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“ The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”—PAUL TO TIMOTHY.
This, by some, may be regarded as a trivial circumstance, a thought of the Apostle by the wayside, and so far out upon the . edges of revelation as scarcely to bear a repetition. We cannot agree with the feeling that gives expression to this sentiment, either in whole or in part. Though it be not as central in the system of Revelation as many other parts, it is nevertheless a real and essential part of it, and as such, necessary to complete it as a whole. The eye is not the heart in the human system, yet the eye is not regarded as unessential because it is not the heart.
We know of nothing that God has made which is trivial in the usual sense of that term. To say or feel so, is to disparage the wisdom of God in their creation; and who are we that we should thus sit in judgment upon the products of the Almighty ! and especially when our thoughts concern the Revelation which He has seen fit to make to man through the inspiration of His Spirit. Of all God's creations, this must be regarded the highest and most perfect-a product most literally filled with His wisdom, and therefore infallible in every part. Can we suppose anything to exist there which is unnecessary? Can we believe that anything was permitted to find its way there, which is so trivial as to lower the dignity of other portions which are professedly of great weight and essential importance -too external and accidental to be men. tioned and dwelt upon in an earnest way? Surely not.
Connected with the inward harmony of divine thought, which this passage in the chapter was essential to complete, there is also
the idea of the useful, the profitable, the edifying, which it plainly carries in it. There was some point beyond the mere finish which it would give to the chapter, in the Apostle's mind, to be reached by it; and this was not the mere individual advantage which the apostle would derive in coming again into possession of his cloak, books and parchments. If the intrinsic value of these things is alone considered, it might be a small thing indeed ; and still more trivial to think that the benefit would be limited wholly to the apostle alone.
We cannot regard this passage as referring to the intrinsic value of the things here mentioned, por as referring in any sense exclusively to the person of St. Paul. To limit it thus, would preclude all good reason for its being recorded permanently in the word of God. If beyond the Apostle's person it have no meaning, then why should it be where it is at all? If these things belonged exclusively to his private life, then why this public mention? Then it must also follow, that from the time at which he actually received these things, these words have been so much useless lumber in the Divine Revelation-without meaning, object or force of any character for any of the ages which have since read them and then passed into eternity !
We cannot so think or feel. The very thought would be a stab at the divinity wbich blazes from the Bible. There is a higher value than the intrinsic attaching to these things, and a larger number than merely the Apostle to whom their benefit is designed to accrue. Therefore they stand in the sacred canon of Scriptureand therefore they speak to all nations and individuals that are blessed with the Word of God.
Let us mention some of the profitable lessons which they inculcate.
The Apostle was now in Rome prosecuting his work with the same earnestness that ever characterized him. From this point he wrote this request to Timothy-bis son in the Gospel-to bring with him, as he passed through Troas, his cloak, books and parchments.
The first useful lesson taught here is economy. Be careful of small things—the great are more capable of caring for themselves. A cloak, though it be of trifling worth in itself, or to the person who may own it, is yet not to be recklessly thrown away. St. Paul sends for it at a great distance, and was willing to go to con. siderable trouble in order to get it back. Tbat he was poor and therefore needed it, there is no doubt. But this fact can make no difference in the principle. If he had been rich, he would have been in fact under no less obligation to be economical. The reckless waste of anything is sinful. It is throwing away what might be saved, and given away as a charity, to some good cause or purpose. We own nothing for which we are not responsible, and nothing which is not designed to accomplish some good end either in regard to ourselves or others. To waste it is not to benefit ourselves, or to do good to others, but to thwart the purpose of God
in its bestowment. This is sinful, wicked, however easily we might afford it so far as we ourselves are concerned. Morally, no one can afford it, because it is wrong, and no pecuniary ability can justify a man in doing a wrong either to himself or others. If we are wealthy, and therefore able to be liberal in our gifts to the cause of God, we are still obligated to be economical in order that our liberality may be still greater. If we are poor—though we may feel the duty to economize more sensibly-it is yet in fact no greater. If we expect God to bless our basket and store, we must learn to be careful with what we have. Riches are no less a blessing of God than poverty, but it is seldom that we see the wasteful grow rich, whilst it is very common to hear of the liberal, on the principle of charity, growing into great wealth. Charity has a promise, but prodigality a curse. That which is wasted in a wanton way is destroyed, whilst that which is given in charity, is like bread cast upon the water, which will return in due time and increased measure into the lap of the giver.
These facts are practical, however ornamental the passage of Scripture may be supposed to be, out of which they grow and useful, especially in the present times. "To be wasteful now, is to be more wicked than in many other times, because it is to sin against many and very solemn admonitions. But to be economical nowpleading these admonitions, as an excuse for a want of liberality to the cause of God, is to sin no less deeply before God. This is to hold the truth in unrighteousness—it is to comply with the duty of economy, in order that we may neglect the duty of charity, instead of qualifying ourselves more fully to be liberal with God and His cause.
This duty to be economical, is often thus made a mere pretext to set back the claims of religion and ease conscience. No effort to gain worldly wealth is more sure to be disappointed than this. This is to waste God's gifts upon the worst feelings of our nature, our avarice, vanity, pride. It has honesty, conscience and God against it; and if it is permitted to succeed in the mere item of accuinulation of silver and gold, the sequel will be made to show, that its entire absence were better-far better, than its presence. Economy, as a duty, and with a view to do good, be generous and act out the noble grace of charity, is a distinguished virtue, at all times, but especially when times are pressing and liberality is need. ed; but economy as a cloak of covetousness, is very different from St. Paul's cloak, and carries in it the power of a great curse. In this care of little things, on the principle on which St. Paul acted in reference to his cloak, is shown the true moral greatness of the man; for he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that wbich is greatest.
This care for the cloak may illustrate an attachment to old things, whatever their intrinsic value, which is always highly commendable wherever it exists. Paul's cloak was his defence from many a a storm while engaged in making his long missionary journies. It had become dear to him by the service it had already rendered, and still more so by the sacred associations which were connected with it. To him it looked like an old, well-tried friend, reminding him of stripes, prisons, stones, shipwreck and robbers, and also of bright visions and cheering discoveries of God's grace. He could not think of losing it. No other could serve the same purpose for the remainder of his days. These associations seemed to enter the very texture of this old cloak, to fill up its crevices and make it more compact, warm and comfortable.
There is more morality in this than we at first perceive. It indicates a warm and grateful heart, an ardent and faithful attachment, a deep aesthetical nature. You can trust the friendship of such a man. Thus we become attached to old pictures and old pieces of furniture. On this principle, you could not get the aged father, whose aesthetioal nature is developed, to exchange his old mansion, however far behind the style and dilapidated, for a new one, however grand and attractive ; nor would he allow you to remove those old pieces of furniture for new ones of a modern make. The reason is, that the old becomes sacred—the occupant and the mansion bave grown old together. They have a common history wbich runs back through many years, and a thousand sacred reminiscences, which the new have not. He that lives simply in the worldly principle, may understand very little of this, and appreciate less; but for him whose moral and spiritual nature is cultivated, it is a very different thing. In every nook and corner of the old homestead, there is a box of precious ointment for the aged more precious than all the grandeur which you might cast around them.
Thus history itself becomes a sacred interest. We love that which reaches far back, perhaps into happier days, and brings up: to our minds the home scenes of former times—the smiles that sat upon the face of loved ones—the social meetings and pleasant partings—the joyous songs, and solemn prayers; and if they be scenes of sadness, whose memory is kept alive by old things, it makes them only the more sacred. Who would exchange the plain and unadorned room in which a tender child, a brother or sister, or a companion, struggled in pain and finally died, for one barren of all these impressive associations, however beautiful and grand ? The aged would turn away from the last with an inward loathing, and say—“This may suit those who have no heart history—who live only in the present;. but give me the chamber, the mansion, the old tree, whose every nook, and chair, and window and bough bas a voice from the silent past for the deepest ear of my nature.” Here are heart communings, which the new would break-here are media leading to the past which the modern do not and cannot bave.
All this is highly commendable, especially in the aged—and all this is commended to us, under an inspired forin, by the attachment of Paul to his old cloak.
Thus we are attached to old churches-old Bibles—old Hymn Books-old tunes—and old prayers. To allow ourselves to grow
indifferent in regard to these, is a bad indication-it is to break the bonds of healthful conservatism, and to fall, without hope of salvation, into the fatal powers of fanaticism. It is supposed by some, that to change these as often as possible—to bave new books, and new tunes, and varied prayers, would be more attractive, and carry with them a greater power. We regard this as a great migtake-a view that is ignorant of our true nature. These may attract for the moment; but they have no true, lasting power. They are like the voice that speaks from the throat, but not from the deep, expanding chest. The past speaks not through them—they come from no scenes of sacred association—nor can they receive any hearty response from within. It is the old that enshrines true power, because the old carries in it all the varied riches of the past, and this is demonstrated wherever it is steadily maintained. Sup. pose the old phraseology of the Bible were thus changed. Would the new be stronger ? We know the attachment there exists even to its obsolete words. Though their original meaning is fled, yet we like (their form and are attracted by their sound as no now words could attract. Paul would not be willing to exchange his old and well-worn cloak for any of modern style, that might have been pressed upon bis acceptance. He would have said : The old is better.
Thus it is with the Catechism of the Church, especially the Heidelberg Catechism. It has come down from the Reformation, three hundred years—and bas grown sacred by age. Who would dare suggest a change, even in any minute particular? It is three hunded years older than its critic. And still more sacred is the Creed which it enshrines, which carries us back as a Church and links us with the age of the apostles. Who would be reckless enough to venture to criticise it? Yet from the inaccurate man. ner in which it is used by some, we are compelled to conclude, that all have either not read the reverent care of Paul for his cloak, or having read it, have failed to see and feel its sense ; for it is quite manifest that by their paraphrases of the form of sound words, they are very little impressed by its age, and believe that, had they the work to do, they could, from the moment, make a much better Apostles' Creed. But, whatever merits such new products might bave, we, remembering Paul and his cloak, would say—the old is better-it carries in it the past, and has grown rich and delicious, like old wine.
The circumstance teaches also a true trust in Providence as dis. tinguished from a false trust. Bring with thee my cloak. Paul felt that even for bim God would not perform miracles by which to supply him with what he could get in an ordinary way. We have no right to look to God for that which our own care, economy and indastry ought to secure for us. Prayer and individual energy must go together. Separated, both are false, and neither can succeed in the true sense of the word. Prayer for the poor and for the spread of the Gospel, or for personal blessings, is not answered, unless the person praying is found willing afterwards to do instrumentally what he asks God to do efficiently. Paul trusted in