, an instrument for attaining to temporal ease, or honor, or benefit? Christ had infinitely greater facilities than you for doing this; did he use them thus? Paul was an abler and more learned man than you, yet he rejoiced in being made the offscouring of all things for Christ. (1 Cor. 4:13)
You are a merchant or mechanic. You are by industry and skill acquiring property and standing. But you say that these are not your own. By what right then do you use them as you do? In your arrangements at home and abroad, in your expenditures for pleasure or amusement, for yourselves or your children, in your principles of accumulation, I do not see that you even profess to differ from honest worldly men around you, who never profess that they are not their own.
But I have said that if anything with which you are entrusted is not your own, you are under obligation to surrender it up as soon as the owner calls for it. If what you hold be his, when he requires it, you have no right to retain it a moment longer.
Christ intimates his claim by the facts brought to your knowledge. A world for which he died is perishing. He has spread their case before you. They are demanding the Word of Life at your hands. They will perish if you do not come to their aid. Your talents, and labors, and wealth, are necessary to save a world from destruction. If you do not surrender them when he thus demands them, what do you mean by saying you are not your own? Will a man rob God? (Mal. 3:8)
Christian minister and candidate for the ministry, have you heard the cry of perishing millions? Christ demands your services. Have you offered them to him? Have you ever brought it home to your conscience, “My talents are not my own, and Christ has a right to use them where he will?” Have you not often looked around you on your circle of friends, your goodly parish, the comforts of home, the respect with which you are treated by your fellow-citizens, and said in your heart, “I cannot give up all this for Christ?”
Christian layman, the salvation of the heathen cannot, unless by a miracle, be accomplished without your property. Christ demands it of you. It is a solemn fact. You cannot escape from it. He does not ask for that which you do not feel. He requires that you make sacrifices for him, and to do it to any extent that may be necessary for carrying on his work of mercy.