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Title: Expositor's Bible: The Gospel of St Luke
Author: Burton, Henry
Language: English
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  THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE

  EDITED BY THE REV.
  SIR W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.
  _Editor of "The Expositor," etc._

  THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE

  BY THE REV.
  HENRY BURTON, M.A., D.D.

  HODDER AND STOUGHTON
  PUBLISHERS      LONDON



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.
                                       PAGE
  THE GENESIS OF THE GOSPEL               1


  CHAPTER II.

  THE MUTE PRIEST                        15


  CHAPTER III.

  THE GOSPEL PSALMS                      29


  CHAPTER IV.

  THE VIRGIN MOTHER                      47


  CHAPTER V.

  THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS         67


  CHAPTER VI.

  THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS            80


  CHAPTER VII.

  THE TEMPTATION                        105


  CHAPTER VIII.

  THE GOSPEL OF THE JUBILEE             128


  CHAPTER IX.

  A SABBATH IN GALILEE                  148


  CHAPTER X.

  THE CALLING OF THE FOUR               162


  CHAPTER XI.

  CONCERNING PRAYER                     177


  CHAPTER XII.

  THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION            195


  CHAPTER XIII.

  THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET             209


  CHAPTER XIV.

  THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER              225


  CHAPTER XV.

  THE KINGDOM OF GOD                    241


  CHAPTER XVI.

  THE MIRACLES OF HEALING               255


  CHAPTER XVII.

  THE MIRACLE OF THE LOAVES             269


  CHAPTER XVIII.

  THE TRANSFIGURATION                   281


  CHAPTER XIX.

  THE GOOD SAMARITAN                    294


  CHAPTER XX.

  THE TWO SISTERS                       306


  CHAPTER XXI.

  LOST AND FOUND                        317


  CHAPTER XXII.

  THE ETHICS OF THE GOSPEL              336


  CHAPTER XXIII.

  THE ESCHATOLOGY OF THE GOSPEL         352


  CHAPTER XXIV.

  THE WATCH IN GETHSEMANE               364


  CHAPTER XXV.

  THE PASSION                           377


  CHAPTER XXVI.

  THE FIRST LORD'S DAY                  400



CHAPTER I.

_THE GENESIS OF THE GOSPEL._


The four walls and the twelve gates of the Seer looked in different
directions, but together they guarded, and opened into, one City of God.
So the four Gospels look in different directions; each has its own
peculiar aspect and inscription; but together they lead towards, and
unveil, one Christ, "which is, and which was, and which is to come, the
Almighty." They are the successive quarterings of the one Light. We call
them "four" Gospels, though in reality they form but one, just as the
seven arches of colour weave one bow; and that there should be four, and
not three or five, was the purpose and design of the Mind which is above
all minds. There are "diversities of operations" even in making
Testaments, New or Old; but it is one Spirit who is "over all, and in
all;" and back of all diversity is a heavenly unity--a unity that is not
broken, but rather beautified, by the variety of its component parts.

Turning to the third Gospel, its opening sentences strike a key-note
unlike the tone of the other three. Matthew, the Levite Apostle,
schooled in the receipt of custom--where parleying and preambling were
not allowed--goes to his subject with sharp abruptness, beginning his
story with a "genesis," "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ."
Mark, too, and John, without staying for any prelude, proceed at once
to their portrayals of the Divine Life, each starting with the same
word "beginning"--though between the "beginning" of St. Mark and that of
St. John there is room for an eternity. St. Luke, on the other hand,
stays to give to his Gospel a somewhat lengthy preface, a kind of
vestibule, where we become acquainted with the presence and personality
of the verger, before passing within the temple proper.

It is true the Evangelist does not here inscribe his name; it is true
that after inserting these lines of explanation, he loses sight of
himself completely, with a "sublime repressing of himself" such as John
did not know; but that he here throws the shadow of himself upon the
page of Scripture, calling the attention of all people and ages to the
"me also," shows clearly that the personal element cannot be eliminated
from the question of inspiration. Light is the same in its nature; it
moves only in straight lines; it is governed by fixed laws; but in its
reflections it is infinitely varied, turning to purple, blue, or gold,
according to the nature of the medium and reflecting substance. And
what, indeed, is beauty, what the harmony of colours, but the visible
music as the same light plays upon the diverse keys? Exactly the same
law rules in inspiration. As the Divine Love needed an incarnation, an
enshrining in human flesh, that the Divine Word might be vocal, so the
Divine Light needs its incarnation too. Indeed, we can scarcely conceive
of any revelation of the Divine Mind but as coming through a human mind.
It needs the human element to analyze and to throw it forward, just as
the electric spark needs the dull carbon-point to make it visible.
Heaven and earth are here, as elsewhere, "threads of the same loom," and
if we take out one, even the earthly woof of the humanities, we leave
only a tangle; and if it is true of works of art that "to know them we
must know the man who produced them," it is equally important, if we
would know the Scripture, that we have some knowledge of the scribe. And
especially important is it here, for there are few books of Scripture on
which the writer's own personality is more deeply impressed than on the
Gospel of St. Luke. The "me also" is only legible in the third verse,
but we may read it, between the lines, through the whole Gospel.

Concerning the life of St. Luke the facts are few. It has been thought
by some that he was one of the "certain Greeks" who came to Jerusalem to
worship; while others, again, suppose him to be the nameless one of the
two Emmaus travellers. But both these suppositions are set aside by the
fact that the Evangelist carefully separates himself from those who were
"eye-witnesses," which he could not well have done had he taken part in
those closing scenes of the Lord's life, or had he been honoured with
that "infallible proof" of the Lord's resurrection. That he was a
Gentile is evident; his speech bewrayeth him; for he speaks with a
Grecian accent, while Greek idioms are sprinkled over his pages. Indeed,
St. Paul speaks of him as not being of the "circumcision" (Col. iv. 11,
14), and he himself, in Acts i. 19, speaks of the dwellers at Jerusalem,
and the Aceldama of "their" proper tongue. Tradition, with unanimous
voice, represents him as a native of Antioch, in Syria.

Responding to the Divine Voice that bids him "write," St. Luke brings to
the task new and special qualifications. Familiar with the Old Testament
Scriptures--at least in their Septuagint form, as his many quotations
show--intimately acquainted with the Hebrew faith and ritual, he yet
brings to his work a mind unwarped by its traditions. He knows nothing
of that narrowness of spirit that Hebraism unconsciously engendered,
with its insulation from the great outer world. His mount of vision was
not Mount Zion, but a new Pisgah, lying outside the sacred borders, and
showing him "all the kingdoms of the world," as the Divine thought of
humanity took possession of him. And not only so, we must remember that
his connection with Christianity has been mainly through St. Paul, who
was the Apostle of the "uncircumcision." For months, if not for years,
he has been his close companion, reading his innermost thoughts; and so
long and so close together have they been, their two hearts have learned
to beat in a perfect synchronism. Besides, we must not forget that the
Gentile question--their _status_ in the new kingdom, and the conditions
demanded of them--had been the burning question of the early Church, and
that it was at this same Antioch it had reached its height. It was at
Antioch the Apostle Peter had "dissembled," so soon forgetting the
lessons of the Cæsarean Pentecost, holding himself aloof from the
Gentile converts until Paul felt constrained to rebuke him publicly; and
it was to Antioch came the decree of the Jerusalem Council, that Magna
Charta which recognized and enfranchised manhood, giving the privileges
of the new kingdom to Gentiles, without imposing upon them the Judaic
anachronism of circumcision. We can therefore well understand the bent
of St. Luke's mind and the drift of his sympathies; and we may expect
that his pen--though it is a reed shaken with the breath of a higher
inspiration--will at the same time move in the direction of these
sympathies.

And it is exactly this--its "gentility," if we may be allowed to give a
new accent and a new meaning to an old word--that is a prominent feature
of the third Gospel. Not, however, that St. Luke decries Judaism, or
that he denies the "advantage" the Jews have; he cannot do this without
erasing Scripture and silencing history; but what he does is to lift up
the Son of man in front of their tabernacle of witness. He does not
level down Judaism; he levels up Christianity, letting humanity absorb
nationality. And so the Gospel of St. Luke is the Gospel of the world,
greeting "all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues" with its
"peace on earth." St. Matthew traces the genealogy of Christ back to
Abraham; St. Luke goes farther back, to the fountain-head, where all the
divergent streams meet and mingle, as he traces the descent to Adam, the
Son of God. Matthew shows us the "wise men," lost in Jerusalem, and
inquiring, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" But St. Luke
gives, instead, the "good tidings" to "all people;" and then he repeats
the angel song, which is the key-note of his Gospel, "Glory to God in
the highest, ... goodwill toward men." It is St. Luke only who records
the first discourse at Nazareth, showing how in ancient times, even, the
mercy of God flowed out towards a Gentile widow and a Gentile leper. St.
Luke alone mentions the mission of the Seventy, whose very number was a
prophecy of a world-wide Gospel, seventy being the recognized symbol of
the Gentile world, as twelve stood for the Hebrew people. St. Luke alone
gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that all the virtues
did not reside in Israel, but that there was more of humanity, and so
more of Divinity, in the compassionate Samaritan than in their priest
and Levite. St. Luke alone records the call of Zacchæus, the Gentile
publican, telling how Jesus cancelled their laws of heredity, passing
him up among the sons of Abraham. St. Luke alone gives us the twin
parables of the lost coin and the lost man, showing how Jesus had come
to seek and to save that which was lost, which was humanity, here, and
there, and everywhere. And so there breathes all through this Gospel a
catholic spirit, more pronounced than in the rest, a spirit whose rhythm
and deep meaning have been caught in the lines--

  "There's a wideness in God's mercy,
    Like the wideness of the sea."

The only other fact of the Evangelist's life we will here notice is that
of his profession; and we notice this simply because it enters as a
factor into his work, reappearing there frequently. He was a physician;
and from this fact some have supposed that he was a freedman, since many
of the Roman physicians were of that class. But this by no means
follows. All physicians were not freedmen; while the language and style
of St. Luke show him to be an educated man, one, too, who walked in the
upper classes of society. Where he speaks natively, as here in the
introduction, he uses a pure Greek, somewhat rounded and ornate, in
which there is a total absence of those rusticisms common in St. Mark.
That he followed his calling at Troas, where he first joined St. Paul,
is probable; but that he practised it on board one of the large
corn-ships of the Mediterranean is a pure conjecture, for which even his
nautical language affords no presumption; for one cannot be at sea for a
few weeks--especially with an observant eye and attentive ear, as St.
Luke's were--without falling naturally into nautical language. One's
speech soon tastes of salt.

The calling of a physician naturally develops certain powers of analysis
and synthesis. It is the art of putting things together. From the seen
or felt symptoms he traces out the unseen cause. Setting down the known
quantities, by processes of comparison or of elimination he finds the
unknown quantity, which is the disease, its nature and its seat. And so
on the pages of the third Gospel we frequently find the shadow of
the physician. It appears even in his brief preface; for as he sits down
with ample materials before him--on one side the first-hand testimony of
"eye-witnesses," and on the other the many and somewhat garbled
narratives of anonymous scribes--we see the physician-Evangelist
exercising a judicious selection, and thus compounding or distilling his
pure elixir. Then, too, a skilled and educated physician would find easy
access into the higher circles of society, his very calling furnishing
him with letters of introduction. And so, indeed, we find it. Our
physician dedicates his Gospel, and also the "Acts," to, not the "most
excellent," but the "most noble" Theophilus, giving to him the same
title that he afterwards gave to Felix and to Festus. Perhaps its
English equivalent would be "the honourable." At any rate it shows that
this Theophilus was no mere myth, a locution for any "friend of God,"
but that he was a person of rank and influence, possibly a Roman
governor. Then, too, St. Luke's mention of certain names omitted by the
other Evangelists, such as Chuza and Manaen, would suggest that probably
he had some personal acquaintance with the members of Herod's household.
Be this as it may, we recognize the "physician" in St. Luke's habits of
observation, his attention to detail, his fondness for grouping together
resemblances and contrasts, his fuller reference to miracles of healing,
and his psychological observations. We find in him a student of the
humanities. Even in his portrayal of the Christ it is the human side of
the Divine nature that he emphasizes; while all through his Gospel, his
thought of humanity, like a wide-reaching sky, overlooks and embraces
all such earthly distinctions as position, sex, or race.

With a somewhat high-sounding word "Forasmuch," which here makes its
solitary appearance in the pages of Scripture--a word, too, which, like
its English equivalent, is a treble compound--the Evangelist calls our
attention to his work, and states his reasons for undertaking it. It is
impossible for us to fix either the date or the place where this Gospel
was written, but probably it was some time between A.D. 58-60. Now, what
was the position of the Church at that date, thirty-five years after the
Crucifixion? The fiery tongues of Pentecost had flashed far and wide,
and from their heliogram even distant nations had read the message of
peace and love. Philip had witnessed the wonderful revival in "the (a)
city of Samaria." Antioch, Cæsarea, Damascus, Lystra, Philippi, Athens,
Rome--these names indicate, but do not attempt to measure, the wide and
ever-widening circle of light. In nearly every town of any size there is
the nucleus of a Church; while Apostles, Evangelists, and Christian
merchants are proclaiming the new kingdom and the new laws everywhere.
And since the visits of the Apostles would be necessarily brief, it
would only be a natural and general wish that some permanent record
should be made of their narratives and teaching. In other places, which
lay beyond the line of Apostles' travel, the story would reach them,
passed from mouth to mouth, with all the additions of rumour, and
exaggerations of Eastern loquacity. It is to these ephemeral Gospels the
Evangelist now refers; and distinguishing, as he does, the "many" from
the "eye-witnesses" and "ministers of the word," he shows that he does
not refer to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark--which probably he
has not seen--for one was an Apostle, and both were "eye-witnesses."
There is no censure implied in these words, nor does the expression
"taken in hand" in itself imply failure; but evidently, to St. Luke's
mind, these manifold narratives were incomplete and unsatisfactory. They
contain some of the truth, but not all that the world should know. Some
are put together by unskilled hands, and some have more or less of fable
blended with them. They need sifting, winnowing, that the chaff may be
blown away, and the seed tares separated from the wheat. Such is the
physician's reason for now assuming the rôle of an Evangelist. The
"forasmuch," before being entered on the pages of his Scriptures, had
struck upon the Evangelist's soul, setting it vibrating like a bell, and
moving mind and hand alike in sympathy.

And so we see how, in ways simple and purely natural, Scripture grows.
St. Luke was not conscious of any special influence resting upon him. He
did not pose as an oracle or as the mouthpiece of an oracle, though he
was all that, and vastly more. He does not even know that he is doing
any great work; and who ever does? A generous, unselfish thought takes
possession of him. He will sacrifice leisure and ease, that he may throw
forward to others the light that has fallen upon his own heart and life.
He will be a truth-seeker, and a light-bearer for others. Here, then,
we see how a human mind falls into gear with the Divine mind, and human
thought gets into the rhythm and swing of the higher thought. Simply
natural, purely human are all his processes of reasoning, comparing, and
planning, and the whole Gospel is but the perfect bloom of this
seed-thought. But whence came this thought? That is the question. Did it
not grow out of these manifold narratives? and did not the narratives
themselves grow out of the wonderful Life, the Life which was itself but
a Divine Thought and Word incarnate? And so we cannot separate heaven
from earth, we cannot eliminate the Divine from even our little lives;
and though St. Luke did not recognize it as such--he was an ordinary
man, doing an ordinary thing--yet we, standing a few centuries back, and
seeing how the Church has hidden in her ark the omer of manna that he
gathered, to be carried on and down till time itself shall be no more,
we see another Apocalyptic vision, and we hear a Voice Divine that
commands him "write." When St. Luke wrote, "It seemed good to me also,"
he doubtless wrote the pronoun small; for it was the "me" of his
obscure, retiring self; but high above the human thought we see the
Divine purpose, and as we watch, the smaller "me" grows into the ME,
which is a shadow of the great I AM. And so while the "many" treatises,
those which were purely human, have passed out of sight, buried deep in
their unknown sepulchres, this Gospel has survived and become
immortal--immortal because God was behind it, and God was in it.

So in the mind of St. Luke the thought ripens into a purpose. Since
others "have taken in hand" to draw up a narrative concerning those
matters which have been "fulfilled among us," he himself will do the
same; for has he not a special fitness for the task, and peculiar
advantages? He has long been intimately associated with those who from
the very first were "eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word," the
chosen companion of one Apostle, and doubtless, owing to his visit to
Jerusalem and to his prolonged residence at Cæsarea, personally
acquainted with the rest. His shall not be a Gospel of surmise or of
rumour; it shall only contain the record of facts--facts which he
himself has investigated, and for the truth of which he gives his
guarantee. The clause "having traced the course of all things accurately
from the first"--which is a more exact rendering than that of the
Authorized Version, "having had perfect understanding of all things from
the very first"--shows us the keen, searching eye of the physician. He
looks into things. He distinguishes between the To seem and the To be,
the actual and the apparent. He takes nothing for granted, but proves
all things. He investigates his facts before he endorses them, sounding
them, as it were, and reading not only their outer voice, which may be
assumed, and so untrue, but with his stethoscope of patient research
listening for the unconscious voices that speak within, and so finding
out the reality. He himself is committed to nothing. He is not anxious
to make up a story. Himself a searcher after truth, his one concern is
to know, and then to tell, the truth, naturally, simply, with no
fictitious adornment or dressing up of his own. And having submitted the
facts of the Divine Life to a close scrutiny, and satisfied himself of
their absolute truth, and having thrown aside the many guesses and
fables which somehow have woven themselves around the wonderful Name,
he will write down, in historical order as far as may be, the story, so
that his friend Theophilus may know the "certainty of the things" in
which he has been "instructed," or orally catechized, as the word would
mean.

Where, then, it may be asked, is there room for inspiration? If the
genesis of the Gospel is so purely human, where is there room for the
touch of the Divine? Why should the Gospel of St. Luke be canonized,
incorporated into Holy Scripture, while the writings of others are
thrown back into an Apocrypha, or still farther back into oblivion? The
very questions will suggest an answer. That touch of the Divine which we
call inspiration is not always an equal touch. Now it is a pressure from
above that is overwhelming. The writer is carried out of himself, borne
up into regions where Sight and Reason in their loftiest flights cannot
come, as the prophet foretells events no human mind could foresee, much
less describe. In the case of St. Luke there was no need for this
abnormal pressure, or for these prophetic ecstasies. He was to record,
for the most part, facts of recent occurrence, facts that had been
witnessed, and could now be attested, by persons still living; and a
fact is a fact, whether it is inspired or no. Inspiration may record a
fact, while others are omitted, showing that this fact has a certain
value above others; but if it is true, inspiration itself cannot make it
more true. Nevertheless, there is the touch of the Divine even here.
What is the meaning of this new departure? for it is a new and a wide
departure. Why does not Thomas write a Gospel? or Philip, or Paul? Why
should the Evangelist-mantle be carried outside the bounds of the sacred
land, to be thrown around a Gentile, who cannot speak the sacred tongue
except with a foreign Shibboleth? Ah, we see here the movings of the
Holy Ghost! selecting the separate agents for the separate tasks, and
dividing to "every man severally as He will." And not only does the Holy
Spirit summon him to the work, He qualifies him for it, furnishing him
with materials, and guiding his mind as to what shall be omitted and
what retained. It is the same Spirit, who moved "holy men of old" to
speak and write the things of God, who now touches the mind and heart of
the four Evangelists, enabling them to give the four versions of the one
Story, in different language, and with sundry differences of detail, but
with no contradiction of thought, each being, in a sense, the complement
of the rest, the four quarters making one rounded and perfect whole.

Perhaps at first sight our subject may not seem to have any reference to
our smaller lives; for who of us can be Evangelists or Apostles, in the
highest meaning of the words? And yet it has, if we look into it, a very
practical bearing upon our lives, even the commonplace, every-day life.
Whence come our gifts? Who makes these gifts to differ? Who gives us the
differing taste and nature? for we are not consulted as to our nature
any more than as to our nativities. The fact is, our "human" is touched
by the Divine at every point. What are the chequered scenes of our lives
but the black or the white squares to which the Unseen Hand moves us at
will? Earth's problem is but Heaven's purpose. And are not we, too,
writing scriptures? putting God's thoughts into words and deeds, so that
men may read them and know them? Verily we are; and our writing is for
eternity. In the volume of our book are no omissions or erasures.
Listen, then, to the heavenly call. Be obedient to your heavenly vision.
Leave mind and heart open to the play of the Divine Spirit. Keep self
out of sight. Delight in God's will, and do it. So will you make your
lowlier life another Testament, written ever with Gospels and Epistles,
and closing at last with an Apocalypse.



CHAPTER II.

_THE MUTE PRIEST._

LUKE i. 5-25, 57-80.


After his personal prelude, our Evangelist goes on to give in detail the
pre-Advent revelations, so connecting the thread of his narrative with
the broken-off thread of the Old Testament. His language, however,
suddenly changes its character and accent; and its frequent Hebraisms
show plainly that he is no longer giving his own words, but that he is
simply recording the narratives as they were told him, possibly by some
member of the Holy Family.

"There was in the days of Herod, king of Judæa." Even the surface-reader
of Scripture will observe how little is made in its pages of the
time-element. There is a purposed vagueness in its chronology, which
scarcely accords with our Western ideas of accuracy and precision. We
observe times and seasons. We strike off the years with the clang of
bells or the hush of solemn services. Each day with us is lifted up into
prominence, having a personality and history all its own, and as we
write its history, we keep it clear of all its to-morrows and its
yesterdays. And so the day grows naturally into a date, and dates
combine into chronologies, where everything is sharp, exact. Not so,
however, was it, or indeed is it, in the Eastern world. Time there, if
we may speak temporally, was of little moment. To that slow-moving and
slow-thinking world one day was a trifle, something atomic; it took a
number of them to make an appreciable quantity. And so they divided
their time, in ordinary speech, not minutely as we do, due into larger
periods, measuring its distances by the shadows of their striking
events. Why is it that we have four Gospels, and in fact a whole New
Testament, without a date? for it cannot possibly be a chance omission.
Is the time-element so subdued and set back, lest the "things temporal"
should lead off our minds from the "things spiritual and eternal"? For
what is time, after all, but a negative quantity? an empty space, in
itself all silent and dead, until our thoughts and deeds strike against
it and make it vocal? Nay, even in the heavenly life we see the same
losing of the time-element, for we read, "There should be time no
longer." Not that it will then disappear, swallowed up in that infinite
duration we call eternity. That would make heaven a confusion; for to
finite minds eternity itself must come in measured beats, striking, like
the waves along the shore, in rhythmic intervals. But _our_ time will be
no longer. It must needs be transfigured, ceasing to be earthly, that it
may become heavenly in its measurement and in its speech. And so in the
Bible, which is a Divine-human book, written for the ages, God has
purposely veiled the times, at any rate the "days" of earthly reckoning.
Even the day of our Lord's birth, and the day of His death, our
chronologies cannot determine: we measure, we guess, but it is randomly,
like the blinded men of Sodom, who wearied themselves to find the door.
In Heaven's reckoning deeds are more than days. Time-beats by
themselves are only broken silences, but put a soul among them, and you
make songs, anthems, and all kinds of music. "In those days" may be a
common Hebraism, but may it not be something more? may it not be an
idiom of celestial speech, the heavenly way of referring to earthly
things? At any rate we know this, that while Heaven is careful to give
us the purpose, the promise, and the fulfilment, the Divine Spirit does
not care to give us the exact moment when the promise became a
realization. And that it is so shows that it is best it should be so.
Silence sometimes may be better than speech.

But in saying all this we do not say that Heaven is unobservant of
earthly times and seasons. They are a part of the Divine order, stamped
on all lives, on all worlds. Our days and nights keep their alternate
step; our seasons observe their processional order, singing in
antiphonal responses; while our world, geared in with other worlds,
strikes off our earthly years and days with an absolute precision. So,
now, the time of the Advent has been Divinely chosen, for whole
millenniums unalterably fixed; nor have the cries of Israel's impatient
hopes been allowed to hurry forward the Divine purpose, so making it
premature. But why should the Advent be so long delayed? In our
off-handed way of thinking we might have supposed the Redeemer would
have come directly after the Fall; and as far as Heaven was concerned,
there was no reason why the Incarnation and the Redemption should not be
effected immediately. The Divine Son was even then prepared to lay aside
His glories, and to become incarnate. He might have been born of the
Virgin of Eden, as well as of the Virgin of Galilee; and even then He
might have offered unto God that perfect obedience by which the "many
are made righteous." Why, then, this strange delay, as the months
lengthen into years, and the years into centuries? The Patriarchs come
and go, and only see the promise "afar off." Then come centuries of
oppression, as Canaan is completely eclipsed by the dark shadow of
Egypt; then the Exodus, the wanderings, the conquest. The Judges
administer a rough-handed justice; Kings play with their little crowns;
Prophets rebuke and prophesy, telling of the "Wonderful" who shall be;
but still the Messiah delays His coming. Why this strange postponement
of the world's hopes, as if prophecy dealt in illusions only? We find
the answer in St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (chap. iv. 4). The
"fulness of the time" was not yet come. The time was maturing, but was
not yet ripe. Heaven was long ago prepared for an Incarnation, but Earth
was not; and had the Advent occurred at an earlier stage of the world's
history, it would have been an anachronism the age would have
misunderstood. There must be a leading up to God's gifts, or His
blessings cease to be blessings. The world must be prepared for the
Christ, or virtually He is no Christ, no Saviour to them. The Christ
must come into the world's mind as a familiar thought, He must come into
the world's heart as a deep-felt need, before He can come as the Word
Incarnate.

And when is this "fulness of the time"? "In the days of Herod, king of
Judæa." Such is the phrase that now strikes the Divine hour, and leads
in the dawn of a new dispensation. And what dark days were those to the
Hebrew people, when on the throne of their David sat that Idumean shadow
of the dread Cæsar! Their land swarms with Gentile hordes, and on the
soil devoted to Jehovah rise stately, splendid temples, dedicated to
strange gods. It is one irruption of Paganism, as if the Roman Pantheon
had emptied itself upon the Holy Land. Nay, it seemed as if the Hebrew
faith itself would become extinct, strangled by heathen fables, or at
any rate that she would survive, only the ghost of her other self,
walking like an apparition, with veiled face and sealed lips, amid the
scenes of her former glories. "The days of Herod" were the Hebrew
midnight, but they give us the Bright and Morning Star. And so upon this
dial-plate of Scripture the great Herod, with all his royalties, is
nothing more than the dark, empty shadow which marks a Divine hour, "the
fulness of the time."

Israel's corporate life began with four centuries of silence and
oppression, when Egypt gave them the doubled task, and Heaven grew
strangely still, giving them neither voice nor vision. Is it but one of
the chance repetitions of history that Israel's national life should
end, too, with four hundred years of silence? for such is the
coincidence, if, indeed, we may not call it something more. It is,
however, just such a coincidence as the Hebrew mind, quick to trace
resemblances and to discern signs, would grasp firmly and eagerly. It
would revive their long-deferred and dying hopes, overlaying the near
future with its gold. Possibly it was this very coincidence that now
transformed their hope into expectation, and set their hearts listening
for the advent of the Messiah. Did not Moses come when the task was
doubled? And was not the four hundred years' silence broken by the
thunders of the Exodus, as the I AM, once again asserting Himself, "sent
redemption to His people"? And so, counting back their silent years
since Heaven's last voice came to them through their prophet Malachi,
they caught in its very silences a sound of hope, the footfall of the
forerunner, and the voice of the coming Lord. But where, and how, shall
the long silence be broken? We must go for our answer--and here, again,
we see a correspondence between the new Exodus and the old--to the tribe
of Levi, and to the house of Amram and Jochebed.

Residing in one of the priestly cities of the hill-country of
Judæa--though not in Hebron, as is commonly supposed, for it is most
unlikely that a name so familiar and sacred in the Old Testament would
here be omitted in the New--was "a certain priest named Zacharias."
Himself a descendant of Aaron, his wife, too, was of the same lineage;
and besides being "of the daughters of Aaron," she bore the name of
their ancestral mother, "Elisabeth." Like Abraham and Sarah, they were
both well advanced in years, and childless. But if they were not allowed
to have any lien upon posterity, throwing themselves forward into future
generations, they made up the lack of earthly relationships by
cultivating the heavenly. Forbidden, as they thought, to look forward
down the lines of earthly hopes, they could and did look heavenward; for
we read that they were both "righteous"--a word implying a Mosaic
perfection--"walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord
blameless." We may not be able, perhaps, to give the precise distinction
between "commandments" and "ordinances," for they were sometimes used
interchangeably; but if, as the general use of the words allows us, we
refer the "commandments" to the moral, and the "ordinances" to the
ceremonial law, we see how wide is the ground they cover, embracing, as
they do, the (then) "whole duty of man." Rarely, if ever, do the
Scriptures speak in such eulogistic terms; and that they should here be
applied to Zacharias and Elisabeth shows that they were advanced in
saintliness, as well as in years. Possibly St. Luke had another object
in view in giving us the portraits of these two pre-Advent Christians,
completing in the next chapter the quarternion, by his mention of Simeon
and Anna. It is somewhat strange, to say the least, that the Gentile
Evangelist should be the one to give us this remarkable group--the four
aged Templars, who, "when it was yet dark," rose to chant their matins
and to anticipate the dawn. Whether the Evangelist intended it or not,
his narrative salutes the Old, while it heralds the New dispensation,
paying to that Old a high though unconscious tribute. It shows us that
Hebraism was not yet dead; for if on its central stem, within the
limited area of its Temple courts, such a cluster of beautiful lives
could be found, who will tell the harvest of its outlying branches?
Judaism was not altogether a piece of mechanism, elaborate and exact,
with a soulless, metallic click of rites and ceremonies. It was an
organism, living and sentient. It had nerves and blood. Possessed of a
heart itself, it touched the hearts of its children. It gave them
aspirations and inspirations without number; and even its shadows were
the interpreters, as they were the creations, of the heavenly light. And
if now it is doomed to pass away, outdated and superseded, it is not
because it is bad, worthless; for it was a Divine conception, the "good"
thing, preparing for and proclaiming God's "better thing." Judaism was
the "glorious angel, keeping the gates of light;" and now, behold, she
swings back the gates, welcomes the Morning, and herself then
disappears.

It is the autumn service for the course of Abia--which is the eighth of
the twenty-four courses into which the priesthood was divided--and
Zacharias proceeds to Jerusalem, to perform whatever part of the service
the lot may assign to him. It is probably the evening of the
Sabbath--the presence of the multitude would almost imply that--and this
evening the lot gives to Zacharias the coveted distinction--which could
only come once in a lifetime--of burning incense in the Holy Place. At a
given signal, between the slaying and the offering of the lamb,
Zacharias, barefooted and robed in white, passes up the steps,
accompanied by two assistants, one bearing a golden censer containing
half a pound of the sweet-smelling incense, the other bearing a golden
vessel of burning coals taken from the altar. Slowly and reverently they
pass within the Holy Place, which none but Levites are permitted to
enter; and having arranged the incense, and spread the live coals upon
the altar, the assistants retire, leaving Zacharias alone--alone in the
dim light of the seven-branched candlestick, alone beside that veil he
may not uplift, and which hides from his sight the Holy of Holies, where
God dwells "in the thick darkness." Such is the place, and such the
supreme moment, when Heaven breaks the silence of four hundred years.

It is no concern of ours to explain the phenomenon that followed, or to
tone down its supernatural elements. Given an Incarnation, and then the
supernatural becomes not only probable, but necessary. Indeed, we could
not well conceive of any new revelation without it; and instead of its
being a weakness, a blemish on the page of Scripture, it is rather a
proof of its heavenliness, a hall-mark that stamps its Divinity. Nor is
there any need, believing as we do in the existence of intelligences
other and higher than ourselves, that we apologize for the appearance of
angels, here and elsewhere, in the story; such deference to Sadducean
doubts is not required.

Suddenly, as Zacharias stands with uplifted hands, joining in the
prayers offered by the silent "multitude" without, an angel appears. He
stands "on the right side of the altar of incense," half-veiled by the
fragrant smoke, which curling upwards, filled the place. No wonder that
the lone priest is filled with "fear," and that he is "troubled"--a word
implying an outward tremor, as if the very body shook with the unwonted
agitation of the soul. The angel does not at first announce his name,
but seeks rather to calm the heart of the priest, stilling its tumult
with a "Fear not," as Jesus stilled the waters with His "Peace." Then he
makes known his message, speaking in language most homely and most
human: "Thy prayer is heard." Perhaps a more exact rendering would be,
"Thy request was granted," for the substantive implies a specific
prayer, while the verb indicates a "hearing" that becomes an
"assenting." What the prayer was we may gather from the angel's words;
for the whole message, both in its promise and its prophecy, is but an
amplification of its first clause. To the Jew, childlessness was the
worst of all bereavements. It implied, at least they thought so, the
Divine displeasure; while it effectually cut them off from any personal
share in those cherished Messianic hopes. To the Hebrew heart the
message, "Unto you a son is born," was the music of a lower Gospel. It
marked an epoch in their life-history; it brought the fulfilment of
their desires, and a wealth of added dignities. And Zacharias had
prayed, earnestly and long, that a son might be born to them; but the
bright hope, with the years, had grown distant and dim, until at last it
had dropped down beyond the horizon of their thoughts, and become an
impossibility. But those prayers were heard, yea, and granted, too, in
the Divine purpose; and if the answer has been delayed, it was that it
might come freighted with a larger blessing.

But in saying that this was the specific prayer of Zacharias we do not
wish to disparage his motives, confining his thoughts and aspirations
within a circle so narrow and selfish. This lesser hope of offspring,
like a satellite, revolved around the larger hope of a Messiah, and
indeed grew out of it. It drew all its brightness and all its beauty
from that larger hope, the hope that lighted up the dark Hebrew sky with
the auroras of a new and fadeless dawn. When mariners "take the sun," as
they call it, reading from its disc their longitudes, they bring it down
to their horizon-level. They get the higher in the lower vision, and the
real direction of their looks is not the apparent direction. And if
Zacharias' thoughts and prayers seem to have an earthward drift, his
soul looks higher than his speech; and if he looks along the
horizon-level of earthly hopes, it is that he may read the heavenly
promise. It is not a son that he is looking for, but _the_ Son, the
"Seed" in whom "all the families of the earth shall be blessed." And so,
when the silent tongue regains its powers of speech, it gives its first
and highest doxologies for that other Child, who is Himself the promised
"redemption" and a "horn of salvation;" his own child he sets back, far
back in the shadow (or rather the light) of Him whom he calls the
"Lord." It is the near realization of both these hopes that the angel
now announces.

A son shall be born to them, even in their advanced years, and they
shall call his name "John," which means "The Lord is gracious." "Many
will rejoice with them at his birth," for that birth will be the
awakening of new hopes, the first hour of a new day. "Great in the sight
of the Lord," he must be a Nazarite, abstaining wholly from "wine and
strong drink"--the two Greek words including all intoxicants, however
made. "Filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb"--that original
bias or propensity to evil, if not obliterated, yet more than
neutralized--he shall be the Elijah (in spirit and in power) of
Malachi's prophecy, turning many of Israel's children "to the Lord their
God." "Going before Him"--and the antecedent of "Him" must be "the Lord
their God" of the preceding verse, so early is the purple of Divinity
thrown around the Christ--he "shall turn the hearts of fathers to their
children," restoring peace and order to domestic life, and the
"disobedient" he shall incline "to walk in the wisdom of the just"
(R.V.), bringing back the feet that have erred and slipped to "the paths
of uprightness," which are the "ways of wisdom." In short, he shall be
the herald, making ready a people prepared for the Lord, running before
the royal chariot, proclaiming the coming One, and preparing His way,
then leaving his own little footprints to disappear, thrown up in the
chariot-dust of Him who was greater and mightier than he.

We can easily understand, even if we may not apologize for, the
incredulity of Zacharias. There are crises in our life when, under
profound emotion, Reason herself seems bewildered, and Faith loses her
steadiness of vision. The storm of feeling throws the reflective powers
into confusion, and thought becomes blurred and indistinct, and speech
incoherent and wild. And such a crisis was it now, but intensified to
the mind of Zacharias by all these additions of the supernatural. The
vision, with its accessories of place and time, the message, so
startling, even though so welcome, must necessarily produce a strange
pertubation of soul; and what surprise need there be that when the
priest does speak it is in the lisping accents of unbelief? Could it
well have been otherwise? Peter "wist not that it was true which was
done by the angel, but thought he saw a vision;" and though Zacharias
has none of these doubts of unreality--it is to him no dream of the
moment's ecstasy--still he is not yet aware of the rank and dignity of
his angel-visitant, while he is perplexed at the message, which so
directly contravenes both reason and experience. He does not doubt the
Divine power, let it be observed, but he does seek for a sign that the
angel speaks with Divine authority. "Whereby shall I know this?" he
asks, reminding us by his question of Jacob's "Tell me thy name." The
angel replies, in substance, "You ask whereby you may know this; that
is, you wish to know by whose authority I declare this message to you.
Well, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to
speak unto you, and to bring you these good tidings. And since you ask
for a sign, an endorsement of my message, you shall have one. I put the
seal of silence upon your lips, and you shall not be able to speak until
the day when these things shall come to pass, because you believed not
my words." Then the vision ends; Gabriel returns to the songs and
anthems of the skies, leaving Zacharias to carry, in awful stillness of
soul, this new "secret of the Lord."

This infliction of dumbness upon Zacharias has generally been regarded
as a rebuke and punishment for his unbelief; but if we refer to the
parallel cases of Abraham and of Gideon, such is not Heaven's wonted
answer to the request for a sign. We must understand it rather as the
proof Zacharias sought, something at once supernatural and significant,
that should help his stumbling faith. Such a sign, and a most effective
one, it was. Unlike Gideon's dew, that would soon evaporate, leaving
nothing but a memory, this was ever present, ever felt, at least until
faith was exchanged for sight. Nor was it dumbness simply, for the word
(ver. 22) rendered "speechless" implies inability to hear as well as
inability to speak; and this, coupled with the fact mentioned in ver.
62, that "they made signs to him"--which they would scarcely have done
could he have heard their voices--compels us to suppose that Zacharias
had suddenly become deaf as well as dumb. Heaven put the seal of silence
upon his lips and ears, that so its own voice might be more clear and
loud; and so the profound silences of Zacharias' soul were but the blank
spaces on which Heaven s sweet music was written.

How long the interview with the angel lasted we cannot tell. It must,
however, have been brief; for at a given signal, the stroke of the
Magrephah, the attendant priest would re-enter the Holy Place, to light
the two lamps that had been left unlighted. And here we must look for
the "tarrying" that so perplexed the multitude, who were waiting
outside, in silence, for the benediction of the incensing priest.
Re-entering the Holy Place, the attendant finds Zacharias smitten as by
a sudden paralysis--speechless, deaf, and overcome by emotion. What
wonder that the strange excitement makes them oblivious of time, and,
for the moment, all-forgetful of their Temple duties! The priests are
in their places, grouped together on the steps leading up to the Holy
Place; the sacrificing priest has ascended the great brazen altar; ready
to cast the pieces of the slain lamb upon the sacred fire; the Levites
stand ready with their trumpets and their psalms--all waiting for the
priests who linger so long in the Holy Place. At length they appear,
taking up their position on the top of the steps, above the rows of
priests, and above the silent multitude. But Zacharias cannot pronounce
the usual benediction to-day. The "Jehovah bless thee and keep thee" is
unsaid; the priest can only "beckon" to them, perhaps laying his finger
on the silent lips, and then pointing to the silent heavens--to them
indeed silent, but to himself all vocal now.

And so the mute priest, after the days of his ministration are
completed, returns to his home in the hill-country, to wait the
fulfilment of the promises, and out of his deep silences to weave a song
that should be immortal; for the _Benedictus_, whose music girdles the
world to-day, before it struck upon the world's ear and heart, had,
through those quiet months, filled the hushed temple of his soul,
lifting up the priest and the prophet among the poets, and passing down
the name of Zacharias as one of the first sweet singers of the new
Israel.

And so the Old meets, and merges into the New; and at the marriage it is
the speaking hands of the mute priest that join together the two
Dispensations, as each gives itself to the other, never more to be put
asunder, but to be "no longer twain, but one," one Purpose, one Plan,
one Divine Thought, one Divine Word.



CHAPTER III.

_THE GOSPEL PSALMS._


Unlike modern church builders, St. Luke sets his chancel by the porch.
No sooner have we passed through the vestibule of his Gospel than we
find ourselves within a circle of harmonies. On the one side are
Zacharias and Simeon, the one chanting his _Benedictus_, and the other
his _Nunc Dimittis_. Facing them, as if in antiphon, are Elisabeth and
Mary, the one singing her _Beatitude_, and the other her _Magnificat_;
while overhead, in the frescoed and star-lighted sky, are vast
multitudes of the heavenly host enriching the Advent music with their
_Glorias_. What means this grand irruption of song? and why is St. Luke,
the Gentile Evangelist, the only one who repeats to us these Hebrew
psalms? At first it would seem as if their natural place would be as a
prelude to St. Matthew's Gospel, which is the Gospel of the Hebrews. But
strangely enough, St. Matthew passes them by in silence, just as he
omits the two angelic visions. St. Matthew is evidently intent on one
thing. Beginning a New Testament, as he is, he seems especially anxious
that there shall be no rent or even seam between the Old and the New;
and so, in his first pages, after giving us the genealogy, running the
line of descent up to Abraham, he laces up the threads of his narrative
with the broken-off threads of the old prophecies, so that the written
Word may be a vestment of the Incarnate Word, which shall be "without
seam, woven from the top throughout." And so really the Advent hymns
would not have suited St. Matthew's purpose. Their ring would not have
been in accord with the tone of his story; and had we found them in his
first chapters, we should instinctively have felt that they were out of
place, as if we saw a rose blossoming on a widespread oak.

St. Luke, however, is portraying the Son of man. Coming to redeem
humanity, he shows how He was first born into that humanity, making His
advent in a purely human fashion. And so the two conceptions form a fit
beginning for his Gospel; while over the Divine Birth and Childhood he
lingers reverently and long, paying it however, only the homage Heaven
had paid it before. Then, too, was there not a touch of poetry about our
Evangelist? Tradition has been almost unanimous in saying that he was a
painter; and certainly in the grouping of his figures, and his careful
play upon the lights and shadows, we can discover traces of his artistic
skill, in word-painting at any rate. His was evidently a soul attuned to
harmonies, quick to discern any accordant or discordant strains. Nor
must we forget that St. Luke's mind is open to certain occult
influences, whose presence we may indeed detect, but whose power we are
not able to gauge. As we have already seen, it was the manifold
narratives of anonymous writers that first moved him to take up the pen
of the historian; and to those narratives we doubtless owe something of
the peculiar cast and colouring of St. Luke's story. It is with the
Nativity that tradition would be most likely to take liberties. The
facts of the Advent, strange enough in themselves, would at the hands
of rumour undergo a process of developing, like the magnified and
somewhat grotesque shadows of himself the traveller casts on Alpine
mists. It was doubtless owing to these enlargements and distortions of
tradition that St. Luke was led to speak of the Advent so fully, going
into the minutiæ of detail, and inserting, as is probable, from the
Hebrew tone of these first two chapters, the account as given orally, or
written, by some members of the Holy Family.

It must be admitted that to some inquiring and honest minds these Advent
psalms have been a difficulty, an enigma, if not a stumbling-block. As
the bells that summon to worship half-deafen the ear of the worshipper
on a too near approach, or they become merely a confused and unmeaning
noise if he climbs up into the belfry and watches the swing of their
brazen lips, so this burst of music in our third Gospel has been too
loud for certain sensitive ears. It has shaken somewhat the foundations
of their faith. They think it gives an unreality, a certain mythical
flavour, to the story, that these four pious people, who have always led
a quiet, prosaic kind of life, should now suddenly break out into
impromptu songs, and when these are ended lapse again into complete
silence, like the century plant, which throws out a solitary blossom in
the course of a hundred years. And so they come to regard these Hebrew
psalms as an interpolation, an afterthought, thrown into the story for
effect. But let us not forget that we are dealing now with Eastern mind,
which is naturally vivacious, imaginative, and highly poetical. Even our
colder tongue, in this glacial period of nineteenth-century
civilization, is full of poetry. The language of common every-day
life--to those who have ears to hear--is full of tropes, metaphors, and
parables. Take up the commonest words of daily speech, and put them to
your ear, and they will sing like shells from the sea. There are whole
poems in them--epics, idylls, of every sort; and let our colder speech
get among the sweet influences of religion, and like the iceberg adrift
in the Gulf Stream, it loses its rigidity and frigidity at once, melting
in liquid, rhythmic measures, throwing itself away in hymns and
_jubilates_. The fact is, the world is full of music. As the Sage of
Chelsea said, "See deep enough, and you see musically, the heart of
Nature being everywhere music if you can only reach it." And it is so.
You can touch nothing but there are harmonies slumbering within it, or
itself is a stray note of some grander song. Dead wood from the forest,
dead ore from the mine, dead tusks of the beast--these are the "base
things" that strike our music; and only put a mind within them, and a
living soul with a living touch before them, and you have songs and
anthems without number.

But to Eastern minds poetry was a sort of native language. Its
inspiration was in the air. Their ordinary speech was ornate and
efflorescent, throwing itself out in simile and hyperbole. It only
needed some small excitement, and they fell naturally into the couplet
form of utterance. Even to-day the children swing under the
mulberry-trees to songs and choruses; hucksters extol their wares in
measured verse; and the Bethany fruit-girl sings in the market, "O lady,
take of our fruit, without money and without price: it is yours; take
all that you will"! And so it need not surprise us, much less trouble
us, that Simeon and Elisabeth, Zacharias and Mary, should each speak in
measured cadences. Their speech blossomed with flowers of rhetoric, just
as naturally as their hills were ablaze with daisies and anemones.
Besides, they were now under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We read, "Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost;" and again,
Zacharias was "filled with the Holy Ghost;" Simeon "came in the Spirit
into the Temple;" while Mary now seemed to live in one conscious,
constant inspiration. It is said that "a poet is born, not made;" and if
he be not thus "free-born" no "great sum," either of gold or toil, will
ever pass him up within the favoured circle. And the same is true of the
poet's creations. Sacred hymns are not the product of the unaided
intellect. They do not come at the bidding of any human will. They are
inspirations. There is the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in their
conception. The human mind, heart, and lips are but the instrument, a
kind of Æolian lyre, played upon by the Higher Breath, which comes and
goes--how, the singer himself can never tell; for

      "In the song
  The singer has been lost."

It was when "filled with the Spirit" that Bezaleel put into his gold and
silver the thoughts of God; it was when the Spirit of God came upon him
that Balaam took up his parable, putting into stately numbers Israel's
forward march and endless victories. And so the sacred psalm is the
highest type of inspiration; it is a voice from no earthly Parnassus,
but from the Mount of God itself--the nearest approach to the celestial
harmonies, the harmonies of that city whose very walls are poetry, and
whose gates are praise.

And so, after all, it was but fitting and perfectly natural that the
Gospel that Heaven had been so long time preparing should break upon
the world amid the harmonies of music. Instead of apologizing for its
presence, as if it were but an interlude improvised for the occasion, we
should have noted and mourned its absence, as when one mourns for "the
sound of a voice that is still." When the ark of God was brought up from
Baale Judah it was encircled with one wide wreath of music, a travelling
orchestra of harps and psalteries, castanets and cymbals; and as now
that Ark of all the promises is borne across from the Old to the New
Dispensation, as the promise becomes a fulfilment, and the hope a
realization, shall there not be the voice of song and gladness? Our
sense of the fitness of things expects it; Heaven's law of the harmonies
demands it; and had there not been this burst of praise and song, we
should have listened for the very stones to cry out, rebuking the
strange silence. But the voice was not silent. The singers were there,
in their places; and they sang, not because they would, but because they
must. A heavenly pressure, a sweet constraint, was upon them. If Wealth
lays down her tribute of gold, with frankincense and myrrh, Poetry
weaves for the Holy Child her beautiful songs, and crowns Him with her
fadeless amaranth; and so around the earthly cradle of the Lord, as
around His heavenly throne, we have angelic songs, and "the voices of
harpers, harping with their harps."

Turning now to the four Gospel-psalmists--not, however, to analyze, but
to listen to their song--we meet first with Elisabeth. This aged
daughter of Aaron, and wife of Zacharias, as we have seen, resided
somewhere in the hill-country of Judæa, in their quiet, childless home.
Righteous, blameless, and devout, religion to her was no mere form; it
was her life. The Temple services, with which she was closely
associated, were to her no cold clatter of dead rites; they were
realities, full of life and full of music, as her heart had caught their
deeper meaning. But the Temple, while it attracted her thoughts and
hopes, did not enclose them; its songs and services were to her but so
many needles, swinging round on their marble pivot, and pointing beyond
to the Living God, the God who dwelt not in temples made with hands, but
who, then as now, inhabits the purified temple of the heart. Long past
the time when motherly hopes were possible, the fretting had subsided,
and her spirit had become, first acquiescent, then quiescent. But these
hopes had been miraculously rekindled, as she slowly read the vision of
the Temple from the writing-table of her dumb husband. The shadow of her
dial had gone backward; and instead of its being evening, with gathering
shadows and ever-lessening light, she found herself back in the glow of
the morning, her whole life lifted to a higher level. She was to be the
mother, if not of the Christ, yet of His forerunner. And so the Christ
was near at hand, this was certain, and she had the secret prophecy and
promise of His advent. And Elisabeth finds herself exalted--borne up, as
it were, into Paradise, among visions and such swells of hosannas that
she cannot utter them; they are too sweet and too deep for her shallow
words. Was it not this, the storm of inward commotion, that drove her to
hide herself for the five months? Heaven has come so near to her, such
thoughts and visions fill her mind, that she cannot bear the intrusions
and jars of earthly speech; and Elisabeth passes into a voluntary
seclusion and silence, keeping strange company with the dumb and deaf
Zacharias.

At length the silence is broken by the unexpected appearance of her
Nazareth relative. Mary, fresh from her hasty journey, "entered into the
house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth." It is a singular expression,
and evidently denotes that the visit of the Virgin was altogether
unlooked for. There is no going out to meet the expected guest, as was
common in Eastern hospitalities; there was even no welcome by the gate;
but like an apparition, Mary passes within, and salutes the surprised
Elisabeth, who returns the salutation, not, however, in any of the
prescribed forms, but in a benediction of measured verse:--

      "Blessed art thou among women,
      And blessed is the fruit of thy womb!
      And whence is this to me,
  That the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
  For, behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears
      The babe leaped in my womb for joy.
      And blessed is she that believed,
  For there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken
      to her from the Lord."

The whole canticle--and it is Hebrew poetry, as its parallelisms and
strophes plainly show--is one apostrophe to the Virgin. Striking the
key-note in its "Blessed art thou," the "thou" moves on, distinct and
clear, amid all variations, to the end, reaching its climax in its
central phrase, "The mother of my Lord." As one hails the morning star,
not so much for its own light as for its promise of the greater light,
the dayspring that is behind it, so Elisabeth salutes the morning star
of the new dawn, at the same time paying homage to the Sun, whose near
approach the star heralds. And why is Mary so blessed among women? Why
should Elisabeth, forgetting the dignity of years, bow so deferentially
before her youthful relative, crowning her with a song? Who has
informed her of the later revelation at Nazareth? It is not necessary to
suppose that Elisabeth, in her seclusion, had received any corroborative
vision, or even that she had been supernaturally enlightened. Had she
not the message the angel delivered to Zacharias? and was not that
enough? Her son was to be the Christ's forerunner, going, as the angel
said, before the face of "the Lord." Three times had the angel
designated the Coming One as "the Lord," and this was the word she had
carried with her into her seclusion. What it meant she did not fully
understand; but she knew this, that it was He of whom Moses and the
prophets had written, the Shiloh, the Wonderful; and as she put together
the detached Scriptures, adding, doubtless, some guesses of her own, the
Christ grew as a conception of her mind and the desire of her heart into
such colossal proportions that even her own offspring was dwarfed in
comparison, and the thoughts of her own maternity became, in the rush of
greater thoughts, only as the stray eddies of the stream. That such was
the drift of her thoughts during the five quiet months is evident; for
now, taught of the Holy Ghost that her kinswoman is to be the mother of
the expected One, she greets the unborn Christ with her lesser
_Benedictus_. Like the old painters, she puts her aureole of song around
the mother's head, but it is easy to see that the mother's honours are
but the far-off reflections from the Child. Is Mary blessed among women?
it is not because of any wealth of native grace, but because of the
fruit of her womb. Does Elisabeth throw herself right back in the shade,
asking almost abjectly, "Whence is this to me?" it is because, like the
centurion, she feels herself unworthy that even the unborn "Lord" should
come under her roof. And so, while this song is really an ode to the
Virgin, it is virtually Elisabeth's salute of the Christ who is to be, a
salute in which her own offspring takes part, for she speaks of his
"leaping" in her womb, as if he were a participant in her joy,
interpreting its movements as a sort of "Hail, Master!" The canticle
thus becomes invested with a higher significance. Its words say much,
but suggest more. It carries our thought out from the seen to the
unseen, from the mother to the Holy Child, and Elisabeth's song thus
becomes the earliest "Hosannah to the Son of David," the first prelude
to the unceasing anthems that are to follow.

It will be observed that in the last line the song drops out of the
first and the second personals into the third. It is no longer the
frequent "thy," "thou," "my," but "she:" "Happy is she that believed."
Why is this change? Why does she not end as she began--"Happy art thou
who hast believed"? Simply because she is no longer speaking of Mary
alone. She puts herself as well within this beatitude, and at the same
time states a general law, how faith ripens into a harvest of
blessedness. The last line thus becomes the "Amen" of the song. It
reaches up among the eternal "Verilies," and sets them ringing. It
speaks of the Divine faithfulness, out of which and within which human
faith grows as an acorn within its cup. And who could have better right
to sing of the blessedness of faith, and to introduce this New Testament
grace--not unknown in the Old Testament, but unnamed--as she who was
herself such an exemplification of her theme? How calmly her own heart
reposed on the Divine word! How before her far-seeing and foreseeing
vision valleys were exalted, mountains and hills made low, that the way
of the Lord might appear! Elisabeth sees the unseen Christ, lays before
Him the tribute of her song, the treasures of her affection and
devotion; even before the Magi had saluted the Child-King, Elisabeth's
heart had gone out to meet Him with her hosannas, and her lips had
greeted Him "My Lord." Elisabeth is thus the first singer of the New
Dispensation; and though her song is more a bud of poetry than the ripe,
blossomed flower, enfolding rather than unfolding its hidden beauties,
it pours out a fragrance sweeter than spikenard on the feet of the
Coming One, while it throws around Him the purple of new royalties.

Turning now to the song of Mary, our _Magnificat_, we come to poetry of
a higher order. Elisabeth's introit was evidently spoken under intense
feeling; it was the music of the storm; for "she lifted up her voice
with a loud cry." Mary's song, on the other hand, is calm, the hymn of
the "quiet resting-place." There is no unnatural excitement now, no
inward perturbation, half mental and half physical. Mary was perfectly
self-possessed, as if the spell of some Divine "peace" were upon her
soul; and as Elisabeth's "loud cry" ceased, Mary "said"--so it
reads--her response. But if the voice was lower, the thought was higher,
more majestic in its sweep. Elisabeth's song was on the lower heights.
"The mother of my Lord," this was its starting-place, and the centre
around which its circles were described; and though its wings beat now
and again against the infinities, it does not attempt to explore them,
but returns timidly to its nest. But Elisabeth's loftiest reach is
Mary's starting-point; her song begins where the song of Elisabeth ends.
Striking her key-note in the first line, "The Lord," this is her one
thought, the Alpha and Omega of her psalm. We call it the _Magnificat_;
it is a _Te Deum_, full of suggested doxologies. Beginning with the
personal, as she is almost compelled to do by the intense personality of
Elizabeth's song, Mary hastes to gather up the eulogies bestowed upon
herself, and to bear them forward to Him who merits all praise, as He is
the Source of all blessing. Her soul "magnifies the Lord," not that she,
by any weak words of hers, can add to His greatness, which is infinite,
but even she may give the Lord a wider place within her thoughts and
heart; and whoever is silent, her song shall make "the voice of His
praise to be heard." Her spirit "hath rejoiced in God her Saviour," and
why? Has He not looked down on her low estate, and done great things for
her? "The bondmaid of the Lord," as she a second time calls herself,
glorying in her bonds, such is her promotion and exaltation that all
generations shall call her blessed. Then, with a beautiful effacement of
self, which henceforth is not even to be a mote playing in the sunshine,
she sings of Jehovah--His holiness, His might, His mercy, His
faithfulness.

Mary's song, both in its tone and language, belongs to the Old
Dispensation. Thoroughly Hebraic, and all inlaid with Old Testament
quotations, it is the swan-song of Hebraism. There is not a single
phrase, perhaps not a single word, that bears a distinctive Christian
stamp; for the "Saviour" of the first strophe is the "Saviour" of the
Old Testament, and not of the New, with a national rather than an
evangelical meaning. The heart of the singer is turned to the past
rather than to the future. Indeed, with the solitary exception, how all
generations shall call her blessed, there is no passing glimpse into the
future. Instead of speaking of the Expected One, and blessing "the
fruit of her womb," her song does not even mention Him. She tells how
the Lord hath done great things for her, but what those "great things"
are she does not say; she might, as far as her own song tells us, be
simply a later Miriam, singing of some family or personal deliverance, a
salvation which was one of a thousand. A true daughter of Israel, she
dwells among her own people, and her very broadest vision sees in her
offspring no world-wide blessing, only a Deliverer for Israel, His
servant. Does she speak of mercy? it is not that wider mercy that like a
sea laves every shore, bearing on its still bosom a redeemed humanity;
it is the narrower mercy "toward Abraham and his seed for ever." Mary
recognizes the unity of the Godhead, but she does not recognize the
unity, the brotherhood of man. Her thought goes back to "our fathers,"
but there it halts; the shrunken sinew of Hebrew thought could not cross
the prior centuries, to find the world's common father in Paradise. But
in saying this we do not depreciate Mary's song. It is, and ever will
be, the _Magnificat_, great in its theme, and great in its conception.
Following the flight of Hannah's song, and making use of its wings at
times, it soars far above, and sweeps far beyond its original. Not even
David sings of Jehovah in more exalted strains. The holiness of God, the
might supreme above all powers, the faithfulness that cannot forget, and
that never fails to fulfil, the Divine choice and exaltation of the
lowly--these four chief chords of the Hebrew Psalter Mary strikes with a
touch that is sweet as it is clear.

Mary sang of God; she did not sing of the Christ. Indeed, how could she?
The Christ to be was part of her own life, part of herself; how could
she sing His praise without an appearance of egotism and
self-gratulation? There are times when silence is more eloquent than
speech; and Mary's silence about the Christ was but the silence of the
winged cherubim, as they bend over the ark, beholding and feeling a
mystery they can neither know nor tell. It was the hush inspired by a
near and glorious presence. And so the _Magnificat_, while it tells us
nothing of the Christ, swings our thoughts around towards Him, sets us
listening for His advent; and Mary's silence is but the setting for the
Incarnate WORD.

The song of Zacharias follows that of Mary, not only in the order of
time, but also in its sequence of thought. It forms a natural postlude
to the _Magnificat_, while both are but different parts of one song,
this earliest "Messiah." It is something remarkable that our first three
Christian hymns should have their birth in the same nameless city of
Judah, in the same house, and probably in the same chamber; for the
room, which now is filled with the priest's relatives, and where
Zacharias breaks the long silence with his prophetic _Benedictus_, is
doubtless the same room where Elisabeth chanted her greeting, and Mary
sang her _Magnificat_. The song of Mary circled about the throne of
Jehovah, nor could she leave that throne, even to tell the great things
the Lord had done for her. Zacharias, coming down from his mount of
vision and of silence, gives us a wider outlook into the Divine purpose.
He sings of the "salvation" of the Lord; and salvation, as it is the
key-note of the heavenly song, is the key-note of the _Benedictus_. Does
he bless the Lord, the God of Israel? it is because He has "visited" (or
looked upon) "His people, and wrought redemption for" them; it is
because He has provided an abundant salvation, or a "horn of salvation,"
as he calls it. Has God remembered His covenant, "the oath He sware
unto Abraham"? has He "shown mercy towards their fathers"? that mercy
and faithfulness are seen in this wonderful salvation--a salvation "from
their enemies," and "from the hand of all that hate" them. Is his child
to be "the prophet of the Most High," going "before the face of the
Lord," and making "ready His ways"? it is that he may "give knowledge
of" this "salvation," in "the remission of sins." Then the psalm ends,
falling back on its key-note; for who are they who "sit in darkness and
the shadow of death," but a people lost? And who is the Day-spring who
visits them from on high, who shines upon their darkness, turning it
into day, and guiding their lost feet into the way of peace, but the
Redeemer, the Saviour, whose name is "Wonderful"? And so the
_Benedictus_, while retaining the form and the very language of the Old,
breathes the spirit of the New Dispensation. It is a fragrant breeze,
blowing off from the shores of a new, and now near world, a world
already seen and possessed by Zacharias in the anticipations of faith.
The Saviour whose advent the inspired priest proclaims is no mere
national deliverer, driving back those eagles of Rome, and rebuilding
the throne of his father David. He might be all that--for even prophetic
vision had not sweep of the whole horizon; it only saw the little
segment of the circle that was Divinely illumined--but to Zacharias He
was more, a great deal more. He was a Redeemer as well as Deliverer; and
a "redemption"--for it was a Temple word--meant a price laid down,
something given. The salvation of which Zacharias speaks is not simply a
deliverance from our political enemies, and from the hand of all that
hate us. It was a salvation higher, broader, deeper than that, a
"salvation" that reached to the profound depths of the human soul, and
that sounded its jubilee there, in the remission of sin and deliverance
from sin. Sin was the enemy to be vanquished and destroyed, and the
shadow of death was but the shadow of sin. And Zacharias sings of this
great redemption that leads to salvation, while the salvation leads into
the Divine peace, to "holiness and righteousness," and a service that is
"without fear."

The ark of Israel was borne by four of the sons of Kohath; and here this
ark of song and prophecy is borne of four sweet singers, the sexes
dividing the honours equally. We have listened to the songs of three,
and have seen how they follow each other in a regular, rhythmic
succession, the thought moving forward and outward in ever-widening
circles. Where is the fourth? and what is the burden of his song? It is
heard within the precincts of the Temple, as the parents bring the Child
Jesus, to introduce Him to the visible sanctities of religion, and to
consecrate Him to the Lord. It is the _Nunc Dimittis_ of the aged
Simeon. He too sings of "salvation," "Thy salvation" as he calls it. It
is the "consolation of Israel" he has looked for so ardently and so
long, and which the Holy Ghost had assured him he should behold before
his promotion to the higher temple. But the vision of Simeon was wider
than that of Zacharias, as that in turn was wider and clearer than the
vision of Mary. Zacharias saw the spiritual nature of this near
salvation, and he described it in words singularly deep and accurate;
but its breadth he did not seem to realize. The theocracy was the
atmosphere in which he lived and moved; and even his vision was
theocratic, and so somewhat narrow. His _Benedictus_ was for the "God
of Israel," and the "redemption" he sang was "for His people." The "horn
of salvation" is "for us;" and all through his psalm these first
personal pronouns are frequent and emphatic, as if he would still
insulate this favoured people, and give them a monopoly even of
"redemption." The aged Simeon, however, stands on a higher Pisgah. His
is the nearer and the clearer vision. Standing as he does in the Court
of the Gentiles, and holding in his arms the Infant Christ, "the Lord's
Christ," he sees in Him a Saviour for humanity, "the Lamb of God, who
taketh away the sin of the world." Still, as ever, "the glory of God's
people Israel," but likewise "a light for the unveiling of the
Gentiles." Like the sentry who keeps watch through the night till the
sunrise, Simeon has been watching and longing for the Day-spring from on
high, reading from the stars of promise the wearing of the night, and
with the music of fond hopes "keeping his heart awake till dawn of
morn." Now at length the consummation, which is the consolation, comes.
Simeon sees in the Child Jesus the world's hope and Light, a salvation
"prepared before the face of all people." And seeing this, he sees all
he desires. Earth can give no brighter vision, no deeper joy, and all
his request is--

  "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, O Lord,
  According to Thy word, in peace;
  For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."

And so the four psalms of the Gospels form in reality but one song, the
notes rising higher and still higher, until they reach the very pinnacle
of the new temple--God's purpose and plan of redemption; that temple
whose altar is a cross, and whose Victim is "the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world;" that temple where courts and dividing-lines
all disappear; where the Holiest of all lies open to a redeemed
humanity, and Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, old and young, are alike
"kings and priests unto God." And so the Gospel psalms throw back, as it
were, in a thousand echoes, the _Glorias_ of the Advent angels, as they
sing--

  "Glory to God in the highest,
  And on earth peace."

And what is this but earth's prelude or rehearsal for the heavenly song,
as all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, falling down
before the Lamb in the midst of the throne, sing, "Salvation unto our
God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the LAMB"?



CHAPTER IV.

_THE VIRGIN MOTHER._


The Beautiful Gate of the Jewish Temple opened into the "Court of the
Women"--so named from the fact that they were not allowed any nearer
approach towards the Holy Place. And as we open the gate of the third
Gospel we enter the Court of the Women; for more than any other
Evangelist, St. Luke records their loving and varied ministries. Perhaps
this is owing to his profession, which naturally would bring him into
more frequent contact with feminine life. Or perhaps it is a little
Philippian colour thrown into his Gospel; for we must not forget that
St. Luke had been left by the Apostle Paul at Philippi, to superintend
the Church that had been cradled in the prayers of the "river-side"
women. It may be a tinge of Lydia's purple; or to speak more broadly and
more literally, it may be the subtle, unconscious influences of that
Philippian circle that have given a certain feminity to our third
Gospel. St. Luke alone gives us the psalms of the three women, Anna,
Elisabeth, and Mary; he alone gives us the names of Susanna and Joanna,
who ministered to Christ of their substance; he alone gives us that
Galilean idyll, where the nameless "woman" bathes His feet with tears,
and at the same time rains a hot rebuke on the cold civilities of the
Pharisee, Simon; he alone tells of the widow of Zarephath, who welcomed
and saved a prophet men were seeking to slay; he alone tells us of the
widow of Nain, of the woman bent with infirmity, and of the woman
grieving over her lost piece of silver. And as St. Luke opens his Gospel
with woman's tribute of song, so in his last chapter he paints for us
that group of women, constant amid man's inconstancies, coming ere the
break of day, to wrap around the body of the dead Christ the precious
and fragrant offering of devotion. So, in this Paradise Restored, do
Eve's daughters roll back the reproach of their mother. But ever first
and foremost among the women of the Gospels we must place the Virgin
Mother, whose character and position in the Gospel story we are now to
consider.

We need not stay to discuss the question--perhaps we ought not to stay
even to give it a passing notice--whether there might have been an
Incarnation even had there been no sin. It is not an impossible, it is
not an improbable supposition, that the Christ would have come into the
world even had man kept his first estate of innocence and bliss. But
then it would have been the "Christ" simply, and not Jesus Christ. He
would have come into the world, not as its Redeemer, but as the Son and
Heir, laying tribute on all its harvests; He would have come as the
flower and crown of a perfected humanity, to show the possibilities of
that humanity, its absolute perfections. But leaving the
"might-have-beens," in whose tenuous spaces there is room for the nebulæ
of fancies and of guesses without number, let us narrow our vision
within the horizon of the real, the actual.

Given the necessity for an Incarnation, there are two modes in which
that Incarnation may be brought about--by creation, or by birth. The
first Adam came into the world by the creative act of God. Without the
intervention of second causes, or any waiting for the slow lapse of
time, God spake, and it was done. Will Scripture repeat itself here, in
the new Genesis? and will the second Adam, coming into the world to
repair the ruin wrought by the first, come as did the first? We can
easily conceive such an advent to be possible; and if we regarded simply
the analogies of the case, we might even suppose it to be probable. But
how different a Christ it would have been! He might still have been bone
of our bone, flesh of our flesh; He might have spoken the same truths,
in the same speech and tone; but He must have lived apart from the
world. It would not be our humanity that He wore; it would only be its
shadow, its semblance, playing before our minds like an illusion. No,
the Messiah must not be simply a second Adam; He must be the Son of man,
and He cannot become Humanity's Son except by a human birth. Any other
advent, even though it had satisfied the claims of reason, would have
failed to satisfy those deeper voices of the heart. And so, on the first
pages of Scripture, before Eden's gate is shut and locked by bolts of
flame, Heaven signifies its intention and decision. The coming One, who
shall bruise the serpent's head, shall be the woman's "Seed"--the Son of
woman, that so He may become more truly the Son of man; while later a
strange expression finds its way into the sacred prophecy, how "a Virgin
shall conceive, and bear a son." It is true these words primarily might
have a local meaning and fulfilment--though what that narrower meaning
was no one can tell with any approach to certainty; but looking at the
singularity of the expression, and coupling it with the story of the
Advent, we can but see in it a deeper meaning and a wider purpose.
Evidently it was that the virgin-conception might strike upon the
world's ear and become a familiar thought, and that it might throw
backwards across the pages of the Old Testament the shadow of the Virgin
Mother. We have already seen how the thought of a Messianic motherhood
had dropped deep within the heart of the Hebrew people, awaking hopes,
and prayers, and all sorts of beautiful dreams--dreams, alas! that
vanished with the years, and hopes that blossomed but to fade. But now
the hour is coming, that supreme hour for which the centuries have all
been waiting. The forerunner is already announced, and in twelve short
weeks he who loved to call himself a Voice will break the strange
silence of that Judæan home. Whence will come his Lord, who shall be
"greater than he"? Where shall we find the Mother-elect, for whom such
honours have been reserved--honours such as no mortal has ever yet
borne, and as none will ever bear again? St. Luke tells us, "Now in the
sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee,
named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of
the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary" (R.V.). And so the
Mother-designate takes her place in this firmament of Scripture,
silently and serenely as a morning star, which indeed she is; for she
shines in a borrowed splendour, taking her glories all from Him around
whom she revolves, from Him who was both her Son and her Sun.

It will be seen in the above verse how particular the Evangelist is in
his topographical reference, putting a kind of emphasis upon the name
which now appears for the first time upon the pages of Scripture. When
we remember how Nazareth was honoured by the angel visit; how it was,
not the chance, but the chosen home of the Christ for thirty years; how
it watched and guarded the Divine Infancy, throwing into that life its
powerful though unconscious influences, even as the dead soil throws
itself forward and upward into each separate flower and farthest leaf;
when we remember how it linked its own name with the Name of Jesus,
becoming almost a part of it; how it wrote its name upon the cross, then
handing it down to the ages as the name and watchword of a sect that
should conquer the world, we must admit that Nazareth is by no means
"the least among the cities" of Israel. And yet we search in vain
through the Old Testament for the name of Nazareth. History, poetry, and
prophecy alike pass it by in silence. And so the Hebrew mind, while
rightly linking the expected One with Bethlehem, never associated the
Christ with Nazareth. Indeed, its moralities had become so questionable
and proverbial that while the whole of Galilee was too dry a ground to
grow a prophet, Nazareth was thought incapable of producing "any good
thing." Was, then, the Nazareth chapter of the Christ-life an
afterthought of the Divine Mind, like the marginal reading of an
author's proof, put in to fill up a blank or to be a substitute for some
erasure? Not so. It had been in the Divine Mind from the beginning; yea,
it had been in the authorized text, though men had not read it plainly.
It is St. Matthew who first calls our attention to it. Writing, as he
does, mainly for Hebrew readers, he is constantly looping up his story
with the Old Testament prophecies; and speaking of the return from
Egypt, he says they "came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, that He should be
called a Nazarene." We said just now that the name of Nazareth was not
found in the Old Testament. But if we do not find the proper name, we
find the word which is identical with the name. It is now regarded by
competent authorities as proved that the Hebrew name for Nazareth was
Netser. Taking now this word in our mind, and turning to Isaiah xi. 1,
we read, "And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse,
and a branch [Netser] out of his roots shall bear fruit: and the Spirit
of the Lord shall rest upon Him." Here, then, evidently, is the
prophetic voice to which St. Matthew refers; and one little word--the
name of Nazareth--becomes the golden link binding in one the Prophecies
and the Gospels.

Returning to our main subject, it is to this secluded, and somewhat
despised city of Nazareth the angel Gabriel is now sent, to announce the
approaching birth of Christ. St. Luke, in his nominative way of
speaking, says he came "to a Virgin betrothed to a man whose name was
Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin's name was Mary." It is
difficult for us to form an unbiassed estimate of the character before
us, as our minds are feeling the inevitable recoil from Roman
assumptions. We are confused with the childish prattle of their _Ave
Marias_; we are amused at their dogmas of Immaculate Conceptions and
Ever Virginities; we are surprised and shocked at their apotheosis of
the Virgin, as they lift her to a throne practically higher than that of
her Son, worshipped in devouter homage, supplicated with more earnest
and more frequent prayers, and at the blasphemies of their Mariolatry,
which make her supreme on earth and supreme in heaven. This undue
exaltation of the Virgin Mother, which becomes an adoration pure and
simple, sends our Protestant thought with a violent swing to the extreme
of the other side, considerably over the line of the "golden mean." And
so we find it hard to dissociate in our minds the Virgin Mother from
these Marian assumptions and divinations; for which, however, she
herself is in no way responsible, and against which she would be the
first to protest. Seen only through these Romish haloes, and atmospheres
highly incensed, her very name has been distorted, and her features,
spoiled of all grace and sweet serenity, have ceased to be attractive.
But this is not just. If Rome weights one scale with crowns, and
sceptres, and piles of imperial purple, we need not load down the other
with our prejudices, satires, and negations. Two wrongs will not make a
right. It is neither on the crest of the wave, nor yet in the deep
trough of the billows, that we shall find the mean sea-level, from which
we can measure all heights, running out our lines even among the stars.
Can we not find that mean sea-level now, hushing alike the voices of
adulation and of depreciation? Laying aside the traditions of antiquity
and the legends of scribulous monks, laying aside, too, the coloured
glasses of our prejudice, with which we have been wont to protect our
eyes from the glare of Roman suns, may we not get a true portraiture of
the Virgin Mother, in all the native naturalness of Scripture? We think
we can.

She comes upon us silently and suddenly, emerging from an obscurity
whose secrets we cannot read. No mention is made of her parents;
tradition only has supplied us with their names--Joachim and Anna. But
whether Joachim or not, it is certain that her father was of the tribe
of Judah, and of the house of David. Having this fact to guide us, and
also another fact, that Mary was closely related to Elisabeth--though
not necessarily her cousin--who was of the tribe of Levi and a daughter
of Aaron, then it becomes probable, at least, that the unnamed mother of
the Virgin was of the tribe of Levi, and so the connecting link between
the houses of Levi and Judah--a probability which receives an indirect
but strong confirmation in the fact that Nazareth was intimately
connected with Jerusalem and the Temple, one of the cities selected as a
residence of the priests. May we not, then, suppose that this unnamed
mother of the Virgin was a daughter of one of the priests then residing
at Nazareth, and that Mary's relatives on the mother's side--some of
them--were also priests, going up at stated times to Jerusalem, to
perform their "course" of Temple services? It is certainly a most
natural supposition, and one, too, that will help to remove some
subsequent difficulties in the story; as, for instance, the journey of
Mary to Judæa. Some honest minds have stumbled at that long journey of a
hundred miles, while others have grown pathetic in their descriptions of
that lonely pilgrimage of the Galilean Virgin. But it is neither
necessary nor likely that Mary should take the journey alone. Her
connection with the priesthood, if our supposition be correct, would
find her an escort, even among her own relatives, as least as far as
Jerusalem; and since the priestly courses were half-yearly in their
service, it would be just the time the "course of Abijah," in which
Zacharias served, would be returning once again to their Judæan homes.
It is only a supposition, it is true, but it is a supposition that is
extremely natural and more than probable; and if we look through it,
taking "Levi" and "Judah" as our binocular lenses, it carries a thread
of light through otherwise dark places; while throwing our sight
forward, it brings distant Nazareth in line with Jerusalem and the
"hill-country of Judæa."

Betrothed to Joseph, who was of the royal line, and as some think, the
legal heir to David's throne, Mary was probably not more than twenty
years of age. Whether an orphan or not we cannot tell, though the
silence of Scripture would almost lead us to suppose that she was.
Papias, however, who was a disciple of St. John, states that she had two
sisters--Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Salome the wife of Zebedee.
If this be so--and there is no reason why we should discredit the
statement--then Mary the Virgin Mother would probably be the eldest of
the three sisters, the house-mother in the Nazareth home. Where it was
that the angel appeared to her we cannot tell. Tradition, with one of
its random guesses, has fixed the spot in the suburbs, beside the
fountain. But there is something incongruous and absurd in the selection
of such a place for an angelic appearance--the public resort and lounge,
where the clatter of feminine gossip was about as constant as the flow
and sparkle of its waters. Indeed, the very form of the participle
disposes of that tradition, for we read, "He came in unto her," implying
that it was within her holy place of home the angel found her. Nor is
there any need to suppose, as some do, that it was in her quiet chamber
of devotion, where she was observing the stated hours of prayer.
Celestials do not draw that broad line of distinction between so-called
secular and sacred duties. To them "work" is but another form of
"worship," and all duties to them are sacred, even when they lie among
life's temporal, and so-called secular things. Indeed, Heaven reserves
its highest visions, not for those quiet moments of still devotion, but
for the hours of busy toil, when mind and body are given to the "trivial
rounds" and the "common tasks" of every-day life. Moses is at his
shepherding when the bush calls him aside, with its tongues of fire;
Gideon is threshing out his wheat when God's angel greets him and
summons him to the higher task; and Zacharias is performing the routine
service of his priestly office when Gabriel salutes him with the first
voice of a New Dispensation. And so all the analogies would lead us to
suppose that the Virgin was quietly engaged in her domestic duties,
offering the sacrifice of her daily task, as Zacharias offered his
incense of stacte and onycha, when Gabriel addressed her, "Hail, thou
that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee" (R.V.). The Romanists,
eager to accord Divine honours to the Virgin Mother as the dispenser of
blessing and of grace, interpret the phrase, "Thou that art full of
grace." It is, perhaps, not an inapt rendering of the word, and is
certainly more euphonious than our marginal reading "much graced;" but
when they make the "grace" an inherent, and not a derived grace, their
doctrine slants off from all Scripture, and is opposed to all reason.
That the word itself gives no countenance to such an enthronement of
Mary, is evident, for St. Paul makes use of the same word when speaking
of himself and the Ephesian Christians (Eph. i. 6), where we render it
"His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." But
criticism apart, never before had an angel so addressed a mortal, for
even Daniel's "greatly beloved" falls below this Nazareth greeting. When
Gabriel came to Zacharias there was not even a "Hail;" it was simply a
"Fear not," and then the message; but now he gives to Mary a "Hail" and
two beatitudes besides: "Thou art highly favoured;" "the Lord is with
thee." And do these words mean nothing? Are they but a few heavenly
courtesies whose only meaning is in their sound? Heaven does not speak
thus with random, unmeaning words. Its voices are true, and deep as they
are true, never meaning less, but often more than they say. That the
angel should so address her is certain proof that the Virgin possessed a
peculiar fitness for the Divine honours she was now to receive--honours
which had been so long held back, as if in reserve for herself alone. It
is only they who look heavenward who see heavenly things. There must be
a heart aflame before the bush burns; and when the bush is alight it is
only "he who sees takes off his shoes."

The glimpses we get of the Virgin are few and brief; she is soon
eclipsed--if we may be allowed that shadowy word--by the greater glories
of her Son; but why should she be selected as the mother of the human
Christ? why should her life nourish His? why should the thirty years be
spent in her daily presence, her face being the first vision of awaking
consciousness, as it was in the last earthward look from the cross?--why
all this, except that there was a wealth of beauty and of grace about
her nature, a certain tinge of heavenliness that made it fitting the
Messiah should be born of her rather than of any woman else? As we have
seen, the royal and the priestly lines meet in her, and Mary unites in
herself all the dignity of the one with the sanctity of the other. With
what delicacy and grace she receives the angel's message! "Greatly
troubled" at first--not, however, like Zacharias, at the sight of the
messenger, but at his message--she soon recovers herself, and "casts in
her mind what manner of salutation this might be." This sentence just
describes one prominent feature of her character, her reflective,
reasoning mind. Sparing of words, except when under the inspiration of
some _Magnificat_, she lived much within herself. She loved the
companionship of her own thoughts, finding a certain music in their
still monologue. When the shepherds made known the saying of the angel
about this child, repeating the angelic song, perhaps, with sundry
variations of their own, Mary is neither elated nor astonished. Whatever
her feelings--and they must have been profoundly moved--she carefully
conceals them. Instead of telling out her own deep secrets, letting
herself drift out on the ecstasies of the moment, Mary is silent,
serenely quiet, unwilling that even a shadow of herself should dim the
brightness of His rising. "She kept," so we read, "all these sayings,
pondering them in her heart;" or putting them together, as the Greek
word means, and so forming, as in a mental mosaic, her picture of the
Christ who was to be. And so, in later years, we read (ii. 51) how "His
mother kept all these sayings in her heart," gathering up the
fragmentary sentences of the Divine Childhood and Youth, and hiding
them, as a treasure peculiarly her own, in the deep, still chambers of
her soul. And what those still chambers of her soul were, how heavenly
the atmosphere that enswathed them, how hallowed by the Divine Presence,
her _Magnificat_ will show; for that inspired psalm is but an opened
window, letting the music pass without, as it throws the light within,
showing us the temple of a quiet, devout, and thoughtful soul.

With what complacency and with what little surprise she received the
angel's message! The Incarnation does not come upon her as a new
thought, a thought for which her mind cannot possibly find room, and
human speech can weave no fitting dress. It disturbs neither her reason
nor her faith. Versed in Scripture as she is, it comes rather as a
familiar thought--a heavenly dove, it is true, but gliding down within
her mind in a perfect, because a heavenly naturalness. And when the
angel announces that the "Son of the Most High," whose name shall be
called Jesus, and who shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever,
shall be born of herself, there is no exclamation of astonishment, no
word of incredulity as to whether this can be, but simply a question as
to the manner of its accomplishment: "How shall this be, seeing that I
know not a man?" The Christ had evidently been conceived in her mind,
and cradled in her heart, even before He became a conception of her
womb.

And what an absolute self-surrender to the Divine purpose! No sooner has
the angel told her that the Holy Ghost shall come upon her, and the
power of the Most High overshadow her, than she bows to the Supreme Will
in a lowly, reverential acquiescence: "Behold, the handmaid [bondmaid]
of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." So do the human and
the Divine wills meet and mingle. Heaven touches earth, comes down into
it, that earth may evermore touch heaven, and indeed form part of it.

The angel departs, leaving her alone with her great secret; and little
by little it dawns upon her, as it could not have done at first, what
this secret means for her. A great honour it is, a great joy it will be;
but Mary finds, as we all find, the path to heaven's glories lies
through suffering; the way into the wealthy place is "through the fire."
How can she carry this great secret herself? and yet how can she tell
it? Who will believe her report? Will not these Nazarenes laugh at her
story of the vision, except that the matter would be too grave for a
smile? It is her own secret yet, but it cannot be a secret long; and
then--who can defend her, and ward off the inevitable shame? Where can
she find shelter from the venomed shafts that will be hurled from every
side--where, save in her consciousness of unsullied purity, and in the
"shadow of the Highest"? Was it thoughts like these that now agitated
her mind, deciding her to make the hasty visit to Elisabeth? or was it
that she might find sympathy and counsel in communion with a kindred
soul, one that age had made wise, and grace made beautiful? Probably it
was both; but in this journey we will not follow her now, except to see
how her faith in God never once wavered. We have already listened to her
sweet song; but what a sublime faith it shows, that she can sing in face
of this gathering storm, a storm of suspicion and of shame, when Joseph
himself will seek to put her away, lest his character should suffer too!
But Mary believed, even though she felt and smarted. She endured "as
seeing Him who is invisible." Could she not safely leave her character
to Him? Would not the Lord avenge His own elect? Would not Divine Wisdom
justify her child? Faith and hope said "Yes;" and Mary's soul, like a
nightingale, trilled out her _Magnificat_ when earth's light was
disappearing, and the shadows were falling thick and fast on every side.

It is on her return to Nazareth, after her three months' absence, that
the episode occurs narrated by St. Matthew. It is thrown into the story
almost by way of parenthesis, but it casts a vivid light on the painful
experience through which she was now called to pass. Her prolonged
absence, most unusual for one betrothed, was in itself puzzling; but she
returns to find only a scant welcome. She finds herself suspected of
shame and sin, "the white flower of her blameless life" dashed and
stained with black aspersions. Even Joseph's confidence in her is
shaken, so shaken that he must put her away and have the betrothal
cancelled. And so the clouds darken about the Virgin; she is left almost
alone in the sharp travail of her soul, charged with sin, even when she
is preparing for the world a Saviour, and likely, unless Heaven speedily
interpose, to become an outcast, if not a martyr, thrown outside the
circle of human courtesies and sympathies as a social leper. Like
another heir of all the promises, she too is led as a lamb to the
slaughter, a victim bound, and all but sacrificed, upon the altar of the
public conscience. But Heaven did intervene, even as it stayed the knife
of Abraham. An angel appears to Joseph, throwing around the suspected
one the mantle of unsullied innocence, and assuring him that her
explanation, though passing strange, was truth itself. And so the Lord
did avenge His own elect, stilling the babble of unfriendly tongues,
restoring to her all the lost confidences, together with a wealth of
added hopes and prospective honours.

Not, however, out of Galilee must the Shiloh come, but out of Judah; and
not Nazareth, but Bethlehem Ephratah is the designated place of His
coming forth who shall be the Governor and Shepherd of "My people
Israel." What means, then, this apparent divergence of the Providence
from the Prophecy, the whole drift of the one being northward, while the
other points steadily to the south? It is only a seeming divergence, the
backward flash of the wheel that all the time is moving steadily,
swiftly forward. The Prophecy and the Providence are but the two staves
of the ark, moving in different but parallel lines, and bearing between
them the Divine purpose. Already the line is laid that links Nazareth
with Bethlehem, the line of descent we call lineage; and now we see
Providence setting in motion another force, the Imperial Will, which,
moving along this line, makes the purpose a realization. Nor was it the
Imperial Will only; it was the Imperial Will acting through Jewish
prejudices. These two forces, antagonistic, if not opposite, were the
centrifugal and centripetal forces that kept the Divine Purpose moving
in its appointed round and keeping Divine hours. Had the registration
decreed by Cæsar been conducted after the Roman manner, Joseph and Mary
would not have been required to go up to Bethlehem; but when, out of
deference to Jewish prejudice, the registration was made in the Hebrew
mode, this compelled them, both being descendants of David, to go up to
their ancestral city. It has been thought by some that Mary possessed
some inherited property in Bethlehem; and the narrative would suggest
that there were other links that bound them to the city; for evidently
they intended to make Bethlehem henceforth their place of residence, and
they would have done so had not a Divine monition broken in upon their
purpose (Matt. ii. 23).

And so they move southward, obeying the mandate of Cæsar, who now is
simply the executor of the higher Will, the Will that moves silently but
surely, back of all thrones, principalities, and powers. We will not
attempt to gild the gold, by enlarging upon the story of the Nativity,
and so robbing it of its sweet simplicity. The toilsome journey; its
inhospitable ending; the stable and the manger; the angelic symphonies
in the distance; the adoration of the shepherds--all form one sweet
idyll, no word of which we can spare; and as the Church chants her _Te
Deum_ all down the ages this will not be one of its lowest strains:--

  "When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man
  Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb."

And so the Virgin becomes the Virgin Mother, graduating into motherhood
amid the acclamations of the sky, and borne on to her exalted honours in
the sweep of Imperial decrees.

After the Nativity she sinks back into a second--a far-off
second--place, "for the greater glory doth dim the less;" and twice only
does her voice break the silence of the thirty years. We hear it first
in the Temple, as, in tones tremulous with anxiety and sorrow, she asks,
"Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold, Thy father and I sought
Thee sorrowing." The whole incident is perplexing, and if we read it
superficially, not staying to read between the lines, it certainly
places the mother in anything but a favourable light. Let us observe,
however, that there was no necessity that the mother should have made
this pilgrimage, and evidently she had made it so that she might be near
her precious charge. But now she strangely loses sight of Him, and goes
even a day's journey without discovering her loss. How is this? Has she
suddenly grown careless? or does she lose both herself and her charge in
the excitements of the return journey? Thoughtfulness, as we have seen,
was a characteristic feature of her life. Hers was the "harvest of the
quiet eye," and her thoughts centred not on herself, but on her Divine
Son; He was her Alpha and Omega, her first, her last, her only thought.
It is altogether outside the range of possibilities that she now could
be so negligent of her maternal duties, and so we are compelled to seek
for our explanation elsewhere. May we not find it in this? The parents
had left Jerusalem earlier in the day, arranging for the child Jesus to
follow with another part of the same company, which, leaving later,
would overtake them at their first camp. But Jesus not appearing when
the second company starts, they imagine that He has gone on with the
first company, and so proceed without Him. This seems the only probable
solution of the difficulty; at any rate it makes plain and perfectly
natural what else is most obscure and perplexing. Mary's mistake,
however--and it was not her fault--opens to us a page in the sealed
volume of the Divine Boyhood, letting us hear its solitary voice--"Wist
ye not that I must be in My Father's house?"

We see the mother again at Cana, where she is an invited and honoured
guest at the marriage, moving about among the servants with a certain
quiet authority, and telling her Divine Son of the breakdown in the
hospitalities: "They have no wine." We cannot now go into details, but
evidently there was no distancing reserve between the mother and her
Son. She goes to Him naturally; she speaks to Him freely and frankly, as
any widow would speak to the son on whom she leaned. Nay, she seems to
know, as by a sort of intuition, of the superhuman powers that are lying
dormant in that quiet Son of hers, and she so correctly reads the
horoscope of Heaven as to expect this will be the hour and the place of
their manifestation. Perhaps her mind did not grasp the true Divinity of
her Son--indeed, it could not have done so before the Resurrection--but
that He is the Messiah she has no doubt, and so, strong in her
confidence, she says to the servants, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do
it." And her faith must have been great indeed, when it required a
"whatsoever" to measure it. Some have thought they could detect a tinge
of impatience and a tone of rebuke in the reply of Jesus; and doubtless
there is a little sharpness in our English rendering of it. It does
sound to our ears somewhat unfilial and harsh. But to the Greeks the
address "Woman" was both courteous and respectful, and Jesus Himself
uses it in that last tender salute from the cross. Certainly, she did
not take it as a rebuke, for one harsh word, like the touch on the
sensitive plant, would have thrown her back into silence; whereas she
goes off directly to the servants with her "whatsoever."

We get one more brief glimpse of her at Capernaum, as she and her other
sons come out to Jesus to urge Him to desist from His long speaking. It
is but a simple narrative, but it serves to throw a side-light on that
home-life now removed to Capernaum. It shows us the thoughtful, loving
mother, as, forgetful of herself and full of solicitude for Him, who,
she fears, will tax Himself beyond His strength, she comes out to
persuade Him home. But what is the meaning of that strange answer, and
the significant gesture? "Mother," "brethren"? It is as if Jesus did not
understand the words. They are something He has now outgrown, something
He must now lay aside, as He gives Himself to the world at large. As
there comes a time in the life of each when the mother is
forsaken--left, that he may follow a higher call, and be himself a
man--so Jesus now steps out into a world where Mary's heart, indeed, may
still follow, but a world her mind may not enter. The earthly relation
is henceforth to be overshadowed by the heavenly. The Son of Mary grows
into the Son of man, belonging now to no special one, but to humanity at
large, finding in all, even in us, who do the will of the Father in
heaven, a brother, a sister, a mother. Not that Jesus forgets her. Oh,
no! Even amid the agonies of the cross He thinks of her; He singles her
out among the crowd, bespeaking for her a place--the place He Himself
has filled--in the heart of His nearest earthly friend; and amid the
prayer for His murderers, and the "Eloi, Eloi" of a terrible forsaking,
He says to the Apostle of love, "Behold thy mother," and to her, "Behold
thy son."

And so the Virgin Mother takes her place in the focal point of all the
histories. Through no choice, no conceit or forwardness of her own, but
by the grace of God and by an inherent fitness, she becomes the
connecting-link between earth and heaven. And throwing, as she does, her
unconscious shadow back within the Paradise Lost, and forward through
the Gospels to the Paradise Regained, shall we not "magnify the Lord"
with her? shall we not "magnify the Lord" for her, as, with all the
generations, we "call her blessed"?



CHAPTER V.

_THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS._

LUKE ii. 8-21.


The Gospel of St. Mark omits entirely the Nativity, passing at once to
the words and miracles of His public ministry. St. John, too, dismisses
the Advent and the earlier years of the Divine Life with one solitary
phrase, how the Word, which in the beginning was with God and was God,
"became flesh and dwelt among us" (i. 14). St. Luke, however, whose
Gospel is the Gospel of the Humanity, lingers reverently over the
Nativity, throwing a variety of side-lights upon the cradle of the Holy
Child. Already has he shown how the Roman State prepared the cradle of
the Infancy, and how Cæsar Augustus unconsciously wrought out the
purpose of God, the breath of his imperial decree being but part of a
higher inspiration; and now he proceeds to show how the shepherds of
Judæa bring the greetings of the Hebrew world, the wave-sheaf of the
ripening harvests of homage which yet will be laid, by Jew and Gentile
alike, at the feet of Him who was Son of David and Son of man.

It is generally supposed that these anonymous shepherds were residents
of Bethlehem, and tradition has fixed the exact spot where they were
favoured with this Advent apocalypse, about a thousand paces from the
modern village. It is a historic fact that there was a tower near that
site, called Eder, or "the Tower of the Flock," around which were
pastured the flocks destined for the Temple sacrifice; but the
topography of ver. 8 is purposely vague. The expression "in that same
country," written by one who both in years and in distance was far
removed from the events recorded, would describe any circle within the
radius of a few miles from Bethlehem as its centre, and the very
vagueness of the expression seems to push back the scene of the Advent
music to a farther distance than a thousand paces. And this view is
confirmed by the language of the shepherds themselves, who, when the
vision has faded, say one to another, "Let us now go even unto
Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass;" for they scarcely
would have needed, or used, the adverbial "even" were they keeping their
flocks so close up to the walls of the city. We may therefore infer,
with some amount of probability, that whether the shepherds were
residents of Bethlehem or not, when they kept watch over their flocks,
it was not on the traditional site, but farther away over the hills.
Indeed, it is difficult, and very often impossible, for us to fix the
precise locality of these sacred scenes, these bright points of
intersection, where Heaven's glories flash out against the dull
carbon-points of earth; and the voices of tradition are at best but
doubtful guesses. It would almost seem as if God Himself had wiped out
these memories, hiding them away, as He hid the sepulchre of Moses, lest
the world should pay them too great a homage, and lest we might think
that one place lay nearer to heaven than another, when all places are
equally distant, or rather equally near. It is enough to know that
somewhere on these lonely hills came the vision of the angels, perhaps
on the very spot where David was minding his sheep when Heaven summoned
him to a higher task, passing him up among the kings.

While the shepherds were "watching the watches of the night over their
flock," as the Evangelist expresses it, referring to the pastoral custom
of dividing the night into watches, and keeping watch by turns, suddenly
"an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone
round about them." When the angel appeared to Zacharias, and when
Gabriel brought to Mary her evangel, we do not read of any supernatural
portent, any celestial glory, attending them. Possibly because their
appearances were in the broad daylight, when the glory would be masked,
invisible; but now, in the dead of night, the angelic form is bright and
luminous, throwing all around them a sort of heavenly halo, in which
even the lustrous Syrian stars grow dim. Dazzled by the sudden burst of
glory, the shepherds were awed by the vision, and stricken with a great
fear, until the angel, borrowing the tones and accents of their own
speech, addressed to them his message, the message he had been
commissioned to bring: "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born
to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord." And then he gave them a sign by which they might recognize the
Saviour Lord: "Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and
lying in a manger."

From the indefinite wording of the narrative we should infer that the
angel who brought the message to the shepherds was not Gabriel, who had
before brought the good tidings to Mary. But whether or not the
messenger was the same, the two messages are almost identical in
structure and in thought, the only difference being the personal element
of the equation, and the shifting of the time from the future to the
present tense. Both strike the same key-note, the "Fear not" with which
they seek to still the vibrations of the heart, that the Virgin and the
shepherds may not have their vision blurred and tremulous through the
agitation of the mind. Both make mention of the name of David, which
name was the key-word which unlocked all Messianic hopes. Both speak of
the Child as a Saviour--though Gabriel wraps up the title within the
name, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus;" for, as St. Matthew explains it,
"it is He that shall save His people from their sins." Both, too, speak
of Him as the Messiah; for when the angel now calls Him the "Christ" it
was the same "Anointed" one who, as Gabriel had said, "should reign over
the house of Jacob for ever;" while in the last august title now given
by the angel, "Lord," we may recognize the higher Divinity--that He is,
in some unique, and to us incomprehensible sense, "the Son of the Most
High" (i. 32). Such, then, is the triple crown the angel now bears to
the cradle of the Holy Child. What He will be to the world is still but
a prophecy; but as He, the Firstborn, is now brought into the world, God
commands all the angels to worship Him (Heb. i. 6); and with united
voice--though the antiphon sings back over a nine months silence--they
salute the Child of Bethlehem as Saviour, Messiah, Lord. The one title
sets up His throne facing the lower world, commanding the powers of
darkness, and looking at the moral conditions of men; the second throws
the shadow of His throne over the political relations of men, making it
dominate all thrones; while the third title sets up His throne facing
the heavens themselves, vesting Him with a supreme, a Divine authority.

No sooner was the message ended than suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying--

  "Glory to God in the highest,
  And on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased."

The Revised Version lacks the rhythmic qualities of the Authorized
Version; and the wordy clause "among men in whom He is well pleased"
seems but a poor substitute for the terse and clear "good-will toward
men," which is an expression easy of utterance, and which seemed to have
earned a prescriptive right to a place in our Advent music. The revised
rendering, however, is certainly more in accord with the grammatical
construction of the original, whose idiomatic form can scarcely be put
into English, except in a way somewhat circuitous and involved. In both
expressions the underlying thought is the same, representing man as the
object of the Divine good-pleasure, that Divine "benevolence"--using the
word in its etymological sense--which enfolds, in the germ, the Divine
favour, compassion, mercy, and love. There is thus a triple parallelism
running through the song, the "Glory to God in the highest" finding its
corresponding terms in the "peace among (or to) men in whom He is well
pleased on earth;" while altogether it forms one complete circle of
praise, the "good-pleasure to man," the "peace on earth," the "glory to
God" marking off its three segments. And so the song harmonizes with the
message; indeed, it is that message in an altered shape; no longer
walking in common prosaic ways, but winged now, it moves in its higher
circles with measured beat, leaving a path from the cradle of the
Infancy to the highest heavens all strewn with _Glorias_. And what is
the triplicity of the song but another rendering of the three august
titles of the message--Saviour, Messiah, Lord? the "Saviour" being the
expression of the Divine good-pleasure; the "Messiah" telling of His
reign upon earth who is Himself the Prince of peace; while the "Lord,"
which, as we have seen, corresponds with "the Son of the Most High,"
leads us up directly to the "heavenlies," to Him who commands and who
deserves all doxologies.

But is this song only a song in some far-distant sky--a sweet memory
indeed, but no experience? Is it not rather the original from which
copies may be struck for our individual lives? There is for each of us
an advent, if we will accept it; for what is regeneration but the
beginning of the Divine life within our life, the advent of the Christ
Himself? And let but that supreme hour come to us when place and room
are made for Him who is at once the expression of the Divine favour and
the incarnation of the Divine love, and the new era dawns, the reign of
peace, the "peace _of_ God," because the "peace _with_ God, through our
Lord Jesus Christ." Then will the heart throw off its _Glorias_, not in
one burst of song, which subsides quickly into silence, but in one
perpetual anthem, which ever becomes more loud and sweet as the day of
its perfected redemption draweth nigh; for when the Divine displeasure
is turned away, and a Divine peace or comfort takes its place, who can
but say, "O Lord, I will praise Thee"?

Directly the angel-song had ceased, and the singers had disappeared in
the deep silence whence they came, the shepherds, garnering up their
scattered thoughts, said one to another (as if their hearts were
speaking all at once and all in unison), "Let us now go even unto
Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass which the Lord hath
made known unto us." The response was immediate. They do not shut out
this heavenly truth by doubt and vain questioning; they do not keep it
at a distance from them, as if it only indirectly and distantly
concerned themselves, but yield themselves up to it entirely; and as
they go hastily to Bethlehem, in the quick step and in the rapid beating
of their heart, we can trace the vibrations of the angel-song. And why
is this? Why is it that the message does not come upon them as a
surprise? Why are these men ready with such a perfect acquiescence,
their hearts leaping forward to meet and embrace this Gospel of the
angels? We shall probably find our answer in the character of the men
themselves. They pass into history unnamed; and after playing their
brief part, they disappear, lost in the incense-cloud of their own
praises. But evidently these shepherds were no mean, no common men. They
were Hebrews, possibly of the royal line; at any rate they were Davids
in their loftiness of thought, of hope and aspiration. They were devout,
God-fearing men. Like their father Jacob, they too were citizens of two
worlds; they could lead their flocks into green pastures, and mend the
fold; or they could turn aside from flock and fold to wrestle with God's
angels, and prevail. Heaven's revelations come to noble minds, as the
loftiest peaks are always the first to hail the dawn. And can we suppose
that Heaven would so honour them, lighting up the sky with an aureole of
glory for their sole benefit, sending this multitude to sing to them a
sweet chorale, if the men themselves had nothing heavenly about them, if
their selfish, sordid mind could soar no higher than their flocks, and
have no wider range than the markets for their wool?

            "Let but a flute
  Play 'neath the fine-mixed metal,
  Then shall the huge bell tremble, then the mass
  With myriad waves concurrent shall respond
  In low, soft unison."

But there must be the music hidden within, or there is no unison. And we
may be sure of this, that the angel-song had passed by them as a cold
night-wind, had not their hearts been tuned up by intense desire, until
they struck responsive to the angel-voice. Though they knew it not, they
had led their flock to the mount of God; and up the steps of sacred
hopes and lofty aspirations they had climbed, until their lives had got
within the circle of heavenly harmonies, and they were worthy to be the
first apostles of the New Dispensation.

In our earthly modes of thinking we push the sacred and the secular far
apart, as if they were two different worlds, or, at any rate, as
opposite hemispheres of the same world, with but few points of contact
between them. It is not so. The secular is the sacred on its under, its
earthward side. It is a part of that great whole we call duty, and in
our earthly callings, if they are but pure and honest, we may hear the
echoes of a heavenly call. The temple of Worship and the temple of Work
are not separated by indefinable spaces; they are contiguous, leaning
upon each other, while they both front the same Divine purpose. Nor can
it be simply a coincidence that Heaven's revelations should nearly
always come to man in the moments of earthly toil, rather than in the
hours of leisure or of so-called worship. It was from his shepherding
the burning bush beckoned Moses aside; while Heaven's messenger found
Gideon on the threshing-floor, and Elisha in the furrow. In the New
Testament, too, in all the cases whose circumstances are recorded, the
Divine call reached the disciples when engaged in their every-day task,
sitting at the receipt of custom, and casting or mending their nets. The
fact is significant. In the estimate of Heaven, instead of a discount
being put upon the common tasks of life, those tasks are dignified and
ennobled. They look towards heaven, and if the heart be only set in that
direction they lead too up towards heaven. Our weeks are not unlike the
sheet of Peter's vision; we take care to tie up the two ends, attaching
them to heaven, and then we leave what we call the "week-days" bulging
down earthward in purely secular fashion. But would not our weeks, and
our whole life, swing on a higher and holier level, could we but
recognize the fact that all days are the Lord's days, and did we but
attach each day and each deed to heaven? Such is the truest, noblest
life, that takes the "trivial rounds" as a part of its sacred duties,
doing them all as unto the Lord. So, as we sanctify life's common
things, they cease to be common, and the earthly becomes less earthly as
we learn to see more of heaven in it. In the weaving of our life some of
its threads stretch earthward, and some heavenward; but they cross and
interlace, and together they form the warp and woof of one fabric, which
should be, like the garment of the Master, without seam, woven from the
top throughout. Happy is that life which, keeping an open eye over the
flock, keeps too a heart open towards heaven, ready to listen to the
angelic music, and ready to transfer its rhythm to their own hastening
feet or their praising lips.

Our Evangelist tells us that they "came in haste" in search of the young
Child, and we may almost detect that haste in the very accents of their
speech. It is, "Let us now go across even to Bethlehem," allowing the
prefix its proper meaning; as if their eager hearts could not stay to go
round by the ordinary road, but like bees scenting a held of clover,
they too must make their cross-country way to Bethlehem. Though the
angel had not given explicit directions, the city of David was not so
large but that they could easily discover the object of their
search--the Child, as had been told them, wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manager. It has been thought by some that the "inn" is a
mistranslation, and that it really was the "guest-chamber" of some
friend. It is true the word is rendered "guest-chamber" on the other two
occasions of its use (Mark xiv. 14; Luke xxii. 11), but it also
signified a public guest-house, as well as a private guest-chamber; and
such evidently is its meaning here, for private hospitality, even had
its "guest-chamber" been preoccupied, would certainly, under the
circumstances, have offered something more human than a stable. That
would not have been its only alternative.

It is an interesting coincidence, and one serving to link together the
Old and the New Testament, that Jeremiah speaks of a certain _geruth_,
or inn, as it may read, "which is by Beth-lehem" (Jer. xli. 17). How it
came into the possession of Chimham, who was a Gileadite, we are not
told; but we are told that because of the kindness shown to David in his
exile by Barzillai, his son Chimham received special marks of the royal
favour, and was, in fact, treated almost as an adopted son (1 Kings ii.
7). What is certain is that the _khan_ of Bethlehem bore, for successive
generations, the name of Chimham; which fact is in itself evidence that
Chimham was its builder, as the well of Jacob retained, through all the
changes of inheritance, the name of the patriarch whose thought and gift
it was. In all probability, therefore, the "inn" was built by Chimham,
on that part of the paternal estate which David inherited; and as the
_khans_ of the East cling with remarkable tenacity to their original
sites, it is probable, to say the least, that the "inn of Chimham" and
the inn of Bethlehem, in which there was no room for the two late-comers
from Nazareth, were, if not identical, at any rate related
structures--so strangely does the cycle of history complete itself, and
the Old merge into the New. And so, while Prophecy sings audibly and
sweetly of the place which yet shall give birth to the Governor who
shall rule over Israel, History puts up her silent hand, and salutes
Beth-lehem Ephratah as by no means the least among the cities of Judah.

But not in the inn do the shepherds find the happy parents--the
spring-tide of the unusual immigration had completely flooded that,
leaving no standing-place for the son and daughter of David--but they
find them in a stable, probably in some adjoining cave, the swaddled
Child, as the angels had foretold, lying in the manger. Art has lingered
reverently and long over this stable scene, hiding with exquisite
draperies its baldness and meanness, and lighting up its darkness with
wreaths of golden glory; but these splendours are apocryphal, existing
only in the mind of the beholder; they are the luminous mist of an
adoring love. What the shepherds do find is an extemporized apartment,
mean in the extreme; two strangers fresh from Nazareth, both young and
both poor; and a new-born infant asleep in the manger, with a group of
sympathizing spectators, who have brought, in the emergency, all kinds
of proffered helps. It seems a strange ending for an angel-song, a far
drop from the superhuman to the subhuman. Will it shake the faith of
these apostle-shepherds? Will it shatter their bright hope? And
chagrined that their auroral dream should have so poor a realization,
will they return to their flocks with heavy hearts and sad? Not they.
They prostrate themselves before the Infant Presence, repeating over and
over the heavenly words the angels had spoken unto them concerning the
Child, and while Mary announces the name as "Jesus," they salute Him, as
the angels had greeted Him before, as Saviour, Messiah, Lord; thus
putting on the head of the Child Jesus that triple crown, symbol of a
supremacy which knows no limit either in space or time. It was the _Te
Deum_ of a redeemed humanity, which succeeding years have only made more
deep, more full, and which in ever-rising tones will yet grow into the
Alleluias of the heavens. Saviour, Messiah, Lord! these titles struck
upon Mary's ear not with surprise, for she has grown accustomed to
surprises now, but with a thrill of wonder. She could not yet spell out
all their deep meaning, and so she pondered "them in her heart," hiding
them away in her maternal soul, that their deep secrets might ripen and
blossom in the summer of the after-years.

The shepherds appear no more in the Gospel story. We see them returning
to their task "glorifying and praising God for all the things that they
had heard and seen," and then the mantle of a deep silence falls upon
them. As a lark, rising heavenward, loses itself from our sight,
becoming a sweet song in the sky, so these anonymous shepherds, these
first disciples of the Lord, having laid their tribute at His feet--in
the name of humanity saluting the Christ who was to be--now pass out of
our sight, leaving for us the example of their heavenward look and their
simple faith, and leaving, too, their _Glorias_, which in multiplied
reverberations fill all lands and all times, the earthly prelude of the
New, the eternal Song.



CHAPTER VI.

_THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS._


When the Old Testament closed, prophecy had thrown upon the screen of
the future the shadows of two persons, cast in heavenly light. Sketched
in outline rather than in detail, still their personalities were
sufficiently distinct as to attract the gaze and hopes of the
intervening centuries; while their differing, though related missions
were clearly recognized. One was the Coming One, who should bring the
"consolation" of Israel, and who should Himself be that Consolation; and
gathering into one august title all such glittering epithets as Star,
Shiloh, and Emmanuel, prophecy reverently saluted Him as "the Lord,"
paying Him prospective homage and adoration. The other was to be the
herald of another Dispensation, proclaiming the new kingdom and the new
King, running before the royal chariot, even as Elijah ran before Ahab
to the ivory palace at Jezreel, his voice then dying away in silence, as
he himself passes out of sight behind the throne. Such were the two
figures that prophecy, in a series of dissolving views, had thrown
forward from the Old into the New Testament; and such was the signal
honour accorded to the Baptist, that while many of the Old Testament
characters appear as reflections in the New, his is the only human
shadow thrown back from the New into the Old.

The forerunner thus had a virtual existence long before the time of the
Advent. Known by his synonym of Elias, the prophesied, he became as a
real presence, moving here and there among their thoughts and dreams,
and lighting up their long night with the beacon-fires of new and bright
hopes. His voice seemed familiar, even though it came to them in
far-distant echoes, and the listening centuries had caught exactly both
its accent and its message. And so the preparer of the way found his own
path prepared; for John's path and "the way of the Lord" were the same;
it was the way of obedience and of sacrifice. The two lives were thus
thrown into conjunction from the first, the lesser light revolving
around the Greater, as they fulfil their separate courses--separate
indeed, as far as the human must ever be separated from the Divine, yet
most closely related.

Living thus through the pre-Advent centuries, both in the Divine purpose
and in the thoughts and hopes of men, so early designated to his
heraldic office, "My messenger," in a singular sense, as no other of
mortals could ever be, it is no matter of apology, or even of surprise,
that his birth should be attended by so much of the supernatural. The
Divine designation seems to imply, almost to demand, a Divine
declaration; and in the birth-story of the Baptist the flashes of the
supernatural, such as the angelic announcement and the miraculous
conception, come with a simple naturalness. The prelude is in perfect
symphony with the song. St. Luke is the only Evangelist who gives us the
birth-story. The other three speak only of his mission, introducing him
to us abruptly, as, like another Moses, he comes down from his new
Sinai with the tables of the law in his hands and the strange light upon
his face. St. Luke takes us back to the infancy, that we may see the
beginnings of things, the Divine purpose enwrapped in swaddling clothes,
as it once was set adrift in a rush-plaited ark. Before the message he
puts the man, and before the man he puts the child--for is not the child
a prophecy or invoice of the man?--while all around the child he puts
the environment of home, showing us the subtle, powerful influences that
touched and shaped the young prophet-life. As a plant carries up into
its outmost leaves the ingredients of the rock around which its fibres
cling, so each upspringing life--even the life of a prophet--carries
into its farthest reaches the unconscious influence of its home
associations. And so St. Luke sketches for us that quiet home in the
hill-country, whose windows opened and whose doors turned toward
Jerusalem, the "city of the great" and invisible "King." He shows us
Zacharias and Elisabeth, true saints of God, devout of heart and
blameless of life, down into whose placid lives an angel came, rippling
them with the excitements of new promises and hopes. Where could the
first meridian of the New Dispensation run better than through the home
of these seers of things unseen, these watchers for the dawn? Where
could be so fitting a receptacle for the Divine purpose, where it could
so soon and so well ripen? Had not God elected them to this high honour,
and Himself prepared them for it? Had He not purposely kept back all
earlier, lower shoots, that their whole growth should be upward, one
reaching out towards heaven, like the palm, its fruit clustering around
its outmost branches? We can easily imagine what intense emotion the
message of the angel would produce, and that Zacharias would not so much
miss the intercourse of human speech now that God's thoughts were
audible in his soul. What loving preparation would Elisabeth make for
this child of hers, who was to be "great in the sight of the Lord"! what
music she would strike out from its name, "John" (the Grace of Jehovah),
the name which was both the sesame and symbol of the New Dispensation!
How her eager heart would outrun the slow months, as she threw herself
forward in anticipation among the joys of maternity, a motherhood so
exalted! And why did she hide herself for the five months, but that she
might prepare herself for her great mission? that in her seclusion she
might hear more distinctly the voices that spake to her from above, or
that in the silence she might hear her own heart sing?

But neither the eagerness of Elisabeth nor the dumbness of Zacharias is
allowed to hasten the Divine purpose. That purpose, like the cloud of
old, accommodates itself to human conditions, the slow processions of
the humanities; and not until the time is "full" does the hope become a
realization, and the infant voice utter its first cry. And now is
gathered the first congregation of the new era. It is but a family
gathering, as the neighbours and relatives come together for the
circumcising of the child--which rite was always performed on the
corresponding day of the week after its birth; but it is significant as
being the first of those ever-widening circles that moving outwards from
its central impulse, spread rapidly over the land, as they are now
rapidly spreading over all lands. Zacharias, of course, was present; but
mute and deaf, he could only sit apart, a silent spectator. Elisabeth,
as we may gather from various references and hints, was of modest and
retiring disposition, fond of putting herself in the shade, of standing
behind; and so now the conduct of the ceremony seems to have fallen into
the hands of some of the relatives. Presuming that the general custom
will be observed, that the first-born child will take the name of the
father, they proceed to name it "Zacharias." This, however, Elisabeth
cannot allow, and with an emphatic negative, she says, "Not so; but he
shall be called John." Persistent still in their own course, and not
satisfied with the mother's affirmation, the friends turn to the aged
and mute priest, and by signs ask how they shall name the child (and had
Zacharias heard the conversation, he certainly would not have waited for
their question, but would have spoken or written at once); and
Zacharias, calling for the writing-table, which doubtless had been his
close companion, giving him his only touch of the outer world for the
still nine months, wrote, "His name is John." Ah, they are too late! the
child was named even long before its birth, named, too, within the Holy
Place of the Temple, and by an angel of God. "John" and "Jesus," those
two names, since the visit of the Virgin, have been like two bells of
gold, throwing waves of music across heart and home, ringing their
welcome to "the Christ who is to be," the Christ who is now so near.
"His name is John;" and with that brief stroke of his pen Zacharias half
rebukes these intrusions and interferences of the relatives, and at the
same time makes avowal of his own faith. And as he wrote the name
"John," his present obedience making atonement for a past unbelief,
instantly the paralyzed tongue was loosed, and he spake, blessing God,
throwing the name of his child into a psalm; for what is the
_Benedictus_ of Zacharias but "John" written large and full, one sweet
and loud magnifying of "the Grace and Favour of Jehovah"?

It is only a natural supposition that when the inspiration of the song
had passed away, Zacharias' speech would begin just where it was broken
off, and that he would narrate to the guests the strange vision of the
Temple, with the angel's prophecy concerning the child. And as the
guests depart to their own homes, each one carries the story of this new
apocalypse, as he goes to spread the evangel, and to wake among the
neighbouring hills the echoes of Zacharias' song. No wonder that fear
came upon all that dwelt round about, and that they who pondered these
things in their hearts should ask, "What then shall this child be?"

And here the narrative of the childhood suddenly ends, for with two
brief sentences our Evangelist dismisses the thirty succeeding years. He
tells us that "the hand of the Lord was with the child," doubtless
arranging its circumstances, giving it opportunities, preparing it for
the rugged manhood and the rugged mission which should follow in due
course; and that "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit," the very
same expression he afterwards uses in reference to the Holy Child, an
expression we can best interpret by the angel's prophecy, "He shall be
filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." His native
strength of spirit was made doubly strong by the touch of the Divine
Spirit, as the iron, coming from its baptism of fire, is hardened and
tempered into steel. And so we see that in the Divine economy even a
consecrated childhood is a possible experience; and that it is
comparatively infrequent is owing rather to our warped views, which
possibly may need some readjustment, than to the Divine purpose and
provision. Is the child born into the Divine displeasure, branded from
its birth with the mark of Cain? Is it not rather born into the Divine
mercy, and all enswathed in the abundance of Divine love? True, it is
born of a sinful race, with tendencies to self-will which may lead it
astray; but it is just as true that it is born within the covenant of
grace; that around its earliest and most helpless years is thrown the
ægis of Christ's atonement; and that these innate tendencies are held in
check and neutralized by what is called "prevenient grace." In the
struggle for that child-life are the powers of darkness the first in the
field, outmarching and out-manœuvring the powers of light? Why, the
very thought is half-libellous. Heaven's touch is upon the child from
the first. Ignore it as we may, deny it as some will, yet back in life's
earliest dawn the Divine Spirit is brooding over the unformed world,
parting its firmaments of right and wrong, and fashioning a new
Paradise. Is evil the inevitable? Must each life taste the forbidden
fruit before it can attain to a knowledge of the good? In other words,
is sin a great though dire necessity? If a necessity, then it is no
longer sin, and we must seek for another and more appropriate name. No;
childhood is Christ's purchased and peculiar possession; and the best
type of religious experience is that which is marked by no rapid
transitions, which breaks upon the soul softly and sweetly as a dawn,
its beginnings imperceptible, and so unremembered. So not without
meaning is it that right at the gate of the New Dispensation we find the
cradle of a consecrated childhood. Placed there by the gate, so that all
may see it, and placed in the light, so that all may read it, the
childhood of the Baptist tells us what our childhood might oftener be,
if only its earthly guardians--whose hands are so powerful to impress
and mould the plastic soul--were, like Zacharias and Elisabeth,
themselves prayerful, blameless, and devout.

Now the scene shifts; for we read he "was in the deserts till the day of
his showing unto Israel." From the fact that this clause is intimately
connected with the preceding, "and the child grew and waxed strong in
spirit"--the two clauses having but one subject--some have supposed that
John was but a child when he turned away from the parental roof and
sought the wilderness. But this does not follow. The two parts of the
sentence are only separated by a comma, but that pause may bridge over a
chasm wide enough for the flow of numerous years, and between the
childhood and the wilderness the narrative would almost compel us to put
a considerable space. As his physical development was, in mode and
proportion, purely human, with no hint of anything unnatural or even
supernatural, so we may suppose was his mental and spiritual
development. The voice must become articulate; it must play upon the
alphabet, and turn sound into speech. It must learn, that it may think;
it must study, that it may know. And so the human teacher is
indispensable. Children reared of wolves may learn to bark, but, in
spite of mythology, they will not build cities and found empires. And
where could the child find better instructors than in his own parents,
whose quiet lives had been passed in an atmosphere of prayer, and to
whom the very jots and tittles of the law were familiar and dear?
Indeed, we can scarcely suppose that after having prepared Zacharias and
Elisabeth for their great mission, working what is something like a
miracle, that she and no one else shall be the mother of the
forerunner, the child should then be torn away from its natural
guardians before the processes of its education are complete. It is true
they were both "well stricken in years," but that phrase would cover any
period from threescore years and upwards, and to that threescore the
usual longevity of the Temple ministrants would easily allow another
twenty years to be added. May we not, then, suppose that the
child-Baptist studied and played under the parental roof, the bright
focus to which their hopes, and thoughts, and prayers converged; that
here, too, he spent his boyhood and youth, preparing for that priestly
office to which his lineage entitled and designated him? for why should
not the "messenger of the Lord" be priest as well? We have no further
mention of Zacharias and Elisabeth, but it is not improbable that their
death was the occasion of John's retirement to the deserts, now a young
man, perhaps, of twenty years.

According to custom, John now should have been introduced and
consecrated to the priesthood, twenty years being the general age of the
initiates; but in obedience to a higher call, John renounces the
priesthood, and breaks with the Temple at once and for ever. Retiring to
the deserts, which, wild and gloomy, stretch westward from the Dead Sea,
and assuming the old prophet garb--a loose dress of camel's hair, bound
with a thong of leather--the student becomes the recluse. Inhabiting
some mountain cave, tasting only the coarse fare that nature
offered--locusts and wild honey--the new Elias has come and has found
his Cherith; and here, withdrawn far from "the madding crowd" and the
incessant babble of human talk, with no companions save the wild beasts
and the bright constellations of that Syrian sky, as they wheel round in
their nightly dance, the lonely man opens his heart to God's great
thoughts and purposes, and by constant prayer keeps his clear, trumpet
voice in drill. Evidently, John had seen enough of so-called "society,"
with its cold conventionalities and hypocrisies; his keen eye had seen
only too easily the hollowness and corruption that lay beneath the outer
gloss and varnish--the thin veneer that but half concealed the worminess
and rottenness that lay beneath. John goes out into the desert like
another scapegoat, bearing deep within his heart the sins of his
nation--sins, alas, which are yet unrepented of and unforgiven! It was
doubtless thoughts like these, and the constant brooding upon them,
which gave to the Baptist the touch of melancholy that we can detect
both in his features and his speech. Austere in person, with a wail in
his voice like the sighing of the wind, or charged at times with
suppressed thunders, the Baptist reminds us of the Peri, who

                "At the gate
  Of Eden stood disconsolate."

Sin had become to John an awful fact. He could see nothing else. The
fragments of the law's broken tables strewed the land, even the courts
of the Temple itself, and men were everywhere tripping against them and
falling. But John did see something else; it was the day of the Lord,
now very near, the day that should come scathing and burning "as a
furnace," unless, meanwhile, Israel should repent. So the prophet mused,
and as he mused the fire burned within his soul, even the fire of the
Refiner, the fire of God.

Our Evangelist characterizes the opening of John's ministry with an
official word. He calls it a "showing," a "manifestation," putting upon
the very word the stamp and sanction of a Divine appointment. He is
careful, too, to mark the time, so giving the Gospel story its place
among the chronologies of the world; which he does in a most elaborate
way. He first reads the time on the horoscope of the Empire, whose
swinging pendulum was a rising or a falling throne; and he states that
it was "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar," counting the
two years of his joint rule with Augustus. Then, as if that were not
enough, he notes the hour as indicated on the four quarters of the
Hebrew commonwealth, the hour when Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysanias
were in conjunction, ruling in their divided heavens. Then, as if that
even were not enough, he marks the ecclesiastical hour as indicated by
the marble time-piece of the Temple; it was when Annas and Caiaphas held
jointly the high priesthood. What is the meaning of this elaborate
mechanism, wheels within wheels? Is it because the hour is so important,
that it needs the hands of an emperor, a governor, three tetrarchs, and
two high priests to point it? Ewald is doubtless right in saying that
St. Luke, as the historian, wished "to frame the Gospel history into the
great history of the world" by giving precise dates; but if that were
the Evangelist's main reason, such an accumulation of time-evidence were
scarcely necessary; for what do the subsequent statements add to the
precision of the first--"In the fifteenth year of Tiberius"? We must,
then, seek for the Evangelist's meaning elsewhere. Among the oldest of
the Hebrew prophecies concerning the Messiah was that of Jacob. Closing
his life, as Moses did afterwards, with a wonderful vision, he looked
down on the far-off years, and speaking of the coming "Seed," he said,
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between
his feet, until Shiloh come" (Gen. xlix. 10). Might not this prophecy
have been in the thought of the Evangelist when he stayed so much longer
than his wont to note times and seasons? Why does he mention Herod and
Pilate, Philip and Lysanias, but to show how the sceptre has, alas,
departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet, and how the
chosen land is torn to pieces by the Roman eagles? And why does he name
Annas and Caiaphas, but to show how the same disintegrating forces are
at work even within the Temple, when the rightful high priest can be set
aside and superseded by the nominee of a foreign and a Pagan power?
Verily "the glory has departed from Israel;" and if St. Luke introduces
foreign emperors, tetrarchs, and governors, it is that they may ring a
muffled peal over the grave of a dead nation, a funeral knell, which,
however, shall be the signal for the coming of the Shiloh, and the
gathering of the people unto Him.

Such were the times--times of disorganization, disorder, and almost
despair--when the word of God came unto John in the wilderness. It came
"upon" him, as it literally reads, probably in one of those wonderful
theophanies, as when God spake to Moses from the flaming bush, or as
when He appeared to Elijah upon Horeb, sending him back to an unfinished
task. John obeyed. Emerging from his wilderness retreat, clad in his
strange attire, spare in build, his features sharp and worn with
fasting, his long, dishevelled hair telling of his Nazarite vow, he
moves down to the Jordan like an apparition. His appearance is
everywhere hailed with mingled curiosity and delight. Crowds come in
ever-increasing numbers, not one class only, but all classes--priests,
soldiers, officials, people--until it seemed as if the cities had
emptied themselves into the Jordan valley. And what went they "out for
to see"? "A reed shaken with the wind"? A prophesier of smooth things? A
preacher of revolt against tyranny? Nay; John was no wind-shaken reed,
he was rather the heavenly wind itself, swaying the multitudes at will,
and bending hearts and consciences into penitence and prayer. John was
no preacher of revolt against the powers that be; in his mind, Israel
had revolted more and more, and he must bring them back to their
allegiance, or himself die in the attempt. John was no preacher of
smooth things; there was not even the charm of variety about his speech.
The one burden of his message was, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is
at hand." But the effect was marvellous. The lone voice from the
wilderness swept over the land like the breath of God. Borne forwards on
a thousand lips, it echoed through the cities and penetrated into
remotest places. Judæa, Samaria, and even distant Galilee felt the
quiver of the strange voice, and even from the shore of the Northern Sea
men came to sit at the feet of the new teacher, and to call themselves
John's disciples. So widespread and so deep was the movement, it sent
its ripples even within the royal palace, awaking the curiosity, and
perhaps the conscience, of Herod himself. It was a genuine revival of
religion, such as Judæa had not witnessed since the days of Ezra, the
awaking of the national conscience and of the national hope.

Perhaps it would be difficult, by any analysis of ours, to discover or
to define the secret of John's success. It was the resultant, not of one
force, but of many. For instance, the hour was favourable. It was the
Sabbatic year, when field-work was in the main suspended, and men
everywhere had leisure mind and hand lying, as it were, fallow. Then,
too, the very dress of the Baptist would not be without its influence,
especially on a mind so sensitive to form and colour as the Hebrew mind
was. Dress to them was a form of duty. They were accustomed to weave
into their tassels sacred symbols, so making the external speak of the
eternal. Their hands played on the parti-coloured threads most
faithfully and sacredly; for were not these the chords of Divine
harmonies? But here is one who discards both the priestly and the
civilian dress, and who wears, instead, the rough camel's hair robe of
the old prophets. The very dress would thus appeal most powerfully to
their imagination, carrying back their thoughts to the time of the
Theocracy, when Jehovah was not silent as now, and when Heaven was so
near, speaking by some Samuel or Elijah. Are those days returning? they
would ask. Is this the Elias who was to come and restore all things?
Surely it must be. And in the rustle of the Baptist's robe they heard
the rustle of Elijah's mantle, dropping a second time by these Jordan
banks. Then, too, there was the personal charm of the man. John was
young, if years are our reckoning, for he counted but thirty; but in his
case the _verve_ and energy of youth were blended with the discretion
and saintliness of age. What was the world to him, its fame, its luxury
and wealth? They were only the dust he shook from his feet, as his
spirit sighed for and soared after Heaven's better things. He asks
nothing of earth but her plainest fare, a couch of grass, and by-and-by
a grave. Then, too, there was a positiveness about the man, that would
naturally attract, in a drifting, shifting, vacillating age. The strong
will is magnetic; the weaker wills follow and cluster round it, as
swarming bees cluster around their queen. And John was intensely
positive. His speech was clear-cut and incisive, with a tremendous
earnestness in it, as if a "Thus saith the Lord" were at his heart.
John's mood was not the subjunctive, where his words could eddy among
the "mays" and "mights;" it was plainly the indicative, or better still,
the imperative. He spoke as one who believed, and who intensely felt
what he believed. Then, too, there was a certain nobleness about his
courage. He knew no rank, no party; he was superior to all. He feared
God too much to have any fear of man. He spake no word for the sake of
pleasing, and he kept back no word--even the hot rebuke--for fear of
offending. Truth to him was more than titles, and right was the only
royalty. How he painted the Pharisees--those shiny, slimy men, with
creeping, sinuous ways--with that dark epithet "brood of vipers"! With
what a fearless courage he denounced the incest of Herod! _He_ will not
level down Sinai, accommodating it to royal passions! Not he. "It is not
lawful for thee to have her"--such were his words, that rolled in upon
Herod's conscience like a peal of Sinai's thunder, telling him that law
was law, that right was more than might, and purity more than power.
Then, too, there was something about his message that was attractive.
That word "the kingdom of heaven" struck upon the national heart like a
bell, and set it vibrating with new hopes, and awaking all kinds of
beautiful dreams of recovered pre-eminence and power.

But while all these were auxiliaries, factors, and co-efficients in the
problem of the Baptist's success, they are not sufficient in themselves
to account for that success. It is not difficult for a man of superior
mental attainment, and of strong individuality, to attract a following,
especially if that following be in the direction of self-interest. The
emotions and passions of humanity lie near the surface; they can be
easily swept into a storm by the strong or by the pathetic voice. But to
reach the conscience, to lift up the veil, and to pass within to that
Most Holy of the human soul is what man, unaided, cannot do. Only the
Divine Voice can break those deep silences of the heart; or if the human
voice is used the power is not in the words of human speech--those
words, even the best, are but the dead wires along which the Divine
Voice moves--it is the power of God.

  "Some men live near to God, as my right arm
  Is near to me; and then they walk about
  Mailed in full proof of faith, and bear a charm
  That mocks at fear, and bars the door on doubt,
  And dares the impossible."

Just such a man was the Baptist. He was a "man of God." He lived, and
moved, and had his being in God. Self to him was an extinct passion.
Envy, pride, ambition, jealousy, these were unknown tongues; his pure
soul understood not their meaning. Like his great prototype, "the Spirit
of the Lord God" was upon him. His life was one conscious inspiration;
and John himself had been baptized with the baptism of which he spoke,
but which he himself could not give, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and
of fire. This only will account for the wonderful effects produced by
his preaching. John, in his own experience, had antedated Pentecost,
receiving the "power from on high," and as he spoke it was with a tongue
of fire, a voice in whose accent and tone the people could detect the
deeper Voice of God.

But if John could not baptize with the higher baptism, usurping the
functions of the One coming after, he could, and he did, institute a
lower, symbolic baptism of water, that thus the visible might lead up to
the invisible. In what mode John's baptism was administered we cannot
tell, nor is it material that we should know. We do know, however, that
the baptism of the Spirit--and in John's mind the two were closely
related--was constantly referred to in Scripture as an effusion, a
"pouring out," a sprinkling, and never once as an immersion. And what
was the "baptism of fire" to the mind of John? Was it not that which the
prophet Isaiah had experienced, when the angel touched his lips with the
live coal taken from the altar, pronouncing over him the great
absolution, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken
away, and thy sin purged" (Isa. vi. 7)? At best, the baptism of water is
but a shadow of the better thing, the outward symbol of an inward grace.
We need not quarrel about modes and forms. Scripture has purposely left
them indeterminate, so that we need not wrangle about them. There is no
need that we exalt the shadow, levelling it up to the substance; and
still less should we level it down, turning it into a playground for the
schools.

Thus far the lives of Jesus and John have lain apart. One growing up in
the hill-country of Galilee, the other in the hill-country of Judæa, and
then in the isolation of the wilderness, they have never looked in each
other's face, though they have doubtless heard often of each other's
mission. They meet at last. John had been constantly telling of ONE who
was coming after--"after," indeed, in order of time, but "before,"
infinitely before, in pre-eminence and authority. Mightier than he, He
was the Lord. John would deem it an honour to kneel down before so
august a Master, to untie and bear away His shoes; for in such a
Presence servility was both becoming and ennobling. With such words as
these the crier in the wilderness had been transferring the people's
thought from himself, and setting their hearts listening for the Coming
One, so preparing and broadening His way. Suddenly, in one of the pauses
of his ministrations, a Stranger presents Himself, and asks that the
rite of baptism may be administered to Him. There is nothing peculiar
about His dress; He is younger than the Baptist--much younger,
apparently, for the rough, ascetic life has prematurely aged him--but
such is the grace and dignity of His person, such the mingled "strength
and beauty" of His manhood, that even John, who never quailed in the
presence of mortal before, is awed and abashed now. Discerning the
innate royalty of the Stranger, and receiving a monition from the Higher
World, with which he kept up close correspondence, the Baptist is
assured that it is He, the Lord and Christ. Immediately his whole manner
changes. The voice that has swept over the land like a whirlwind, now is
hushed, subdued, speaking softly, deferentially, reverentially. Here is
a Presence in which his imperatives all melt away and disappear, a Will
that is infinitely higher than his own, a Person for whom his baptism is
out of place. John is perplexed; he hesitates, he demurs. "I have need
to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" and John, Elias-like,
would fain have wrapped his mantle around his face, burying out of sight
his little "me," in the presence of the Lord. But Jesus said, "Suffer
it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. iii.
15).

The baptism of Jesus was evidently a new kind of baptism, one in which
the usual formulas were strangely out of place; and the question
naturally arises, Why should Jesus submit to, and even ask for, a
baptism that was so associated with repentance and sin? Could there be
any place for repentance, any room for confession, in the Sinless One?
John felt the anomaly, and so shrank from administering the rite, till
the reply of Jesus put His baptism on different ground--ground
altogether clear of any personal demerit. Jesus asked for baptism, not
for the washing away of sin, but that He might "fulfil all
righteousness." He was baptized, not for His own sake, but for the
world's sake. Coming to redeem humanity, He would identify Himself with
that humanity, even the sinful humanity that it was. Son of God, He
would become a true Son of man, that through His redemption all other
sons of men might become true sons of God. Bearing the sins of many,
taking away the sin of the world, that heavy burden lay at His heart
from the first; He could not lay it down until He left it nailed to His
cross. Himself knowing no sin, He yet becomes the Sin-offering, and is
"numbered among the transgressors." And as Jesus went to the cross and
into the grave mediatorially, as Humanity's Son, so Jesus now passes
into the baptismal waters mediatorially, repenting for that world whose
heart is still hard, and whose eyes are dry of godly tears, and
confessing the sin which He in love has made His own, the "sin of the
world," the sin He has come to make atonement for and to bear away.

Such is the meaning of the Jordan baptism, in which Jesus puts the
stamp of Divinity upon John's mission, while John bears witness to the
sinlessness of Jesus. But a Higher Witness came than even that of John;
for no sooner was the rite administered, and the river-bank regained,
than the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God, in the form of a
fiery dove, descended and alighted on the head of Jesus; while a Voice
out of the Unseen proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased." And so the Son of man receives the heavenly, as well as the
earthly baptism. Baptized with water, He is now baptized with the Holy
Ghost and with fire, anointed with the unction of the Holy One. But why
should the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and
afterwards upon the disciples in the form of cloven tongues of fire? We
can understand the symbolism of the cloven tongues; for was not their
mission to preach and teach, spreading and establishing the kingdom by a
consecrated speech--the Divine word carried forward by the human voice?
What, then, is the meaning of the dove-form? Does it refer to the dove
of the Old Dispensation, which bearing the olive-leaf in its mouth,
preached its Gospel to the dwellers in the ark, telling of the abatement
of the angry waters, and of a salvation that was near? And was not Jesus
a heavenly Dove, bearing to the world the olive-branch of reconciliation
and of peace, proclaiming the fuller, wider Gospel of mercy and of love?
The supposition, at any rate, is a possible one, while the words of
Jesus would almost make it a probable one; for speaking of this same
baptism of the Spirit, He says--and in His words we can hear the beat
and whir of dove-wings--"He anointed me to preach good tidings to the
poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, ... to set
at liberty them that are bruised" (iv. 18).

The interview between Jesus and John was but brief, and in all
probability final. They spend the following night near to each other,
but apart. The day after, John sees Jesus walking, but the narrative
would imply that they did not meet. John only points to Him and says,
"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;" and
they part, each to follow his separate path, and to accomplish his
separate mission.

"The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Such was
John's testimony to Jesus, in the moment of his clearest illumination.
He saw in Jesus, not as one learned writer would have us suppose, the
sheep of David's pastoral, its life encircled with green pastures and
still waters--not this, but a lamb, "the Lamb of God," the Paschal Lamb,
led all uncomplaining to the slaughter, and by its death bearing away
sin--not either the sin of a year or the sin of a race, but "the sin of
the world." Never had prophet so prophesied before; never had mortal eye
seen so clearly and so deeply into God's great mystery of mercy. How,
then, can we explain that mood of disappointment and of doubt which
afterwards fell upon John? What does it mean that from his prison he
should send two of his disciples to Jesus with the strange question,
"Art Thou He that cometh, or look we for another?" (vii. 19). John is
evidently disappointed--yes, and dejected too; and the Elias still,
Herod's prison is to him the juniper of the desert. He thought the
Christ would be one like unto himself, crying in the wilderness, but
with a louder voice and more penetrating accent. He would be some ardent
Reformer, with axe in hand, or fan, and with baptism of fire. But lo,
Jesus comes so different from his thought--with no axe in hand that he
can see, with no baptism of fire that he can hear of, a Sower rather
than a Winnower, scattering thoughts, principles, beatitudes, and
parables, telling not so much of "the wrath to come" as of the love that
is already come, if men will but repent and receive it--that John is
fairly perplexed, and actually sends to Jesus for some word that shall
be a solvent for his doubts. It only shows how this Elias, too, was a
man of like passions with ourselves, and that even prophets' eyes were
sometimes dim, reading God's purposes with a blurred vision. Jesus
returns a singular answer. He says neither Yes nor No; but He goes out
and works His accustomed miracles, and then dismisses the two disciples
with the message, "Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen
and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the Gospel is
preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me."
These words are in part a quotation from John's favourite prophet,
Isaiah, who emphasized as no other prophet did the evangelistic
character of Christ's mission--which characteristic John seems to have
overlooked. In his thought the Christ was Judge, the great Refiner,
sifting the base from the pure, and casting it into some Gehenna of
burnings. But Jesus reminds John that mercy is before and above
judgment; that He has come, "not to condemn the world," but to save it,
and to save it, not by reiterations of the law, but by a manifestation
of love. Ebal and Sinai have had their word; now Gerizim and Calvary
must speak.

And so this greatest of the prophets was but human, and therefore
fallible. He saw the Christ, no longer afar off, but near--yea,
present; but he saw in part, and he prophesied in part. He did not see
the whole Christ, or grasp the full purport of His mission. He stood on
the threshold of the kingdom; but the least of those who should pass
within that kingdom should stand on a higher vantage-ground, and so be
greater than he. Indeed, it seems scarcely possible that John could have
fully understood Jesus; the two were so entirely different. In dress, in
address, in mode of life, in thought the two were exact opposites. John
occupies the border-region between the Old and the New; and though his
life appears in the New, he himself belongs rather to the Old
Dispensation. His accent is Mosaic, his message a tritonomy, a third
giving of the law. When asked the all-important question, "What shall we
do?" John laid stress on works of charity, and by his metaphor of the
two coats he showed that men should endeavour to equalize their mercies.
And when publicans and soldiers ask the same question John gives a sort
of transcript of the old tables, striking the negatives of duty: "Extort
no more than that which is appointed you;" "Do violence to no man."
Jesus would have answered in the simple positive that covered all
classes and all cases alike: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
But such was the difference between the Old and the New: the one said,
"Do, and thou shalt live;" the other said, "Live, and thou shalt do."
The voice of John awoke the conscience, but he could not give it rest.
He was the preparer of the way; Jesus was the Way, as He was the Truth
and the Life. John was the Voice; Jesus was the Word. John must
"decrease" and disappear; Jesus must "increase," filling all times and
all climes with His glorious, abiding presence.

But the mission of John is drawing to a close, and dark clouds are
gathering in the west. The popular idol still, a hostile current has set
against him. The Pharisees, unforgetting and unforgiving, are deadly
bitter, creeping across his path, and hissing out their "Devil;" while
Herod, who in his better moods had invited the Baptist to his palace,
now casts him into prison. He will silence the voice he has failed to
bribe, the voice that beat against the chambers of his revelry, like a
strange midnight gust, and that set him trembling like an aspen. We need
not linger over the last sad tragedy--how the royal birthday was kept,
with a banquet to the State officials; how the courtesan daughter of
Herodias came in and danced before the guests; and how the half-drunken
Herod swore a rash oath, that he would give her anything she might ask,
up to the half of his kingdom. Herodias knew well what wine and passion
would do for Herod. She even guessed his promise beforehand, and had
given full directions to her daughter; and soon as the rash oath had
fallen from his lips--before he could recall or change his words--sharp
and quick the request is made, "Give me here John Baptist's head in a
charger." There is a momentary conflict, and Herod gives the fearful
word. The head of John is brought into the banquet-hall before the
assembled guests--the long flowing locks, the eyes that even in death
seemed to sparkle with the fire of God; the lips sacred to purity and
truth, the lips that could not gloss a sin, even the sin of a Herod.
Yes; it is there, the head of John the Baptist. The courtiers see it,
and smile; Herod sees it, but does not smile. That face haunts him; he
never forgets it. The dead prophet lives still, and becomes to Herod
another conscience.

"And she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up
the corpse, and buried him; and they went and told Jesus" (Matt. xiv.
11, 12). Such is the _finis_ to a consecrated life, and such the work
achieved by one man, in a ministry that was only counted by months.
Shall not this be his epitaph, recording his faithfulness and zeal, and
at the same time rebuking our aimlessness and sloth?--

  "He liveth long who liveth well;
  All other life is short and vain:
  He liveth longest who can tell
  Of living most for heavenly gain."



CHAPTER VII.

_THE TEMPTATION._


The waters of the Jordan do not more effectually divide the Holy Land
than they bisect the Holy Life. The thirty years of Nazareth were quiet
enough, amid the seclusions of nature and the attractions of home; but
the double baptism by the Jordan now remits that sweet idyll to the
past. The I AM of the New Testament moves forward from the passive to
the active voice; the long peace is exchanged for the conflict whose
consummation will be the Divine Passion.

The subject of our Lord's temptation is mysterious, and therefore
difficult. Lying in part within the domain of human consciousness and
experience, it stretches far beyond our sight, throwing its dark
projections into the realm of spirit, that realm, "dusk with horrid
shade," which Reason may not traverse, and which Revelation itself has
not illumined, save by occasional lines of light, thrown into, rather
than across it. We cannot, perhaps, hope to have a perfect understanding
of it, for in a subject so wide and deep there is room for the play of
many hypotheses; but inspiration would not have recorded the event so
minutely had it not a direct bearing upon the whole of the Divine Life,
and were it not full of pregnant lessons for all times. To Him who
suffered within it, it was a wilderness indeed; but to us "the
wilderness and the solitary place" have become "glad, and the desert ...
blossoms as the rose." Let us, then, seek the wilderness reverently yet
hopefully, and in doing so let us carry in our minds these two guiding
thoughts--they will prove a silken thread for the labyrinth--first, that
Jesus was tempted as man; and second, that Jesus was tempted as the Son
of man.

Jesus was tempted as man. It is true that in His Person the human and
the Divine natures were in some mysterious way united; that in His flesh
was the great mystery, the manifestation of God; but now we must regard
Him as divested of these dignities and Divinities. They are laid aside,
with all other pre-mundane glories; and whatever His miraculous power,
for the present it is as if it were not. Jesus takes with Him into the
wilderness our manhood, a perfect humanity of flesh and blood, of bone
and nerve; no Docetic shadow, but a real body, "made in all things like
unto His brethren;" and He goes into the wilderness, to be tempted, not
in some unearthly way, as one spirit might be tempted of another, but to
be "tempted in all points like as we are," in a fashion perfectly human.
Then, too, Jesus was tempted as the Son of man, not only as the perfect
Man, but as the representative Man. As the first Adam, by disobedience,
fell, and fallen, was driven forth into the wilderness, so the second
Adam comes to take the place of the first. Tracking the steps of the
first Adam, He too goes out into the wilderness, that He may spoil the
spoiler, and that by His perfect obedience He may lead a fallen but
redeemed humanity back again to Paradise, reversing the whole drift of
the Fall, and turning it into a "rising again for many." And so Jesus
goes, as the Representative Man, to do battle for humanity, and to
receive in His own Person, not one form of temptation, as the first
Adam did, but every form that malignant Evil can devise, or that
humanity can know. Bearing these two facts in mind, we will
consider--(1) the circumstances of the Temptation, and (2) the nature of
the temptation.

1. The circumstances of the Temptation. "And Jesus, full of the Holy
Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in the
wilderness." The Temptation, then, occurred immediately after the
twofold baptism; or, as St. Mark expresses it, using his characteristic
word, "And straightway the Spirit driveth Him forth into the wilderness"
(Mark i. 12). Evidently there is some connection between the Jordan and
the wilderness, and there were Divine reasons why the test should be
placed directly after the baptism. Those Jordan waters were the
inauguration for His mission--a kind of Beautiful Gate, leading up to
the different courts and courses of His public ministry, and then up to
the altar of sacrifice. The baptism of the Spirit was His anointing for
that ministry, and borrowing our light from the after Pentecostal days,
His enduement of power for that ministry. The Divine purpose, which had
been gradually shaping itself to His mind, now opens in one vivid
revelation. The veil of mist in which that purpose had been enwrapped is
swept away by the Spirit's breath, disclosing to His view the path
redeeming Love must take, even the way of the cross. It is probable,
too, that He received at the same time, if not the enduement, at least
the consciousness of miraculous power; for St. John, with one stroke of
his pen, brushes away those glossy webs that later tradition has spun,
the miracles of the Childhood. The Scriptures do not represent Jesus as
any prodigy. His childhood, youth, and manhood were like the
corresponding phases of other lives; and the Gospels certainly put no
aureole about His head--that was the afterglow of traditional fancy.
Now, however, as He leaves the wilderness, He goes to open His mission
at Cana, where He works His first miracle, turning, by a look, the water
into wine. The whole Temptation, as we shall see, was one prolonged
attack upon His miraculous power, seeking to divert it into unlawful
channels; which makes it more than probable that this power was first
consciously received at the baptism--the second baptism of fire; it was
a part of the anointing of the Lord He then experienced.

We read that Jesus now was "full of the Holy Spirit." It is an
expression not infrequent in the pages of the New Testament, for we have
already met with it in connection with Zacharias and Elisabeth; and St.
Luke makes use of it several times in his later treatise on the "Acts."
In these cases, however, it generally marked some special and sudden
illumination or inspiration, which was more or less temporary, the
inspiration passing away when its purpose was served. But whether this
"filling of the Spirit" was temporary, or permanent, as in the case of
Stephen and Barnabas, the expression always marked the highest elevation
of human life, when the human spirit was in entire subordination to the
Divine. To Jesus, now, the Holy Spirit is given without measure; and we,
who in our far-off experiences can recall moments of Divine baptisms,
when our spirits seemed for the time to be caught up into Paradise,
hearing voices and beholding visions we might not utter, even we may
understand in part--though but in part--what must have been the emotions
and ecstasies of that memorable hour by the Jordan. How much the opened
heavens would mean to Him, to whom they had been so long and strangely
closed! How the Voice that declared His heavenly Sonship, "This is My
beloved Son," must have sent its vibrations quivering through soul and
spirit, almost causing the tabernacle of His flesh to tremble with the
new excitements! Mysterious though it may seem to us, who ask
impotently, How can these things be? yet unless we strip the heavenly
baptism of all reality, reducing it to a mere play of words, we must
suppose that Jesus, who now becomes Jesus Christ, was henceforth more
directly and completely than before under the conscious inspiration of
the Holy Spirit. What was an atmosphere enswathing the young life,
bringing to that life its treasures of grace, beauty, and strength, now
becomes a breath, or rather a rushing wind, of God, carrying that life
forward upon its mission and upward to its goal. And so we read, He "was
led by the Spirit in the wilderness." The verb generally implies
pressure, constraint; it is the enforced leading of the weaker by the
stronger. In this case, however, the pressure was not upon a resisting,
but a yielding medium. The will of Jesus swung round instantly and
easily, moving like a vane only in the direction of the Higher Will. The
narrative would imply that His own thought and purpose had been to
return to Galilee; but the Divine Spirit moves upon Him with such
clearness and force--"driveth" is St. Mark's expressive word--that He
yields Himself up to the higher impulse, and allows Himself to be
carried, not exactly as the heath is swept before the wind, but in a
passive-active way, into the wilderness. The wilderness was thus a
Divine interjection, thrown across the path of the Son of God and Son of
man.

Where it was is a point of no great moment. That it was in the Desert
of Sinai, as some suppose, is most unlikely. Jesus did not so venerate
places; nor was it like Him to make distant excursions to put Himself in
the track of Moses or Elijah. He beckons them to Him. He does not go to
them, not even to make historical repetitions. There is no reason why we
may not accept the traditional site of the Quarantania, the wild,
mountainous region, intersected by deep, dark gorges, that sweeps
westward from Jericho. It is enough to know that it was a wilderness
indeed, a wildness, unsoftened by the touch of human strength or skill;
a still, vacant solitude, where only the "wild beasts," preying upon
each other, or prowling outward to the fringe of civilization, could
survive.

In the narrative of the Transfiguration we read that Moses and Elias
appeared on the holy mount "talking with Jesus;" and that these two
only, of all departed saints, should be allowed that privilege--the one
representing the Law, and the other the Prophets--shows that there was
some intimate connection between their several missions. At any rate, we
know that the emancipator and the regenerator of Israel were specially
commissioned to bear Heaven's salutation to the Redeemer. It would be an
interesting study, did it lie within the scope of our subject, to trace
out the many resemblances between the three. We may, however, notice how
in the three lives the same prolonged fast occurs, in each case covering
the same period of forty days; for though the expression of St. Matthew
would not of necessity imply a total abstention from food, the more
concise statement of St. Luke removes all doubt, for we read, "He did
eat nothing in those days." Why there should be this fast is more
difficult to answer, and our so-called reasons can be only guesses. We
know, however, that the flesh and the spirit, though closely associated,
have but few things in common. Like the centripetal and the centrifugal
forces in nature, their tendencies and propulsions are in different and
opposite directions. The one looks earthward, the other heavenward. Let
the flesh prevail, and the life gravitates downwards, the sensual takes
the place of the spiritual. Let the flesh be placed under restraint and
control, taught its subordinate position, and there is a general uplift
to the life, the untrammelled spirit moving upwards toward heaven and
God. And so in the Scriptures we find the duty of fasting prescribed;
and though the Rabbis have treated it in an _ad absurdum_ fashion,
bringing it into disrepute, still the duty has not ceased, though the
practice may be well-nigh obsolete. And so we find in Apostolic days
that prayer was often joined to fasting, especially when a question of
importance was under consideration. The hours of fasting, too, as we may
learn from the cases of the centurion and of Peter, were the perihelion
of the Christian life, when it swung up in its nearest approaches to
heaven, getting amid the circles of the angels and of celestial visions.
Possibly in the case before us there was such an absorption of spirit,
such rapture (using the word in its etymological, rather than in its
derived meaning), that the claims of the body were utterly forgotten,
and its ordinary functions were temporarily suspended; for to the spirit
caught up into Paradise it matters little whether in the body or out of
it.

Then, too, the fast was closely related to the temptation; it was the
preparation for it. If Jesus is tempted as the Son of man, it must be
our humanity, not at its strongest, but at its weakest. It must be
under conditions so hard, no other man could have them harder. As an
athlete, before the contest, trains up his body, bringing each muscle
and nerve to its very best, so Jesus, before meeting the great adversary
in single combat, trains _down_ His body, reducing its physical
strength, until it touches the lowest point of human weakness. And so,
fighting the battle of humanity, He gives the adversary every advantage.
He allows him choice of place, of time, of weapons and conditions, so
that His victory may be more complete. Alone in the wild, dreary
solitude, cut off from all human sympathies, weak and emaciated with the
long fast, the Second Adam waits the attack of the tempter, who found
the first Adam too easy a prey.

2. The nature of the Temptation. In what form the tempter came to Him,
or whether he came in any form at all, we cannot tell. Scripture
observes a prudent silence, a silence which has been made the occasion
of much speculative and random speech on the part of its would-be
interpreters. It will serve no good purpose even to enumerate the
different forms the tempter is said to have assumed; for what need can
there be for any incarnation of the evil spirit? and why clamour for the
supernatural when the natural will suffice? If Jesus was tempted "as we
are," will not our experiences throw the truest light on His? We see no
shape. The evil one confronts us; he presents thoughts to our minds; he
injects some proud or evil imagination; but he himself is masked,
unseen, even when we are distinctly conscious of his presence. Just so
we may suppose the tempter came to Him. Recalling the declaration made
at the baptism, the announcement of His Divine Sonship, the devil says,
"If" (or rather "Since," for the tempter is too wary to suggest a doubt
as to His relationship with God) "Thou art the Son of God, command this
stone that it become bread." It is as if he said, "You are a-hungered,
exhausted, Your strength worn away by Your long fast. This desert, as
You see, is wild and sterile; it can offer You nothing with which to
supply Your physical wants; but You have the remedy in Your own hands.
The heavenly Voice proclaimed You as God's Son--nay, His beloved Son.
You were invested, too, not simply with Divine dignities, but with
Divine powers, with authority, supreme and absolute, over all creatures.
Make use now of this newly given power. Speak in these newly learned
tones of Divine authority, and command this stone that it become bread."
Such was the thought suddenly suggested to the mind of Jesus, and which
would have found a ready response from the shrinking flesh, had it been
allowed to speak. And was not the thought fair and reasonable, to our
thinking, all innocent of wrong? Suppose Jesus should command the stone
into bread, is it any more marvellous than commanding the water into
wine? Is not all bread stone, dead earth transformed by the touch of
life? If Jesus can make use of His miraculous power for the benefit of
others, why should He not use it in the emergencies of His own life? The
thought seemed reasonable and specious enough; and at first glance we do
not see how the wings of this dove are tipped, not with silver, but with
soot from the "pots." But stop. What does this thought of Satan mean? Is
it as guileless and guiltless as it seems? Not quite; for it means that
Jesus shall be no longer the Son of man. Hitherto His life has been a
purely human life. "Made in all things like unto His brethren," from His
helpless infancy, through the gleefulness of childhood, the discipline
of youth, and the toil of manhood, His life has been nourished from
purely human sources. His "brooks in the way" have been no secret
springs, flowing for Himself alone; they have been the common brooks,
open and free to all, and where any other child of man might drink. But
now Satan tempts Him to break with the past, to throw up His
Son-of-manhood, and to fall back upon His miraculous power in this, and
so in every other emergency of life. Had Satan succeeded, and had Jesus
wrought this miracle for Himself, putting around His human nature the
shield of His Divinity, then Jesus would have ceased to be man. He would
have forsaken the plane of human life for celestial altitudes, with a
wide gulf--and oh, how wide!--between Himself and those He had come to
redeem. And let the perfect humanity go, and the redemption goes with
it; for if Jesus, just by an appeal to His miraculous power, can
surmount every difficulty, escape any danger, then you leave no room for
the Passion, and no ground on which the cross may rest.

Again, the suggestion of Satan was a temptation to distrust. The
emphasis lay upon the title, "Son of God." "The Voice proclaimed You, in
a peculiar sense, the beloved Son of God; but where have been the marks
of that special love? Where are the honours, the heritage of joy, the
Son should have? Instead of that, He gives You a wilderness of solitude
and privation; and He who rained manna upon Israel, and who sent an
angel to prepare a cake for Elias, leaves You to pine and hunger. Why
wait longer for help which has already tarried too long? Act now for
Yourself. Your resources are ample; use them in commanding this stone
into bread." Such was the drift of the tempter's words; it was to make
Jesus doubt the Father's love and care, to lead Him to act, not in
opposition to, but independently of, the Father's will. It was an artful
endeavour to throw the will of Jesus out of gear with the Higher Will,
and to set it revolving around its own self-centre. It was, in reality,
the same temptation, in a slightly altered form, which had been only too
successful with the first Adam.

The thought, however, was no sooner suggested than it was rejected; for
Jesus had a wonderful power of reading thought, of looking into its very
heart; and He meets the evil suggestion, not with an answer of His own,
but with a singularly apt quotation from the Old Testament: "It is
written, Man shall not live by bread alone." The reference is to a
parallel experience in the history of Israel, a narrative from which
doubtless Jesus had drawn both strength and solace during His prolonged
desert fast. Had not the Divine Voice adopted Israel to a special
relationship and privilege, announcing within the palace of Pharaoh,
"Israel is My Son, My firstborn"? (Exod. iv. 22). And yet had not God
led Israel for forty years through the desert, suffering him to hunger,
that He might humble and prove him, and show him that men are

          "Better than sheep and goats,
  That nourish a blind life within the brain;"

that man has a nature, a life, that cannot live on bread, but--as St.
Matthew completes the quotation--"by every word that proceedeth out of
the mouth of God"? Some have supposed that by "bread alone" Jesus refers
to the manifold provision God has made for man's physical sustenance;
that He is not limited to one course, but that He can just as easily
supply flesh, or manna, or a thousand things besides. But evidently
such is not the meaning of Jesus. It was not His wont to speak in such
literal, commonplace ways. His thought moved in higher circles than His
speech, and we must look upward through the letter to find the higher
spirit. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of," said Jesus to His
disciples; and when He caught the undertone of their literalistic
questions He explained His meaning in words that will interpret His
answer to the tempter: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me."
So now it is as if He said, "The Will of God is My meat. That Will
brought Me hither; that Will detains Me here. Nay, that Will commands Me
to fast and hunger, and so abstinence from food is itself My food. I do
not fear. This wilderness is but the stone-paved court of My Father's
house, whose many chambers are filled with treasures, 'bread enough and
to spare,' and can I perish with hunger? I wait His time; I accept His
will; nor will I taste of bread that is not of His sending."

The tempter was foiled. The specious temptation fell upon the mind of
Jesus like a spark in the sea, to be quenched, instantly and utterly;
and though Satan found a powerful lever in the pinch of the terrible
hunger--one of the sorest pains our human nature can feel--yet even then
he could not wrench the will of Jesus from the will of God. The first
Adam doubted, and then disobeyed; the Second Adam rests in God's will
and word; and like the limpet on the rocks, washed by angry waves, the
pressure of the outward storm only unites His will more firmly to the
Father's; nor does it for one moment break in upon that rest of soul.
And Jesus never did make use of His miraculous power solely for His own
benefit. He would live as a man among men, feeling--probably more
intensely than we do--all the weaknesses and pains of humanity, that He
might be more truly the Son of man, the sympathizing High Priest, the
perfect Saviour. He became in all points--sin excepted--one with us, so
that we might become one with Him, sharing with Him the Father's love on
earth, and then sharing His heavenly joys.

Baffled, but not confessing himself beaten, the tempter returns to the
charge. St. Luke here inverts the order of St. Matthew, giving as the
second temptation what St. Matthew places last. We prefer the order of
St. Luke, not only because in general he is more observant of
chronology, but because there is in the three temptations what we might
call a certain seriality, which demands the second place for the
mountain temptation. It is not necessary that we put a literal stress
upon the narrative, supposing that Jesus was transported bodily to the
"exceeding high mountain." Not only has such a supposition an air of the
incredulous about it, but it is set aside by the terms of the narrative
itself; for the expression he "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world
in a moment of time" cannot be forced into a literalistic mould. It is
easier and more natural to suppose that this and the succeeding
temptation were presented only to the spirit of Jesus, without any
physical accessories; for after all, it is not the eye that sees, but
the soul. The bodily eye had not seen the "great sheet let down from
heaven," but it was a real vision, nevertheless, leading to very
practical results--the readjustment of Peter's views of duty, and the
opening of the door of grace and privilege to the Gentiles. It was but a
mental picture, as the "man of Macedonia" appeared to Paul, but the
vision was intensely real--more real, if that were possible, than the
leagues of intervening sea; and louder to him than all the voices of
the deep--of winds, and waves, and storm--was the voice, "Come over and
help us," the cry which only the ear of the soul had heard. It was in a
similar manner, probably, that the second temptation was presented to
Jesus.

He finds Himself upon a lofty eminence, when suddenly, "in a moment of
time," as St. Luke expresses it, the world lies unveiled at His feet.
Here are fields white with ripened harvests, vineyards red with
clustering grapes, groves of olives shimmering in the sunlight like
frosted silver, rivers threading their way through a sea of green; here
are cities on cities innumerable, quivering with the tread of uncounted
millions, streets set with statues, and adorned with temples, palaces,
and parks; here are the flagged Roman roads, all pointing to the world's
great centre, thronged with chariots and horsemen, the legions of war,
and the caravans of trade. Beyond are seas where a thousand ships are
skimming over the blue; while still beyond, all environed with temples,
is the palace of the Cæsars, the marble pivot around which the world
revolves.

Such was the splendid scene set before the mind of Jesus. "All this is
mine," said Satan, speaking a half-truth which is often but a whole lie;
for he was indeed the "prince of the power of the air," ruling, however,
not in absolute kingship, but as a pretender, a usurper; "and I give it
to whom I will. Only worship me (or rather, 'do homage to me as Your
superior'), and all shall be thine." Amplified, the temptation was this:
"You are the Son of God, the Messiah-King, but a King without a retinue,
without a throne. I know well all the devious, somewhat slippery ways to
royalty; and if You will but assent to my plan, and work on my lines, I
can assure You of a throne that is higher, and of a realm that is
vaster, than that of Cæsar. To begin with: You have powers not given to
other mortals, miraculous powers. You can command nature as easily as
You can obey her. Trade with these at first, freely. Startle men with
prodigies, and so create a name and gain a following. Then when that is
sufficiently large set up the standard of revolt. The priesthood and the
people will flock to it; Pharisees and Sadducees, giving up their
paper-chases after phantoms, shadows, will forget their strife in the
peace of a common war, and before a united people. Rome's legions must
retire. Then, pushing out Your borders, and avoiding reverse and
disaster by a continual appeal to Your miraculous powers, one after
another You will make the neighbouring nations dependent and tributary.
So, little by little, You will hem in the might of Rome, until by one
desperate struggle You will vanquish the Empire. The lines of history
will then be all reversed. Jerusalem will become the mistress, the
capital of the world; along all these roads swift messengers shall carry
Your decrees; Your word shall be law, and Your will over all human wills
shall be supreme."

Such was the meaning of the second temptation. It was the chord of
ambition Satan sought to strike, a chord whose vibrations are so
powerful in the human heart, often drowning or deafening other and
sweeter voices. He put before Jesus the highest possible goal, that of
universal empire, and showed how that goal was comparatively easy of
attainment, if Jesus would only follow his directions and work on his
plans. The objective point at which the tempter aimed was, as in the
first temptation, to shift Jesus from the Divine purpose, to detach His
will from the Father's will, and to induce Him to set up a sort of
independence. The life of Jesus, instead of moving on steadily around
its Divine centre, striking in with absolute precision to the beat of
the Divine purpose, should revolve only around the centre of its
narrower self, exchanging its grander, heavenlier sweep for certain
intermittent, eccentric motions of its own. If Satan could not prevent
the founding of "the kingdom," he would, if it were possible, change its
character. It should not be the kingdom of heaven, but a kingdom of
earth, pure and simple, under earthly conditions and earthly laws. Might
should take the place of right, and force the place of love. He would
set Jesus after gaining the whole world, that so He might forget that
His mission was to save it. Instead of a Saviour, they should have a
Sovereign, decked with this world's glory and the pomps of earthly
empire.

It is easy to see that if Jesus had been merely man the temptation would
have been most subtle and most powerful; for how many of the sons of
men, alas, have been led astray from the Divine purpose with a far less
bait than a whole world! A momentary pleasure, a handful of glittering
dust the more, some dream of place or fame--these are more than enough
to tempt men to break with God. But while Jesus was man, the Perfect
Man, He was more. The Holy Spirit was now given to Him without measure.
From the beginning His will had been subordinate to the Father's,
growing up within it and configuring itself to it, even as the ductile
metal receives the shape of the mould. The Divine purpose, too, had now
been revealed to Him in the vivid enlightenment of the Baptism; for the
shadow of the cross was thrown back over His life, at any rate as far as
the Jordan. And so the second temptation fell harmless as the first.
The chord of ambition Satan sought to strike was not found in the pure
soul of Jesus, and all these visions of victory and empire awoke no
response in His heart, any more than the flower-wreaths laid upon the
breast of the dead can quicken the beat of the now silent heart.

The answer of Jesus was prompt and decisive. Not deigning to use any
words of His own, or to hold any parley, even the shortest, He meets the
word of the tempter with a Divine word: "It is written, Thou shalt
worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." The tempting
thought is something foreign to the mind of Jesus, something unwelcome,
repulsive, and it is rejected instantly. Instead of allowing Himself to
be diverted from the Divine purpose, His will detached from the Father's
will, He turns to that will and word at once. It is His refuge, His
home. The thought of Jesus cannot pass beyond the circle of that will,
any more than a dove can pass beyond the over-arching sky. He sees the
Throne that is above all thrones, and gazing upon that, worshipping only
the Great King, who is over all and in all, the thrones and crowns of
earthly dominion are but as motes of the air. The victory was complete.
Quickly as it came, the splendid vision conjured up by the tempter
disappeared, and Jesus turned away from the path of earthly glory, where
power without measure and honours without number awaited Him, to tread
the solitary, lowly path of submission and of sacrifice, the path that
had a crucifixion, and not a coronation, as its goal.

Twice baffled, the enemy comes once again to the charge, completing the
series with the pinnacle temptation, to which St. Luke naturally, and as
we think rightly, gives the third place. It follows the other two in
orderly sequence, and it cannot well be placed second, as in St.
Matthew, without a certain overlapping of thought. If we must adhere to
the literalistic interpretation, and suppose Jesus led up to Jerusalem
bodily, then, perhaps, St. Matthew's order would be more natural, as
that would not necessitate a return to the wilderness. But that is an
interpretation to which we are not bound. Neither the words of the
narrative nor the conditions of the temptation require it; and when art
represents Jesus as flying with the tempter through the air it is a
representation both grotesque and gratuitous. Thus far, in his
temptations, Satan has been foiled by the faith of Jesus, the implicit
trust He reposed in the Father; but if he cannot break in upon that
trust, causing it to doubt or disobey, may he not push the virtue too
far, goading Him "to sin in loving virtue"? If the mind and heart of
Jesus are so grooved in with the lines of the Divine will that he cannot
throw them off the metals, or make them reverse their wheels, perhaps he
may push them forward so fast and so far as to bring about the collision
he seeks--the clash of the two wills. It is the only chance left him, a
forlorn hope, it is true, but still a hope, and Satan moves forward, if
perchance he may realize it.

As in the second temptation, the wilderness fades out of sight. Suddenly
Jesus finds Himself standing on the pinnacle of the Temple, probably the
eastern corner of the royal portico. On the one side, deep below, were
the Temple courts, crowded with throngs of worshippers; on the other lay
the gorge of the Kedron, a giddy depth, which made the eye of the down
looker to swim, and the brain to reel. "If (or rather 'Since') said
Satan, Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence; for it is
written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, to guard Thee;
on their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest haply Thou dash Thy foot
against a stone." It is as if he said, "You are the Son of God, in a
special, favoured sense. You are set in title and authority above the
angels; they are Your ministering servants; and You reciprocate the
trust Heaven reposes in You. The will of God is more to You than life
itself; the word of God outweighs with You thrones and empires. And You
do well. Continue thus, and no harm can overtake You. And just to show
how absolute is Your faith in God, cast Yourself down from this height.
You need not fear, for You will but throw Yourself upon the word of God;
and You have only to speak, and unseen angels will crowd the air,
bearing You up in their hands. Cast Yourself down, and so test and
attest Your faith in God; and doing so You will give to these multitudes
indubitable proof of Your Sonship and Messiahship." Such was the
argument, specious, but fallacious, of the tempter. Misquoting Scripture
by omitting its qualifying clause, distorting the truth into a dangerous
error, he sought to impale his Victim on the horn of a dilemma. But
Jesus was on the alert. He recognized at once the seductive thought,
though, Jacob-like, it had come robed in the assumed dress of Scripture.
Is not obedience as sacred as trust? Is not obedience the life, the soul
of trust, without which the trust itself is but a semblance, a decaying,
corrupt thing? But Satan asks Him to disobey, to set Himself above the
laws by which the world is governed. Instead of His will being entirely
subordinate, conforming itself in all things to the Divine will, if He
should cast Himself down from this pinnacle it would be putting
pressure upon that Divine will, forcing it to repeal its own physical
laws, or at any rate to suspend their action for a time. And what would
that be but insubordination, no longer faith, due presumption, a
tempting, and not a trusting God? The Divine promises are not cheques
made payable to "bearer," regardless of character, place, or time, and
to be realized by any one who may happen to possess himself of them,
anywhere. They are cheques drawn out to "order," crossed cheques, too,
negotiated only as the conditions of character and time are fulfilled.
The Divine protection and guardianship are indeed assured to every child
of God, but only as he "dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High,
as he abides under the shadow of the Almighty;" in other words, so long
as "thy ways" are "His ways." Step out from that pavilion of the Most
High, and you step from under the bright bow of promise. Put yourself
above, or put yourself out of, the Divine order of things, and the very
promise becomes a threatening, and the cloud that else would protect and
guide becomes a cloud full of suppressed thunders, and flashing in vivid
lightnings its thousand swords of flame. Faith and fidelity are thus
inseparable. The one is the calyx, the other the involved corolla; and
as they open outwards into the perfect flower they turn towards the
Divine will, configuring themselves in all things to that will.

A third time Jesus replied to the tempter in words of Old Testament
Scripture, and a third time, too, from the same book of Deuteronomy. It
will be observed, however, that the terms of His reply are slightly
altered. He no longer uses the "It is written," since Satan himself has
borrowed that word, but substitutes another: "It is said, Thou shalt
not tempt the Lord thy God." It has been thought by some that Jesus used
the quotation in an accommodated sense, referring the "Thou" to the
tempter himself, and so making "the Lord thy God" an attestation of His
own Divinity. But such an interpretation is forced and unnatural. Jesus
would not be likely to hide the deep secret from His own disciples, and
announce it for the first time to the ears of the seducer. It is an
impossible supposition. Besides, too, it was as man that Jesus was
tempted. Only on the side of His humanity could the enemy approach Him,
and for Jesus now to take refuge in His Divinity would strip the
temptation of all its meaning, making it a mere acting. But Jesus does
not so throw up humanity, or which is the same thing, take Himself out
of it, and when He says, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" He
includes Himself in the "thou." Son though He is, He must put Himself
under the law that prescribes the relations of man towards God. He must
learn obedience as other sons of men. He must submit, that He may serve,
not seeking to impose His will upon the Father's will, even by way of
suggestion, much less by way of demand, but waiting upon that will in an
absolute self-surrender and instant acquiescence. Moses must not command
the cloud; all that he is permitted to do is to observe it and follow.
To go before God is to go without God, and to go without Him is to go
against Him; and as to the angels bearing Him up in their hands, that
depends altogether upon the path and the errand. Let it be the Divinely
ordered path, and the unseen convoys of heaven will attend, a sleepless,
invincible guard; but let it be some self-chosen path, some forbidden
way, and the angel's sword will flash its warning, and send the foot of
the unfaithful servant crushing against the wall.

And so the third temptation failed, as did the other two. With but a
little tension, Satan had made the will of the first Adam to strike a
discordant note, throwing it out of all harmony with the Higher Will;
but by no pressure, no enticements, can he influence the Second Adam.
His will vibrates in a perfect consonance with the Father's, even under
the terrible pressure of hunger, and the more terrible pressure, the
fearful impact of evil.

So Satan completed, and so Jesus resisted, "every temptation"--that is,
every form of temptation. In the first, Jesus was tempted on the side of
His physical nature; in the second the attack was on the side of His
intellectual nature, looking out on His political life; while in the
third the assault was on the side of His spiritual life. In the first He
is tempted as the Man, in the second as the Messiah, and in the third as
the Divine Son. In the first temptation He is asked to make use of His
newly received miraculous power over nature--passive, unthinking nature;
in the second He is asked to throw it over the "world", which in this
case is a synonym for humankind; while in the third He is asked to widen
the realm of His authority, and to command the angels, nay, God Himself.
So the three temptations are really one, though the fields of battle lie
in three several planes. And the aim was one. It was to create a
divergence between the two wills, and to set the Son in a sort of
antagonism to the Father, which would have been another Absalom revolt,
a Divine mutiny it is impossible for us even to conceive.

St. Luke omits in his narrative the ministry of angels mentioned by the
other two Synoptists, a sweet postlude we should have missed much, had
it been wanting; but he gives us instead the retreat of the adversary:
"He departed from Him for a season." How long a season it was we do not
know, but a brief one it must have been, for again and again in the
story of the Gospels we see the dark shadow of the evil one; while in
Gethsemane the "prince of this world" cometh, but to find "nothing in
Me." And what was the horror of great darkness, that strange eclipse of
soul Jesus suffered upon Calvary, but the same fearful presence,
intercepting for a time even the Father's smile, and throwing upon the
pure and patient Sufferer a strip of the outer darkness itself?

The test was over. Tried in the fires of a persistent assault, the faith
and obedience of Jesus were found perfect. The shafts of the tempter had
recoiled upon himself, leaving all stainless and scatheless the pure
soul of Jesus. The Son of man had conquered, that all other sons of men
may learn the secret of constant and complete victory; how faith
overcomes, putting to flight "the armies of the aliens," and making even
the weakest child of God "more than conqueror." And from the wilderness,
where innocence has ripened into virtue, Jesus passes up, like another
Moses, "in the power of the Spirit," to challenge the world's magicians,
to baffle their sleight of hand and skill of speech, and to proclaim to
redeemed humanity a new Exodus, a life-long Jubilee.



CHAPTER VIII.

_THE GOSPEL OF THE JUBILEE._


Immediately after the Temptation Jesus returned, "in the power of the
Spirit," and with all the added strength of His recent victories, to
Galilee. Into what parts of Galilee He came, our Evangelist does not
say; but omitting the visit to Cana, and dismissing the first Galilean
tour with a sentence--how "He taught in their synagogues, being
glorified of all"--St. Luke goes on to record in detail the visit of
Jesus to Nazareth, and His rejection by His townsmen. In putting this
narrative in the forefront of his Gospel is St. Luke committing a
chronological error? or is he, as some suppose, purposely antedating the
Nazareth story, that it may stand as a frontispiece to his Gospel, or
that it may serve as a key for the after-music? This is the view held by
most of our expositors and harmonists, but, as it appears to us, on
insufficient grounds; the balance of probability is against it. It is
true that St. Matthew and St. Mark record a visit to Nazareth which
evidently occurred at a later period of His ministry. It is true also
that between their narratives and this of St. Luke there are some
striking resemblances, such as the teaching in the synagogue the
astonishment of His hearers, their reference to His parentage, and then
the reply of Jesus as to a prophet receiving scant honour in his own
country--resemblances which would seem to indicate that the two
narratives were in reality one. But still it is possible to push these
resemblances too far, reading out from them what we have first read into
them. Let us for the moment suppose that Jesus made two visits to
Nazareth; and is not such a supposition both reasonable and natural? It
is not necessary that the first rejection should be a final rejection,
for did not the Jews seek again and again to kill Him, before the cross
saw their dire purpose realized? Remaining for so long in Galilee, would
it not be a most natural wish on the part of Jesus to see the home of
His boyhood once again, and to give to His townspeople one parting word
before taking His farewell of Galilee? And suppose He did, what then?
Would He not naturally go to the synagogue--as was His custom in every
place--and speak? And would they not listen with the same astonishment,
and then harp on the very same questions as to His parentage and
brotherhood--questions that would have their readiest and fittest answer
in the same familiar proverb? Instead, then, of these resemblances
identifying the two narratives, and proving that St. Luke's story is but
an amplification of the narratives of the other Synoptists, the
resemblances themselves are what we might naturally expect in our
supposition of a second visit. But if there are certain coincidences
between the two narratives, there are marked differences, which make it
extremely improbable that the Synoptists are recording one event. In the
visit recorded by St. Luke there were no miracles wrought; while St.
Matthew and St. Mark tell us that He could not do many mighty works
there, because of their unbelief, but that He "laid His hands on a few
sick folk, and healed them." In the narrative by St. Mark we read that
His disciples were with Him while St. Luke makes no mention of His
disciples; but St. Luke does mention the tragic ending of the visit, the
attempt of the men of Nazareth to hurl Him down from a lofty cliff, an
incident St. Matthew and St. Mark omit altogether. But can we suppose
the men of Nazareth would have attempted this, had the strong body-guard
of disciples been with Jesus? Would they be likely to stand by, timidly
acquiescent? Would not Peter's sword have flashed instantly from its
scabbard, in defence of Him whom he served and dearly loved? That St.
Matthew and St. Mark should make no reference to this scene of violence,
had it occurred at the visit they record, is strange and unaccountable;
and the omission is certainly an indication, if not a proof, that the
Synoptists are describing two separate visits to Nazareth--the one, as
narrated by St. Luke, at the commencement of His ministry; and the other
at a later date, probably towards its close. And with this view the
substance of the Nazareth address perfectly accords. The whole address
has the ring of an inaugural message; it is the voice of an opening
spring, and not of a waning summer. "This day is this Scripture
fulfilled in your ears" is the blast of the silver trumpet announcing
the beginning of the Messianic year, the year of a truer, wider Jubilee.

It seems to us, therefore, that the chronology of St. Luke is perfectly
correct, as he places in the forefront of his Gospel the earlier visit
to Nazareth, and the violent treatment Jesus there received. At the
second visit there was still a widespread unbelief, which caused Jesus
to marvel; but there was no attempt at violence, for His disciples were
with Him now, while the report of His Judæan ministry, which had gone
before Him, and the miracles He wrought in their presence, had softened
down even Nazareth prejudices and asperities. The events of the first
Galilean tour were probably in the following order. Jesus, with His five
disciples, goes to Cana, invited guests at the marriage, and here He
opens His miraculous commission, by turning the water into wine. From
Cana they proceed to Capernaum, where they remain for a short time,
Jesus preaching in their synagogue, and probably continuing His
miraculous works. Leaving His disciples behind at Capernaum--for between
the preliminary call by the Jordan and the final call by the lake the
fisher-disciples get back to their old occupations for a while--Jesus
goes up to Nazareth, with His mother and His brethren. Thence, after His
violent rejection, He returns to Capernaum, where He calls His disciples
from their boats and receipt of custom, probably completing the sacred
number before setting out on His journey southward to Jerusalem. If this
harmony be correct--and the weight of probability seems to be in its
favour--then the address at Nazareth, which is the subject for our
consideration now, would be the first recorded utterance of Jesus; for
thus far Cana gives us one startling miracle, while in Capernaum we find
the report of His acts, rather than the echoes of His words. And that
St. Luke alone should give us this incident, recording it in such a
graphic manner, would almost imply that he had received the account from
an eye-witness, probably--if we may gather anything from the Nazarene
tone of St. Luke's earlier pages--from some member of the Holy Family.

Jesus has now fairly embarked upon His Messianic mission, and He begins
that mission, as prophecy had long foretold He should, in Galilee of the
Gentiles. The rumour of His wonderful deeds at Cana and Capernaum had
already preceded Him thither, when Jesus came once again to the home of
His childhood and youth. Going, as had been His custom from boyhood,
into the synagogue on the Sabbath day (St. Luke is writing for Gentiles
who are unversed in Jewish customs), Jesus stood up to read. "The
Megilloth," or Book of the Prophets, having been handed to Him, He
unrolled the book, and read the passage in Isaiah (lxi. 1) to which His
mind had been Divinely directed, or which He had purposely chosen:--

  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
  Because He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor,
  He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
  And recovering of sight to the blind,
  To set at liberty them that are bruised,
  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Then closing, or rolling up, the book, and handing it back to the
attendant, Jesus sat down, and began His discourse. The Evangelist does
not record any of the former part of the discourse, but simply gives us
the effect produced, in the riveted gaze and the rising astonishment of
His auditors, as they caught up eagerly His sweet and gracious words.
Doubtless, He would explain the words of the prophet, first in their
literal, and then in their prophetic sense; and so far He carried the
hearts of His hearers with Him, for who could speak of their Messianic
hopes without awaking sweet music in the Hebrew heart? But directly
Jesus applies the passage to Himself, and says, "This day is this
Scripture fulfilled in your ears," the fashion of their countenance
alters; the Divine emphasis He puts upon the Me curdles in their heart,
turning their pleasure and wonder into incredulity, envy, and a perfect
frenzy of rage. The primary reference of the prophecy seems to have been
to the return of Israel from captivity. It was a political Jubilee he
proclaimed, when Zion should have a "garland for ashes," when the
captive should be free, and aliens should be their servants. But the
flowers of Scripture are mostly double; its pictures and parables have
often a nearer meaning, and another more remote, or a spiritual,
involved in the literal sense. That it was so here is evident, for Jesus
takes this Scripture--which we might call a Babylonish garment, woven
out of the Exile--and wraps it around Himself, as if it belonged to
Himself alone, and were so intended from the very first. His touch thus
invests it with a new significance; and making this Scripture a vestment
for Himself, Jesus, so to speak, shakes out its narrower folds, and
gives it a wider, an eternal meaning. But why should Jesus select this
passage above all others? Were not the Old Testament Scriptures full of
types, and shadows, and prophecies which testified of Him, any one of
which He might have appropriated now? Yes, but no other passage so
completely answered His design, no other was so clearly and fully
declarative of His earthly mission. And so Jesus selected this picture
of Isaiah, which was at once a prophecy and an epitome of His own
Gospel, as His inaugural message, His manifesto.

The Mosaic Code, in its play upon the temporal octaves, had made
provision, not only for a weekly Sabbath, and for a Sabbath year, but it
completed its cycle of festivals by setting apart each fiftieth year as
a year of special grace and gladness. It was the year of redemption and
restoration, when all debts were remitted, when the family inheritance,
which by the pressure of the times had been alienated, reverted to its
original owner, and when those who had mortgaged their personal liberty
regained their freedom. The "Jubilee" year, as they called it--putting
into its name the play of the priestly trumpets which ushered it in--was
thus the Divine safeguard against monopolies, a Divine provision for a
periodic redistribution of the wealth and privileges of the theocracy;
while at the same time it served to keep intact the separate threads of
family life, running its lines of lineage down through the centuries,
and across into the New Testament. Seizing upon this, the gladdest
festival of Hebrew life, Jesus likens Himself to one of the priests, who
with trumpet of silver proclaims "the acceptable year of the Lord." He
finds in that Jubilee a type of His Messianic year, a year that shall
bring, not to one chosen race alone, but to a world of debtors and
captives, remissions and manumissions without number, ushering in an era
of liberty and gladness. And so in these words, adapted and adopted from
Isaiah, Jesus announces Himself as the world's Evangelist, and Healer,
and Emancipator; or separating the general message into its prismatic
colours, we have the three characteristics of Christ's Gospel--(1) as
the Gospel of Love; (2) the Gospel of Light; and (3) the Gospel of
Liberty.

1. The Gospel of Jesus was the Gospel of Love. "He anointed Me to preach
good tidings to the poor." That there is a Gospel even in the Old
Testament no one will attempt to deny, and able writers have delighted
in tracing out the evangelism that, like hidden veins of gold, runs here
and there, now embedded deep in historical strata, and now cropping out
in the current of prophetical speech. Still, an ear but little trained
to harmonies can detect a marvellous difference between the tone of the
Old and the tone of the New Dispensation. "Evangelists" is scarcely the
name we should give to the prophets and preachers of the Old Testament,
if we except that prophet of the dawn, Isaiah. They came, not as the
bearers of glad tidings, but with the pressure, the burden of a terrible
"woe" upon them. With a voice of threat and doom they recall Israel back
to the ways of fidelity and purity, and with the caustic of biting words
they seek to burn out the cancer of national corruption. They were no
doves, those old-time prophets, building their nests in the blossoming
olives, in soft accents telling of a winter past and a summer near; they
were storm-birds rather, beating with swift, sad wings on the crest of
sullen waves, or whirling about among the torn shrouds. Even the eremite
Baptist brought no evangel. He was a sad man, with a sad message,
telling, not of the right which men should do, but of the wrong they
should not do, his ministry, like that of the law, being a ministry of
condemnation. Jesus, however, announces Himself as the world's
Evangelist. He declares that He is anointed and commissioned to be the
bearer of good, glad tidings to man. At once the Morning Star and Sun,
He comes to herald a new day; nay, He comes to make that day. And so it
was. We cannot listen to the words of Jesus without noticing the high
and heavenly pitch to which their music is set. Beginning with the
Beatitudes, they move on in the higher spaces, striking the notes of
courage, hope, and faith, and at last, in the guest-chamber, dropping
down to their key-note, as they close with an _eirenicon_ and a
benediction. How little Jesus played upon men's fears! how, instead, He
sought to inspire them with new hopes, telling of the possibilities of
goodness, the perfections which were within reach of even the human
endeavour! How seldom you catch the tone of despondency in His words! As
He summons men to a life of purity, unselfishness, and faith, His are
not the voice and mien of one who commands to a forlorn hope. There is
the ring of courage, conviction, certainty about His tone, a hopefulness
that was itself half a victory. Jesus was no Pessimist, reading over the
grave of departed glories His "ashes to ashes;" He who knew our human
nature best had most hopes of it, for He saw the Deity that was around
it and within it.

And just here we touch what we may call the fundamental chord in the
Gospel of Jesus, the Fatherhood of God; for though we can detect other
strains running through the music of the Gospel, such as the Love of
God, the Grace of God, and the Kingdom of God, yet these are but the
consonant notes completing the harmonic scale, or the variations that
play about the Divine Fatherhood. To the Hebrew conception of God this
was an element altogether new. To their mind Jehovah is the Lord of
hosts, an invisible, absolute Power, inhabiting the thick darkness, and
speaking in the fire. Sinai thus throws its shadow across the Old
Testament Scriptures, and men inhale an atmosphere of law rather than of
love.

But what a transformation was wrought in the world's thought and life as
Jesus unfolded the Divine Fatherhood! It altered the whole aspect of
man's relation to God, with a change as marked and glorious as when our
earth turns its face more directly to the sun, to find its summer. The
Great King, whose will commanded all forces, became the Great Father, in
whose compassionate heart the toiling children of men might find refuge
and rest. The "Everlasting Arms" were none the less strong and
omnipotent; but as Jesus uncovered them they seemed less distant, less
rigid; they became so near and so gentle, the weakest child of earth
might not fear to lay its tired heart upon them. Law was none the less
mighty, none the less majestic, but it was now a transfigured law, all
lighted up and suffused with love. No longer was life one round of
servile tasks, demanded by an inexorable, invisible Pharaoh; no longer
was it a trampled playground, where all the flowers are crushed, as Fate
and Chance take their alternate innings. No; life was ennobled, adorned
with new and rare beauties; and when Jesus opened the gate of the Divine
Fatherhood the light that was beyond, and that "never was on sea or
land," shone through, putting a heavenliness upon the earthly, and a
Divineness upon the human life. What better, gladder tidings could the
poor (whether in spirit or in life) hear than this--that heaven was no
longer a distant dream, but a present and most precious reality,
touching at every point, and enfolding their little lives; that God was
no longer hostile, or even indifferent to them, but that He cared for
them with an infinite care, and loved them with an infinite love? Thus
did Jesus proclaim the "good tidings;" for love, grace, redemption, and
heaven itself are all found within the compass of the Fatherhood. And He
who gave to His disciples, in the Paternoster, a golden key for heaven's
audience-chamber, speaks that sacred name "Father" even amid the agonies
of the cross, putting the silver trumpet to His parched and quivering
lips, so that earth may hear once again the music of its new and more
glorious Jubilee.

2. The Gospel of Jesus was a Gospel of Light. "And recovering of sight
to the blind," which is the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew passage
in Isaiah, "the opening of the prison to them that are bound." At first
sight this appears to be a break in the Jubilee idea; for physical
cures, such as the healing of the blind, did not come within the scope
of Jubilatic mercies. The original expression, however, contains a
blending of figures, which together preserve the unity of the prophetic
picture. Literally it reads, "The opening of the eyes to them that are
bound;" the figure being that of a captive, whose long captivity in the
darkness has filmed his vision, and who now passes through the opened
door of his prison into the light of day.

In what way shall we interpret these words? Are they to be taken
literally, or spiritually? or are both methods equally legitimate?
Evidently they are both intended, for Jesus was the Light-bringer in
more senses than one. That the Messiah should signalize His advent by
performing wonders and signs, and by working physical cures, was
certainly the teaching of prophecy, as it was a fixed and prominent hope
in the expectation of the Jews. And so, when the despondent Baptist sent
two of his disciples to ask "Art Thou He that should come?" Jesus gave
no direct answer, but turning from His questioners to the multitude of
sick who pressed around Him, He healed their sick, and gave sight to
many that were blind. Then returning to the surprised strangers, He bids
them carry back to their master these visible proofs of His
Messiahship--how that "lepers are cleansed, and the blind receive their
sight." Jesus Himself had a wonderful power of vision. His eyes were
divinely bright, for they carried their own light. Not only had He the
gift of prescience, the forward-looking eye; He had what for want of a
word we may call the gift of perscience, the eye that looked within,
that saw the heart and soul of things. What a strange fascination there
was in His very look! how it flashed like a subtle lightning, striking
and scathing with its holy indignation the half-veiled meanness and
hypocrisy! and how again, like a beam of light, it fell upon Peter's
soul, thawing the chilled heart, and opening the closed fountain of his
tears, as an Alpine summer falls on the rigid glacier, and sends it
rippling and singing through the lower vales. And had not Jesus an
especial sympathy for cases of ophthalmic distress, paying to the blind
a peculiar attention? How quickly He responded to Bartimæus--"What is it
that I shall do for thee?"--as if Bartimæus were conferring the benefit
by making his request. Where on the pages of the four Gospels do we find
a picture more full of beauty and sublimity than when we read of Jesus
taking the blind man by the hand, and leading him out of the town? What
moral grandeur and what touching pathos are there! and how that stoop of
gentleness makes Him great! No other case is there of such prolonged and
tender sympathy, where He not only opens the gates of day for the
benighted, but leads the benighted one up to the gates. And why does
Jesus make this difference in His miracles, that while other cures are
wrought instantly, even the raising of the dead, with nothing more than
a look, a word, or a touch, in healing the blind He should work the
cure, as it were, in parts, or by using such intermediaries as clay,
saliva, or the water of Siloam's pool? Must it not have been
intentional? It would seem so, though what the purpose might be we can
only guess. Was it so gradual an inletting of the light, because a glare
too bright and sudden would only confuse and blind? or did Jesus linger
over the cure with the pleasure of one who loves to watch the dawn, as
it paints the east with vermilion and gold? or did Jesus make use of the
saliva and clay, that like crystal lenses, they might magnify His power,
and show how His will was supreme, that He had a thousand ways of
restoring sight, and that He had only to command even unlikely things,
and light, or rather sight, should be? We do not know the purpose, but
we do know that physical sight was somehow a favourite gift of the Lord
Jesus, one that He handed to men carefully and tenderly. Nay, He Himself
said that the man of Jerusalem had been born blind "that the works of
God should be manifest in him;" that is, his firmament had been for
forty years darkened that his age, and all coming ages, might see
shining within it the constellations of Divine Pity and Divine Power.

But while Jesus knew well the anatomy of the natural eye, and could and
did heal it of its disorders, putting within the sunken socket the
rounded ball, or restoring to the optic nerve its lost powers, this was
not the only sight He brought. To the companion clauses of this
prophecy, where Jesus proclaims deliverance to the captives, and sets at
liberty them that are bruised, we are compelled to give a spiritual
interpretation; and so "the recovering of sight to the blind" demands a
far wider horizon than the literalistic sense offers. It speaks of the
true Light which lighteth every man, that spiritual photosphere that
environs and enswathes the soul, and of the opening and adjusting of the
spiritual sense; for as sight without light is darkness, so light
without sight is darkness still. The two facts are thus related, each
useless apart from the other, but together producing what we call
vision. The recovering of sight to the blind is thus the universal
miracle. It is the "Let light be" of the new Genesis, or, as we prefer
to call it, the "regeneration." It is the dawn, which, breaking over the
soul, broadens unto the perfect day, the heavenly, the eternal noon.
Jesus Himself recognized this binoculism, this double vision. He says
(John xvi. 16), "A little while, and ye behold Me no more; and again a
little while, and ye shall see Me," using two altogether different
words--the one speaking of the vision of the sense, the other of the
deeper vision of the soul. And it was so. The disciples' vision of the
Christ, at least so long as the bodily presence was with them, was the
earthly, physical vision. The spiritual Christ was, in a sense, lost,
masked in the corporeal. The veil of His flesh hung dense and heavy
before their eyes, and not until it was uplifted on the cross, not until
it was rent in twain, did they see the mysterious Holy Presence that
dwelt within the veil. Nor was the clearer vision given them even now.
The dust of the sepulchre was in their eyes, blurring, and for a time
half-blinding them--the anointing with the clay. The emptied grave, the
Resurrection, was their "pool of Siloam," washing away the blinding
clay, the dust of their gross, materialistic thoughts. Henceforth they
saw Christ, not, as before, ever coming and going, but as the
ever-present, the abiding One. In the fuller light of the Pentecostal
flames the unseen Christ became more near and more real than the seen
Christ ever was. Seeing Him as visible, their minds were holden,
somewhat perplexed; they could neither accomplish much nor endure much;
but seeing Him who had become invisible, they were a company of
invincibles. They could do and they could endure anything; for was not
the I AM with them always?

Now, even in the physical vision there is a wonderful correspondence
between the sight and the soul, the prospect and introspect. As men read
the outward world they see pretty much the shadow of themselves, their
thoughts, feelings, and ideas. In the German fable the travelled stork
had nothing to say about the beauty of the fields and wonders of the
cities over which it passed, but it could discourse at length about the
delicious frogs it had found in a certain ditch. Exactly the same law
rules up in the higher vision. Men see what they themselves love and
are; the sight is but a sort of projection of the soul. As St. Paul
says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of God;" the things
which God hath prepared for them that love Him are "things which eye saw
not, and ear heard not." And so Jesus gives sight by renewing the soul;
He creates around us a new heaven and a new earth, by creating a new, a
clean heart within us. Within every soul there are the possibilities of
a Paradise, but these possibilities are dormant. The natural heart is a
chaos of confusion and darkness, until it turns towards Jesus as its
Saviour and its Sun, and henceforth revolves around Him in its
ever-narrowing circles.

3. The Gospel of Jesus was a Gospel of Liberty. "He hath sent Me to
proclaim release to the captives," "to set at liberty them that are
bruised." The latter clause is not in the original prophecy, but is a
rough adaptation of another passage in Isaiah (lviii. 6). Probably it
was quoted by Jesus in His address, and so was inserted by the
Evangelist with the passages read; for in the New Testament the
quotations from the Old are grouped together by affinities of spirit,
rather than by the law of textual continuity. The two passages are one
in their proclamation and promise of liberty, but they by no means cover
the same ground. The former speaks of the liberation of captives, those
whom the exigencies of war or some change of fortune have thrown into
prison; the latter speaks of deliverance to the oppressed, those whose
personal liberties may not be impawned, but whose lives are made hard
and bitter under severe exactions, and whose spirits are broken, crushed
beneath a weight of accumulated ills. Speaking generally, we should call
the one an amnesty, and the other an enfranchisement; for one is the
offer of freedom to the captive, the other of freedom to the slave;
while together they form an act of emancipation for humanity,
enfranchising and ennobling each individual son of man, and giving to
him, even the poorest, the freedom of God's world.

In what sense, then, is Jesus the great Emancipator? It would be easy to
show that Jesus, personally, was a lover of freedom. He could not brook
restraints. Antiquity, conventionalism, had no charms for Him. Keenly in
touch with the present, He did not care to take the cold, clammy hand of
a dead Past, or allow it to prescribe His actions. Between the right and
the wrong, the good and the evil, He put a wall of adamant, God's
eternal "No;" but within the sphere of the right, the good, He left room
for largest liberties. He observed forms--occasionally, at least--but
formalism He could not endure. And so Jesus was constantly coming into
collision with the Pharisaic school of thought, the school of
routinists, casuists, whose religion was a glossary of terms, a volume
of formulas and negations. To the Pharisee religion was a cold, dead
thing, a mummy, all enswathed in the cerecloths of tradition; to Jesus
it was a living soul within a living form, an angel of grace and
beauty, whose wings would bear her aloft to higher, heavenlier spheres,
and whose feet and hands fitted her just as well for the common walks of
life, in a beautiful, every-day ministry of blessing. And how Jesus
loved to give personal liberty to man--to remove the restrictions
disease had put around their activities, and to leave them physically,
mentally free! And what were His miracles of healing but proclamations
of liberty, in the lowest sense of that word? He found the human body
enfeebled, enslaved; here it was an arm, there an eye, so held in the
grip of disease that it was as if dead. But Jesus said to Disease,
"Loose that half-strangled life and let it go," and in an instant it was
free to act and feel, finding its lesser jubilee. Jesus saw the human
mind led into captivity. Reason was dethroned and immured in the
dungeon, while the feet of lawless passions were trampling overhead. But
when Jesus healed the demoniac, the imbecile, the lunatic, what was it
but a mental jubilee, as He gives peace to a distracted soul, and leads
banished Reason back to her Jerusalem?

But these deliverances and liberties, glorious as they are, are but
figures of the true, which is the enfranchisement of the soul. The
disciples were perplexed and sorely disappointed that Jesus should die
without having wrought any "redemption" for Israel. This was their one
dream, that the Messiah should break in pieces the hated Roman yoke, and
effect a political deliverance. But they see Him moving steadily to His
goal, taking no note of their aspirations, or noticing them only to
rebuke them, and scarce giving a passing glance to these Roman eagles,
which darken the sky, and cast their ominous shadows over the homes and
fields of Israel. But Jesus had not come into the world to effect any
local, political redemption; another Moses could have done that. He had
come to lead captive the captivity of Sin, as Zacharias had foretold,
"that being delivered out of the hand of our (spiritual) enemies, we
might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days
of our life." The sphere of His mission was where His kingdom should be,
in the great interior of the heart. A Prophet like unto Moses, but
infinitely greater than he, He too leaves the palace, of the Eternal,
laying aside, not the robes of a prospective royalty, but the glories He
possessed with the Father; He too assumes the dress, the speech, nay,
the very nature, of the race He has come to redeem. And when no other
ransom was sufficient He "offered Himself without spot to God," "our
Passover, sacrificed for us," so sprinkling the doorway of the new
Exodus with His own blood. But here we stand on the threshold of a great
mystery; for if angels bend over the mercyseat, desiring, but in vain,
to read the secret of redemption, how can our finite minds grasp the
great thought and purpose of God? We do know this, however, for it is
the oft-repeated truth of Scripture, that the life, or, as St. Peter
puts it, "the precious blood of Christ," was, in a certain sense, our
ransom, the price of our redemption. We say "in a certain sense," for
the figure breaks down if we press it unduly, as if Heaven had held a
parley with the power that had enslaved man, and, at a stipulated price,
had bought him off. That certainly was no part of the Divine purpose and
fact of redemption. But an atonement was needed in order to make
salvation possible; for how could God, infinitely holy and just, remit
the penalty due to sin with no expression of His abhorrence of sin,
without destroying the dignity of law, and reducing justice to a mere
name? But the obedience and death of Christ were a satisfaction of
infinite worth. They upheld the majesty of law, and at the same time
made way for the interventions of Divine Love. The cross of Jesus was
thus the place where Mercy and Truth met together, and Righteousness and
Peace kissed each other. It was at once the visible expression of God's
deep hatred of sin, and of His deep love to the sinner. And so, not
virtually simply, in some far-off sense, but in truest reality, Jesus
"died for our sins," Himself tasting death that we might have life, even
the life "more abundant," the life everlasting; suffering Himself to be
led captive by the powers of sin, bound to the cross and imprisoned in a
grave, that men might be free in all the glorious liberty of the
children of God.

But this deliverance from sin, the pardon for past offences, is but one
part of the salvation Jesus provides and proclaims. Heaven's angel may
light up the dungeon of the imprisoned soul; he may strike off its
fetters, and lead it forth into light and liberty; but if Satan can
reverse all this, and fling back the soul into captivity, what is that
but a partial, intermittent salvation, so unlike Him whose name is
Wonderful? The angel said, "He shall save His people," not from the
effects of their sin, from its guilt and condemnation alone, but "from
their sins." That is, He shall give to the pardoned soul power over sin;
it shall no longer have dominion over him; captivity itself shall be led
captive; for

  "His grace, His love, His care
  Are wider than our utmost need,
  And higher than our prayer."

Yes, verily; and the life that is hid with Christ in God, that, with no
side-glances at self, is set apart utterly to do the Divine will, that
abandons itself to the perfect keeping of the perfect Saviour, will find
on earth the "acceptable year of the Lord," its years, henceforth, years
of liberty and victory, a prolonged Jubilee.



CHAPTER IX.

_A SABBATH IN GALILEE._


We should naturally expect that our physician-Evangelist would have a
peculiar interest in Christ's connection with human suffering and
disease, and in this we are not mistaken.

It is almost a superfluous task to consider what our Gospels would have
been had there been no miracles of healing to record; but we may safely
say that such a blank would be inexplicable, if not impossible. Even had
prophecy been utterly silent on the subject, should we not look for the
Christ to signalize His advent and reign upon earth by manifestations of
His Divine power? A Man amongst men, human yet superhuman, how can He
manifest the Divinity that is within, except by the flashings forth of
His supernatural power? Speech, however eloquent, however true, could
not do this. There must be a background of deeds, visible credentials of
authority and power, or else the words are weak and vain--but the play
of a borealis in the sky, beautiful and bright indeed, but distant,
inoperative, and cold. If the prophets of old, who were but acolytes
swinging their lamps and singing their songs before the coming Christ,
were allowed to attest their commission by occasional enduements of
miraculous power, must not the Christ Himself prove His super-humanity
by fuller measures and exhibitions of the same power? And where can He
manifest this so well as in connection with the world's suffering, need,
and pain? Here is a background prepared, and all dark enough in sooth;
where can He write so well that men may read His messages of good-will,
love, and peace? Where can He put His sign manual, His Divine autograph,
better than on this firmament of human sorrow, disease, and woe? And so
the miracles of healing fall naturally into the story; they are the
natural and necessary accompaniments of the Divine life upon earth.

The first miracle that Jesus wrought was in the home at Cana; His first
miracle of healing was in the synagogue. He thus placed Himself in the
two pivotal centres of our earthly life; for that life, with its
heavenward and earthward aspects, revolves about the synagogue and the
home. He touches our human life alike on its temporal and its spiritual
side. To a nature like that of Jesus, which had an intense love for what
was real and true, and as intense a scorn for what was superficial and
unreal, it would seem as if a Hebrew synagogue would offer but few
attractions. True, it served as the visible symbol of religion; it was
the shrine where the Law and the Prophets spoke; what spiritual life
there was circled and eddied around its door; while its walls, pointing
to Jerusalem, kept the scattered populations in touch with the Temple,
that marbled dream of Hebraism; but in saying this we say nearly all.
The tides of worldliness and formality, which, sweeping through the
Temple gates, had left a scum of mire even upon the sacred courts,
chilling devotion and almost extinguishing faith, had swept over the
threshold of the synagogue. There the scribes had usurped Moses' seat,
exalting Tradition as a sort of essence of Scripture, and deadening the
majestic voices of the law in the jargon of their vain repetitions. But
Jesus does not absent Himself from the service of the synagogue because
the fires upon its altars are dulled and quenched by the down-draught of
the times. To Him it is the house of God, and if others see it not, He
sees a ladder of light, with ascending and descending angels. If others
hear but the voices of man, all broken and confused, He hears the
Diviner voice, still and small; He hears the music of the heavenly host,
throwing down their _Glorias_ upon earth. The pure in heart can find and
see God anywhere. He who worships truly carries his Holy of holies
within him. He who takes his own fire need never complain of the cold,
and with wood and fire all prepared, he can find or he can build an
altar upon any mount. Happy is the soul that has learned to lean upon
God, who can say, amid all the distractions and interventions of man,
"My soul, wait thou only upon God." To such a one, whose soul is athirst
for God, the Valley of Baca becomes a well, while the hot rock pours out
its streams of blessing. The art of worship avails nothing if the heart
of worship is gone; but if that remain, subtle attractions will ever
draw it to the place where "His name is recorded, and where His honour
dwelleth."

In his earlier chapters St. Luke is careful to light his Sabbath lamp,
telling that such and such miracles were wrought on that day, because
the Sabbath question was one on which Jesus soon came into collision
with the Pharisees. By their traditions, and the withs of dry and sharp
legalities, they had strangled the Sabbath, until life was well-nigh
extinct. They had made rigorous and exacting what God had made bright
and restful, fencing it around with negations, and burdening it with
penalties. Jesus broke the withs that bound her, let the freer air play
upon her face, and then led her back to the sweet liberties of her
earlier years. How He does it the sequel will show.

The Sabbath morning finds Jesus repairing to the synagogue at Capernaum,
a sanctuary built by a Gentile centurion, and presided over by Jairus,
both of whom are yet to be brought into close personal relationship with
Christ. From the silence of the narrative we should infer that the
courtesy offered at Nazareth was not repeated at Capernaum--that of
being invited to read the lesson from the Book of the Prophets. But
whether so or not, He was allowed to address the congregation, a
privilege which was often accorded to any eminent stranger who might be
present. Of the subject of the discourse we know nothing. Possibly it
was suggested by some passing scene or incident, as the sculptured pot
of manna, in this same synagogue, called forth the remarkable address
about the earthly and the heavenly bread (John vi. 31). But if the
substance of the discourse is lost to us, its effect is not. It awoke
the same feeling of surprise at Capernaum as it had done before among
the more rustic minds of Nazareth. There, however, it was the
graciousness of His words, their mingled "sweetness and light," which so
caused them to wonder; here at Capernaum it was the "authority" with
which He spoke that so astonished them, so different from the speech of
the scribes, which, for the most part, was but an iteration of quibbles
and trivialities, with just as much of originality as the "old clo'"
cries of our modern streets. The speech of Jesus came as a breath from
the upper air; it was the intense language of One who possessed the
truth, and who was Himself possessed by the truth. He dealt in
principles, not platitudes; in eternal facts, and not in the fancies of
gossamer that tradition so delighted to spin. Others might speak with
the hesitancy of doubt; Jesus spoke in "verilys" and verities, the very
essences of truth. And so His word fell upon the ears of men with the
tones of an oracle; they felt themselves addressed by the unseen Deity
who was behind; they had not learned, as we have, that the Deity of
their oracle was within. No wonder that they are astonished at His
authority--an authority so perfectly free from any assumptions; they
will wonder still more when they find that demons, too, recognize this
authority, and obey it.

While Jesus was still speaking--the tense of the verb implies an
unfinished discourse--suddenly He was interrupted by a loud, wild shout:
"Ah, what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come
to destroy us? I know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy One of God." It was
the cry of a man who, as our Evangelist expresses it, "had a spirit of
an unclean devil." The phrase is a singular one, in fact unique, and
savours a little of tautology; for St. Luke uses the words "spirit" and
"devil" as synonyms (ix. 39). Later in his Gospel he would simply have
said "he had an unclean devil;" why, then, does he here amplify the
phrase, and say he had "a spirit of an unclean devil"? We can, of
course, only conjecture, but might it not be because to the Gentile
mind--to which he is writing--the powers of evil were represented as
personifications, having a corporeal existence? And so in his first
reference to demoniacal possession he pauses to explain that these
demons are evil "spirits," with existences altogether separate from the
diseased humanity which temporarily they were allowed to inhabit and to
rule. Neither can we determine with certainty the meaning of the phrase
"an unclean devil," though probably it was so called because it drove
its victim to haunt unclean places, like the Gadarene, who had his
dwelling among the tombs.

The whole subject of demonology has been called in question by certain
modern critics. They aver that it is simply an after-growth of Paganism,
the seeds of worn-out mythologies which had been blown over into the
Christian mind; and eliminating from them all that is supernatural, they
reduce the so-called "possessions" to the natural effects of purely
natural causes, physical and mental. It is confessedly a subject
difficult as it is mysterious; but we are not inclined, at the bidding
of rationalistic clamour, so to strike out the supernatural. Indeed, we
cannot, without impaling ourselves upon this dilemma, that Jesus,
knowingly or unknowingly, taught as the truth what was not true. That
Jesus lent the weight of His testimony to the popular belief is evident;
never once, in all His allusions, does He call it in question, nor hint
that He is speaking now only in an accommodated sense, borrowing the
accents of current speech. To Him the existence and presence of evil
spirits was just as patent and as solemn a fact as was the existence of
the arch-spirit, even Satan himself. And granting the existence of evil
spirits, who will show us the line of limitation, the "Hitherto, but no
farther," where their influence is stayed? Have we not seen, in
mesmerism, cases of real possession, where the weaker human will has
been completely overpowered by the stronger will? when the subject was
no longer himself, but his thoughts, words, and acts were those of
another? And are there not, in the experiences of all medical men, and
of ministers of religion, cases of depravity so utterly foul and
loathsome that they cannot be explained except by the Jewish taunt, "He
hath a devil"? According to the teaching of Scripture, the evil spirit
possessed the man in the entirety of his being, commanding his own
spirit, ruling both body and mind. Now it touched the tongue with a
certain glibness of speech, becoming a "spirit of divination," and now
it touched it with dumbness, putting upon the life the spell of an awful
silence. Not that the obscurity of the eclipse was always the same.
There were more lucid moments, the penumbras of brightness, when, for a
brief interval, the consciousness seemed to awake, and the human will
seemed struggling to assert itself; as is seen in the occasional dualism
of its speech, when the "I" emerges from the "we," only, however, to be
drawn back again, to have its identity swallowed up as before.

Such is the character who, leaving the graves of the dead for the abodes
of the living, now breaks through the ceremonial ban, and enters the
synagogue. Rushing wildly within--for we can scarcely suppose him to be
a quiet worshipper; the rules of the synagogue would not have allowed
that--and approaching Jesus, he abruptly breaks in upon the discourse of
Jesus with his cry of mingled fear and passion. Of the cry itself we
need not speak, except to notice its question and its confession. "Art
Thou come to destroy us?" he asks, as if, somehow, the secret of the
Redeemer's mission had been told to these powers of darkness. Did they
know that He had come to "destroy" the works of the devil, and
ultimately to destroy, with an everlasting destruction, him who had the
power of death, that is, the devil? Possibly they did, for, citizens of
two worlds, the visible and the invisible, should not their horizon be
wider than our own? At any rate, their knowledge, in some points, was in
advance of the nascent faith of the disciples. They knew and confessed
the Divinity of Christ's mission, and the Divinity of His Person,
crying, "I know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy One of God;" "Thou art the
Son of God" (iv. 41), when as yet the faith of the disciples was only a
nebula of mist, made up in part of unreal hopes and random guesses.
Indeed, we seldom find the demons yielding to the power of Christ, or to
the delegated power of His disciples, but they make their confession of
superior knowledge as if they possessed a more intimate acquaintance
with Christ. "Jesus I know, and Paul I know," said the demon, which the
sons of Sceva could not exorcise (Acts xix. 15), while now the demon of
Capernaum boasts, "I know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy One of God." Nor
was it a vain boast either, for our Evangelist asserts that Jesus did
not suffer the demons to speak, "because they knew that He was the
Christ" (ver. 41). They knew Jesus, but they feared and hated Him. In a
certain sense they believed, but their belief only caused them to
tremble, while it left them demons still. Just so is it now:--

  "There are, too, who believe in hell and lie;
  There are who waste their souls in working out
  Life's problem, on these sands betwixt two tides,
  And end, 'Now give us the beasts' part, in death.'"

Saving faith is thus more than a bare assent of the mind, more than some
cold belief, or vain repetition of a creed. A creed may be complete and
beautiful, but it is not the Christ; it is only the vesture the Christ
wears; and alas, there are many still who will chaffer about, and cast
lots for, a creed, who will go directly and crucify the Christ Himself!
The faith that saves, besides the assent of the mind, must have the
consent of the will and the surrender of the life. It is "with the
heart," and not only with the mind, man "believeth unto righteousness."

The interruption brought the discourse of Jesus to an abrupt end, but it
served to point the discourse with further exclamations of surprise,
while it offered space for a new manifestation of Divine authority and
power. It did not in the least disconcert the Master, though it had
doubtless sent a thrill of excitement through the whole congregation. He
did not even rise from His seat (ver. 38), but retaining the teaching
posture, and not deigning a reply to the questions of the demon, He
rebuked the evil spirit, saying, "Hold thy peace, and come out of him,"
thus recognizing the dual will, and distinguishing between the possessor
and the possessed. The command was obeyed instantly and utterly; though,
as if to make one last supreme effort, he throws his victim down upon
the floor of the synagogue, like Samson Agonistes, pulling to the ground
the temple of his imprisonment. It was, however, a vain attempt, for he
did him "no hurt." The roaring lion had indeed been "muzzled"--which is
the primitive meaning of the verb rendered "Hold thy peace"--by the
omnipotent word of Jesus.

They were "astonished at His teaching" before, but how much more so now!
Then it was a convincing word; now it is a commanding word. They hear
the voice of Jesus, sweeping like suppressed thunder over the boundaries
of the invisible world, and commanding even devils, driving them forth,
just with one rebuke, from the temple of the human soul, as afterwards
He drove the traders from His Father's house with His whip of small
cords. No wonder that "amazement came upon all," or that they asked,
"What is this word? for with authority and power He commandeth the
unclean spirits, and they come out."

And so Jesus began His miracles of healing at the outmost marge of human
misery. With the finger of His love, with the touch of His omnipotence,
He swept the uttermost circle of our human need, writing on that far and
low horizon His wonderful name, "Mighty to save." And since none are
outcasts from His mercy save those who outcast themselves, why should we
limit "the Holy One of Israel"? why should we despair of any? Life and
hope should be coeval.

Immediately on retiring from the synagogue, Jesus passes out of
Capernaum, and along the shore to Bethsaida, and enters, together with
James and John, the house of Peter and Andrew (John i. 44). It is a
singular coincidence that the Apostle Peter, with whose name the Romish
Church takes such liberties, and who is himself the "Rock" on which they
rear their huge fabric of priestly assumptions, should be the only
Apostle of whose married life we read; for though John afterwards
possesses a "home," its only inmate besides, as far as the records show,
is the new "mother" he leads away from the cross. It is true we have not
the name of Peter's wife, but we find her shadow, as well as that of her
husband, thrown across the pages of the New Testament; cleaving to her
mother even while she follows another; ministering to Jesus, and for a
time finding Him a home; while later we see her sharing the privations
and the perils of her husband's wandering life (1 Cor. ix. 5). Verily,
Rome has drifted far from the "Rock" of her anchorage, the example of
her patron saint; and between the Vatican of the modern Pontiff and the
sweet domesticities of Bethsaida is a gulf of divergence which only a
powerful imagination can cross.

No sooner, however, has Jesus entered the house than He is told
how Peter's mother-in-law has been suddenly stricken down by a
violent fever, probably a local fever for which that lake-shore was
notorious, and which was bred from the malaria of the marsh. Our
physician-Evangelist does not stay to diagnose the malady, but he speaks
of it as "a great fever," thus giving us an idea of its virulence and
consequent danger. "And they besought Him for her;" not that He was at
all reluctant to grant their request, for the tense of the verb implies
that once asking was sufficient; but evidently there was the
"beseeching" look and tone of a mingled love and fear. Jesus responds
instantly; for can He come fresh from the healing of a stranger, to
allow a dread shadow to darken the home and the hearts of His own?
Seeking the sick chamber, He bends over the fever-stricken one, and
taking her hand in His (Mark i. 31), He speaks some word of command,
"rebuking the fever," as St. Luke expresses it. In a moment the fatal
fire is quenched, the throbbing heart regains its normal beat, a
delicious coolness takes the place of the burning heat, while the
fever-flush steals away to make place for the bloom of health. The cure
was perfect and instant. The lost strength returned, and "immediately
she arose and ministered unto them," preparing, doubtless, the evening
meal.

May we not throw the light of this narrative upon one of the questions
of the day? Men speak of the reign of law, and the drift of modern
scientific thought is against any interference--even Divine--with the
ordinary operations of physical law. As the visible universe is opened
up and explored the heavens are crowded back and back, until they seem
nothing but a golden mist, some distant dream. Nature's laws are seen to
be so uniform, so ruthlessly exact, that certain of those who should be
teachers of a higher faith are suggesting the impossibility of any
interference with their ordinary operations. "You do but waste your
breath," they say, "in asking for any immunities from Nature's
penalties, or for any deviation from her fixed rules. They are
invariable, inviolate. Be content rather to be conformed, mentally and
morally, to God's will." But is prayer to have so restricted an area? is
the physical world to be buried so deep in "law" that it shall give no
rest to prayer, not even for the sole of her foot? Entire conformity to
God's will is, indeed, the highest aim and privilege of life, and he who
prays the most seeks most for this; but has God no will in the world of
physics, in the realm of matter? Shall we push Him back to the narrow
ledge of a primal Genesis? or shall we leave Him chained to that
frontier coast, another Prometheus bound? It is well to respect and to
honour law, but Nature's laws are complex, manifold. They can form
combinations numberless, working different or opposite results. He who
searches for "the springs of life" will

  "Reach the law within the law;"

and who can tell whether there is not a law of prayer and faith, thrown
by the Unseen Hand across all the warp of created things, binding "the
whole round earth" about "the feet of God"? Reason says, "It might be
so," and Scripture says, "It is so." Was Jesus angry when they told Him
of the fever-stricken, and they implored His intervention? Did He say,
"You mistake My mission. I must not interfere with the course of the
fever; it must have its range. If she lives, she lives; and if she dies,
she dies; and whether the one or the other, you must be patient, you
must be content"? But such were not the words of Jesus, with their
latent fatalism. He heard the prayer, and at once granted it, not by
annulling Nature's laws, nor even suspending them, but by introducing a
higher law. Even though the fever was the result of natural causes, and
though it probably might have been prevented, had they but drained the
marsh or planted it with the eucalyptus, yet this does not shut out all
interventions of Divine mercy. The Divine compassion makes some
allowance for our human ignorance, when it is not wilful, and for our
human impotence.

The fever "left her, and immediately she rose up and ministered unto
them." Yes, and there are fevers of the spirit as well as of the flesh,
when the heart is quick and flurried, the brain hot with anxious
thought, when the fret and jar of life seem eating our strength away,
and our disquiet spirit finds its rest broken by the pressure of some
fearful nightmare. And how soon does this soul-fever strike us down! how
it unfits us for our ministry of blessing, robbing us of the "heart at
leisure from itself," and filling the soul with sad, distressing fears,
until our life seems like the helpless, withered leaf, whirled and
tossed hither and thither by the wind! For the fever of the body there
may not always be relief, but for the fever of the spirit there is a
possible and a perfect cure. It is the touch of Jesus. A close personal
contact with the living and loving Christ will rebuke the fever of your
heart; it will give to your soul a quietness and restfulness that are
Divine; and with the touch of His omnipotence upon you, and with all the
elation of conscious strength, you too will arise into a nobler life, a
life which will find its supremest joy in ministering unto others, and
so ministering unto Him.

Such was the Sabbath in Galilee in which Jesus began His miracles of
healing. But if it saw the beginning of His miracles, it did not see
their end; for soon as the sun had set, and the Sabbath restraint was
over, "all that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him,
and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them." A
marvellous ending of a marvellous day! Jesus throws out by handfuls His
largesse of blessing, health, which is the highest wealth, showing that
there is no end to His power, as there is no limit to His love; that His
will is supreme over all forces and all laws; that He is, and ever will
be, the perfect Saviour, binding up the broken in heart, assuaging all
griefs, and healing all wounds!



CHAPTER X.

_THE CALLING OF THE FOUR._


When Peter and his companions had the interview with Jesus by the
Jordan, and were summoned to follow Him, it was the designation, rather
than the appointment, to the Apostleship. They did accompany Him to
Cana, and thence to Capernaum; but here their paths diverged for a time,
Jesus passing on alone to Nazareth, while the novitiate disciples fall
back again into the routine of secular life. Now, however, His mission
is fairly inaugurated, and He must attach them permanently to His
person. He must lay His hand, where His thoughts have long been, upon
the future, making provision for the stability and permanence of His
work, that so the kingdom may survive and flourish when the Ascension
clouds have made the King Himself invisible.

St. Matthew and St. Mark insert their abridged narrative of the call
before the healing of the demoniac and the cure of Peter's
mother-in-law; and most expositors think that St. Luke's setting "in
order," in this case at least, is wrong; that he has preferred to have a
chronological inaccuracy, so that His miracles may be gathered into
related groups. But that our Evangelist is in error is by no means
certain; indeed, we are inclined to think that the balance of
probability is on the side of his arrangement. How else shall we
account for the crowds who now press upon Jesus so importunately and
with such Galilean ardour? It was not the rumour of His Judæan miracles
which had awoke this tempest of excitement, for the journey to Jerusalem
was not yet taken. And what else could it be, if the miraculous draught
of fishes was the first of the Capernaum miracles? But suppose that we
retain the order of St. Luke, that the call followed closely upon that
memorable Sabbath, then the crowds fall into the story naturally; it is
the multitude which had gathered about the door when the Sabbath sun had
set, putting an after-glow upon the hills, and on whose sick He wrought
His miracles of healing. Nor does the fact that Jesus went to be a guest
in Peter's house require us to invert the order of St. Luke; for the
casual acquaintance by the Jordan had since ripened into intimacy, so
that Peter would naturally offer hospitality to his Master on His coming
to Capernaum. Again, too, going back to the Sabbath in the synagogue, we
read how they were astonished at His doctrine; "for His word was with
authority;" and when that astonishment was heightened into amazement, as
they saw the demon cowed and silenced, this was their exclamation, "What
a word is this!" And does not Peter refer to this, when the same voice
that commanded the demon now commands them to "Let down the nets," and
he answers, "At Thy word I will"? It certainly seems as if the "word" of
the sea-shore were an echo from the synagogue, and so a "word" that
justifies the order of our Evangelist.

It was probably still early in the morning--for the days of Jesus began
back at the dawn, and very often before--when He sought the quiet of the
sea-shore, possibly to find a still hour for devotion, or perhaps to
see how His friends had fared with their all-night fishing. Little
quiet, however, could He find, for from Capernaum and Bethsaida comes a
hurrying and intrusive crowd, surging around Him with the swirl and roar
of confused voices, and pressing inconveniently near. Not that the crowd
was hostile; it was a friendly but inquisitive multitude, eager, not so
much to see a repetition of His miracles, as to hear Him speak, in those
rare, sweet accents, "the word of God." The expression characterizes the
whole teaching of Jesus. Though His words were meant for earth, for
human ears and for human hearts, there was no earthliness about them. On
the topics in which man is most exercised and garrulous, such as local
or national events, Jesus is strangely silent. He scarcely gives them a
passing thought; for what were the events of the day to Him who was
"before Abraham," and who saw the two eternities? what to Him was the
gossip of the hour, how Rome's armies marched and fought, or how "the
dogs of faction" bayed? To His mind these were but as dust caught in the
eddies of the wind. The thoughts of Jesus were high. Like the figures of
the prophet's vision, they had feet indeed, so that they could alight
and rest awhile on earthly things--though even here they only touched
earth at points which were common to humanity, and they were winged,
too, having the sweep of the lower spaces and of the highest heavens.
And so there was a heavenliness upon the words of Jesus, and a
sweetness, as if celestial harmonies were imprisoned within them. They
set men looking upwards, and listening; for the heavens seemed nearer as
He spoke, and they were no longer dumb. And not only did the words of
Jesus bring to men a clearer revelation of God, correcting the hard
views which man, in his fears and his sins, had formed of Him, but men
felt the Divineness of His speech; that Jesus was the Bearer of a new
evangel, God's latest message of hope and love. And He was the Bearer of
such a message; He was Himself that Evangel, the Word of God incarnate,
that men might hear of heavenly things in the common accents of earthly
speech.

Nor was Jesus loth to deliver His message; He needed no constraining to
speak of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Only let Him see
the listening heart, the void of a sincere longing, and His speech
distilled as the dew. And so no time was to Him inopportune; the break
of day, the noon, the night were all alike to Him. No place was out of
harmony with His message--the Temple-court, the synagogue, the domestic
hearth, the mountain, the lake-shore; He consecrated all alike with the
music of His speech. Nay, even upon the cross, amid its agonies, He
opens His lips once more, though parched with terrible thirst, to speak
peace within a penitent soul, and to open for it the gate of Paradise.

Drawn up on the shore, close by the water's edge, are two boats, empty
now, for Simon and his partners are busy washing their nets, after their
night of fruitless toil. Seeking for freer space than the pushing crowd
will allow Him, and also wanting a point of vantage, where His voice
will command a wider range of listeners, Jesus gets into Simon's boat,
and requests him to put out a little from the land. "And He sat down,
and taught the multitudes out of the boat," assuming the posture of the
teacher, even though the occasion partook so largely of the impromptu
character. When He dispensed the material bread He made the multitudes
"sit down;" but when He dispensed the living bread, the heavenly manna,
He left the multitudes standing, while He Himself sat down, so claiming
the authority of a Master, as His posture emphasized His words. It is
somewhat singular that when our Evangelist has been so careful and
minute in his description of the scene, giving us a sort of photograph
of that lakeside group, with bits of artistic colouring thrown in, that
then he should omit entirely the subject-matter of the discourse. But so
he does, and we try in vain to fill up the blank. Did He, as at
Nazareth, turn the lamps of prophecy full upon Himself, and tell them
how the "great Light" had at last risen upon Galilee of the nations? or
did He let His speech reflect the shimmer of the lake, as He told in
parable how the kingdom of heaven was "like unto a net that was cast
into the sea, and gathered of every kind"? Possibly He did, but His
words, whatever they were, "like the pipes of Pan, died with the ears
and hearts of those who heard them."

"When He had left speaking," having dismissed the multitude with His
benediction, He turns to give to His future disciples, Peter and Andrew,
a private lesson. "Put out into the deep," He said, including Andrew now
in His plural imperative, "and let down your nets for a draught." It was
a commanding voice, altogether different in its tone from the last words
He addressed to Peter, when He "requested" him to put out a little from
the land. Then He spoke as the Friend, possibly the Guest, with a
certain amount of deference; now He steps up to a very throne of power,
a throne which in Peter's life He never more abdicates. Simon recognizes
the altered conditions, that a Higher Will is now in the boat, where
hitherto his own will has been supreme; and saluting Him as "Master," he
says, "We toiled all night, and took nothing; but at Thy word I will
let down the nets." He does not demur; he does not hesitate one moment.
Though himself weary with his night-long labours, and though the command
of the Master went directly against his nautical experiences, he sinks
his thoughts and his doubts in the word of his Lord. It is true he
speaks of the failure of the night, how they have taken nothing; but
instead of making that a plea for hesitancy and doubt, it is the foil to
make his unquestioning faith stand out in bolder relief. Peter was the
man of impulse, the man of action, with a swift-beating heart and an
ever-ready hand. To his forward-stepping mind decision was easy and
immediate; and so, almost before the command was completed, his swift
lips had made answer, "I will let down the nets." It was the language of
a prompt and full obedience. It showed that Simon's nature was
responsive and genuine, that when a Christly word struck upon his soul
it set his whole being vibrating, and drove out all meaner thoughts. He
had learned to obey, which was the first lesson of discipleship; and
having learned to obey, he was therefore fit to rule, qualified for
leadership, and worthy of being entrusted with the keys of the kingdom.

And how much is missed in life through feebleness of resolve, a lack of
decision! How many are the invertebrate souls, lacking in will and void
of purpose, who, instead of piercing waves and conquering the flow of
adverse tides, like the medusæ, can only drift, all limp and languid, in
the current of circumstance! Such men do not make apostles; they are but
ciphers of flesh and blood, of no value by themselves, and only of any
worth as they are attached to the unit of some stronger will. A poor
broken thing is a life spent in the subjunctive mood, among the
"mights" and "shoulds," where the "I will" waits upon "I would". That is
the truest, worthiest life that is divided between the indicative and
the imperative. As in shaking pebbles the smaller ones drop down to the
bottom, their place determined by their size, so in the shaking together
of human lives, in the rub and jostle of the world, the strong wills
invariably come to the top.

And how much do even Christians lose, through their partial or their
slow obedience! How we hesitate and question, when our duty is simply to
obey! How we cling to our own ways, modes, and wills, when the Christ is
commanding us forward to some higher service! How strangely we forget
that in the grammar of life the "Thou willest" should be the first
person, and the "I will" a far-off second! When the soldier hears the
word of command he becomes deaf to all other voices, even the voice of
danger, or the voice of death itself; and when Christ speaks to us His
word should completely fill the soul, leaving no room for hesitancy, no
place for doubt. Said the mother to the servants of Cana, "Whatsoever He
saith unto you, do it." That "whatsoever" is the line of duty, and the
line of beauty too. He who makes Christ's will his will, who does
implicitly "whatsoever He saith," will find a Cana anywhere, where
life's water turns to wine, and where life's common things are exalted
into sacraments. He who walks up to the light will surely walk in the
light.

We can imagine with what alacrity Simon obeys the Master's word, and how
the disappointment of the night and all sense of fatigue are lost in the
exhilaration of the new hopes. Seconded by the more quiet Andrew, who
catches the enthusiasm of his brother's faith, he pulls out into deep
water, where they let down the nets. Immediately they enclosed "a great
multitude" of fishes, a weight altogether beyond their power to lift;
and as they saw the nets beginning to give way with the strain, Peter
"beckoned" to his partners, James and John, whose boat, probably, was
still drawn up on the shore. Coming to their assistance, together they
secured the spoil, completely filling the two boats, until they were in
danger of sinking with the over-weight.

Here, then, we find a miracle of a new order. Hitherto, in the narrative
of our Evangelist, Jesus has shown His supernatural power only in
connection with humanity, driving away the ills and diseases which
preyed upon the human body and the human soul. And not even here did
Jesus make use of that power randomly, making it common and cheap; it
was called forth by the constraint of a great need and a great desire.
Now, however, there is neither the desire nor the need. It was not the
first time, nor was it to be the last, that Peter and Andrew had spent a
night in fruitless toil. That was a lesson they had early to learn, and
which they were never allowed long to forget. They had been quite
content to leave their boat, as indeed they had intended, on the sands,
until the evening should recall them to their task. But Jesus volunteers
His help, and works a miracle--whether of omnipotence, or omniscience,
or of both, it matters not, and not either to relieve some present
distress, or to still some pain, but that He might fill the empty boats
with fishes. We must not, however, assess the value of the miracle at
the market-price of the take, for evidently Jesus had some ulterior
motive and design. As the leaden types, lying detached and meaningless
in the "case," can be arranged into words and be made to voice the very
highest thought, so these boats and oars, nets and fish are but so many
characters, the Divine "code" as we may call it, spelling out, first to
these fishermen, and then to mankind in general, the deep thought and
purpose of Christ. Can we discover that meaning? We think we may.

In the first place, the miracle shows us the supremacy of Christ. We may
almost read the Divineness of Christ's mission in the manner of its
manifestation. Had Jesus been man only, His thoughts running on human
lines, and His plans built after human models, He would have arranged
for another Epiphany at the beginning of His ministry, showing His
credentials at the first, and announcing in full the purpose of His
mission. That would have been the way of man, fond as he is of surprises
and sudden transitions; but such is not the way of God. The forces of
heaven do not move forward in leaps and somersaults; their advances are
gradual and rhythmic. Evolution, and not revolution, is the Divine law,
in the realm of matter and of mind alike. The dawn must precede the day.
And just so the life of the Divine Son is manifested. He who is the
"Light of the world" comes into that world softly as a sunrise, lighting
up little by little the horizon of His disciples' thought, lest a
revelation which was too full and too sudden should only dazzle and
blind them. So far they have seen Him exercise His power over diseases
and demons, or, as at Cana, over inorganic matter; now they see that
power moving out in new directions. Jesus sets up His throne to face the
sea, the sea with which they were so familiar, and over which they
claimed some sort of lordship. But even here, upon their own element,
Jesus is supreme. He sees what they do not; He knows these deeps,
filling up with His omniscience the blanks they seek to fill with their
random guesses. Here, hitherto, their wills have been all-powerful; they
could take their boats and cast their nets just when and where they
would; but now they feel the touch of a Higher Will, and Christ's word
fills their hearts, impelling them onward, even as their boats were
driven of the wind. Jesus now assumes the command. His Will, like a
magnet, attracts to itself and controls their lesser wills; and as His
word now launches out the boat and casts the nets, so shortly, at that
same "word," will boats and nets, and the sea itself, be left behind.

And did not that Divine Will move beneath the water as well as above it,
controlling the movements of the shoal of fishes, as on the surface it
was controlling the thoughts and moving the hands of the fishermen? It
is true that in Gennesaret, as in our modern seas, the fish sometimes
moved in such dense shoals that an enormous "take" would be an event
purely natural, a wonder indeed, but no miracle. Possibly it was so
here, in which case the narrative would resolve itself into a miracle of
omniscience, as Jesus saw, what even the trained eyes of the fishermen
had not seen, the movements of the shoal, then regulating His commands,
so making the oars above and the fins below strike the water in unison.
But was this all? Evidently not, to Peter's mind, at any rate. Had it
been all to him, a purely natural phenomenon, or had he seen in it only
the prescience of Christ, a vision somewhat clearer and farther than his
own, it would not have created such feelings of surprise and awe. He
might still have wondered, but he scarcely would have worshipped. But
Peter feels himself in the presence of a Power that knows no limit, One
who has supreme authority over diseases and demons, and who now commands
even the fishes of the sea. In this sudden wealth of spoil he reads the
majesty and glory of the new-found Christ, whose word, spoken or
unspoken, is omnipotent, alike in the heights above and in the depths
beneath. And so the moment his thoughts are disengaged from the pressing
task he prostrates himself at the feet of Jesus, crying with
awe-stricken speech, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" We
are not, perhaps, to interpret this literally, for Peter's lips were apt
to become tremulous with the excitement of the moment, and to say words
which in a cooler mood he would recall, or at least modify. So here, it
surely was not his meaning that "the Lord," as he now calls Jesus,
should leave him; for how indeed should He depart, now that they are
afloat upon the deep, far from land? But such had been the revelation of
the power and holiness of Jesus, borne in by the miracle upon Peter's
soul, that he felt himself thrown back, morally and in every way, to an
infinite distance from Christ. His boat was unworthy to carry, as the
house of the centurion was unworthy to receive, such infinite
perfections as now he saw in Jesus. It was an apocalypse indeed,
revealing, together with the purity and power of Christ, the littleness,
the nothingness of his sinful self; that, as Elijah covered his face
when the Lord passed by, so Peter feels as if he ought to draw the veil
of an infinite distance around himself--the distance which would ever be
between him and the Lord, were not His mercy and His love just as
infinite as His power.

The fuller meaning of the miracle, however, becomes apparent when we
interpret it in the light of the call which immediately followed.
Reading the sudden fear which has come over Peter's soul, and which has
thrown his speech somewhat into confusion, Jesus first stills the
agitation of his heart by a word of assurance and of cheer. "Fear not,"
He says, for "from henceforth thou shalt catch men." It will be observed
that St. Luke puts the commission of Christ in the singular number, as
addressed to Peter alone, while St. Matthew and St. Mark put it in the
plural, as including Andrew as well: "I will make you to become fishers
of men." The difference, however, is but immaterial, and possibly the
reason why St. Luke introduces the Apostle Peter with such a frequent
nomination--for "Simon" is a familiar name in these early
chapters--making his call so emphatic and prominent, was because in the
partisan times which came but too early in the Church the Gentile
Christians, for whom our Evangelist is writing, might think unworthily
and speak disparagingly of him who was the Apostle of the Circumcision.
Be this as it may, Simon and Andrew are now summoned to, and
commissioned for, a higher service. That "henceforth" strikes across
their life like a high watershed, severing the old from the new, their
future from their past, and throwing all the currents of their thoughts
and plans into different and opposite directions. They are to be
"fishers of men," and Jesus, who so delights in giving object-lessons to
His disciples, uses the miracle as a sort of background, on which He may
write their commission in large and lasting characters; it is the Divine
seal upon their credentials.

Not that they understood the full purport of His words at once. The
phrase "fishers of men" was one of those seed-thoughts which needed
pondering in the heart; it would gradually unfold itself in the
after-months of discipleship, ripening at last in the summer heat and
summer light of the Pentecost. They were now to be fishers of the higher
art, their quest the souls of men. This must now be the one object, the
supreme aim of their life, a life now ennobled by a higher call. Plans,
journeys, thoughts, and words, all must bear the stamp of their great
commission, which is to "catch men," not unto death, however, as the
fish expire when taken from their native element, but unto life--for
such is the meaning of the word. And to "take them alive" is to save
them; it is to take them out of an element which stifles and destroys,
and to draw them, by the constraints of truth and love, within the
kingdom of heaven, which kingdom is righteousness and life, even eternal
life.

But if the full meaning of the Master's words grows upon them--an
aftermath to be harvested in later months--enough is understood to make
the line of present duty plain. That "henceforth" is clear, sharp, and
imperative. It leaves room neither for excuse nor postponement. And so
immediately, "when they had brought their boats to land, they left all
and followed Him," to learn by following how they too might be winners
of souls, and in a lesser, lower sense, saviours of men.

The story of St. Luke closes somewhat abruptly, with no further
reference to Simon's partners; and having "beckoned" them into his
central scene, and filled their boat, then, as in a dissolving-view, the
pen of our Evangelist draws around them the haze of silence, and they
disappear. The other Synoptists, however, fill up the blank, telling how
Jesus came to them, probably later in the day, for they were mending
the nets, which had been tangled and somewhat torn with the weight of
spoil they had just taken. Speaking no word of explanation, and giving
no word of promise, He simply says, with that commanding voice of His,
"Follow Me," thus putting Himself above all associations and all
relationships, as Leader and Lord. James and John recognize the call,
for which doubtless they had been prepared, as being for themselves
alone, and instantly leaving the father, the "hired servants," and the
half-mended nets, and breaking utterly with their past, they follow
Jesus, giving to Him, with the exception of one dark, hesitating hour, a
life-long devotion. And forsaking all, the four disciples found all.
They exchanged a dead self for a living Christ, earth for heaven.
Following the Lord fully, with no side-glances at self or selfish
gain--at any rate after the enduement and the enlightenment of
Pentecost--they found in the presence and friendship of the Lord the
"hundredfold" in the present life. Allying themselves with Christ, they
too rose with the rising Sun. Obscure fishermen, they wrote their names
among the immortals as the first Apostles of the new faith, bearers of
the keys of the kingdom. Following Christ, they led the world; and as
the Light that rose over Galilee of the nations becomes ever more
intense and bright, so it makes ever more intense and vivid the shadows
of these Galilean fishermen, as it throws them across all lands and
times.

And such even now is the truest and noblest life. The life which is "hid
with Christ" is the life that shines the farthest and that tells the
most. Whether in the more quiet paths and scenes of discipleship or in
the more responsible and public duties of the apostolate, Jesus demands
of us a true, whole-souled, and life-long devotion. And, here indeed,
the paradox is true, for by losing life we find it, even the life more
abundant; for

  "Men may rise on stepping-stones
  Of their dead selves to higher things."

Nay, they may attain to the highest things, even to the highest
heavens.



CHAPTER XI.

_CONCERNING PRAYER._


When the Greeks called man ὁ ανθρωπος, or the "uplooking
one," they did but crystallize in a word what is a universal fact, the
religious instinct of humanity. Everywhere, and through all times, man
has felt, as by a sort of intuition, that earth was no Ultima Thule,
with nothing beyond but oceans of vacancy and silence, but that it lay
in the over-shadow of other worlds, between which and their own were
subtle modes of correspondence. They felt themselves to be in the
presence of Powers other and higher than human, who somehow influenced
their destiny, whose favour they must win, and whose displeasure they
must avert. And so Paganism reared her altars, almost numberless,
dedicating them even to the "Unknown God," lest some anonymous deity
should be grieved at being omitted from the enumeration. The prevalence
of false religions in the world, the garrulous babble of mythology, does
but voice the religious instinct of man; it is but another Tower of
Babel, by which men hope to find and to scale the heavens which must be
somewhere overhead.

In the Old Testament, however, we find the clearer revelation. What to
the unaided eye of reason and of nature seemed but a wave of golden mist
athwart the sky--"a meeting of gentle lights without a name"--now
becomes a wide-reaching and shining realm, peopled with intelligences of
divers ranks and orders; while in the centre of all is the city and the
throne of the Invisible King, Jehovah, Lord of Sabaoth. In the breath of
the new morning the gossamer threads Polytheism had been spinning
through the night were swept away, and on the pillars of the New
Jerusalem, that celestial city of which their own Salem was a far-off
and broken type, they read the inscription, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord
our God is one Lord." But while the Old Testament revealed the unity of
the Godhead, it emphasized especially His sovereignty, the glories of
His holiness, and the thunders of His power. He is the great Creator,
arranging His universe, commanding evolutions and revolutions, and
giving to each molecule of matter its secret affinities and repulsions.
And again He is the Lawgiver, the great Judge, speaking out of the
cloudy pillar and the windy tempest, dividing the firmaments of Right
and Wrong, whose holiness hates sin with an infinite hatred, and whose
justice, with sword of flame, pursues the wrong-doer like an
unforgetting Nemesis. It is only natural, therefore, that with such
conceptions of God, the heavens should appear distant and somewhat cold.
The quiet that was upon the world was the hush of awe, of fear, rather
than of love; for while the goodness of God was a familiar and favourite
theme, and while the mercy of God, which "endureth for ever," was the
refrain, oft repeated, of their loftiest songs, the love of God was a
height the Old Dispensation had not explored, and the Fatherhood of God,
that new world of perpetual summer, lay all undiscovered, or but dimly
apprehended through the mist. The Divine love and the Divine Fatherhood
were truths which seemed to be held in reserve for the New Dispensation;
and as the light needs the subtle and sympathetic ether before it can
reach our outlying world, so the love and the Fatherhood of God are
borne in upon us by Him who was Himself the Divine Son and the
incarnation of the Divine love.

It is just here where the teaching of Jesus concerning prayer begins. He
does not seek to explain its philosophy; He does not give hints as to
any observance of time or place; but leaving these questions to adjust
themselves, He seeks to bring heaven into closer touch with earth. And
how can He do this so well as by revealing the Fatherhood of God? When
the electric wire linked the New with the Old World the distances were
annihilated, the thousand leagues of sea were as if they were not; and
when Jesus threw across, between earth and heaven, that word "Father,"
the wide distances vanished, and even the silences became vocal. In the
Psalms, those loftiest utterances of devotion, Religion only once
ventured to call God "Father;" and then, as if frightened at her own
temerity, she lapses into silence, and never speaks the familiar word
again. But how different the language of the Gospels! It is a name that
Jesus is never weary of repeating, striking its music upwards of seventy
times, as if by the frequent iteration He would lodge the heavenly word
deep within the world's heart. This is His first lesson in the science
of prayer: He drills them on the Divine Fatherhood, setting them on that
word, as it were, to practise the scales; for as he who has practised
well the scales has acquired the key to all harmonies, so he who has
learned well the "Father" has learned the secret of heaven, the sesame
that opens all its doors and unlocks all its treasures.

"When ye pray," said Jesus, replying to a disciple who sought
instruction in the heavenly language, "say, Father," thus giving us what
was His own pass-word to the courts of heaven. It is as if He said, "If
you would pray acceptably put yourself in the right position. Seek to
realize, and then to claim, your true relationship. Do not look upon God
as a distant and cold abstraction, or as some blind force; do not regard
Him as being hostile to you or as careless about you. Else your prayer
will be some wail of bitterness, a cry coming out of the dark, and
losing itself in the dark again. But look upon God as your Father, your
living, loving, heavenly Father; and then step up with a holy boldness
into the child-place, and all heaven opens before you there."

And not only does Jesus thus "show us the Father," but He takes pains to
show us that it is a real, and not some fictitious Fatherhood. He tells
us that the word means far more in its heavenly than in its earthly use;
that the earthly meaning, in fact, is but a shadow of the heavenly. For
"if ye then," He says, "being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask Him?" He thus sets us a problem in Divine
proportion. He gives us the human fatherhood, with all it implies, as
our known quantities, and from these He leaves us to work out the
unknown quantity, which is the Divine ability and willingness to give
good gifts to men; for the Holy Spirit includes in Himself all spiritual
gifts. It is a problem, however, which our earthly figures cannot solve.
The nearest that we can approach to the answer is that the Divine
Fatherhood is the human fatherhood multiplied by that "how much more"--a
factor which gives us an infinite series.

Again, Jesus teaches that character is an important condition of prayer,
and that in this realm heart is more than any art. Words alone do not
constitute prayer, for they may be only like the bubbles of the
children's play, iridescent but hollow, never climbing the sky, but
returning to the earth whence they came. And so when the scribes and
Pharisees make "long prayers," striking devotional attitudes, and
putting on airs of sanctity, Jesus could not endure them. They were a
weariness and abomination to Him; for He read their secret heart, and
found it vain and proud. In His parable (xviii. 11) He puts the genuine
and the counterfeit prayer side by side, drawing the sharp contrast
between them. He gives us that of the Pharisee wordy, inflated, full of
the self-eulogizing "I." It is the prayerless prayer, that had no need,
and which was simply an incense burned before the clayey image of
himself. Then He gives us the few brief words of the publican, the cry
of a broken heart, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," a prayer which
reached directly the highest heaven, and which came back freighted with
the peace of God. "If I regard iniquity in my heart," the Psalmist said,
"the Lord will not hear me." And it is true. If there be the least
unforgiven sin within the soul we spread forth our hands, we make many
prayers, in vain; we do but utter "wild, delirious cries" that Heaven
will not hear, or at any rate regard. The first cry of true prayer is
the cry for mercy, pardon; and until this is spoken, until we step up by
faith into the child-position, we do but offer vain oblations. Nay, even
in the regenerate heart, if there be a temporary lapse, and unholy
tempers brood within, the lips of prayer become paralyzed at once, or
they only stammer in incoherent speech. We may with filled hands
compass the altar of God, but neither gifts nor prayers can be accepted
if there be bitterness and jealousy within, or if our "brother has aught
against" us. The wrong must be righted with our brother, or we cannot be
right with God. How can we ask for forgiveness if we ourselves cannot
forgive? How can we ask for mercy if we are hard and merciless, gripping
the throat of each offender, as we demand the uttermost farthing? He who
can pray for them who despitefully use him is in the way of the Divine
commandment; he has climbed to the dome of the temple, where the
whispers of prayer, and even its inarticulate aspirations, are heard in
heaven. And so the connection is most close and constant between praying
and living, and they pray most and best who at the same time "make their
life a prayer."

Again, Jesus maps out for us the realm of prayer, showing the wide areas
it should cover. St. Luke gives us an abbreviated form of the prayer
recorded by St. Matthew, and which we call the "Lord's Prayer." It is a
disputed point, though not a material one, whether the two prayers are
but varied renderings of one and the same utterance, or whether Jesus
gave, on a later occasion, an epitomized form of the prayer He had
prescribed before, though from the circumstantial evidence of St. Luke
we incline to the latter view. The two forms, however, are identical in
substance. It is scarcely likely that Jesus intended it to be a rigid
formula, to which we should be slavishly bound; for the varied
renderings of the two Evangelists show plainly that Heaven does not lay
stress upon the _ipsissima verba_. We must take it rather as a Divine
model, laying down the lines on which our prayers should move. It is, in
fact, a sort of prayer-microcosm, giving a miniature reflection of the
whole world of prayer, as a drop of dew will give a reflection of the
encircling sky. It gives us what we may call the _species_ of prayer,
whose _genera_ branch off into infinite varieties; nor can we readily
conceive of any petition, however particular or private, whose root-stem
is not found in the few but comprehensive words of the Lord's Prayer. It
covers every want of man, just as it befits every place and time.

Running through the prayer are two marked divisions, the one general,
the other particular and personal; and in the Divine order, contrary to
our human wont, the general stands first, and the personal second. Our
prayers often move in narrow circles, like the homing birds coming back
to this "centred self" of ours, and sometimes we forget to give them the
wider sweeps over a redeemed humanity. But Jesus says, "When ye pray,
say, Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come." It is a temporary
erasure of self, as the soul of the worshipper is absorbed in God. In
its nearness to the throne it forgets for awhile its own little needs;
its low-flying thoughts are caught up into the higher currents of the
Divine thought and purpose, moving outwards with them. And this is the
first petition, that the name of God may be hallowed throughout the
world; that is, that men's conceptions of the Deity may become just and
holy, until earth gives back in echo the _Trisagion_ of the seraphim.
The second petition is a continuation of the first; for just in
proportion as men's conceptions of God are corrected and hallowed will
the kingdom of God be set up on earth. The first petition, like that of
the Psalmist, is for the sending out of "Thy light and Thy truth;" the
second is that humanity may be led to the "holy hill," praising God
upon the harp, and finding in God their "exceeding joy." To find God as
the Father-King is to step up within the kingdom.

The prayer now descends into the lower plane of personal wants, covering
(1) our physical, and (2) our spiritual needs. The former are met with
one petition, "Give us day by day our daily bread," a sentence
confessedly obscure, and which has given rise to much dispute. Some
interpret it in a spiritual sense alone, since, as they say, any other
interpretation would break in upon the uniformity of the prayer, whose
other terms are all spiritual. But if, as we have suggested, the whole
prayer must be regarded as an epitome of prayer in general, then it must
include somewhere our physical needs, or a large and important domain of
our life is left uncovered. As to the meaning of the singular adjective
επιουσιον we need not say much. That it can scarcely mean
"to-morrow's" bread is evident from the warning Jesus gives against
"taking thought" for the morrow, and we must not allow the prayer to
traverse the command. The most natural and likely interpretation is that
which the heart of mankind has always given it, as our "daily" bread, or
bread sufficient for the day. Jesus thus selects, what is the most
common of our physical wants, the bread which comes to us in such purely
natural, matter-of-course ways, as the specimen need of our physical
life. But when He thus lifts up this common, ever-recurring mercy into
the region of prayer He puts a halo of Divineness about it, and by
including this He teaches us that there is no want of even our physical
life which is excluded from the realm of prayer. If we are invited to
speak with God concerning our daily bread, then certainly we need not
be silent as to aught else.

Our spiritual needs are included in the two petitions, "And forgive us
our sins; for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.
And bring us not into temptation." The parenthesis does not imply that
all debts should be remitted, for payment of these is enjoined as one of
the duties of life. The indebtedness spoken of is rather the New
Testament indebtedness, the failure of duty or courtesy, the omission of
some "ought" of life or some injury or offence. It is that human
forgiveness, the opposite of resentment, which grows up under the shadow
of the Divine forgiveness. The former of these petitions, then, is for
the forgiveness of all past sin, while the latter is for deliverance
from present sinning; for when we pray, "Bring us not into temptation,"
it is a prayer that we may not be tempted "above that we are able,"
which, amplified, means that in all our temptations we may be
victorious, "kept by the power of God."

Such, then, is the wide realm of prayer, as indicated by Jesus. He
assures us that there is no department of our being, no circumstance of
our life, which does not lie within its range; that

  "The whole round world is every way
  Bound with gold chains about the feet of God,"

and that on these golden chains, as on a harp, the touch of prayer may
wake sweet music, far-off or near alike. And how much we miss through
restraining prayer, reserving it for special occasions, or for the
greater crises of life! But if we would only loop up with heaven each
successive hour, if we would only run the thread of prayer through the
common events and the common tasks, we should find the whole day and
the whole life swinging on a higher, calmer level. The common task would
cease to be common, and the earthly would be less earthly, if we only
threw a bit of heaven upon it, or we opened it out to heaven. If in
everything we could but make our requests known unto God--that is, if
prayer became the habitual act of life--we should find that heaven was
no longer the land "afar off," but that it was close upon us, with all
its proffered ministries.

Again, Jesus teaches the importance of earnestness and importunity in
prayer. He sketches the picture--for it is scarcely a parable--of the
man whose hospitality is claimed, late at night, by a passing friend,
but who has no provision made for the emergency. He goes over to another
friend, and rousing him up at midnight, he asks for the loan of three
loaves. And with what result? Does the man answer from within, "Trouble
me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I
cannot rise and give thee"? No, that would be an impossible answer; for
"though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet
because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he
needeth" (xi. 8). It is the unreasonableness, or at any rate the
untimeliness of the request Jesus seems to emphasize. The man himself is
thoughtless, improvident in his household management. He disturbs his
neighbour, waking up his whole family at midnight for such a trivial
matter as the loan of three loaves. But he gains his request, not,
either, on the ground of friendship, but through sheer audacity,
impudence; for such is the meaning of the word, rather than importunity.
The lesson is easily learned, for the suppressed comparison would be,
"If man, being evil, will put himself out of the way to serve a friend,
even at this untimely hour, filling up by his thoughtfulness his
friend's lack of thought, how much more will the heavenly Father give to
His child such things as are needful?"

We have the same lesson taught in the parable of the Unjust Judge
(xviii. 1), that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Here,
however, the characters are reversed. The suppliant is a poor and a
wronged widow, while the person addressed is a hard, selfish, godless
man, who boasts of his atheism. She asks, not for a favour, but for her
rights--that she may have due protection from some extortionate
adversary, who somehow has got her in his power; for justice rather than
vengeance is her demand. But "he would not for awhile," and all her
cries for pity and for help beat upon that callous heart only as the
surf upon a rocky shore, to be thrown back upon itself. But afterwards
he said within himself, "Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet
because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out
by her continual coming." And so he is moved to take her part against
her adversary, not for any motive of compassion or sense of justice, but
through mere selfishness, that he may escape the annoyance of her
frequent visits--lest her continual coming "worry" me, as the colloquial
expression might be rendered. Here the comparison, or contrast rather,
is expressed, at any rate in part. It is, "If an unjust and abandoned
judge grants a just petition at last, out of base motives, when it is
often urged, to a defenceless person for whom he cares nothing, how much
more shall a just and merciful God hear the cry and avenge the cause of
those whom He loves?"[1]

  [1] Farrar

It is a resolute persistence in prayer the parable urges, the continued
asking, and seeking, and knocking that Jesus both commended and
commanded (xi. 9), and which has the promise of such certain answers,
and not the tantalizing mockeries of stones for bread, or scorpions for
fish. Some blessings lie near at hand; we have only to ask, and we
receive--receive even while we ask. But other blessings lie farther off,
and they can only be ours by a continuance in prayer, by a persistent
importunity. Not that our heavenly Father needs any wearying into mercy;
but the blessing may not be ripe, or we ourselves may not be fully
prepared to receive it. A blessing for which we are unprepared would
only be an untimely blessing, and like a December swallow, it would soon
die, without nest or brood. And sometimes the long delay is but a test
of faith, whetting and sharpening the desire, until our very life seems
to depend upon the granting of our prayer. So long as our prayers are
among the "may-be's" and "mights" there are fears and doubts alternating
with our hope and faith. But when the desires are intensified, and our
prayers rise into the "must-be's," then the answers are near at hand;
for that "must be" is the soul's Mahanaim, where the angels meet us, and
God Himself says "I will." Delays in our prayers are by no means
denials; they are often but the lengthened summer for the ripening of
our blessings, making them larger and more sweet.

And now we have only to consider, which we must do briefly, the practice
of Jesus, the place of prayer in His own life; and we shall find that in
every point it coincides exactly with His teaching. To us of the clouded
vision heaven is sometimes a hope more than a reality. It is an unseen
goal, luring us across the wilderness, and which one of these days we
may possess; but it is not to us as the wide-reaching, encircling sky,
throwing its sunshine into each day, and lighting up our nights with its
thousand lamps. To Jesus, heaven was more and nearer than it is to us.
He had left it behind; and yet He had not left it, for He speaks of
Himself, the Son of man, as being now in heaven. And so He was. His feet
were upon earth, at home amid its dust; but His heart, His truer life,
were all above. And how constant His correspondence, or rather
communion, with heaven! At first sight it appears strange to us that
Jesus should need the sustenance of prayer, or that He could even adopt
its language. But when He became the Son of man He voluntarily assumed
the needs of humanity; He emptied Himself, as the Apostle expresses a
great mystery, as if for the time divesting Himself of all Divine
prerogatives, choosing to live as man amongst men. And so Jesus prayed.
He was wont, even as we are, to refresh a wasted strength by draughts
from the celestial springs; and as Antæus, in his wrestling, recovered
himself as he touched the ground, so we find Jesus, in the great crises
of His life, falling back upon Heaven.

St. Luke, in his narrative of the Baptism, inserts one fact the other
Synoptists omit--that Jesus was in the act of prayer when the heavens
were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended, in the semblance of a dove,
upon Him. It is as if the opened heavens, the descending dove, and the
audible voice were but the answer to His prayer. And why not? Standing
on the threshold of His mission, would He not naturally ask that a
double portion of the Spirit might be His--that Heaven might put its
manifest seal upon that mission, if not for the confirmation of His own
faith, yet for that of His forerunner? At any rate, the fact is plain
that it was while He was in the act of prayer that He received that
second and higher baptism, even the baptism of the Spirit.

A second epoch in that Divine life was when Jesus formally instituted
the Apostleship, calling and initiating the Twelve into the closer
brotherhood. It was, so to speak, the appointment of a regency, who
should exercise authority and rule in the new kingdom, sitting, as Jesus
figuratively expresses it (xxii. 30), "on thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel." It is easy to see what tremendous issues were
involved in this appointment; for were these foundation-stones untrue,
warped by jealousies and vain ambitions, the whole superstructure would
have been weakened, thrown out of the square. And so before the
selection is made, a selection demanding such insight and foresight,
such a balancing of complementary gifts, Jesus devotes the whole night
to prayer, seeking the solitude of the mountain-height, and in the early
dawn coming down, with the dews of night upon His garment and with the
dews of heaven upon His soul, which, like crystals or lenses of light,
made the invisible visible and the distant near.

A third crisis in that Divine life was at the Transfiguration, when the
summit was reached, the borderline between earth and heaven, where, amid
celestial greetings and overshadowing clouds of glory, that sinless life
would have had its natural transition into heaven. And here again we
find the same coincidence of prayer. Both St. Mark and St. Luke state
that the "high mountain" was climbed for the express purpose of
communion with Heaven; they "went up into the mountain to pray." It is
only St. Luke, however, who states that it was "as He was praying" the
fashion of His countenance was altered, thus making the vision an
answer, or at least a corollary, to the prayer. He is at a point where
two ways meet: the one passes into heaven at once, from that high level
to which by a sinless life He has attained; the other path sweeps
suddenly downward to a valley of agony, a cross of shame, a tomb of
death; and after this wide _détour_ the heavenly heights are reached
again. Which path will He choose? If He takes the one He passes solitary
into heaven; if He takes the other He brings with Him a redeemed
humanity. And does not this give us, in a sort of echo, the burden of
His prayer? He finds the shadow of the cross thrown over this
heaven-lighted summit--for when Moses and Elias appear they would not
introduce a subject altogether new; they would in their conversation
strike in with the theme with which His mind is already preoccupied,
that is the decease He should accomplish at Jerusalem--and as the chill
of that shadow settles upon Him, causing the flesh to shrink and quiver
for a while, would He not seek for the strength He needs? Would He not
ask, as later, in the garden, that the cup might pass from Him; or if
that should not be possible, that His will might not conflict with the
Father's will, even for a passing moment? At any rate we may suppose
that the vision was, in some way, Heaven's answer to His prayer, giving
Him the solace and strengthening that He sought, as the Father's voice
attested His Sonship, and celestials came forth to salute the
Well-beloved, and to hearten Him on towards His dark goal.

Just so was it when Jesus kept His fourth watch in Gethsemane. What
Gethsemane was, and what its fearful agony meant, we shall consider in
a later chapter. It is enough for our present purpose to see how Jesus
consecrated that deep valley, as before He had consecrated the
Transfiguration height, to prayer. Leaving the three outside the veil of
the darkness, He passes into Gethsemane, as into another Holy of holies,
there to offer up for His own and for Himself the sacrifice of prayer;
while as our High Priest He sprinkles with His own blood, that blood of
the everlasting covenant, the sacred ground. And what prayer was that!
how intensely fervent! That if it were possible the dread cup might pass
from Him, but that either way the Father's will might be done! And that
prayer was the prelude to victory; for as the first Adam fell by the
assertion of self, the clashing of his will with God's, the second Adam
conquers by the total surrender of His will to the will of the Father.
The agony was lost in the acquiescence.

But it was not alone in the great crises of His life that Jesus fell
back upon Heaven. Prayer with Him was habitual, the fragrant atmosphere
in which He lived, and moved, and spoke. His words glide as by a natural
transition into its language, as a bird whose feet have lightly touched
the ground suddenly takes to its wings; and again and again we find Him
pausing in the weaving of His speech, to throw across the earthward warp
the heavenward woof of prayer. It was a necessity of His life; and if
the intrusive crowds allowed Him no time for its exercise, He was wont
to elude them, to find upon the mountain or in the desert His
prayer-chamber beneath the stars. And how frequently we read of His
"looking up to heaven" amid the pauses of His daily task! stopping
before He breaks the bread, and on the mirror of His upturned glance
leading the thoughts and thanks of the multitude to the All-Father, who
giveth to all His creatures their meat in due season; or pausing as He
works some impromptu miracle, before speaking the omnipotent
"Ephphatha," that on His upward look He may signal to the skies! And
what a light is turned upon His life and His relation to His disciples
by a simple incident that occurs on the night of the betrayal! Reading
the sign of the times, in His forecast of the dark to-morrow, He sees
the terrible strain that will be put upon Peter's faith, and which He
likens to a Satanic sifting. With prescient eye He sees the temporary
collapse; how, in the fierce heat of the trial, the "rock" will be
thrown into a state of flux; so weak and pliant, it will be all rippled
by agitation and unrest, or driven back at the mere breath of a
servant-girl. He says mournfully, "Simon, Simon, behold. Satan asked to
have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for
thee, that thy faith fail not" (xxii. 31). So completely does Jesus
identify Himself with His own, making their separate needs His care (for
this doubtless was no solitary case); but just as the High Priest
carried on his breastplate the twelve tribal names, thus bringing all
Israel within the light of Urim and Thummim, so Jesus carries within His
heart both the name and the need of each separate disciple, asking for
them in prayer what, perhaps, they have failed to ask for themselves.
Nor are the prayers of Jesus limited by any such narrow circle; they
compassed the world, lighting up all horizons; and even upon the cross,
amid the jeers and laughter of the crowd, He forgets His own agonies, as
with parched lips He prays for His murderers, "Father, forgive them; for
they know not what they do."

Thus, more than any son of man, did Jesus "pray without ceasing," "in
everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" making request
unto God. Shall we not copy His bright example? shall we not, too, live,
labour, and endure, as "seeing Him who is invisible"? He who lives a
life of prayer will never question its reality. He who sees God in
everything, and everything in God, will turn his life into a south land,
with upper and nether springs of blessing in ceaseless flow; for the
life that lies full heavenward lies in perpetual summer, in the eternal
noon.



CHAPTER XII.

_THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION._

LUKE vii. 1-10.


Our Evangelist prefaces the narrative of the healing of the centurion's
servant with one of his characteristic time-marks, the shadow upon his
dial-plate being the shadow of the new mount of God: "After He had ended
all His sayings in the ears of the people, He entered into Capernaum."
The language is unusually weighty, almost solemn, as if the Sermon on
the Mount were not so much a sermon as a manifesto, the formal
proclamation of the kingdom of heaven. Our word "ended," too, is
scarcely an equivalent of the original word, whose underlying idea is
that of fullness, completion. It is more than a full-stop to point a
sentence; it is a word that characterizes the sentence itself,
suggesting, if not implying, that these "sayings" of His formed a
complete and rounded whole, a body of moral and ethical truth which was
perfect in itself. The Mount of Beatitudes thus stands before us as the
Sinai of the New Testament, giving its laws to all peoples and to all
times. But how different the aspect of the two mounts! Then the people
dare not touch the mountain; now they press close up to the "Prophet
like unto Moses" to hear the word of God. Then the Law came in a cluster
of restrictions and negations; it now speaks in commands most positive,
in principles permanent as time itself; while from this new Sinai the
clouds have disappeared, the thunders ceased, leaving a sky serene and
bright, and a heaven which is strangely near.

Returning to Capernaum--which city, after the ejection from Nazareth,
became the home of Jesus, and the centre of His Galilean ministry--He
was met by a deputation of Jewish elders, who came to intercede with Him
on behalf of a centurion whose servant was lying dangerously ill and
apparently at the point of death. The narrative thus gives us, as its
_dramatis personæ_, the Sufferer, the Intercessor, and the Healer.

As we read the story our thought is arrested, and naturally so, by the
central figure. The imposing shadow of the centurion so completely fills
our range of vision that it throws into the background the nameless one
who in his secret chamber is struggling vainly in the tightening grip of
death. But who is he who can command such a service? around whose couch
is such a multitude of ministering feet? who is he whose panting breath
can throw over the heart of his master, and over his face, the
ripple-marks of a great sorrow, which sends hither and thither, as the
wind tosses the dry leaves, soldiers of the army, elders of the Jews,
friends of the master, and which makes even the feet of the Lord hasten
with His succour?

"And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and
at the point of death." Such is the brief sentence which describes a
character, and sums up the whole of an obscure life. We are not able to
define precisely his position, for the word leaves us in doubt whether
he were a slave or a servant of the centurion. Probably--if we may throw
the light of the whole narrative upon the word--he was a confidential
servant, living in the house of his master, on terms of more than usual
intimacy. What those terms were we may easily discover by opening out
the word "dear," reading its depths as well as its surface-meaning. In
its lower sense it means "valuable," "worth-y" (putting its ancient
accent upon the modern word). It sets the man, not over against the
tables of the Law, but against the law of the tables, weighing him in
the balances of trade, and estimating him by the scale of commercial
values. But in this meaner, worldly mode of reckoning he is not found
wanting. He is a servant proved and approved. Like Eliezer of old, he
has identified himself with his master's interests, listening for his
voice, and learning to read even the wishes which were unexpressed in
words. Adjusting his will to the higher will, like a vane answering the
currents of the wind, his hands, his feet, and his whole self have swung
round to fall into the unit of his master's purpose. Faithful in his
service, whether that service were under the master's eye or not, and
faithful alike in the great and the little things, he has entered into
his master's confidence, and so into his joy. Losing his own
personality, he is content to be something between a cipher and a unit,
only a "hand." But he is the master's right hand, strong and ever ready,
so useful as to be almost an integral part of the master's self, without
which the master's life would be incomplete and strangely bereaved. All
this we may learn from the lower meaning of the phrase "was dear unto
him."

But the word has a higher meaning, one that is properly rendered by our
"dear." It implies esteem, affection, transferring our thought from the
subject to the object, from the character of the servant to the
influence it has exerted upon the master, The word is thus an index, a
barometrical reading, measuring for us the pressure of that influence,
and recording for us the high sentiments of regard and affection it has
evoked. As the trees around the pond lean towards the water which laves
their roots, so the strong soul of the centurion, drawn by the
attractions of a lowly but a noble life, leans toward, until it leans
upon, his servant, giving him its confidence, its esteem and love, that
golden fruitage of the heart. That such was the mutual relation of the
master and the servant is evident, for Jesus, who read motives and heard
thoughts, would not so freely and promptly have placed His miraculous
power at the disposal of the centurion had his sorrow been only the
selfish sorrow of losing what was commercially valuable. To an appeal of
selfishness, though thrown forward and magnified by the sounding-boards
of all the synagogues, the ears of Jesus would have been perfectly deaf;
but when it was the cry of a genuine sorrow, the moan of a vicarious
pain, an unselfish, disinterested grief, then the ears of Jesus were
quick to hear, and His feet swift to respond.

It is impossible for us to define exactly what the sickness was, though
the statement of St. Matthew that it was "palsy," and that he was
"grievously tormented," would suggest that it might be an acute case of
inflammatory rheumatism. But whatever it might be, it was a most
painful, and as every one thought a mortal sickness, one that left no
room for hope, save this last hope in the Divine mercy. But what a
lesson is here for our times, as indeed for all times, the lesson of
humanity! How little does Heaven make of rank and station! Jesus does
not even see them; He ignores them utterly. To His mind Humanity is one,
and the broad lines of distinction, the impassable barriers Society is
fond of drawing or setting up, to Him are but imaginary meridians of the
sea, a name, but nothing more. It is but a nameless servant of a
nameless master, one, too, of many, for a hundred others are ready, with
military precision, to do that same master's will; but Jesus does not
hesitate. He who voluntarily took upon Himself the form of a servant, as
He came into the world "not to be ministered unto, but to minister," now
becomes the Servant of a servant, saying to him who knew only how to
obey, how to serve, "Here am I; command Me; use Me as thou wilt." All
service is honourable, if we serve not ourselves, but our fellows, and
it is doubly so if, serving man, we serve God too. As the sunshine looks
down into, and strews with flowers, the lowest vales, so the Divine
compassion falls on the lowliest lives, and the Divine grace makes them
sweet and beautiful. Christianity is the great leveller, but it levels
upwards, and if we possess the mind of Christ, His Spirit dwelling and
ruling within, we too, like the great Apostle, shall know no man after
the flesh; the accidents of birth, and rank, and fortune will sink back
into the trifles that they are; for however these may vary, it is an
eternal truth, though spoken by a son of the soil and the heather--

  "A man's a man for a' that."

It is not easy to tell how the seed-thought is borne into a heart, there
to germinate and ripen; for influences are subtle, invisible things.
Like the pollen of a flower, which may be carried on the antennæ of some
unconscious insect, or borne into the future by the passing breeze, so
influences which will yet ripen into character and make destinies are
thrown off unconsciously from our common deeds, or they are borne on
the wings of the chance, casual word. The case of the centurion is no
exception. By what steps he has been brought into the clearer light we
cannot tell, but evidently this Pagan officer is now a proselyte to the
Hebrew faith and worship, the window of his soul open towards Jerusalem,
while his professional life still looks towards Rome, as he renders to
Cæsar the allegiance and service which are Cæsar's due. And what a
testimony it is to the vitality and reproductive power of the Hebrew
faith, that it should boast of at least three centurions, in the
imperial ranks, of whom Scripture makes honourable mention--one at
Capernaum; another, Cornelius, at Cæsarea, whose prayers and alms were
had in remembrance of Heaven; and the third in Jerusalem, witnessing a
good confession upon Calvary, and proclaiming within the shadow of the
cross the Divinity of the Crucified. It shows how the Paganism of Rome
failed to satisfy the aspirations of the soul, and how Mars, red and
lurid through the night, paled and disappeared at the rising of the Sun.

Although identifying himself with the religious life of the city, the
centurion had not yet had any personal interview with Jesus. Possibly
his military duties prevented his attendance at the synagogue, so that
he had not seen the cures Jesus there wrought upon the demoniac and the
man with the withered hand. The report of them, however, must soon have
reached him, intimate as he was with the officials of the synagogue;
while the nobleman, the cure of whose sick son is narrated by St. John
(iv. 46), would probably be amongst his personal friends, an
acquaintance at any rate. The centurion "heard" of Jesus, but he could
not have heard had not some one spoken of Him. The Christ was borne
into his mind and heart on the breath of common speech; that is, the
little human word grew into the Divine Word. It was the verbal testimony
as to what Jesus had done that now led to the still greater things He
was prepared to do. And such is the place and power of testimony to-day.
It is the most persuasive, the most effective form of speech. Testimony
will often win where argument has failed, and gold itself is
all-powerless to extend the frontiers of the heavenly kingdom until it
is melted down and exchanged for the higher currency of speech. It is
first the human voice crying in the wilderness, and then the incarnate
Word, whose coming makes the wilderness to be glad, and the desert
places of life to sing. And so, while a sword of flame guards the
Paradise Lost, it is a "tongue" of flame, that symbol of a perpetual
Pentecost, which calls man back, redeemed now, to the Paradise Restored.
If Christians would only speak more for Christ; if, shaking off that
foolish reserve, they would in simple language testify to what they
themselves have seen, and known, and experienced, how rapidly would the
kingdom come, the kingdom for which we pray, indeed, but for which,
alas, we are afraid to speak! Nations then would be born in a day, and
the millennium, instead of being the distant or the forlorn hope it is,
would be a speedy realization. We should be in the fringe of it
directly. It is said that on one of the Alpine glaciers the guides
forbid travellers to speak, lest the mere tremor of the human voice
should loosen and bring down the deadly avalanche. Whether this be so or
not, it was some unnamed voice that now sent the centurion to Christ,
and brought the Christ to him.

It was probably a sudden relapse, with increased paroxysms of pain, on
the part of the sufferer, which now decided the centurion to make his
appeal to Jesus, sending a deputation of Jewish elders, as the day was
on the wane, to the house to which Jesus had now returned. They make
their request that "He would come and save the servant of the centurion,
who was now lying at the point of death." True advocates, and skilful,
were these elders. They made the centurion's cause their own, as if
their hearts had caught the rhythmic beat of his great sorrow, and when
Jesus held back a little--as He often did, to test the intensity of the
desire and the sincerity of the suppliant--"they besought Him
earnestly," or "kept on beseeching," as the tense of the verb would
imply, crowning their entreaty with the plea, "He is worthy that Thou
shouldest do this, for he loveth our nation, and himself built us our
synagogue." Possibly they feared--putting a Hebrew construction upon His
sympathies--that Jesus would demur, and perhaps refuse, because their
client was a foreigner. They did not know, what we know so well, that
the mercy of Jesus was as broad as it was deep, knowing no bounds where
its waves of blessing are stayed. But how forceful and prevalent was
their plea! Though they knew it not, these elders do but ask Jesus to
illustrate the words He has just spoken, "Give, and it shall be given
unto you." And had not Jesus laid this down as one of the laws of mercy,
that action and reaction are equal? Had He not been describing the orbit
in which blessings travel, showing that though its orbit be apparently
eccentric at times, like the boomerang, that wheels round and comes back
to the hand that threw it forward, the mercy shown will eventually come
back to him who showed it, with a wealth of heavenly usury? And so
their plea was the one of all others to be availing. It was the precept
of the mount evolved into practice. It was, "Bless him, for he has
richly blessed us. He has opened his hand, showering his favours upon
us; do Thou open Thine hand now, and show him that the God of the
Hebrews is a God who hears, and heeds, and helps."

It has been thought, from the language of the elders, that the synagogue
built by the centurion was the only one that Capernaum possessed; for
they speak of it as "the" synagogue. But this does not follow, and
indeed it is most improbable. They might still call it "the" synagogue,
not because it was the only one, but because it was the one foremost and
uppermost in their thought, the one in which they were particularly
interested. The definite article no more proves this to be the only
synagogue in Capernaum than the phrase "the house" (ver. 10) proves the
house of the centurion to be the only house of the city. The fact is
that in the Gospel age Capernaum was a busy and important place, as
shown by its possessing a garrison of soldiers, and by its being the
place of custom, situated as it was on the great highway of trade. And
if Jerusalem could boast of four hundred synagogues, and Tiberias--a
city not even named by the Synoptists--fourteen, Capernaum certainly
would possess more than one. Indeed, had Capernaum been the
insignificant village that one synagogue would imply, then, instead of
deserving the bitter woes Jesus pronounced upon it, it would have
deserved the highest commendation, as the most fruitful field in all His
ministry, giving Him, besides other disciples, a ruler of the Jews and
the commandant of the garrison. That it deserved such bitter "woes"
proves that Capernaum had a population both dense and, in the general,
hostile to Jesus, compared with which His friends and adherents were a
feeble few.

In spite of the negative manner Jesus purposely showed at the first, He
fully intended to grant all the elders had asked, and allowing them now
to guide Him, He "went with them." When, however, they were come near
the house, the centurion sent other "friends" to intercept Jesus, and to
urge Him not to take any further trouble. The message, which they
deliver in the exact form in which it was given to them, is so
characteristic and exquisitely beautiful that it is best to give it
entire: "Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou
shouldest come under my roof: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy
to come unto Thee: but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For
I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I
say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh;
and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it."

The narrative of St. Matthew differs slightly from that of St. Luke, in
that he omits all reference to the two deputations, speaking of the
interview as being personal with the centurion. But St. Matthew's is
evidently an abbreviated narrative, and he passes over the
intermediaries, in accordance with the maxim that he who acts through
another does it _per se_. But both agree as to the terms of the message,
a message which is at once a marvel and a rebuke to us, and one which
was indeed deserving of being twice recorded and eulogized in the pages
of the Gospels.

And how the message reveals the man, disclosing as in a transparency the
character of this nameless foreigner! We have already seen how broad
were his sympathies, and how generous his deeds, as he makes room in
his large heart for a conquered and despised people, at his own cost
building a temple for the exercises of their faith. We have seen, too,
what a wealth of tenderness and benevolence was hiding beneath a
somewhat stern exterior, in his affection for a servant, and his anxious
solicitude for that servant's health. But now we see in the centurion
other graces of character, that set him high amongst those "outside
saints" who worshipped in the outer courts, until such time as the veil
of the Temple was rent in twain, and the way into the Holiest was opened
for all. And what a beautiful humility is here! what an absence of
assumption or of pride! Occupying an honoured position, representing in
his own person an empire which was world-wide, surrounded by troops of
friends, and by all the comforts wealth could buy, accustomed to speak
in imperative, if not in imperious ways, yet as he turns towards Jesus
it is with a respectful, yea, a reverential demeanour. He feels himself
in the presence of some Higher Being, an unseen but august Cæsar. Nay,
not in His presence either, for into that audience-chamber he feels that
he has neither the fitness nor the right to intrude. All that he can do
is to send forward his petition by the hands of worthier advocates, who
have access to Him, while he himself keeps back out of sight, with bared
feet standing by the outer gate. Others can speak well and highly of
him, recounting his noble deeds, but of himself he has nothing good to
say; he can only speak of self in terms of disparagement, as he
emphasizes his littleness, his unworthiness. Nor was it with him the
conventional hyperbole of Eastern manners; it was the language of
deepest, sincerest truth, when he said that he was not worthy even to
speak with Christ, or to receive such a Guest beneath his roof. Between
himself and the One he reverently addressed as "Lord" there was an
infinite distance; for one was human, while the Other was Divine.

And what a rare and remarkable faith! In his thought Jesus is an
Imperator, commanding all forces, as He rules the invisible realms. His
will is supreme over all substances, across all distances. "Thou hast no
need, Lord, to take any trouble about my poor request. There is no
necessity that Thou shouldest take one step, or even lift up a finger;
Thou hast only to speak the word, and it is done;" and then he gives
that wonderfully graphic illustration borrowed from his own military
life.

The passage "For I also am a man set under authority" is generally
rendered as referring to his own subordinate position under the
Chiliarch. But such a rendering, as it seems to us, breaks the
continuity of thought, and grammatically is scarcely accurate. The whole
passage is an amplification and description of the "word" of ver. 7, and
the "also" introduces something the centurion and Jesus possess in
common, _i.e._, the power to command; for the "I also" certainly
corresponds with the "Thou" which is implied, but not expressed. But the
centurion did not mean to imply that Jesus possessed only limited,
delegated powers; this was farthest from his thought, and formed no part
of the comparison. But let the clause "I also am a man set under
authority" be rendered, not as referring to the authority which is above
him, but to that which is _upon_ him--"I also am vested with authority,"
or "Authority is put upon me"--and the meaning becomes clear. The "also"
is no longer warped into an ungrammatical meaning, introducing a
contrast rather than a likeness; while the clause which follows, "having
under myself soldiers," takes its proper place as an enlargement and
explanation of the "authority" with which the centurion is invested.

The centurion speaks in a soldierly way. There is a crispness and
sharpness about his tones--that shibboleth of militaryism. He says, "My
word is all-powerful in the ranks which I command. I have but to say
'Come,' or 'Go,' and my word is instantly obeyed. The soldier upon whose
ear it falls dare not hesitate, any more than he dare refuse. He 'goes'
at my word, anywhither, on some forlorn hope it may be, or to his
grave." And such is the obedience, instant and absolute, that military
service demands. The soldier must not question, he must obey; he must
not reason, he must act; for when the word of command--that leaded word
of authority--falls upon his ear, it completely fills his soul, and
makes him deaf to all other, meaner voices.

Such was the thought in the centurion's mind, and from the "go" and
"come" of military authority to the higher "word" of Jesus the
transition is easy. But how strong the faith that could give to Jesus
such an enthronement, that could clothe His word with such superhuman
power! Yonder, in his secluded chamber, lies the sufferer, his nerves
quivering in their pain, while the mortal sickness physicians and
remedies have all failed to touch, much less to remove, has dragged him
close up to the gate of death. But this "word" of Jesus shall be
all-sufficient. Spoken here and now, it shall pass over the intervening
streets and through the interposing walls and doors; it shall say to
these demons of evil, "Loose him, and let him go," and in a moment the
torturing pain shall cease, the fluttering heart shall resume its
healthy, steady beat, the rigid muscles shall become pliant as before,
while through arteries and veins the life-blood--its poison all
extracted now--shall regain its healthful, quiet flow. The centurion
believed all this of the "word" of Jesus, and even more. In his heart it
was a word all-potent, if not omnipotent, like to the word of Him who
"spake, and it was done," who "commanded, and it stood fast." And if the
word of Jesus in these realms of life and death was so imperative and
all-commanding, could the Christ Himself be less than Divine?

To find such confidence reposed in Himself was to Jesus something new;
and to find this rarest plant of faith growing up on Gentile soil was a
still greater marvel and turning to the multitude which clustered thick
and eager around, He said to them, "I have not found so great faith, no,
not in Israel." And commending the centurion's faith, He honours it too,
doing all he requested, and even more, though without the "word." Jesus
does not even say "I will," or "Be it so," but He works the instant and
perfect cure by a mere volition. He wills it, and it is done, so that
when the friends returned to the house they found the servant "whole."

Of the sequel we know nothing. We do not even read that Jesus saw the
man at whose faith He had so marvelled. But doubtless He did, for His
heart was drawn strangely to him, and doubtless He gave to him many of
those "words" for which his soul had longed and listened, words in which
were held, as in solution, all authority and all truth. And doubtless,
too, in the after-years, Jesus crowned that life of faithful but unnoted
service with the higher "word," the heavenly "Well done."



CHAPTER XIII.

_THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET._

LUKE vii. 36-50.


Whether the narrative of the Anointing is inserted in its chronological
order we cannot say, for the Evangelist gives us no word by which we may
recognize either its time or its place-relation; but we can easily see
that it falls into the story artistically, with a singular fitness.
Going back to the context, we find Jesus pronouncing a high eulogium
upon John the Baptist. Hereupon the Evangelist adds a statement of his
own, calling attention to the fact that even John's ministry failed to
reach and influence the Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected the counsel
of God, and declined the baptism of His messenger. Then Jesus, in one of
His brief but exquisite parables, sketches the character of the
Pharisees. Recalling a scene of the market-place, where the children
were accustomed to play at "weddings" and "funerals"--which, by the way,
are the only games at which the children of the land play to-day--and
where sometimes the play was spoiled and stopped by some of the children
getting into a pet, and lapsing into a sullen silence, Jesus says that
is just a picture of the childish perversity of the Pharisees. They
respond neither to the mourning of the one nor to the music of the
other, but because John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine,
they can him a maniac, and say, "He hath a devil;" while of Jesus, who
has no ascetic ways, but mingles in the gatherings of social life, a Man
amongst men, they say, "Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a
friend of publicans and sinners." And having recorded this, our
Evangelist inserts, as an appropriate sequel, the account of the supper
in the Pharisee's house, with its idyllic interlude, played by a woman's
hand, a narrative which shows how Wisdom is justified of all her
children, and how these condescensions of Jesus, His intercourse with
even those who were ceremonially or morally unclean, were both proper
and beautiful.

It was in one of the Galilean towns, perhaps at Nain, where Jesus was
surprised at receiving an invitation to the house of a Pharisee. Such
courtesies on the part of a class who prided themselves on their
exclusiveness, and who were bitterly intolerant of all who were outside
their narrow circle, were exceptional and rare. Besides, the teaching of
Jesus was diametrically opposed to the leaven of the Pharisees. Between
the caste of the one and the Catholicism of the other was a wide gulf of
divergence. To Jesus the heart was everything, and the outflowing issues
were coloured by its hues; to the Pharisees the hand, the outward touch,
was more than heart, and contact more than conduct. Jesus laid a Divine
emphasis upon character; the cleanness He demanded was moral cleanness,
purity of heart; that of the Pharisees was a ceremonial cleanness, the
avoidance of things which were under a ceremonial ban. And so they
magnified the jots and tittles, scrupulously tithing their mint and
anise, while they overlooked completely the moralities of the heart,
and reduced to a mere nothing those grander virtues of mercy and of
justice. Between the Separatists and Jesus there was therefore constant
friction, which afterwards developed into open hostility; and while they
ever sought to damage Him with opprobrious epithets, and to bring His
teaching into disrepute, He did not fail to expose their hollowness and
insincerity, tearing off the veneer with which they sought to hide the
brood of viperous things their creed had gendered, and to hurl against
their whited sepulchres His indignant "woes."

It would almost seem as if Jesus hesitated in accepting the invitation,
for the tense of the verb "desired" implies that the request was
repeated. Possibly other arrangements had been made, or perhaps Jesus
sought to draw out and test the sincerity of the Pharisee, who in kind
and courteous words offered his hospitality. The hesitation would
certainly not arise from any reluctance on His part, for Jesus refused
no open door; he welcomed any opportunity of influencing a soul. As the
shepherd of His own parable went over the mountainous paths in quest of
his lone, lost sheep, so Jesus was glad to risk unkind aspersions, and
to bear the "fierce light" of hostile, questioning eyes, if He might but
rescue a soul, and win some erring one back to virtue and to truth.

The character of the host we cannot exactly determine. The narrative
lights up his features but indistinctly, for the nameless "sinner" is
the central object of the picture, while Simon stands in the background,
out of focus, and so somewhat veiled in obscurity. To many he appears as
the cold and heartless censor, distant and haughty, seeking by the guile
of hospitality to entrap Jesus, hiding behind the mask of friendship
some dark and sinister motive. But such deep shadows are cast by our own
thoughts rather than by the narrative; they are the random "guesses
after truth," instead of the truth itself. It will be noticed that Jesus
does not impugn in the least his motive in proffering his hospitality;
and this, though but a negative evidence, is not without its weight,
when on a similar occasion the evil motive was brought to light. The
only charge laid against him--if charge it be--was the omission of
certain points of etiquette that Eastern hospitality was accustomed to
observe, and even here there is nothing to show that Jesus was treated
differently from the other invited guests. The omission, while it failed
to single out Jesus for special honour, might still mean no disrespect;
and at the most it was a breach of manners, deportment, rather than of
morals, just one of those lapses Jesus was most ready to overlook and
forgive. We shall form a juster estimate of the man's character if we
regard him as a seeker after truth. Evidently he has felt a drawing
towards Jesus; indeed, ver. 47 would almost imply that he had received
some personal benefit at His hands. Be this as it may, he is desirous of
a closer and a freer intercourse. His mind is perplexed, the balances of
his judgment swinging in alternate and opposite ways. A new problem has
presented itself to him, and in that problem is one factor he cannot yet
value. It is the unknown quantity, Jesus of Nazareth. Who is He? what is
He? A prophet--the Prophet--the Christ? Such are the questions running
through his mind--questions which must be answered soon, as his thoughts
and opinions have ripened into convictions. And so he invites Jesus to
his house and board, that in the nearer vision and the unfettered
freedom of social intercourse he may solve the great enigma. Nay, he
invites Jesus with a degree of earnestness, putting upon Him the
constraint of a great desire; and leaving his heart open to conviction,
ready to embrace the truth as soon as he recognizes it to be truth, he
flings open the door of his hospitalities, though in so doing he shakes
the whole fabric of Pharisaic exclusiveness and sanctity. Seeking after
truth, the truth finds him.

There was a simplicity and freeness in the social life of the East which
our Western civilization can scarcely understand. The door of the
guest-chamber was left open, and the uninvited, even comparative
strangers, were allowed to pass in and out during the entertainment; or
they might take their seats by the wall, as spectators and listeners. It
was so here. No sooner have the guests taken their places, reclining
around the table, their bared feet projecting behind them, than the
usual drift of the uninvited set in, amongst whom, almost unnoticed in
the excitements of the hour, was "a woman of the city." Simon in his
soliloquy speaks of her as "a sinner;" but had we his testimony only, we
should hesitate in giving to the word its usually received meaning; for
"sinner" was a pet term of the Pharisees, applied to all who were
outside their circle, and even to Jesus Himself. But when our
Evangelist, in describing her character, makes use of the same word, we
can only interpret the "sinner" in one way, in its sensual, depraved
meaning. And with this agrees the phrase "a woman which was in the
city," which seems to indicate the loose relations of her too-public
life.

Bearing in her hand "an alabaster cruse of ointment," for a purpose
which soon became apparent, she passed over to the place where Jesus
sat, and stood directly behind Him. Accustomed as she had been to hide
her deeds in the veil of darkness, nothing but the current of a deep
emotion could have carried her thus through the door of the
guest-chamber, setting her, alone of her sex, full in the glare of the
lamps and the light of scornful eyes; and no sooner has she reached her
goal than the storm of the heart breaks in a rain of tears, which fall
hot and fast upon the feet of the Master. This, however, is no part of
her plan; they were impromptu tears she could not restrain; and
instantly she stoops down, and with the loosened tresses of her hair she
wipes His feet, kissing them passionately as she did so. There is a
delicate meaning in the construction of the Greek verb, "she began to
wet His feet with her tears;" it implies that the action was not
continued, as when afterwards she "anointed" His feet. It was momentary,
instantaneous, checked soon as it was discovered. Then pouring from her
flask the fragrant nard, she proceeded with loving, leisurely haste to
anoint His feet, until the whole chamber was redolent of the sweet
perfume.

But what is the meaning of this strange episode, this "song without
words," struck by the woman's hands as from a lyre of alabaster? It was
evidently something determined, prearranged. The phrase "when she knew
that He was sitting at meat" means something more than she "heard." Her
knowledge as to where Jesus was had not come to her in a casual way, in
the vagrant gossip of the town; it had come by search and inquiry on her
part, as if the plan were already determined, and she were eager to
carry it out. The cruse of ointment that she brings also reveals the
settled resolve that she came on purpose, and she came only, to anoint
the feet of Jesus. The word, too, rendered "she brought" has a deeper
meaning than our translation conveys. It is a word that is used in ten
other passages of the New Testament, where it is invariably rendered
"receive," or "received," referring to something received as a wage, or
as a gift, or as a prize. Used here in the narrative, it implies that
the cruse of ointment had not been bought; it was something she had
received as a gift, or possibly as the wages of her sin. And not only
was it prearranged, part of a deliberate intention, but evidently it was
not displeasing to Jesus. He did not resent it. He gives Himself up
passively to the woman's will. He allows her to touch, and even to kiss
His feet, though He knows that to society she is a moral leper, and that
her fragrant ointment is possibly the reward of her shame. We must,
then, look behind the deed to the motive. To Jesus the ointment and the
tears were full of meaning, eloquent beyond any power of words. Can we
discover that meaning, and read why they were so welcome? We think we
may.

And here let us say that Simon's thoughts were perfectly natural and
correct, with no word or tone that we can censure. Canon Farrar, it is
true, detects in the "This man" with which he speaks of Jesus a
"supercilious scorn;" but we fail to see the least scorn, or even
disrespect, for the pronoun Simon uses is the identical word used by St.
Matthew (Matt. iii. 3), of John the Baptist, when he says, "_This_ is he
that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias," and the word of the "voice
from heaven" which said, "_This_ is My beloved Son" (Matt. iii. 17).
That the woman was a sinner Simon knew well; and would not Jesus know it
too, if He were a prophet? Doubtless He would; but as Simon marks no
sign of disapproval upon the face of Jesus, the enigmatical "if" grows
larger in his mind, and he begins to think that Jesus has scarcely the
keen insight--the power of seeing through things--that a true prophet
would have. Simon's reasoning was right, but his facts were wrong. He
imagined that Jesus did not know "who and what manner of woman" this
was; whereas Jesus knew more than he, for He knew not only the past of
shame, but a present of forgiveness and hope.

And what did the tears and the ointment mean, that Jesus should receive
them so readily, and that He should speak of them so approvingly? The
parable Jesus spoke to Simon will explain it. "Simon, I have somewhat to
say unto thee," said Jesus, answering his thoughts--for He had heard
them--by words. And falling naturally into the parabolic form of
speech--as He did when He wanted to make His meaning more startling and
impressive--He said, "A certain money-lender had two debtors: the one
owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. When they had not
wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will
love him most?" A question to which Simon could promptly answer, "He, I
suppose, to whom he forgave the most." It is clear, then, whatever
others might see in the woman's deed, that Jesus read in it the
expression of her love, and that He accepted it as such; the tears and
outpoured ointment were the broken utterances of an affection which was
too deep for words. But if her offering--as it certainly was--was the
gift of love, how shall we explain her tears? for love, in the presence
of the beloved, does not weep so passionately, indeed does not weep at
all, except, it may be, tears of joy, or tears of a mutual sorrow. In
this way: As the wind blows landward from the sea, the mountain ranges
cool the clouds, and cause them to unlock their treasures, in the
fertile and refreshing rains; so in the heart of this "sinner" a cloud
of recollections is blown up suddenly from her dark past; the memories
of her shame--even though that shame be now forgiven--sweep across her
soul with resistless force, for penitence does not end when forgiveness
is assured; and as she finds herself in the presence of Infinite Purity,
what wonder that the heart's great deeps are broken up, and that the
wild storm of conflicting emotions within should find relief in a rain
of tears? Tears of penitence they doubtless were, bitter with the sorrow
and the shame of years of guilt; but they were tears of gratitude and
holy love as well, all suffused and brightened by the touch of mercy and
the light of hope. And so the passionate weeping was no acted grief, no
hysterical tempest; it was the perfectly natural accompaniment of
profound emotion, that storm of mingled but diverse elements which now
swept through her soul. Her tears, like the dew-drops that hang upon
leaf and flower, were wrought in the darkness, fashioned by the Night,
and at the same time they were the jewels that graced the robe of a new
dawn, the dawn of a better, a purer life.

But how came this new affection within her heart, an affection so deep
that it must have tears and anointings for its expression--this new
affection, which has become a pure and holy passion, and which breaks
through conventional bonds, as it has broken through the old habits, the
ill usages of a life? Jesus Himself traces for us this affection to its
source. He tells us--for the parable is all meaningless unless we
recognize in the five-hundred-pence debtor the sinning woman--that her
great love grows out of her great forgiveness, a past forgiveness too,
for Jesus speaks of the change as already accomplished: "Her sins, which
were many, are (have been) forgiven." And here we touch an unwritten
chapter of the Divine life; for as the woman's love flows up around
Jesus, casting its treasures at His feet, so the forgiveness must first
have come from Jesus. His voice it must have been which said, "Let there
be light," and which turned the chaos of her dark soul into another
Paradise. At any rate, she thinks she owes to Him her all. Her new
creation, with its deliverance from the tyrannous past; her new joys and
hopes, the spring-blossom of a new and heavenly existence; the conscious
purity which has now taken the place of lust--she owes all to the word
and power of Jesus. But when this change took place, or when, in the
great transit, this Venus of the moral firmament passed across the disc
of the Sun, we do not know. St. John inserts in his story one little
incident, which is like a piece of mosaic dropped out from the Gospels
of the Synoptists, of a woman who was taken in her sin and brought to
Jesus. And when the hands of her accusers were not clean enough to cast
the first stone, but they shrank one by one out of sight,
self-condemned, Jesus bade the penitent one to "go in peace, and sin no
more."[2] Are the two characters identical? and does the forgiven one,
dismissed into peace, now return to bring to her Saviour her offering of
gratitude and love? We can only say that such an identification is at
least possible, and more so far than the improbable identification of
tradition, which confounds this nameless "sinner" with Mary Magdalene,
which is an assumption perfectly baseless and most unlikely.

  [2] The narrative is of doubtful authenticity; but even should it be
  proved to be a postscript by some later scribe, it would still point to
  a tradition, which, as Stier says, was "well founded and genuine."

And so in this erring one, who now puts her crown of fragrance upon the
feet of Jesus, since she is unworthy to put it upon His head, we see a
penitent and forgiven soul. Somewhere Jesus found her, out on the
forbidden paths, the paths of sin, which, steep and slippery, lead down
to death; His look arrested her, for it cast within her heart the light
of a new hope; His presence, which was the embodiment of a purity
infinite and absolute, shot through her soul the deep consciousness and
conviction of her guilt; and doubtless upon her ears had fallen the
words of the great absolution and the Divine benediction, "Thy sins are
all forgiven; go in peace," words which to her made all things new--a
new heart within, and a new earth around. And now, regenerate and
restored, the sad past forgiven, all the currents of her thought and
life reversed, the love of sin turned into a perfect loathing, her
language, spoken in tears, kisses, and fragrant nard, is the language of
the Psalmist, "O Lord, I will praise Thee; for though Thou wast angry
with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me." It was
the _Magnificat_ of a forgiven and a loving soul.

Simon had watched the woman's actions in silence, though in evident
displeasure. He would have resented her touch, and have forbade even her
presence; but found under his roof, she became in a certain sense a
guest, shielded by the hospitable courtesies of Eastern life. But if he
said nothing, he thought much, and his thoughts were hard and bitter. He
looked upon the woman as a moral leper, an outcast. There was
defilement in her touch, and he would have shaken it off from him as if
it were a viper, fit only to be cast into the fire of a burning
indignation. Now Jesus must teach him a lesson, and throw his thoughts
back upon himself. And first He teaches him that there is forgiveness
for sin, even the sin of uncleanness; and in this we see the bringing in
of a better hope. The Law said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall surely
die;" it shall be cut off from the people of Israel. The Law had but one
voice for the adulterer and adulteress, the voice which was the knell of
a sharp and fearful doom, without reprieve or mercy of any kind. It cast
upon them the deadly rain of stones, as if it would hurl a whole Sinai
upon them. But Jesus comes to man with a message of mercy and of hope.
He proclaims a deliverance from the sin, and a pardon for the sinner;
nay, He offers Himself, as at once the Forgiver of sin and the Saviour
from sin. Let Him but see it repented of; let Him but see the tears of
penitence, or hear the sighs of a broken and contrite heart, and He
steps forward at once to deliver and to save. The valley of Achor, where
the Law sets up its memorial of shame, Jesus turns into a door of hope.
He speaks life where the Law spoke death; He offers hope where the Law
gave but despair; and where exacting Law gave pains and fearful
punishment only, the Mediator of the New Covenant, to the penitent
though erring ones, spoke pardon and peace, even the perfect peace, the
eternal peace.

And Jesus teaches Simon another lesson. He teaches him to judge himself,
and not either by his own fictitious standard, by the Pharisaic table of
excellence, but by the Divine standard. Holding up as a mirror the
example of the woman, Jesus gives to Simon a portrait of his own self,
as seen in the heavenly light, all shrunken and dwarfed, the large "I"
of Pharisaic complacency becoming, in comparison, small indeed. Turning
to the woman, He said unto Simon, "Seest thou this woman?" (And Simon
had not seen her; he had only seen her shadow, the shadow of her sinful
past). "I entered into thine house; thou gavest Me no water for My feet:
but she hath wetted My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her
hair. Thou gavest Me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath
not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but
she hath anointed My feet with ointment." It is a problem of the
pronouns, in which the "I" being given, it is desired to find the
relative values of "thou" and "she." And how beautifully does Jesus work
it out, according to the rules of Divine proportions! With what
antithetical skill does He make His comparison, or rather His contrast!
"_Thou_ gavest me _no water_ for My feet; _she_ hath wetted My feet with
her _tears_, and wiped them with her hair. _Thou_ gavest me _no kiss_:
she hath not ceased _to kiss my feet_. My _head_ with _oil thou_ didst
not anoint: _she_ hath anointed My _feet_ with _ointment_."

And so Jesus sets over against the omissions of Simon the loving and
lavish attentions of the woman; and while reproving him, not for a lack
of civility, but for a want of heartiness in his reception of Himself,
He shows how deep and full run the currents of her affection, breaking
through the banks and bounds of conventionality in their sweet overflow,
while as yet the currents of his love were intermittent, shallow, and
somewhat cold. He does not denounce _this_ Simon as having no part or
lot in this matter. No; He even credits him with a little love, as He
speaks of him as a pardoned, justified soul. And it was true. The heart
of Simon had been drawn toward Jesus, and in the urgent invitation and
these proffered hospitalities we can discern a nascent affection. His
love is yet but in the bud. It is there, a thing of life; but it is
confined, constrained, and lacking the sweetness of the ripened and
opened flower. Jesus does not cut off the budding affection, and cast it
out amongst the withered and dead things, but sprinkling it with the dew
of His speech, and throwing upon it the sunshine of His approving look,
He leaves it to develop, ripening into an after-harvest of fragrance and
of beauty. And why was Simon's love more feeble and immature than that
of the woman? First, because he did not see so much in Jesus as she did.
He was yet stumbling over the "if," with some lingering doubts as to
whether He were "the prophet;" to her He is more than a "prophet," even
her Lord and her Saviour, covering her past with a mantle of mercy, and
opening within her heart a heaven. Then, too, Simon's forgiveness was
not so great as hers. Not that any forgiveness can be less than entire;
for when Heaven saves it is not a salvation by instalments--certain sins
remitted, while others are held back uncancelled. But Simon's views of
sin were not so sharp and vivid as were those of the woman. The
atmosphere of Phariseeism in its moral aspects was hazy; it magnified
human virtues, and created all sorts of illusive mirages of
self-righteousness and reputed holiness, and doubtless Simon's vision
had been impaired by the refracting atmosphere of his creed. The
greatness of our salvation is ever measured by the greatness of our
danger and our guilt. The heavier the burden and weight of condemnation,
the deeper is the peace and the higher are the ecstasies of joy when
that condemnation is removed. Shall we say, then, "We must sin more,
that love may more abound"? Nay, we need not, we must not; for as Godet
says, "What is wanting to the best of us, in order to love much, is not
sin, but the knowledge of it." And this deeper knowledge of sin, the
more vivid realization of its guilt, its virulence, its
all-pervasiveness, comes just in proportion as we approach Christ.
Standing close up to the cross, feeling the mortal agonies of Him whose
death was necessary as sin's atonement, in that vivid light of redeeming
love even the strict moralist, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, could
speak of himself as the "chief" of sinners.

The lesson was over, and Jesus dismissed the woman--who, with her empty
alabaster flask, had lingered at the feast, and who had heard all the
conversation--with the double assurance of pardon: "Thy sins are
forgiven; thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." And such is the
Divine order everywhere and always--Faith, Love, Peace. Faith is the
procuring cause, or the condition of salvation; love and peace are its
after-fruits; for without faith, love would be only fear, and peace
itself would be unrest.

She went in peace, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding;"
but she left behind her the music of her tears and the sweet fragrance
of her deed, a fragrance and a music which have filled the whole world,
and which, floating across the valley of death, will pass up into heaven
itself!

There was still one little whisper of murmuring, or questioning rather;
for the guests were startled by the boldness of His words, and asked
among themselves, "Who is this that even forgiveth sins?" But it will be
noticed that Simon himself is no longer among the questioners, the
doubters. Jesus is to him "the Prophet," and more than a prophet, for
who can forgive sins but God alone? And though we hear no more of him or
of his deeds, we may rest assured that his conquered heart was given
without reserve to Jesus, and that he too learned to love with a true
affection, even with the "perfect love," which "casteth out fear."



CHAPTER XIV.

_THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER._

LUKE viii. 1-18.


In a single parenthetical sentence our Evangelist indicates a marked
change in the mode of the Divine ministry. Hitherto "His own city,"
Capernaum, has been a sort of centre, from which the lines of light and
blessing have radiated. Now, however, He leaves Capernaum, and makes a
circuit through the province of Galilee, going through its cities and
villages in a systematic, and as the verb would imply, a leisurely way,
preaching the "good tidings of the kingdom of God." Though no mention is
made of them, we are not to suppose that miracles were suspended; but
evidently they were set in the background, as secondary things, the
by-plays or "asides" of the Divine Teacher, who now is intent upon
delivering His message, the last message, too, that they would hear from
Him. Accompanying Him, and forming an imposing demonstration, were His
twelve disciples, together with "many" women, who ministered unto them
of their substance, among whom were three prominent ones, probably
persons of position and influence--Mary of Magdala, Joanna, wife of
Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, who had been healed by Jesus of
"evil spirits and infirmities"--which last word, in New Testament
language, is a synonym for physical weakness and disorder. Of the
particulars and results of this mission we know nothing, unless we may
see, in the "great multitude" which followed and thronged Jesus on His
return, the harvest reaped from the Galilean hills. Our Evangelist, at
any rate, links them together, as if the "great multitude" which now
lines the shore was, in part at least, the cloud of eager souls which
had been caught up and borne along on His fervid speech, as the echoes
of the kingdom went resounding among the hills and vales of Galilee.

Returning to Capernaum, whither the crowds follow Him, every city
sending its contingent of curious or conquered souls, Jesus, as St.
Matthew and St. Mark inform us, leaves the house, and seeks the open
stretch of shore, where from a boat--probably the familiar boat of
Simon--He addresses the multitudes, adopting now, as His favourite mode
of speech, the amplified parable. It is probable that He had observed on
the part of His disciples an undue elation of spirit. Reading the crowds
numerically, and not discerning the different motives which had brought
them together, their eyes deceived them. They imagined that these eager
multitudes were but a wave-sheaf of the harvest already ripe, which only
waited their gathering-in. But it is not so; and Jesus sifts and winnows
His audience, to show His disciples that the apparent is not always the
real, and that between the hearers of the word and the doers there will
ever be a wide margin of disappointment and comparative failure. The
harvest, in God's husbandry, as in man's, does not depend altogether
upon the quality of the seed or the faithfulness of the sower, but upon
the nature of the soil on which it falls.

As the sower went forth to sow his seed, "some fell by the way-side,
and it was trodden under-foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it."
In his carefulness to cover all his ground, the sower had gone close up
to the boundary, and some of the seed had fallen on the edge of the bare
and trampled path, where it lay homeless and exposed. It was in contact
with the earth, but it was a mechanical, and not a vital touch. There
was no correspondence, no communion between them. Instead of welcoming
and nourishing the seed, it held it aloof, in a cold, repelling way. Had
the soil been sympathetic and receptive, it held within itself all the
elements of growth. Touched by the subtle life that was hidden within
the seed, the dead earth itself had lived, growing up into blades of
promise, and from the full ear throwing itself forward into the future
years. But the earth was hard and unreceptive; its possibilities of
blessing were locked up and buried beneath a crust of trampled soil that
was callous and unresponsive as the rock itself. And so the seed lay
unwelcomed and alone, and the life which the warm touch of earth would
have loosened and set free remained within its husk as a dead thing,
without voice or hearing. There was nothing else for it but to be ground
into dust by the passing foot or to be picked up by the foraging birds.

The parable was at once a prophecy and an experience. Forming a part of
the crowd which surrounded Jesus was an outer ring of hearers who came
but to criticize and to cavil. They had no desire to be taught--at any
rate by such a teacher. They were themselves the "knowing ones," the
learned, and they looked with suspicion and ill-concealed scorn upon the
youthful Nazarene. Turning upon the Speaker a cold, questioning glance,
or exchanging signals with one another, they were evidently hostile to
Jesus, listening, it is true, but with a feline alertness, hoping to
entrap the sweet Singer in His speech. Upon these, and such as these,
the word of God, even when spoken by the Divine Son, made no impression.
It was a speaking to the rocks, with no other result than the awaking of
a few echoes of mockery and banter.

The experience is still true. Among those who frequent the house of God
are many whose worship is a cold, conventional thing. Drawn thither by
custom, by the social instinct, or by the love of change, they pass
within the gates of the Lord's house, ostensibly to worship. But they
are insincere, indifferent; they bring their body, and deposit it in the
accustomed pew, but they might as well have put there a bag of ashes or
an automaton of brass. Their mind is not here, and the cold, stolid
features, unlighted by any passing gleam, tell too surely of a vacancy
or vagrancy of thought. And even while the lips are throwing off
mechanically _Jubilates_ and _Te Deums_ their heart is "far from Me,"
chasing some phantom "will o' the wisp," or dreaming their dreams of
pleasure, gain, and ease. The worship of God they themselves would call
it, but God does not recognize it. He calls their prayers a weariness,
their incense an abomination. Theirs is but a worship of Self, as,
setting up their image of clay, they summon earth's musicians to play
their sweet airs about it. God, with them, is set back, ignored,
proscribed. The personal "I" is writ so large, and is so all-pervasive,
that there is no room for the I AM. Living for earth, all the fibres of
their being growing downwards towards it, heaven is not even a cloud
drifting across their distant vision; it is an empty space, a vacancy.
To the voices of earth their ears are keenly sensitive; its very
whispers thrill them with new excitements; but to the voices of Heaven
they are deaf; the still, small voice is all unheard, and even the
thunders of God are so muffled as to be unrecognized and scarcely
audible. And so the word of God falls upon their ears in vain. It drops
upon a soil that is impervious and antipathetic, a heart which knows no
penitence, and a life whose fancied goodness has no room for mercy, or
which finds such complete satisfaction in the gains of unrighteousness
or the pleasures of sin that it is purposely and persistently deaf to
all higher, holier voices. Ulysses filled his ears with wax, lest he
should yield himself up to the enchantments of the sirens. The fable is
true, even when read in reversed lines; for when Virtue, Purity, and
Faith invite men to their resting-place, calling them to the Islands of
the Blessed, and to the Paradise of God, they charm in vain. Deafening
their ears, and not deigning to give a passing thought to the higher
call, men drift past the heaven which might have been theirs, until
these holier voices are silenced by the awful distance.

That the word of God is inoperative here is through no fault, either of
the seed or of the sower. That word is still "quick and powerful," but
it is sterile, because it finds nothing on which it may grow. It is not
"understood," as Jesus Himself explains. It falls upon the outward ear
alone, and there only as unmeaning sound, like the accents of some
unknown tongue. And so the wicked one easily takes away the word from
their heart; for, as the preposition itself implies, that word had not
fallen into the heart; it was lying on it in a superficial way, like the
seed cast upon the trampled path.

Is there, then, no hope for these way-side hearers? and sparing our
strength and toil, shall we leave them for soils more promising? By no
means. The fallow ground may be broken up; the ploughshare can loosen
the hardened, unproductive earth. Pulverized by the teeth of the harrow
or the teeth of the frost, the barren track itself disappears; it passes
up into the advanced classes, giving back the seed with which it is now
entrusted, with a thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold increase. And this is
true in the higher husbandry, in which we are permitted to be "God's
fellow-workers." The heart which to-day is indifferent or repellent,
to-morrow, chastened by sickness or torn by the ploughshare of some keen
grief, may hail with eagerness the message it rejected and even scorned
before. Amid the penury and shame of the far country, the father's
house, from which he had wantonly turned, now comes to the prodigal like
a sweet dream, and even its bread has all the aroma and sweetness of
ambrosial food. No matter how disappointing the soil, we are to do our
duty, which is to "sow beside all waters;" nor should any calculations
of imaginary productiveness make us slack our hand or cast away our
hope. When the Spirit is poured out from on high, even "the wilderness
becomes as a fruitful field," and death itself becomes instinct with
life.

"And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew it withered away,
because it had no moisture." Here is a second quality of soil. It is
not, however, a soil that is weakened by an intermixture of gravel or of
stones, but rather a soil that is thinly spread upon the rock. It is
good soil as far as it goes, but it is shallow. It receives the seed
gladly, as if that were its one mission, as indeed it is; it gives the
seed a hiding-place, throwing over it a mantle of earth, so that the
birds shall not devour it. It lays its warm touch upon the enveloping
husk, as the Master once laid His finger upon the bier, and to the
imprisoned life which was within it said, "Arise and multiply. Pass up
into the sunlight, and give God's children bread." And the seed
responds, obeys. The emerging life throws out its two wings--one
downwards, as its roots clasp the soil; one upwards, as the blade,
pushing the clods aside, makes for the light and the heavens that are
above it. "Surely," we should say, if we read the future from the
present merely, "the hundredfold is here. Pull down your barns and build
greater, for never was seed received more kindly, never were the
beginnings of life more auspicious, and never was promise so great." Ah
that the promise should so soon be a disappointment, and the forecast be
so soon belied! The soil has no depth. It is simply a thin covering
spread over the rock. It offers no room for growth. The life it
nourishes can be nothing more than an ephemeral life, which owns but a
to-day, whose "to-morrow" will be in the oven of a burning heat. The
growth is entirely superficial, for its roots come directly to the hard,
impenetrable rock, which, yielding no support, but cutting off all
supplies from the unseen reservoirs beneath, turns back the incipient
life all starved and shrunken. The result is a sudden withering and
decay. A foundling, left, not by some iron gate which the touch of mercy
might open, but by a dead wall of cold, unresponsive stone, the plant
throws up its arms into the air, in its vain struggle for life, and then
wilts and droops, lying at last, a dead and shrivelled thing, on the dry
bosom of the earth which had given it its untimely birth.

Such, says Jesus, are many who hear the word. Unlike those by the
way-side, these do not reject it. They listen, bending toward that word
with attentive ears and eager hearts. Nay, they receive it with joy; it
strikes upon their soul with the music of a new evangel. But the work is
not thorough; it is superficial, external. They "have no root" in a deep
and settled conviction, only a green blade of profession and of mock
promise, and when the testing-time comes, as it comes to all, "the time
of temptation," they fall away, or they "stand off," as the verb might
be literally rendered.

In this second class we must place a large proportion of those who heard
and who followed Jesus. There was something attractive about His manner
and about His message. Again and again we read how they "pressed upon
Him" to hear His words, the multitude hanging on His lips as the bees
will cluster upon a honeyed leaf. Thousands upon thousands thus came
within the spell of His voice, now wondering at His gracious words, and
now stunned with astonishment, as they marked the authority with which
He spoke, the compressed thunder that was in His tones. But in how many
cases are we forced to admit the interest to be but momentary! It was
with many--shall we say with most?--merely a passing excitement, the
effervescence of personal contact. The words of Jesus came "as a very
lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice," and for the moment the
hearts of the multitudes were set vibrating in responsive harmonies. But
the music ceased when the Singer was absent. The impressions were not
permanent, and even the emotions had soon passed away, almost from
memory. St. John speaks of one sifting in Galilee when "many of His
disciples went back, and walked no more with Him" (vi. 66), showing that
with them at least it was an attachment rather than an attachment that
bound them to Himself. The bond of union was the hope of some personal
gain, rather than the bond of a pure and deep affection. And so directly
He speaks of His approaching death, of His "flesh and blood" which He
shall give them to eat and to drink, like an icy breath from the north,
those words chill their devotion, turning their zeal and ardour into a
cold indifference, if not into an open hostility. And this same
winnowing of Galilee is repeated in Judæa. We read of multitudes who
escorted Jesus down the Mount of Olives, strewing His path with
garments, giving Him a royal welcome to the "city of the Great King."
But how soon a change "came o'er the spirit of their dream"! how soon
the hosannahs died away! As a hawk in the sky will still in a moment the
warbling of the birds, so the uplifted cross threw its cold shadow upon
their hearts, drowning the brief hosannahs in a strange silence. The
cross was the fan in the Masters hand, with which He "throughly purged
His floor," separating the true from the false. It blew away into the
deep valley of Oblivion the chaff, the dead superficialities, the barren
yawns, leaving as the residuum of the sifted multitudes a mere handful
of a hundred and twenty names.

These _pro tem._ believers are indigenous to every soil. There never is
a great movement afloat--philanthropic, political or spiritual--but
numberless smaller craft are lifted up on its swell. For a moment they
seem instinct with life, but having no propelling power in themselves,
they drop behind, soon to be embedded in the mire. And especially is
this true in the region of spiritual dynamics. In all so-called
"revivals" of religion, when the Church rejoices in a deepened and
quickened life, when a cooling zeal has been rewarmed at the heavenly
fires, and converts are multiplied, in the accessions which follow
almost invariably will be found a proportion of what we may call
"casuals." We cannot say they are counterfeits, for the work, as far as
it goes, seems real, and the change, both in their thought and life, is
clearly marked. But they are unstable souls, prone to drifting, their
direction given in the main by the set of the current in which they
happen to be. And so when they reach the point--which all must reach
sooner or later--where two seas meet, the cross current of enticement
and temptation bears hard upon them, and they make shipwreck of faith.
Others, again, are led by impulse. Religion with them is mainly a matter
of feeling. Overlooking the fact that the emotions are easily stirred,
that they respond to the passing breath just as the sea ripples to the
breeze, they substitute emotion for conviction, feeling for faith. But
these have no foundation, no root, no independent life, and when the
excitements on which they feed are withdrawn, when the emotion subsides,
the high tide of fervour falling back to its mean sea-level, they lose
heart and hope. They are even ready to pity themselves as the objects of
an illusion. But the illusion was one of their own making. They set the
pleasant before the right, delight before duty, comfort before Christ,
and instead of finding their heaven in doing the will of God, no matter
what the emotions, they sought their heaven in their own personal
happiness, and so they missed both.

"They endure for a while." And of how many are these words true! Verily
we must not count our fruits from the blossoms of spring, nor must we
reckon our harvest in that easy, hopeful way of multiplying each seed,
or even each blade, by the hundredfold, for the blade may be only a
short-lived blade and nothing more.

"And other fell amidst the thorns; and the thorns grew with it, and
choked it." Here is a third quality of soil in the ascending series. In
the first, the trampled path, life was not possible; the seed could find
not the least response. In the second there was life. The thinly
sprinkled soil gave the seed a home, a rooting; but lacking depth of
earth and the necessary moisture, the life was precarious, ephemeral. It
died away in the blade, and never reached its fruitage. Now, however, we
have a deeper, richer soil, with an abundance of vitality, one capable
of sustaining an exuberant life. But it is not clean; it is already
thickly sown with thorns, and the two growths running up side by side,
the hardier gets the mastery. And though the corn-life struggles up into
the ear, bearing a sort of fruit, it is a grain that is dwarfed and
shrivelled, a mere husk and shell, which no leaven can transmute into
bread. It brings forth fruit, as the exposition of the parable
indicates, but it has not strength to complete its task; it does not
ripen it, bringing the fruit "to perfection."

Such, says Jesus, is another and a large class of hearers. They are
naturally capable of doing great things. Possessing strong wills, and a
large amount of energy, they are just the lives to be fruitful,
impressing themselves upon others, and so throwing their manifold
influence down into the future. But they do not, and for the simple
reason that they do not give to the word a whole heart. Their attentions
and energies are divided. Instead of seeking "first the kingdom of God,"
making that the supreme quest of life, it is with them but one of many
things to be desired and sought. Chief among the hindrances to a
perfected growth and fruitfulness, Jesus mentions three; namely, cares,
riches, and pleasures. By the "cares of life" we must understand--
interpreting the word by its related word in Matthew vi. 34--the
anxieties of life. It is the anxious thought, mainly about the
"to-morrow," which presses upon the heart as a sore and constant burden.
It is the fearfulness and unrest of soul which gloom the spirit and
shroud the life, making the Divine peace itself a fret and worry. And
how many Christians find this to be the normal experience! They love
God, they seek to serve Him; but they are weighted and weary. Instead of
having the hopeful, buoyant spirit which rises to the crest of passing
waves, it is a heart depressed and sad, living in the deeps. And so the
brightness of their life is dimmed; they walk not "in the light, as He
is in the light," but beneath a sky frequently overcast, their days
bringing only "a little glooming light, much like a shade." And so their
spiritual life is stunted, their usefulness impaired. Instead of having
a heart "at leisure from itself," they are engrossed with their own
unsatisfactory experiences. Instead of looking upwards to the heavens
which are their own, or outwards upon the crying needs of earth, they
look inward with frequent and morbid introspection; and instead of
lending a hand to the fallen, that a brotherly touch might help them to
rise, their hands find full employment in steadying the world, or
worlds, of care which, Atlas-like, they are doomed to carry.
Self-doomed, we should have said; for the Divine Voice invites us to
cast "all our anxiety upon Him," assuring us that He careth for us, an
assurance and an invitation which make our anxieties, the fret and fever
of life, altogether superfluous.

Exactly the same effect of making the spiritual life incomplete, and so
unproductive, is caused by riches and pleasures, or, as we might render
the expression, by the pursuit after riches or after pleasure. Not that
the Scriptures condemn wealth in itself. It is, _per se_, of a neutral
character, whether a blessing or a bane depends on how it is earned and
how it is held. Nor do the Scriptures condemn legitimate modes and
measures of business; they condemn waste and indolence, but they commend
industry, diligence, thrift. But the evil is in making wealth the chief
aim of life. It is deceptive, promising satisfaction which it never
gives, creating a thirst which it is powerless to slake, until the
desire, ever more greedy and clamorous, grows into a "love of money," a
pure worship of Mammon. Religion and business may well go together, for
God has joined them in one. Each keeping its proper place, religion
first and most, and business a far-off second, together they are the
centrifugal and centripetal forces that keep the life revolving steadily
around its Divine centre. But let the positions be reversed; let
business be the first, chief thought, let religion sink down to some
second or third place, and the life swings farther and farther from its
pivotal centre, into wildernesses of dearth and cold. To give due
thought to earthly things is right; nay, we may give all diligence to
make our earthly, as well as our heavenly calling sure; but when
business gets imperious in its demands, swallowing up all our thought
and energy, leaving no time for spiritual exercises or for personal
service for Christ, then the religious life declines. Crowded back into
the chance corners, with nothing left it but the brief interstices of a
busy life, religion can do little more than maintain a profession; its
helpfulness is, in the main, remitted to the past, and its fruitfulness
is postponed to that uncertain nowhere of the Greek calends.

The same is true with regard to the pleasures of life. The word
"pleasure" is a somewhat infrequent word in the New Testament, and
generally it is used of the lower, sensual pleasures. We are not
obliged, however, to give the word its lowest meaning; indeed, the
analogy of the parable would scarcely allow such an interpretation.
Sinful pleasure would not check growth; it would simply prevent it,
making a spiritual life impossible. We must therefore interpret the
"pleasures" which retard the upward growth, and render it infertile, as
the lawful pleasures of life, such as the delights of the eye and ear,
the gratification of the tastes, the enjoyments of domestic or social
life. Perfectly innocent and pure in themselves, purposely designed for
our enjoyment, as St. Paul plainly intimates (1 Tim. vi. 17), they are
pleasures which we have no right to treat with the stoic's disdain, nor
with the ascetic's aversion. But the snare is in permitting these
desires to step out of their proper place, in allowing them to have a
controlling influence. As servants their ministry is helpful and benign;
but if we make them "lords," then, like "the ill uses of a life," we
find it difficult to put them down; they rather put us down, making us
their thrall. To please God should be the one absorbing pursuit and
passion of life, and wholly bent on this, if other pure enjoyments come
in our way we may receive them thankfully. But if we make our personal
gratification the aim, if our thoughts and plans are set on this rather
than upon the pleasing of God, then our spiritual life is enfeebled and
stifled, and the fruit we should bear shrivels up into chaff. Then we
become selfish and self-willed, and the pure pleasures of life, which
like Vestal Virgins minister within the temple of God, leading us ever
to Him, turn round to burn perpetual incense before our enlarged and
exalted Self. He who stops to confer with flesh and blood, who is ever
consulting his own likes and leanings, can never be an apostle to
others.

"And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit
a hundredfold." Here is the highest quality of soil. Not hard, like the
trampled path, nor shallow, like the covering of the rock, not
preoccupied with the roots of other growths, this is mellow, deep,
clean, and rich. The seed falls, not "by," or "in," or "among," but
"into" it, while seed and soil together grow up in an affluence of life,
and passing through the blade-age and the earing, it ripens into a
harvest of a hundredfold. Such, says Jesus, are they who, in an honest
and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth
fruit with patience. Here, then, we reach the germ of the parable, the
secret of fruitfulness. The one difference between the saint and the
sinner, between the hundredfold hearer and him whose life is spent in
throwing out promises of a harvest which never ripens, is their
different attitude towards the word of God. In the one case that word is
rejected altogether, or it is a concept of the mind alone, an aurora of
the Arctic night, distant and cold, which some mistake for the dawn of a
new day. In the other the word passes through the mind into the deepest
heart; it conquers and rules the whole being; it becomes a part of one's
very self, the soul of the soul. "Thy word have I hid in my heart," said
the Psalmist, and he who puts the Divine word there, before all earthly
and selfish voices, letting that Divine Voice fill up that most sacred
temple of the heart, will make his outer life both beautiful and
fruitful. He will walk the earth as one of God's seers, ever beholding
Him who is invisible, speaking by life or lips in heavenly tones, and
by his own steadfast, upward gaze lifting the hearts and thoughts of men
"above the world's uncertain haze." Such is the Divine law of life; the
measure of our faith is the measure of our fruitfulness. If we but half
believe in the promises of God or in the eternal realities, then the
sinews of our soul are houghed, and there comes over us the sad
paralysis of doubt. How can we bring forth fruit except we abide in Him?
and how can we abide in Him but by letting His words abide in us? But
having His words abiding in us, then His peace, His joy, His life are
ours, and we, who without Him are poor, dead things, now become strong
in His infinite strength, and fruitful with a Divine fruitfulness; and
to our lives, which were all barren and dead, will men come for the
words that "help and heal," while the Master Himself gathers from them
His thirty, sixty, or hundredfold, the fruitage of a whole-hearted,
patient faith.

Let us take heed, therefore, how we hear, for on the character of the
hearing depends the character of the life. Nor is the truth given us for
ourselves alone; it is given that it may become incarnate in us, so that
others may see and feel the truth that is in us, even as men cannot help
seeing the light which is manifest.

And so the parable closes with the account of the visit of His mother
and brethren, who came, as St. Matthew informs us, "to take Him home;"
and when the message was passed on to Him that His mother and His
brethren wished to see Him, this was His remarkable answer, claiming
relationship with all whose hearts vibrate to the same "word:" "My
mother and My brethren are those which hear the word of God, and DO IT."
It is the secret of the Divine life on earth; they hear, and they do.



CHAPTER XV.

_THE KINGDOM OF GOD._


In considering the words of Jesus, if we may not be able to measure
their depth or to scale their height, we can with absolute certainty
discover their drift, and see in what direction they move, and we shall
find that their orbit is an ellipse. Moving around the two centres, sin
and salvation, they describe what is not a geometric figure, but a
glorious reality, "the kingdom of God." It is not unlikely that the
expression was one of the current phrases of the times, a golden casket,
holding within it the dream of a restored Hebraism; for we find, without
any collusion or rehearsal of parts, the Baptist making use of the
identical words in his inaugural address, while it is certain the
disciples themselves so misunderstood the thought of their Master as to
refer His "kingdom" to that narrow realm of Hebrew sympathies and hopes.
Nor did they see their error until, in the light of Pentecostal flames,
their own dream disappeared, and the new kingdom, opening out like a
receding sky, embraced a world within its folds. That Jesus adopted the
phrase, liable to misconstruction as it was, and that He used it so
repeatedly, making it the centre of so many parables and discourses,
shows how completely the kingdom of God possessed both His mind and
heart. Indeed, so accustomed were His thoughts and words to flow in
this direction that even the valley of Death, "lying darkly between" His
two lives, could not alter their course, or turn His thoughts out of
their familiar channel; and as we find the Christ beyond the cross and
tomb, amid the resurrection glories, we hear Him speaking still of "the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God."

It will be observed that Jesus uses the two expressions "the kingdom of
God" and "the kingdom of heaven" interchangeably. But in what sense is
it the "kingdom of heaven"? Does it mean that the celestial realm will
so far extend its bounds as to embrace our outlying and low-lying world?
Not exactly, for the conditions of the two realms are so diverse. The
one is the perfected, the visible kingdom, where the throne is set, and
the King Himself is manifest, its citizens, angels, heavenly
intelligences, and saints now freed from the cumbering clay of
mortality, and for ever safe from the solicitations of evil. This New
Jerusalem does not come down to earth, except in the vision of the seer,
as it were in a shadow. And yet the two kingdoms are in close
correspondence, after all; for what is the kingdom of God in heaven but
His eternal rule over the spirits of the redeemed and of the unredeemed?
what are the harmonies of heaven but the harmonies of surrendered wills,
as, without any hesitation or discord, they strike in with the Divine
Will in absolute precision? To this extent, then, at least, heaven may
project itself upon earth; the spirits of men not yet made perfect may
be in subjection to the Supreme Spirit; the separate wills of a redeemed
humanity, striking in with the Divine Will, may swell the heavenly
harmonies with their earthly music.

And so Jesus speaks of this kingdom as being "within you." As if He
said, "You are looking in the wrong direction. You expect the kingdom of
God to be set up around you, with its visible symbols of flags and
coins, on which is the image of some new Cæsar. You are mistaken. The
kingdom, like its King, is unseen; it seeks, not countries, but
consciences; its realm is in the heart, in the great interior of the
soul." And is not this the reason why it is called, with such emphatic
repetition, "_the_ kingdom," as if it were, if not the only, at any rate
the highest kingdom of God on earth? We speak of a kingdom of Nature,
and who will know its secrets as He who was both Nature's child and
Nature's Lord? And how far-reaching a realm is that! from the motes that
swim in the air to the most distant stars, which themselves are but the
gateway to the unseen Beyond! What forces are here, forces of chemical
affinities and repulsions, of gravitation and of life! What successions
and transformations can Nature show! what infinite varieties of
substance, form, and colour! what a realm of harmony and peace, with no
irruptions of discordant elements! Surely one would think, if God has a
kingdom upon earth, this kingdom of Nature is it. But no; Jesus does not
often refer to that, except as He makes Nature speak in His parables, or
as He uses the sparrows, the grass, and the lilies as so many lenses
through which our weak human vision may see God. The kingdom of God on
earth is as much higher than the kingdom of Nature as spirit is above
matter, as love is more and greater than power.

We said just now how completely the thought of "the kingdom" possessed
the mind and heart of Jesus. We might go one step farther, and say how
completely Jesus identified Himself with that kingdom. He puts. Himself
in its pivotal centre, with all possible naturalness, and with an ease
that assumption cannot feign. He gathers up its royalties and draws them
around His own Person. He speaks of it as "My kingdom;" and this, not
alone in familiar discourse with His disciples, but when face to face
with the representative of earth's greatest power. Nor is the personal
pronoun some chance word, used in a far-off, accommodated sense; it is
the crucial word of the sentence, underscored and emphasized by a
threefold repetition; it is the word He will not strike out, nor recall,
even to save Himself from the cross. He never speaks of the kingdom but
even His enemies acknowledge the "authority" that rings in His tones,
the authority of conscious power, as well as of perfect knowledge. When
His ministry is drawing to a close He says to Peter, "I will give unto
thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;" which language may be
understood as the official designation of the Apostle Peter to a
position of pre-eminence in the Church, as its first leader. But
whatever it may mean, it shows that the keys of the kingdom are His; He
can bestow them on whom He will. The kingdom of heaven is not a realm in
which authority and honours move upwards from below, the blossoming of
"the people's will;" it is an absolute monarchy, an autocracy, and Jesus
Himself is here King supreme, His will swaying the lesser wills of men,
and rearranging their positions, as the angel had foretold: "He shall
reign over the house of David for ever, and of His kingdom there shall
be no end." Given Him of the Father it is (xxii. 29; i. 32), but the
kingdom is His, not either as a metaphor, but really, absolutely,
inalienably; nor is there admittance within that kingdom but by Him who
is the Way, as He is the Life. We enter into the kingdom, or the kingdom
enters into us, as we find, and then crown the King, as we sanctify in
our hearts "Christ as Lord" (1 Pet. iii. 15).

This brings us to the question of citizenship, the conditions and
demands of the kingdom; and here we see how far this new dynasty is
removed from the kingdoms of this world. They deal with mankind in
groups; they look at birth, not character; and their bounds are well
defined by rivers, mountains, seas, or by accurately surveyed lines. The
kingdom of heaven, on the other hand, dispenses with all space-limits,
all physical configurations, and regards mankind as one group, a unity,
a lapsed but a redeemed world. But while opening its gates and offering
its privileges to all alike, irrespective of class or circumstance, it
is most eclective in its requirements, and most rigid in the application
of its test, its one test of character. Indeed, the laws of the heavenly
kingdom are a complete reversal of the lines of worldly policy. Take,
for instance, the two estimates of wealth, and see how different the
position it occupies in the two societies. The world makes wealth its
_summum bonum_; or if not exactly in itself the highest good, in
commercial values it is equivalent to the highest good, which is
position. Gold is all-powerful, the goal of man's vain ambitions, the
panacea of earthly ill. Men chase it in hot, feverish haste, trampling
upon each other in the mad scramble, and worshipping it in a blind
idolatry. But where is wealth in the new kingdom? The worlds first
becomes the last. It has no purchasing-power here; its golden key cannot
open the least of these heavenly gates. Jesus sets it back, far back, in
His estimate of the good. He speaks of it as if it were an encumbrance,
a dead weight, that must be lifted, and that handicaps the heavenly
athlete. "How hardly," said Jesus, when the rich ruler turned away "very
sorrowful," "shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"
(xviii. 24); and then, by way of illustration, He shows us the picture
of the camel passing through the so-called "needle's eye" of an Eastern
door. He does not say that such a thing is impossible, for the camel
could pass through the "needle's eye," but it must first kneel down and
be stripped of all its baggage, before it can pass the narrow door,
within the larger, but now closed gate. Wealth may have its uses, and
noble uses too, within the kingdom--for it is somewhat remarkable how
the faith of the two rich disciples shone out the brightest, when the
faith of the rest suffered a temporary eclipse from the passing
cross--but he who possesses it must be as if he possessed it not. He
must not regard it as his own, but as talents given him in trust by his
Lord, their image and superscription being that of the Invisible King.

Again, Jesus sets down vacillation, hesitancy, as a disqualification for
citizenship in His kingdom. At the close of His Galilean ministry our
Evangelist introduces us to a group of embryo disciples. The first of
the three says, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest" (ix.
57). Bold words they were, and doubtless well meant, but it was the
language of a passing impulse, rather than of a settled conviction; it
was the coruscation of a glowing, ardent temperament. He had not counted
the cost. The large word "whithersoever" might, indeed, easily be
spoken, but it held within it a Gethsemane and a Calvary, paths of
sorrow, shame, and death he was not prepared to face. And so Jesus
neither welcomed nor dismissed him, but opening out one part of his
"whithersoever," He gave it back to him in the words, "The foxes have
holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath
not where to lay His head." The second responds to the "Follow Me" of
Christ with the request that he might be allowed first to go and bury
his father. It was a most natural request, but participation in these
funeral rites would entail a ceremonial uncleanness of seven days, by
which time Jesus would be far away. Besides, Jesus must teach him, and
the ages after him, that His claims were paramount; that when He
commands obedience must be instant and absolute, with no interventions,
no postponement. Jesus replies to him in that enigmatical way of His,
"Leave the dead to bury their own dead: but go thou and publish abroad
the kingdom of God;" indicating that this supreme crisis of his life is
virtually a passing from death to life, a "resurrection from earth to
things above." The last in this group of three volunteers his pledge, "I
will follow Thee, Lord; but first suffer me to bid farewell to them that
are at my house" (ix. 61); but to him Jesus replies, mournfully and
sorrowfully, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking
back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (ix. 62). Why does Jesus treat
these two candidates so differently? They both say, "I will follow
Thee," the one in word, the other by implication; they both request a
little time for what they regard a filial duty; why, then, be treated so
differently, the one thrust forward to a still higher service,
commissioned to preach the kingdom, and afterwards, if we may accept the
tradition that he was Philip the Evangelist, passing up into the
diaconate; the other, unwelcomed and uncommissioned, but disapproved as
"not fit for the kingdom"? Why there should be this wide divergence
between the two lives we cannot see, either from their manner or their
words. It must have been a difference in the moral attitude of the two
men, and which He who heard thoughts and read motives detected at once.
In the case of the former there was the fixed, determined resolve, which
the bier of a dead father might hold back a little, but which it could
not break or bend. But Jesus saw in the other a double-minded soul,
whose feet and heart moved in diverse, opposite ways, who gave, not his
whole, but a very partial, self to his work; and this halting, wavering
one He dismissed with the words of forecasted doom, "Not fit for the
kingdom of God."

It is a hard saying, with a seeming severity about it; but is it not a
truth universal and eternal? Are any kingdoms, either of knowledge or
power, won and held by the irresolute and wavering? Like the stricken
men of Sodom, they weary themselves to find the door of the kingdom; or
if they do see the Beautiful Gates of a better life, they sit with the
lame man, outside, or they linger on the steps, hearing the music
indeed, but hearing it from afar. It is a truth of both dispensations,
written in all the books; the Reubens who are "unstable as water" can
never excel; the elder born, in the accident of years, they may be, but
the birthright passes by them, to be inherited and enjoyed by others.

But if the gates of the kingdom are irrevocably closed against the
half-hearted, the self-indulgent, and the proud, there is a sesame to
which they open gladly. "Blessed are ye poor," so reads the first and
great Beatitude: "for yours is the kingdom of God" (vi. 20); and
beginning with this present realization, Jesus goes on to speak of the
strange contrasts and inversions the perfected kingdom will show, when
the weepers will laugh, the hungry be full, and those who are despised
and persecuted will rejoice in their exceeding great reward. But who are
the "poor" to whom the gates of the kingdom are open so soon and so
wide? At first sight it would appear as if we must give a literal
interpretation to the word, reading it in a worldly, temporal sense; but
this is not necessary. Jesus was now directly addressing His disciples
(vi. 20), though, doubtless, His words were intended to pass beyond
them, to those ever-enlarging circles of humanity who in the after-years
should press forward to hear Him. But evidently the disciples were in no
weeping mood to-day; they would be elated and joyful over the recent
miracles. Neither should we call them "poor," in the worldly sense of
that word, for most of them had been called from honourable positions in
society, while some had even "hired servants" to wait upon and assist
them. Indeed, it was not the wont of Jesus to recognize the class
distinctions Society was so fond of drawing and defining. He appraised
men, not by their means, but by the manhood which was in them; and when
He found a nobility of soul--whether in the higher or the lower walks of
life it made no difference--He stepped forward to recognize and to
salute it. We must therefore give to these words of Jesus, as to so many
others, the deeper meaning, making the "blessed" of this Beatitude, who
are now welcomed to the opened gate of the kingdom, the "poor in
spirit," as, indeed, St. Matthew writes it.

What this spirit-poverty is, Jesus Himself explains, in a brief but
wonderfully realistic parable. He draws for us the picture of two men at
their Temple devotions. The one, a Pharisee, stands erect, with head
uplifted, as if it were quite on a level with the heaven he was
addressing, and with supercilious pride he counts his beads of rounded
egotisms. He calls it a worship of God, when it is but a worship of
self. He inflates the great "I," and then plays upon it, making it
strike sharp and loud, like the _tom-tom_ of a heathen fetish. Such is
the man who fancies that he is rich toward God, that he has need of
nothing, not even of mercy, when all the time he is utterly blind and
miserably poor. The other is a publican, and so presumably rich. But how
different his posture! With heart broken and contrite, self with him is
a nothing, a zero; nay, in his lowly estimate it had become a minus
quantity, less than nothing, deserving only rebuke and chastisement.
Disclaiming any good, either inherent or acquired, he puts the deep need
and hunger of his soul into one broken cry, "God be merciful to me a
sinner (xviii. 13). Such are the two characters Jesus portrays as
standing by the gate of the kingdom, the one proud in spirit, the other
"poor in spirit;" the one throwing upon the heavens the shadow of his
magnified self, the other shrinking up into the pauper, the nothing that
he was. But Jesus tells us that he was "justified," accepted, rather
than the other. With nought he could call his own, save his deep need
and his great sin, he finds an opened gate and a welcome within the
kingdom; while the proud in spirit is sent empty away, or carrying back
only the tithed mint and anise, and all the vain oblations Heaven could
not accept.

"Blessed" indeed are such "poor;" for He giveth grace unto the lowly,
while the proud He knoweth afar off. The humble, the meek, these shall
inherit the earth, ay, and the heavens too, and they shall know how
true is the paradox, having nothing, yet possessing all things. The
fruit of the tree of life hangs low, and he must stoop who would gather
it. He who would enter God's kingdom must first become "as a little
child," knowing nothing as yet, but longing to know even the mysteries
of the kingdom, and having nothing but the plea of a great mercy and a
great need. And are they not "blessed" who are citizens of the
kingdom--with righteousness, peace, and joy all their own, a peace which
is perfect and Divine, and a joy which no man taketh from them? Are they
not blessed, thrice blessed, when the bright shadow of the Throne covers
all their earthly life, making its dark places light, and weaving
rainbows out of their very tears? He who through the strait gate of
repentance passes within the kingdom finds it "the kingdom of heaven"
indeed, his earthly years the beginnings of the heavenly life.

And now we touch a point Jesus ever loved to illustrate and emphasize,
the manner of the kingdom's growth, as with ever-widening frontiers it
sweeps outward in its conquest of a world. It was a beautiful dream of
Hebrew prophecy that in the latter days the kingdom of God, or the
kingdom of the Messiah, should overlap the bounds of human empires, and
ultimately cover the whole earth. Looking through her kaleidoscope of
ever-shifting but harmonious figures, Prophecy was never weary of
telling of the Golden Age she saw in the far future, when the shadows
would lift, and a new Dawn, breaking out of Jerusalem, would steal over
the world. Even the Gentiles should be drawn to its light, and kings to
the brightness of its rising; the seas should offer their abundance as
a willing tribute, and the isles should wait for and welcome its laws.
Taking up into itself the petty strifes and jealousies of men, the
discords of earth should cease; humanity should again become a unit,
restored and regenerate fellow-citizens of the new kingdom, the kingdom
which should have no end, no boundaries either of space or time.

Such was the dream of Prophecy, the kingdom Jesus sets Himself to found
and realize upon earth. But how? Disclaiming any rivalry with Pilate, or
with his imperial master, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world,"
so lifting it altogether out of the mould in which earthly dynasties are
cast. "This world" uses force; its kingdoms are won and held by metallic
processes, tinctures of iron and steel. In the kingdom of God carnal
weapons are out of place; its only forces are truth and love, and he who
takes the sword to advance this cause wounds but himself, after the vain
manner of Baal's priests. "This world" counts heads or hands; the
kingdom of God numbers its citizens by hearts alone. "This world"
believes in pomp and show, in outward visibilities and symbols; the
kingdom of God cometh not "with observation;" its voices are gentle as a
zephyr, its footsteps noiseless as the coming of spring. If man had had
the ordering of the kingdom he would have summoned to his aid all kinds
of portents and surprises; he would have arranged processions of
imposing events; but Jesus likens the coming of the kingdom to a grain
of mustard-seed cast into a garden, or to a handful of leaven hid in
three _sata_ of meal. The two parables, with minor distinctions, are one
in their import, the leading thought common to both being the contrast
between its ultimate growth and the smallness and obscurity of its
beginnings. In both the recreative force is a hidden force, buried out
of sight, in the soil or in the meal. In both the force works outward
from its centre, the invisible becoming visible, the inner life assuming
an outer, external form. In both we see the touch of life upon death;
for left to itself, the soil never would be anything more than dead
earth, as the meal would be nothing more than dust, the broken ashes of
a life that was departed. In both there is extension by assimilation,
the leaven throwing itself out among the particles of kindred meal,
while the tree attracts to itself the kindred elements of the soil. In
both there is the mediation of the human hand; but as if to show that
the kingdom offers equal privilege to male and female, with like
possibilities of service, the one parable shows us the hand of a man,
the other the hand of a woman. In both there is a perfect work, a
consummation, the one parable showing us the whole mass leavened, the
other showing us the wide-spreading tree, with the birds nesting in its
branches.

Such, in outline, is the rise and progress of the kingdom of God in the
heart of the individual man, and in the world; for the human soul is the
protoplasm, the germ-cell, out of which this world-wide kingdom is
evolved. The mass is leavened only by the leavening of the separate
units. And how comes the kingdom of God within the soul and life of man?
Not with observation or supernatural portents, but silently as the
flashing forth of light. Thought, desire, purpose, prayer--these are the
wheels of the chariot in which the Lord comes to His temple, the King
into His kingdom. And when the kingdom of God is set up "within you" the
outer life shapes itself to the new purpose and aim, the writ and will
of the King running unhindered through every department, even to its
outmost frontier, while thoughts, feelings, desires, and all the golden
coinage of the heart bear, not, as before, the image of Self, but the
image and superscription of the Invisible King--the "Not I, but Christ."

And so the honour of the kingdom is in our keeping, as the growths of
the kingdom are in our hands. The Divine Cloud adjusts its pace to our
human steps, alas, often far too slow! Shall the leaven stop with us, as
we make religion a kind of sanctified selfishness, doing nothing but
gauging the emotions and singing its little doxologies? Do we forget
that the weak human hand carries the Ark of God, and pushes forward the
boundaries of the kingdom? Do we forget that hearts are only won by
hearts? The kingdom of God on earth is the kingdom of surrendered wills
and of consecrated lives. Shall we not, then, pray, "Thy kingdom come,"
and living "more nearly as we pray," seek a redeemed humanity as
subjects of our King? So will the Divine purpose become a realization,
and the "morning" which now is always "somewhere in the world" will be
everywhere, the promise and the dawn of a heavenly day, the eternal
Sabbath!



CHAPTER XVI.

_THE MIRACLES OF HEALING._


It is only natural that our Evangelist should linger with a professional
as well as a personal interest over Christ's connection with human
suffering and disease, and that in recounting the miracles of healing he
should be peculiarly at home; the theme would be in such thorough accord
with his studies and tastes. It is true he does not refer to these
miracles as being a fulfilment of prophecy; it is left for St. Matthew,
who weaves his Gospel on the unfinished warp of the Old Testament, to
recall the words of Isaiah, how "Himself took our infirmities and bare
our diseases;" yet our physician-Evangelist evidently lingers over the
pathological side of his Gospel with an intense interest. St. John
passes by the miracles of healing in comparative silence, though he
stays to give us two cases which are omitted by the Synoptists--that of
the nobleman's son at Capernaum, and that of the impotent man at
Bethesda. But St. John's Gospel moves in more etherial spheres, and the
touches he chronicles are rather the touches of mind with mind, spirit
with spirit, than the physical touches through the coarser medium of the
flesh. The Synoptists, however, especially their earlier chapters, bring
the works of Christ into prominence, travelling too very much over the
same ground, though each introduces some special facts omitted by the
rest, while in their record of the same fact each Evangelist throws some
additional colouring.

Grouping together the miracles of healing--for our space will not allow
a separate treatment of each--our thought is first arrested by the
variety of forms in which suffering and disease presented themselves to
Jesus, the wideness of the ground, physical and psychical, the miracles
of healing cover. Our Evangelist mentions fourteen different cases, not,
however, as including the whole, or even the greater part, but rather as
being typical, representative cases. They are, as it were, the nearer
constellations, localized and named; but again and again in his
narrative we find whole groups and clusters lying farther back, making a
sort of Milky Way of light, whose thickly clustered worlds baffle all
our attempts at enumeration. Such are the "women" of chap. viii. ver. 2,
who had been healed of their infirmities, but whose record is omitted in
the Gospel story; and such, too, are those groups of cures mentioned in
chapters iv. 40, v. 15, vi. 19, and vii. 21, when the Divine power
seemed to culminate, throwing itself out in a largesse of blessing,
fairly raining down its bright gifts of healing like meteoric showers.

Turning now to the typical cases mentioned by St. Luke, they are as
follows: the man possessed of an unclean demon; Peter's wife's mother,
who was sick of a fever; a leper, a paralytic, the man with the withered
hand, the servant of the centurion, the demoniac, the woman with an
issue, the boy possessed with a demon, the man with a dumb demon, the
woman with an infirmity, the man with the dropsy, the ten lepers, and
blind Bartimæus. The list, like so many lines of dark meridians,
measures off the entire circumference of the world of suffering,
beginning with the withered hand, and going on and down to that
"sacrament of death," leprosy, and to that yet further deep, demoniacal
possession. Some diseases were of more recent origin, as the case of
fever; others were chronic, of twelve or eighteen years' standing, or
lifelong, as in the case of the possessed boy. In some a solitary organ
was affected, as when the hand had withered, or the tongue was tied by
some power of evil, or the eyes had lost their gift of vision. In others
the whole person was diseased, as when the fires of the fever shot
through the heated veins, or the leprosy was covering the flesh with the
white scales of death. But whatever its nature or its stage, the disease
was acute, as far as human probabilities went, past all hope of healing.
It was no slight attack, but a "great fever" which had stricken down the
mother-in-law of Peter, the intensive adjective showing that it had
reached its danger-point. And where among human means was there hope for
a restored vision, when for years the last glimmer of light had faded
away, when even the optic nerve was atrophied by the long disuse? and
where, among the limited pharmacopœias of ancient or even among the
vastly extended lists of modern times, was there a cure for the leper,
who carried, burned into his very flesh, his sentence of death? No, it
was not the trivial, temporary cases of sickness Jesus took in hand; but
He passed into that innermost shrine of the temple of suffering, the
shrine that lay in perpetual night, and over whose doorway was the
inscription of Dante's "Inferno," "All hope abandon, ye who enter here!"
But when Jesus entered this grim abode He turned its darkness to light,
its sighs to songs, bringing hope to despairing ones, and leading back
into the light of day these captives of Death, as Orpheus is fabled to
have brought back to earth the lost Eurydice.

And not only are the cases so varied in their character, and humanly
speaking, hopeless in their nature, but they were presented to Jesus in
such a diversity of ways. They are none of them arranged for, studied.
They could not have formed any plan or routine of mercy, nor were they
timed for the purpose of producing spectacular effects. They were nearly
all of them impromptu, extemporary events, coming without His seeking,
and coming often as interruptions to His own plans. Now it is in the
synagogue, in the pauses of public worship, that Jesus rebukes an
unclean devil, or He bids the cripple stretch out his withered hand. Now
it is in the city, amid the crowd, or out upon the plain; now it is
within the house of a chief Pharisee, in the very midst of an
entertainment; while at other times He is walking on the road, when,
without even stopping in His journey, He wills the leper clean, or He
throws the gift of life and health forward to the centurion's servant,
whom He has not seen. No times were inopportune to Him, and no places
were foreign to the Son of man, where men suffered and pain abode. Jesus
refused no request on the ground that the time was not well chosen, and
though He did again and again refuse the request of selfish interest or
vain ambition, He never once turned a deaf ear to the cry of sorrow or
of pain, no matter when or whence it came.

And if we consider His methods of healing we find the same diversity.
Perhaps we ought not to use that word, for there was a singular absence
of method. There was nothing set, artificial in His way, but an easy
freedom, a beautiful naturalness. In one respect, and perhaps in one
only, are all similar, and that is in the absence of intermediaries.
There was no use of means, no prescription of remedies; for in the
seeming exception, the clay with which He anointed the eyes of the
blind, and the waters of Siloam which He prescribed, were not remedial
in themselves; the washing was rather the test of the man's faith, while
the anointing was a sort of "aside," spoken, not to the man himself, but
to the group of onlookers, preparing them for the fresh manifestation of
His power. Generally a word was enough, though we read of His healing
"touch," and twice of the symbolic laying on of hands. And by-the-way,
it is somewhat singular that Jesus made use of the touch at the healing
of the leper, when the touch meant ceremonial uncleanness. Why does He
not speak the word only, as He did afterwards at the healing of the
"ten"? And why does He, as it were, go out of His way to put Himself in
personal contact with a leper, who was under a ceremonial ban? Was it
not to show that a new era had dawned, an era in which uncleanness
should be that of the heart, the life, and no longer the outward
uncleanness, which any accident of contact might induce? Did not the
touching of the leper mean the abrogation of the multiplied bans of the
Old Dispensation, just as afterwards a heavenly vision coming to Peter
wiped out the dividing-line between clean and unclean meats? And why did
not the touch of the leper make Jesus ceremonially unclean? for we do
not read that it did, or that He altered His plans one whit because of
it. Perhaps we find our answer in the Levitical regulations respecting
the leprosy. We read (Lev. xiv. 28) that at the cleansing of the leper
the priest was to dip his right finger in the blood and in the oil, and
put it on the ear, and hand, and foot of the person cleansed. The finger
of the priest was thus the index or sign of purity, the lifting up of
the ban which his leprosy had put around and over him. And when Jesus
touched the leper it was the priestly touch; it carried its own
cleansing with it, imparting power and purity, instead of contracting
the defilement of another.

But if Jesus touched the leper, and permitted the woman of Capernaum to
touch Him, or at any rate His garment, He studiously avoided any
personal contact with those possessed of devils. He recognized here the
presence of evil spirits, the powers of darkness, which have enthralled
the weaker human spirit, and for these a word is enough. But how
different a word to His other words of healing, when He said to the
leper, "I will; be thou clean," and to Bartimæus, "Receive thy sight"!
Now it is a word sharp, imperative, not spoken to the poor helpless
victim, but thrown over and beyond him, to the dark personality, which
held a human soul in a vile, degrading bondage. And so while the
possessed boy lay writhing and foaming on the ground, Jesus laid no hand
upon him; it was not till after He had spoken the mighty word, and the
demon had departed from him, that Jesus took him by the hand and lifted
him up.

But whether by word or by touch, the miracles were wrought with
consummate ease; there were none of those artistic flourishes which mere
performers use as a blind to cover their sleight of hand. There was no
straining for effect, no apparent effort. Jesus Himself seemed perfectly
unconscious that He was doing anything marvellous or even unusual. The
words of power fell naturally from His lips, like the falling of leaves
from the tree of life, carrying, wheresoever they might go, healing for
the nations.

But if the method of the cures is wonderful, the unstudied ease and
simple naturalness of the Healer, the completeness of the cures is even
more so. In all the multitudes of cases there was no failure. We find
the disciples baffled and chagrined, attempting what they cannot
perform, as with the possessed boy; but with Jesus failure was an
impossible word. Nor did Jesus simply make them better, bringing them
into a state of convalescence, and so putting them in the way of getting
well. The cure was instant and complete; "immediately" is St. Luke's
frequent and favourite word; so much so that she who half an hour ago
was stricken down with malignant fever, and apparently at the point of
death, now is going about her ordinary duties as if nothing had
happened, "ministering" to Peter's many guests. Though Nature possesses
a great deal of resilient force, her periods of convalescence, when the
disease itself is checked, are more or less prolonged, and weeks, or
sometimes months, must elapse before the spring-tides of health return,
bringing with them a sweet overflow, an exuberance of life. Not so,
however, when Jesus was the Healer. At His word, or at the mere
beckoning of His finger, the tides of health, which had gone far out in
the ebb, suddenly returned in all their spring fulness, lifting high on
their wave the bark which through hopeless years had been settling down
into its miry grave. Eighteen years of disease had made the woman quite
deformed; the contracting muscles had bent the form God made to stand
erect, so that she could "in no wise lift herself up;" but when Jesus
said, "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity," and laid His hands
upon her, in an instant the tightened muscles relaxed, the bent form
regained its earlier grace, for "she was made straight, and glorified
God." One moment, with the Christ in it, was more than eighteen years of
disease, and with the most perfect ease it could undo all the eighteen
years had done. And this is but a specimen case, for the same
completeness characterizes all the cures that Jesus wrought. "They were
made whole," as it reads, no matter what the malady might be; and though
disease had loosened all the thousand strings, so that the wonderful
harp was reduced to silence, or at best could but strike discordant
notes, the hand of Jesus has but to touch it, and in an instant each
string recovers its pristine tone, the jarring sounds vanish, and body,
"mind, and soul according well, awake sweet music as before."

But though Jesus wrought these many and complete cures, making the
healing of the sick a sort of pastime, the interludes in that Divine
"Messiah," still He did not work these miracles indiscriminately,
without method or conditions. He freely placed His service at the
disposal of others, giving Himself up to one tireless round of mercy;
but it is evident there was some selection for these gifts of healing.
The healing power was not thrown out randomly, falling on any one it
might chance to strike; it flowed out in certain directions only, in
ordered channels; it followed certain lines and laws. For instance,
these circles of healing were geographically narrow. They followed the
personal presence of Jesus, and with one or two exceptions, were never
found apart from that presence; so that, many as they were, they would
form but a small part of suffering humanity. And even within these
circles of His visible presence we are not to suppose that all were
healed. Some were taken, and others were left, to a suffering from which
only death would release them. Can we discover the law of this election
of mercy? We think we may.

(1) In the first place, there must be the need for the Divine
intervention. This perhaps goes without saying, and does not seem to
mean much, since among those who were left unhealed there were needs
just as great as those of the more favoured ones. But while the "need"
in some cases was not enough to secure the Divine mercy, in other cases
it was all that was asked. If the disease was mental or psychical, with
reason all bewildered, and the firmaments of Right and Wrong mixed
confusedly together, making a chaos of the soul, that was all Jesus
required. At other times He waited for the desire to be evoked and the
request to be made; but for these cases of lunacy, epilepsy, and
demoniacal possession He waived the other conditions, and without
waiting for the request, as in the synagogue (iv. 34) or on the Gadarene
coast, He spoke the word, which brought order to a distracted soul, and
which led Reason back to her Jerusalem, to the long-vacant throne.

For others the need itself was not sufficient; there must be the
request. Our desire for any blessing is our appraisement of its value,
and Jesus dispensed His gifts of healing on the Divine conditions, "Ask,
and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find." How the request came,
whether from the sufferer himself or through some intercessor, it did
not matter; for no request for healing came to Jesus to be disregarded
or denied. Nor was it always needful to put the request into words.
Prayer is too grand and great a thing for the lips to have a monopoly of
it, and the deepest prayers may be put into acts as well as into words,
as they are sometimes uttered in inarticulate sighs, and in groans which
are too deep for words. And was it not truest prayer, as the multitudes
carried their sick and laid them down at the feet of Jesus, even had
their voice spoken no solitary word? and was it not truest prayer, as
they put themselves, with their bent forms and withered hands right in
His way, not able to speak one single word, but throwing across to Him
the piteous but hopeful look? The request was thus the expression of
their desire, and at the same time the expression of their faith,
telling of the trust they reposed in His pity and His power, a trust He
was always delighted to see, and to which He always responded, as He
Himself said again and again, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Faith then,
as now, was the sesame to which all Heaven's gates fly open; and as in
the case of the paralytic who was borne of four, and let down through
the roof, even a vicarious faith prevails with Jesus, as it brings to
their friend a double and complete salvation. And so they who sought
Jesus as their Healer found Him, and they who believed entered into His
rest, this lower rest of a perfect health and perfect life; while they
who were indifferent and they who doubted were left behind, crushed by
the sorrow that He would have removed, and tortured by pains that His
touch would have completely stilled.

And now it remains for us to gather up the light of these miracles, and
to focus it on Him who was the central Figure, Jesus, the Divine Healer.
And (1) the miracles of healing speak of the knowledge of Jesus. The
question, "What is man?" has been the standing question of the ages, but
it is still unanswered, or answered but in part. His complex nature is
still a mystery, the eternal riddle of the Sphinx, and Œdipus comes
not. Physiology can number and name the bones and muscles, can tell the
forms and functions of the different organs; chemistry can resolve the
body into its constituent elements, and weigh out their exact
proportions; philosophy can map out the departments of the mind; but man
remains the great enigma. Biology carries her silken clue right up to
the primordial cell; but here she finds a Gordian knot, which her
keenest instruments cannot cut, or her keenest wit unravel. Within that
complex nature of ours are oceans of mystery which Thought may indeed
explore, but which she cannot fathom, paths which the vulture eye of
Reason hath not seen, whose voices are the voices of unknown tongues,
answering each other through the mist. But how familiar did Jesus seem
with all these life-secrets! how intimate with all the life-forces! How
versed He was in etiology, knowing without possibility of mistake whence
diseases came, and just where they looked! It was no mystery to Him how
the hand had shrunk, shrivelling into a mass of bones, with no skill in
its fingers, and no life in its cloyed-up veins, or how the eyes had
lost their power of vision. His knowledge of the human frame was an
exact and perfect knowledge, reading its innermost secrets, as in a
transparency, knowing to a certainty what links had dropped out of the
subtle mechanism, and what had been warped out of place, and knowing
well just at what point and to what an extent to apply the healing
remedy, which was His own volition. All earth and all heaven were
without a covering to His gaze; and what was this but Omniscience?

(2) Again, the miracles of healing speak of the compassion of Jesus. It
was with no reluctance that He wrought these works of mercy; it was His
delight. His heart was drawn towards suffering and pain by the magnetism
of a Divine sympathy, or rather, we ought to say, towards the sufferers
themselves; for suffering and pain, like sin and woe, were exotics in
His Father's garden, the deadly nightshade an enemy had sown. And so we
mark a great tenderness in all His dealings with the afflicted. He does
not apply the caustic of bitter and biting words. Even when, as we may
suppose, the suffering is the harvest of earlier sin, as in the case of
the paralytic, Jesus speaks no harsh reproaches; He says simply and
kindly, "Go in peace, and sin no more." And do we not find here a reason
why these miracles of healing were so frequent in His ministry? Was it
not because in His mind sickness was somehow related to sin? If miracles
were needed to attest the Divineness of His mission, there was no need
of the constant succession of them, no need, that they should form a
part, and a large part, of the daily task. Sickness is, so to speak,
something unnaturally natural. It results from the transgression of some
physical law, as sin is the transgression of some moral law; and He who
is man's Saviour brings a complete salvation, a redemption for the body
as well as a redemption for the soul. Indeed, the diseases of the body
are but the shadows, seen and felt, of the deeper diseases of the soul,
and with Jesus the physical healing was but a step to the higher truth
and higher experience, that spiritual cleansing, that inner creation of
a right spirit, a perfect heart. And so Jesus carried on the two works
side by side; they were the two parts of His one and great salvation;
and as He loved and pitied the sinner, so He pitied and loved the
sufferer; His sympathies all went out to meet him, preparing the way for
His healing virtues to follow.

(3) Again, the miracles of healing speak of the power of Jesus. This was
seen indirectly when we considered the completeness of the cures, and
the wide field they covered, and we need not enlarge upon it now. But
what a consciousness of might there was in Jesus! Others, prophets and
apostles, have healed the sick, but their power was delegated. It came
as in waves of Divine impulse, intermittent and temporary. The power
that Jesus wielded was inherent and absolute, deeps which knew neither
cessation nor diminution. His will was supreme over all forces. Nature's
potencies are diffused and isolated, slumbering in herb or metal, flower
or leaf, in mountain or sea. But all are inert and useless until man
distils them with his subtle alchemies, and then applies them by his
slow processes, dissolving the tinctures in the blood, sending on its
warm currents the healing virtue, if haply it may reach its goal and
accomplish its mission. But all these potencies lay in the hand or in
the will of Christ. The forces of life all were marshalled under His
bidding. He had but to say to one "Go," and it went, here or there, or
anywhither; nor does it go for nought; it accomplishes its high behest,
the great Master's will. Nay, the power of Jesus is supreme even in that
outlying and dark world of evil spirits. The demons fly at His rebuke;
and let Him throw but one healing word across the dark, chaotic soul of
one possessed, and in an instant Reason dawns; bright thoughts play on
the horizon; the firmaments of Right and Wrong separate to infinite
distances; and out of the darkness a Paradise emerges, of beauty and
light, where the new son of God resides, and God Himself comes down in
the cool and the heat of the days alike. What power is this? Is it not
the power of God? is it not Omnipotence?



CHAPTER XVII.

_THE MIRACLE OF THE LOAVES._

LUKE ix. 1-17.


The Galilean ministry was drawing to a close, for the "great Light"
which had risen over the northern province must now move southward, to
set behind a cross and a grave. Jesus, however, is reluctant to leave
these borders, amid whose hills the greater part of His life has been
spent, and among whose composite population His greatest successes have
been won, without one last effort. Calling together the Twelve, who
hitherto have been Apostles in promise and in name rather than in fact,
He lays His plans before them. Dividing the district into sections, so
as to equalize their labours and prevent any overlapping, He sends them
out in pairs; for in the Divine arithmetic two are more than twice one,
more than the sum of the separate units by all the added force and
strength of fellowship. They are to be the heralds of the new kingdom,
to "preach the kingdom of God," their insignia no outward, visible
badge, but the investiture of authority over all demons, and power over
all diseases. Apostles of the Unseen, servants of the Invisible King,
they must dismiss all worldly cares; they must not even make provision
for their journey, weighting themselves with such _impedimenta_ as
wallets stored with bread or changes of raiment. They must go forth in
an absolute trust in God, thus proving themselves citizens of the
heavenly kingdom, whose gates they open to all who will repent and step
up into them. They may take a staff, for that will help rather than
hinder on the steep mountain paths; but since the King's business
requireth haste, they must not spend their time in the interminable
salutations of the age, nor in going about from house to house; such
changes would only distract, diverting to themselves the thought which
should be centred upon their mission. Should any city not receive them,
they must retire at once, shaking off, as they depart, the very dust
from their feet, as a testimony against them.

Such were the directions, as Jesus dismissed the Twelve, sending them to
reap the Galilean harvest, and at the same time to prepare them for the
wider fields which after the Pentecost would open to them on every side.
It is only by incidental allusions that we learn anything as to the
success of the mission, but when our Evangelist says "they went
throughout the villages, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere,"
these frequent miracles of healing would imply that they found a
sympathetic and receptive people. Nor were the impulses of the new
movement confined to the lower reaches of society; for even the palace
felt its vibrations, and St. Luke, who seems to have had private means
of information within the Court, possibly through Chuza and Manaen,
pauses to give us a kind of _silhouette_ of the Tetrarch. Herod himself
is perplexed. Like a vane, "that fox" swings round to the varying gusts
of public opinion that come eddying within the palace from the excited
world outside; and as some say that Jesus is Elias, and others "one of
the old prophets," while others aver that He is John himself, risen
from the dead, this last rumour falls upon the ears of Herod like
alarming thunders, making him quiver like an aspen. "And he sought to
see Jesus." The "conscience that makes cowards of us all" had unnerved
him, and he longed by a personal acquaintance with Jesus to waive back
out of his sight the apparition of the murdered prophet. Who Jesus might
be did not much concern Herod. He might be Elias, or one of the old
prophets, anything but John; and so when Herod did see Jesus afterwards,
and saw that He was not the risen Baptist, but the Man of Galilee, his
courage revived, and he gave Jesus into the hands of his cohorts, that
they might mock Him with the faded purple.

What steps Herod took to secure an interview we do not know; but the
verb indicates more than a wish on his part; it implies some plan or
attempt to gratify the wish; and probably it was these advances of
Herod, together with the Apostles' need of rest after the strain and
excitements of their mission, which prompted Jesus to seek a place of
retirement outside the bounds of Antipas. On the northern shore of the
Sea of Galilee, and on the eastern bank of the Jordan, was a second
Bethsaida, or "House of Fish" as the name means, built by Philip, and to
which, in honour of Cæsar's daughter, he gave the surname of "Julias."
The city itself stood on the hills, some three or four miles back from
the shore; while between the city and the lake swept a wide and silent
plain, all untilled, as the New Testament "desert" means, but rich in
pasturage, as the "much grass" of John vi. 10 would show. This still
shore offered, as it seemed, a safe refuge from the exacting and
intrusive crowds of Capernaum, whose constant coming and going left
them no leisure so much as to eat; and bidding them launch the familiar
boat, Jesus and the twelve sail away to the other side. The excited
crowds, however, which followed them to the water's edge, are not so
easily to be shaken off; but guessing the direction of the boat, they
seek to head her off by a quick _detour_ round the shore. And some of
them do; for when the boat grates on the northern shingle some of the
swift-footed ones are already there; while stretching back for miles is
a stream of humanity, of both sexes and of all ages, but all fired with
one purpose. The desert has suddenly grown populous.

And how does Jesus bear this interruption to His plans? Does He chafe at
this intrusion of the people upon His quiet hours? Does He resent their
importunity, calling it impertinence, then driving them from Him with a
whip of sharp words? Not so. Jesus was accustomed to interruptions; they
formed almost the staple of His life. Nor did He repulse one solitary
soul which sought sincerely His mercy, no matter how unseasonable the
hour, as men would read the hours. So now Jesus "received" them, or
"welcomed" them, as it is in the R.V. It is a favourite word with St.
Luke, found in his Gospel more frequently than in the other three
Gospels together. Applied to persons, it means nearly always to receive
as guests, to welcome to hospitality and home. And such is its meaning
here. Jesus takes the place of the host. True, it is a desert place, but
it is a part of the All-Father's world, a room of the Father's house,
carpeted with grass and ablaze with flowers; and Jesus, by His welcome,
transforms the desert into a guest-chamber, where in a new way He keeps
the Passover with His disciples, at the same time entertaining His
thousands of self-bidden guests, giving to them truth, speaking of the
kingdom of God, and giving health, healing "those that had need of
healing."

It was toward evening, "when the day began to wear away," that Jesus
gave to a bright and busy day its crowning benediction. The thought had
already ripened into purpose, in His mind, to spread a table for them in
the wilderness; for how could He, the compassionate One, send them to
their homes famishing and faint? These poor, shepherdless sheep have put
themselves into His care. Their simple, unproviding confidence has made
Him in a sense responsible, and can He disappoint that confidence? It is
true they have been thoughtless and improvident. They have let the
enthusiasm of the hour carry them away, without making any provision of
the necessary food; but even this does not check the flow of the Divine
compassion, for Jesus proceeds to fill up their lack of thought by His
Divine thoughtfulness, and their scarcity with His Divine affluence.

According to St. John, it was Jesus who took the initiative, as He put
the test-question to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may
eat?" Philip does not reply to the "whence;" that may stand aside
awhile, as in mathematical language he speaks to the previous question,
which is their ability to buy. "Two hundred pennyworth of bread," he
said, "is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little." He
does not say how much would be required to satisfy the hunger of the
multitude; his reckoning is not for a feast, but for a taste, to every
one "a little." Nor does he calculate the full cost of even this, but
says simply, "Two hundred pennyworth would _not_ be sufficient."
Evidently, in Philip's mind the two hundred, pence is the known
quantity of the equation, and he works out his calculation from that, as
he proves the impossibility of buying bread for this vast company
anywhere. We may therefore conclude that the two hundred pence
represented the value of the common purse, the purchasing power of the
Apostolic community; and this was a sum altogether inadequate to meet
the cost of providing bread for the multitude. The only alternative, as
far as the disciples see, is to dismiss them, and let them requisition
for themselves; and in a peremptory manner they ask Jesus to "send the
multitude away," reminding Him of what certainly they had no need to
remind Him, that they were here "in a desert place."

The disciples had spoken in their subjunctive, _non possumus_, way; it
is now time for Jesus to speak, which He does, not in interrogatives
longer, but in His imperative, commanding tone: "Give ye them to eat," a
word which throws the disciples back upon themselves in astonishment and
utter helplessness. What can they do? The whole available supply, as
Andrew reports it, is but five barley loaves and two small fishes, which
a lad has brought, possibly for their own refreshment. Five flat loaves
of barley, which was the food of the poorest of the poor, and "two small
fishes," as St. John calls them, throwing a bit of local colouring into
the narrative by his diminutive word--these are the foundation repast,
which Jesus asks to be brought to Himself, that from Himself it may go,
broken and enlarged, to the multitude of guests. Meantime the crowd is
just as large, and perhaps more excited and impatient than before; for
they would not understand these "asides" between the disciples and the
Master, nor could they read as yet His compassionate and benevolent
thought. It would be a pushing, jostling crowd, as these thousands were
massed on the hill-side. Some are gathered in little groups, discussing
the Messiahship; others are clustered round some relative or friend, who
to-day has been wonderfully healed; while others, of the forward sort,
are selfishly elbowing their way to the front. The whole scene is a
kaleidoscope of changing form and colour, a perfect chaos of confusion.
But Jesus speaks again: "Make them sit down in companies;" and those
words, thrown across the seething mass, reduce it to order,
crystallizing it, as it were, into measured and numbered lines. St.
Mark, half-playfully, likens it to a garden, with its _parterres_ of
flowers; and such indeed it was, but it was a garden of the higher cult,
with its variegated beds of humanity, a hundred men broad, and fifty
deep.

When order was secured, and all were in their places, Jesus takes His
place as the host at the head of the extemporized table, and though it
is most frugal fare, He holds the barley loaves heavenward, and lifting
up His eyes, He blesses God, probably in the words of the usual formula,
"Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the world, Who causeth to
come forth bread from the earth." Then breaking the bread, He
distributes it among the disciples, bidding them bear it to the people.
It is not a matter of moment as to the exact point where the
supernatural came in, whether it was in the breaking or the
distributing. Somewhere a power which must have been Divine touched the
bread, for the broken pieces strangely grew, enlarging rapidly as they
were minished. It is just possible that we have a clue to the mystery in
the tense of the verb, for the imperfect, which denotes continued
action, would read, "He brake," or "He kept on breaking," from which we
might almost infer that the miracle was coincident with the touch. But
whether so or not, the power was equal to the occasion, and the supply
over and above the largest need, completely satisfying the hunger of the
five thousand men, besides the off-group of women and children, who,
though left out of the enumeration, were within the circle of the
miracle, the remembered and satisfied guests of the Master.

It now remains for us to gather up the meaning and the practical lessons
of the miracle. And first, it reveals to us the Divine pity. When Jesus
called Himself the Son of man it was a title full of deep meaning, and
most appropriate. He was the true, the ideal Humanity, humanity as it
would have been without the warps and discolourations that sin has made,
and within His heart were untold depths of sympathy, the "fellow-feeling
that makes man wondrous kind." To the haughty and the proud He was
stern, lowering upon them with a withering scorn; to the unreal, the
false, the unclean He was severity itself, with lightnings in His looks
and terrible thunders in His "woes;" but for troubled and tired souls He
had nothing but tenderness and gentleness, and a compassion that was
infinite. Even had He not called the weary and heavy-laden to Himself,
they would have sought Him; they would have read the "Come" in the
sunlight of His face. Jesus felt for others a vicarious pain, a
vicarious sorrow, His heart responding to it at once, as the delicately
poised needle responds to the subtle sparks that flash in upon it from
without. So here; He receives the multitude kindly, even though they are
strangers, and though they have thwarted His purpose and broken in upon
His rest, and as this stream of human life flows out to Him His
compassion flows out to them. He commiserates their forlorn condition,
wandering like straying sheep upon the mountains; He gives Himself up to
them, healing all that were sick, assuaging the pain or restoring the
lost sense; while at the same time He ministers to a higher nature,
telling them of the kingdom of God, which had come nigh to them, and
which was theirs if they would surrender themselves to it and obey. Nor
was even this enough to satisfy the promptings of His deep pity, but
all-forgetful of His own weariness, He lengthens out this day of mercy,
staying to minister to their lower, physical wants, as He spreads for
them a table in the wilderness. Verily He was, incarnate, as He is in
His glory, "touched with the feelings of our infirmities."

Again, we see the Divine love of order and arrangement. Nothing was done
until the crowding and confusion had ceased, and even the Divine
beneficence waits until the turbulent mass has become quiet, settled
down into serried lines, the five thousand making two perfect squares.
"Order," it is said, "is Heaven's first law;" but whether the first or
the second, certain it is that Heaven gives us the perfection of order.
It is only in the lawless wills of man that "time is broke, and no
proportion kept." In the heavenly state nothing is out of place or out
of time. All wills there play into each other with such absolute
precision that life itself is a song, a _Gloria in Excelsis_. And how
this is seen in all the works of God! What rhythmic motions are in the
marches of the stars and the processions of the seasons! To everything a
place, to everything a time; such is the unwritten law of the realm of
physics, where Law is supreme, and anarchy is unknown. So in our earthly
lives, on their secular and on their spiritual side alike, order is
time, order is strength, and he who is deficient in this grace should
practise on it the more. Avoid slovenliness; it is a distant relation of
sin itself. Arrange your duties, and do not let them crowd one upon the
other. Set the greater duties, not abreast, but one behind the other,
filling up the spaces with the smaller ones. Do not let things drift, or
your life, built for carrying precious argosies, and accomplishing
something, will break up into pieces, the flotsam and jetsam of a barren
shore. In prayer be orderly. Arrange your desires. Let some come first,
while others stand back in the second or the third row, waiting their
turn. If your relations with your fellows have got a little disarranged,
atwist, seek to readjust the disturbed relation. Oppose what is evil and
mean with all your might; but if no principle is involved, even at the
cost of a little feeling, seek to have things put square. To get things
into a tangle requires no great skill; but he who would be a true
artist, keeping the Divine pattern before him, and ever working towards
it, if not up to it, may reduce the tangled skein to harmony, and like
the Gobelin tapestry-makers, weave a life that is noble and beautiful, a
life on which men will love to gaze.

Again, we see the Divine concern for little things. Abundance always
tempts to extravagance and waste. And so here; the broken remnants of
the repast might have been thrown away as of no account; but Jesus bade
them, "Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost;" and we read they
filled with the broken bread, which remained over and above to them that
had eaten, twelve baskets full--and, by the way, the word rendered
"basket" here corresponds with the frugal fare, for, made of willow or
of wicker, it was of the coarsest kind, used only by the poor. What
became of the fragments, which outweighed the original supply, we do not
read; but though they were only the crumbs of the Divine bounty, and
though there was no present use for them, Jesus would not allow them to
be wasted.

But the true meaning of the narrative lies deeper than this. It is a
miracle of a new order, this multiplying of the loaves. In His other
miracles Jesus has wrought on the line of Nature, accelerating her
slower processes, and accomplishing in an instant, by His mere volition,
what by natural causes must have been the work of time, but which in the
specific cases would have been purely impossible, owing to the
enfeeblement of nature by disease. Sight, hearing, even life itself,
come to man through channels purely natural; but Nature never yet has
made bread. She grows the corn, but there her part ends, while Science
must do the rest, first reducing the corn to flour, then kneading it
into dough, and by the burning fires of the oven transmuting the dough
to bread. Why does Jesus here depart from His usual order, creating what
neither nature nor science can produce alone, but which requires their
concurrent forces? Let us see. To Jesus these visible, tangible things
were but the dead keys His hand touched, as He called forth some deeper,
farther-off music, some spiritual truth that by any other method men
would be slow to learn. Of what, then, is this bread of the desert the
emblem? St. John tells us that when the miracle occurred "the Passover
was nigh at hand," and this time-mark helps to explain the overcrowding
into the desert, for probably many of the five thousand were men who
were now on their way to Jerusalem, and who had stayed at Capernaum and
the neighbouring cities for the night. This supposition, too, is
considerably strengthened by the words of the disciples, as they suggest
that they should go and "lodge" in the neighbouring cities and villages,
which word implies that they were not residents of that locality, but
passing strangers. And as Jesus cannot now go up to Jerusalem to the
feast, He gathers the shepherdless thousands about Him, and keeps a sort
of Passover in the open guest-chamber of the mountainside. That such was
the thought of the Master, making it an anterior sacrament, is evident
from the address Jesus gave the following day at Capernaum, in which He
passes, by a natural transition, from the broken bread with which He
satisfied their physical hunger to Himself as the Bread come down from
heaven, the "living Bread" as He called it, which was His flesh. There
is thus a Eucharistic meaning in the miracle of the loaves, and this
northern hill signals in its subtle correspondences on to Jerusalem, to
another hill, where His body was bruised and broken "for our
iniquities," and His blood was poured out, a precious oblation for sin.
And as that Blood was typified by the wine of the first miracle at Cana,
so now Jesus completes the prophetic sacrament by the miraculous
creation of bread from the five seminal loaves, bread which He Himself
has consecrated to the holier use, as the visible emblem of that Body
which was given for us, men, women, and children alike, even for a
redeemed humanity. Cana and the desert-place thus draw near together,
while both look across to Calvary; and as the Church keeps now her
Eucharistic feast, taking from the one the consecrated bread, and from
the other the consecrated wine, she shows forth the Lord's death "till
He come."



CHAPTER XVIII.

_THE TRANSFIGURATION._


The Transfiguration of Christ marks the culminating point in the Divine
life; the few remaining months are a rapid descent into the valley of
Sacrifice and Death. The story is told by each of the three Synoptists,
with an almost equal amount of detail, and all agree as to the time when
it occurred; for though St. Matthew and St. Mark make the interval six
days, while St. Luke speaks of it as "about eight," there is no real
disagreement; St. Luke's reckoning is inclusive. As to the locality,
too, they all agree, though in a certain indefinite way. St. Matthew and
St. Mark leave it indeterminate, simply saying that it was "a high
mountain," while St. Luke calls it "the mountain." Tradition has long
localised the scene upon Mount Tabor, but evidently she has read off her
bearings from her own fancies, rather than from the facts of the
narrative. To say nothing of the distance of Mount Tabor from Cæsarea
Philippi--which, though a difficulty, is not an insuperable one, since
it might easily be covered in less than the six intervening days--Tabor
is but one of the group of heights which fringe the Plain of Esdraelon,
and so one to which the definite article would not, and could not, be
applied. Besides, Tabor now was crowned by a Roman fortress, and so
could scarcely be said to be "apart" from the strifes and ways of men,
while it stood within the borders of Galilee, whereas St. Mark, by
implication, sets his "high mountain" outside the Galilean bounds (ix.
30). But if Tabor fails to meet the requirements of the narrative, Mount
Hermon answers them exactly, throwing its spurs close up to Cæsarea
Philippi, while its snow-crowned peak shone out pure and white above the
lesser heights of Galilee.

It is not an unmeaning coincidence that each of the Evangelists should
introduce his narrative with the same temporal word, "after." That word
is something more than a connecting link, a bridge thrown over a blank
space of days; it is rather, when taken in connection with the preceding
narrative, the key which unlocks the whole meaning and mystery of the
Transfiguration. "After these sayings," writes St. Luke. What sayings?
Let us go back a little, and see. Jesus had asked His disciples as to
the drift of popular opinion about Himself, and had drawn from Peter the
memorable confession--that first Apostle's Creed--"Thou art the Christ
of God." Immediately, however, Jesus leads down their minds from these
celestial heights to the lowest depths of degradation, dishonour, and
death, as He says, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be
rejected of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and
the third day be raised up." Those words shattered their bright dream at
once. Like some fearful nightmare, the foreshadow of the cross fell upon
their hearts, filling them with fear and gloom, and striking down hope,
and courage, yea, even faith itself. It would almost seem as if the
disciples were unnerved, paralyzed by the blow, and as if an atrophy had
stolen over their hearts and lips alike; for the next six days are one
void of silence, without word or deed, as far as the records show. How
shall their lost hope be recalled, or courage be revived? How shall they
be taught that death does not end all--that the enigma was true of
Himself, as well as of them, that He shall find His life by losing it?
The Transfiguration is the answer.

Taking with Him Peter, John, and James--the three who shall yet be
witnesses of His agony--Jesus retires to the mountain height, probably
intending, as our Evangelist indicates, to spend the night in prayer.
Keeping the midnight watch was nothing new to these disciples; it was
their frequent experience upon the Galilean lake; but now, left to the
quiet of their own thoughts, and with none of the excitements of the
spoil about them, they yield to the cravings of nature and fall asleep.
Awaking, they find their Master still engaged in prayer, all oblivious
of earthly hours, and as they watch He is transfigured before them. The
fashion, or appearance, of His countenance, as St. Luke tersely puts it,
"became another," all suffused with a heavenly radiance, while His very
garments became lustrous with a whiteness which was beyond the fuller's
art and beyond the whiteness of the snow, and all iridescent, flashing
and sparkling as if set with stars. Suddenly, ere their eyes have grown
accustomed to the new splendours, two celestial visitants appear,
wearing the glorious body of the heavenly life and conversing with
Jesus.

Such was the scene upon the "holy mount," which the Apostles could never
forget, and which St. Peter recalls with a lingering wonder and delight
in the far-off after-years (2 Pet. i. 18). Can we push aside the outward
draperies, and read the Divine thought and purpose that are hidden
within? We think we may. And--

1. We see the place and meaning of the Transfiguration in the life of
Jesus. Hitherto the humanity of Jesus had been naturally and perfectly
human; for though heavenly signs have, as at the Advent and the Baptism,
borne witness to its super-humanity, these signs have been temporary and
external, shining or alighting upon it from without. Now, however, the
sign is from within. The brightness of the outer flesh is but the
outshining of the inner glory. And what was that glory but the "glory of
the Lord," a manifestation of the Deity, that fulness of the Godhead
which dwelt within? The faces of other sons of men have shone, as when
Moses stepped downwards from the mount, or as Stephen looked upwards to
the opened heavens; but it was the shining of a reflected glory, like
the sunlight upon the moon. But when the humanity of Jesus was thus
transfigured it was a native glory, the inward radiance of the soul
stealing through, and lighting up, the enveloping globe of human flesh.
It is easy to see why this celestial appearance should not be the normal
manifestation of the Christ; for had it been, He would no longer have
been the "Son of man." Between Himself and the humanity He had come to
redeem would have been a gulf wide and profound, while the Fatherhood of
God would have been a truth lying back in the vistas of the unknown, a
truth unfelt; for men only reach up to that Fatherhood through the
Brotherhood of Christ. But if we ask why now, just for once, there
should be this transfiguring of the Person of Jesus, the answer is not
so evident. Godet has a suggestion which is as natural as it is
beautiful. He represents the Transfiguration as the natural issue of a
perfect, a sinless his, a life in which death should have no place, as
it would have had no place in the life of unfallen man. Innocence,
holiness, glory--these would have been the successive steps connecting
earth with heaven, an ever-upward path, across which death would not
even have cast a shadow. Such would have been the path opened to the
first Adam, had not sin intervened, bringing death as its wage and
penalty. And now, as the Second Adam takes the place of the first,
moving steadily along the path of obedience from which the first Adam
swerved, should we not naturally look for that life to end in some
translation or transfiguration, the body of the earthly life blossoming
into the body of the heavenly? and where else so appropriately as here,
upon the "holy mount," when the spirits of the perfected come forth to
meet Him, and the chariot of cloud is ready to convey Him to the heavens
which are so near? It is thus something more than conjecture--it is a
probability--that had the life of Jesus been by itself, detached from
mankind in general, the Transfiguration had been the mode and the
beginning of the glorification. The way to the heavens, from which He
was self-exiled, was open to Him from the mount of glory, but He
preferred to pass up by the mount of passion and of sacrifice. The
burden of the world's redemption is upon Him, and that eternal purpose
leads Him down from the Transfiguration glories, and onwards to a cross
and grave. He chooses to die, with and for man, rather than to live and
reign without man.

But not only does the "holy mount" throw its light on what would have
been the path of unfallen man, it gives us in prophecy a vision of the
resurrection life. Compare the picture of the transfigured Christ, as
drawn by the Synoptists, with the picture, drawn by John himself, of the
Christ of the Exaltation, and how strikingly similar they are! (Rev. i.
13-17). In both descriptions we have an affluence of metaphor and
simile, which affluence was itself but the stammering of our weak human
speech, as it seeks to tell the unutterable. In both we have a whiteness
like the snow, while to portray the countenance St. John repeats almost
verbatim St. Matthew's words, "His face did shine as the sun." Evidently
the Christ of the Transfiguration and the Christ of the Exaltation are
one and the same Person; and why do we blame Peter for speaking in such
random, delirious words upon the mount, when John, by the glory of that
same vision, in Patmos, is stricken to the ground as if dead, not able
to speak at all? When Peter spoke, somewhat incoherently, about the
"three tabernacles," it was not, as some aver, the random speech of one
who was but half awake, but of one whose reason was dazzled and confused
with the blinding glory. And so the Transfiguration anticipates the
Glorification, investing the sacred Person with those same robes of
light and royalty He had laid aside for a time, but which He will
shortly assume again--the habiliments of an eternal re-enthronement.

2. Again, the holy mount shows us the place of death in the life of man.
We read, "There talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elijah;"
and as if the Evangelist would emphasize the fact that it was no
apparition, existing only in their heated imagination, he repeats the
statement (ver. 35) that they were "two men." Strange gathering--Moses,
Elias, and Christ!--the Law in the person of Moses, the Prophets in the
person of Elias, both doing homage to the Christ, who was Himself the
fulfilment of prophecy and law. But what the Evangelist seems to note
particularly is the humanness of the two celestials. Though the earthly
life of each ended in an abrupt, unearthly way, the one having a
translation, the other a Divine interment (whatever that may mean), they
have both been residents of the heavenly world for centuries. But as
they appear to-day "in glory," that is, with the glorified body of the
heavenly life, outwardly, visibly, their bodies are still human. There
is nothing about their form and build that is grotesque, or even
unearthly. They have not even the traditional but fictitious wings with
which poetry is wont to set on the inhabitants of the sky. They are
still "men," with bodies resembling, both in size and form, the old body
of earth. But if the appearance of these "men" reminds us of earth, if
we wait awhile, we see that their natures are very unearthly, not
unnatural so much as supernatural. They glide down through the air with
the ease of a bird and the swiftness of light, and when the interview
ends, and they go their separate ways, these heavenly "men" gather up
their robes and vanish, strangely and suddenly as they came. And yet
they can make use of earthly supports, even the grosser forms of matter,
planting their feet upon the grass as naturally as when Moses climbed up
Pisgah or as Elijah stood in Horeb's cave.

And not only do the bodies of these celestials retain still the image of
the earthly life, but the bent of their minds is the same, the set and
drift of their thoughts following the old directions. The earthly lives
of Moses and Elias had been spent in different lands, in different
times; five hundred eventful years pushed them far apart; but their
mission had been one. Both were prophets of the Highest, the one
bringing God's law down to the people, the other leading a lapsed people
back and up to God's law. Yes, and they are prophets still, but with a
nearer vision now. No longer do they gaze through the crimson lenses of
the sacrificial blood, beholding the Promised One afar off. They have
read the Divine thought and purpose of redemption; they are initiated
into its mysteries; and now that the cross is close at hand, they come
to bring to the world's Saviour their heavenly greetings, and to invest
Him, by anticipation, with robes of glory, soon to be His for evermore.

Such is the apocalypse of the holy mount. The veil which hides from our
dull eye of sense the hereafter was lifted up. The heavens were opened
to them, no longer far away beyond the cold stars, but near them,
touching them on every side. They saw the saints of other days
interesting themselves in earthly events--in one event at least, and
speaking of that death which they mourned and feared, calmly, as a thing
expected and desired, but calling it by its new and softened name, a
"departure," an "exodus." And as they see the past centuries saluting
Him whom they have learned to call the Christ, "the Son of God," as the
truth of immortality is borne in upon them, not as a vague conception of
the mind, but by oral and ocular demonstration, would they not see the
shadow of the coming death in a different light? would not the painful
pressure upon their spirits be eased somewhat, if not, indeed, entirely
removed? and--

  "The Apostle's heart of rock
  Be nerved against temptation's shock"?

Would they not more patiently endure, now that they had become apostles
of the Invisible, seers of the Unseen?

But if the glory of the holy mount sets in a fairer light the cross and
grave of Christ, may we not throw from the mirror of our thought some of
its light upon our lowlier graves? What is death, after all, but the
transition into life? Retaining its earthly accent, we call it a
"decease;" but that is true only of the corporeal nature, that body of
"flesh and blood" which cannot inherit the higher kingdom of glory to
which we pass. There is no break in the continuity of the soul's
existence, not even one parenthetic hour. When He who was the
Resurrection and the Life said, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in
paradise," that word passed on a forgiven soul directly to a state of
conscious blessedness. From "the azure deep of air" does the eagle look
regretfully upon the eyrie of its crag, where it lay in its unfledged
weakness? or does it mourn the broken shell from which its young life
emerged? And why should we mourn, or weep with unrestrained tears, when
the shell is broken that the freed spirit may soar up to the regions of
the blessed, and range the eternities of God? Paganism closed the story
of human life with an interrogation-point, and sought to fill up with
guesses the blank she did not know. Christianity speaks with clearer
voice; hers is "a sure and certain hope," for He who "hath abolished
death" hath "brought life and immortality to light." Earth's exodus is
heaven's genesis, and what we call the end celestials call the
beginning.

And not only does the mount speak of the certainties of the after-life,
it gives, in a binocular vision, the likeness of the resurrection body,
answering, in part, the standing question, "How are the dead raised
up?" The body of the heavenly life must have some correspondence with,
and resemblance to, the body of our earthly life. It will, in a sense,
grow out of it. It will not be something entirely new, but the old
refined, spiritualized, the dross and earthliness all removed, the marks
of care, and pain, and sin all wiped out. And more, the Transfiguration
mount gives us indubitable proof that heaven and earth lie, virtually,
close together, and that the so-called "departed" are not entirely
severed from earthly things; they can still read the shadows upon
earthly dials, and hear the strike of earthly hours. They are not so
absorbed and lost in the new glories as to take no note of earthly
events; nor are they restrained from visiting, at permitted times, the
earth they have not wholly left; for as heaven was theirs, when on
earth, in hope and anticipation, so now, in heaven, earth is theirs in
thought and memory. They have still interests here, associations they
cannot forget, friends who are still beloved, and harvests of influence
they still may reap. With the absurdities and follies of so-called
Spiritualism we have no sort of sympathy--they are the vagaries of weak
minds; but even their eccentricities and excesses shall not be allowed
to rob us of what is a truly Christian hope, that they who cared for us
on earth care for us still, and that they who loved and prayed for us
below love us none the less, and pray for us none the less frequently,
now that the conflict with them is over, and the eternal rest begun. And
why may not their spirits touch ours, influencing our mind and heart,
even when we are not conscious whence those influences come? for are
they not, with the angels, "ministering spirits, sent forth to do
service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?" The Mount of
Transfiguration does indeed stand "apart," for on its summit the paths
of the celestials and of the terrestrials meet and merge; and it is
"high" indeed, for it touches heaven.

3. Again, the holy mount shows us the place of death in the life of
Jesus. How long the vision lasted we cannot tell, but in all probability
the interview was but brief. What supreme moments they were! and what a
rush of tumultuous thoughts, we may suppose, would fill the minds of the
two saints, as they stand again on the familiar earth! But listen! They
speak no word to revive the old-time memories; they bring no tidings of
the heavenly world; they do not even ask, as they well might, the
thousand questions concerning His life and ministry. They think, they
speak, of one thing only, the "decease which He was about to accomplish
at Jerusalem." Here, then, we see the drift of heavenly minds, and here
we learn a truth which is wonderfully true, that the death of Jesus, the
cross of Jesus, was the one central thought of heaven, as it is the one
central hope of earth. But how can it be such if the life of Jesus is
all we need, and if the death is but an ordinary death, an appendix,
necessary indeed, but unimportant? Such is the belief of some, but such
certainly is not the teaching of this narrative, nor of the other
Scriptures. Heaven sets the cross of Jesus "in the midst," the one
central fact of history. He was born that He might die; He lived that He
might die. All the lines of His human life converge upon Calvary, as He
Himself said, "For unto this hour came I into the world." And why is
that death so all-important, bending towards its cross all the lines of
Scripture, as it now monopolizes the speech of these two celestials?
Why? There is but one answer which is satisfactory, the answer St.
Peter himself gives: "His own Self bare our sins in His body upon the
tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness" (1
Pet. ii. 24). And so the Mount of Transfiguration looks towards the
Mount of Sacrifice. It lights up Calvary, and lays a wreath of glory
upon the cross.

We need not speak again of Peter's random words, as he seeks to detain
the celestial visitants. He would fain prolong what to him is a Feast of
Tabernacles, and he suggests the building of three booths upon the
mountain slope--"one for Thee," putting his Lord first, "and one for
Moses, and one for Elias." He makes no mention of himself or of his
companions. He is content to remain outside, so that he may only be
near, as it were on the fringe of the transfiguring glories. But what a
strange request! what wandering, delirious words, almost enough to make
celestials smile! Well might the Evangelist excuse Peter's random words
by saying, "Not knowing what he said." But if Peter gets no answer to
his request, and if he is not permitted to build the tabernacles, Heaven
spreads over the group its canopy of cloud, that Shekinah-cloud whose
very shadow was brightness; while once again, as at the Baptism, a Voice
speaks out of the cloud, the voice of the Father: "This is My Son, My
Chosen; hear ye Him." And so the mountain pageant fades; for when the
cloud has passed away Moses and Elias have disappeared, "Jesus only" is
left with the three disciples. Then they retrace their steps down the
mountain side, the three carrying in their heart a precious memory, the
strains of a lingering music, which they only put into words when the
Son of man is risen from the dead; while Jesus turns, not reluctantly,
from the opened door and the welcome of Heaven, to make an atonement
upon Calvary, and through the veil of His rent flesh to make a way for
sinful man even into the Holiest.



CHAPTER XIX.

_THE GOOD SAMARITAN._

LUKE x. 25-37.


It would scarcely have accorded with the traditions of human nature had
the teachers of religion looked favourably upon Jesus. Stepping, as He
did, within their domain, without any human ordination or scholastic
authority, they naturally resented the intrusion, and when the teaching
of the new Rabbi so distinctly contravened their own interpretation of
the law their curiosity deepened into jealousy, and curdled at last into
a virulent hate. The ecclesiastical atmosphere was charged with
electricity, but it only manifested itself at first in the harmless play
of summer lightning, the cross-fire of half-earnest and half-captious
questions; later it was the forked lightning that struck Him down into a
grave.

We have no means of localizing, either in point of time or place, the
incident here recorded by our Evangelist, and which, by the way, only
St. Luke mentions. It stands by itself, bearing in its dependent parable
of the Good Samaritan an exquisite and perfect flower, from whose deep
cup has dropped the very nectar of the gods.

It was probably during one of His public discourses that a "certain
lawyer," or scribe--for the two titles are used interchangeably--"stood
up and tempted Him." He sought to prove Him by questions, as the word
means here, hoping to entrap Jesus amid the vagaries of Rabbinical
tradition. "Teacher," said he, hiding his sinister motive behind a veil
of courtesy and apparent candour, "what shall I do to inherit eternal
life?" Had the question been sincere, Jesus would probably have given a
direct answer; but reading the under-current of his thought, which moved
transversely to the surface-current of his speech, Jesus simply answered
his question by asking another: "What is written in the Law? How readest
thou?" With a readiness which implied a perfect familiarity with the
Law, he replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;
and thy neighbour as thyself." Some expositors have thought that the
Evangelist here gives the summary of what was a lengthened conversation,
and that Jesus Himself led the mind of the lawyer to join together these
detached portions of Scripture--one from Deuteronomy vi. 5, and the
other from Leviticus xix. 18. It is true there is a striking resemblance
between the answer of the lawyer and the answer Jesus Himself gave
subsequently to a similar question (Mark xii. 30, 31); but there is no
necessity for us to apologize for the resemblance, as if it were
improbable and unnatural. The fact is, as the narrative of Mark xii.
plainly indicates, that these two sentences were held in general consent
as the epitome of the Law, its first and its second commandment. Even
the scribe assents to this as an axiomatic truth he has no wish to
challenge. It will be observed that a fourth term is added to the three
of the original, possibly on account of the Septuagint rendering, which
translated the Hebrew "heart" by "mind." Godet suggests that since the
term "heart" is the most general term, denoting "in Scripture the
central focus from which all the rays of the moral life go forth," that
it stands in apposition to the other three, the one in its three
particulars. This, which is the most natural interpretation, would refer
the "mind" to the intellectual faculties, the "soul" to the emotional
faculties, the sensibilities, and the "might" to the will, which rules
all force; while by the "heart" is meant the unit, the "centred self,"
into which the others merge, and of which they form a part.

Jesus commended him for his answer: "Thou hast answered right: this do,
and thou shalt live"--words which brushed away completely the Hebraic
figment of inherited life. That life was not something that should be
reached by processes of loving. The life should precede the love, and
should give birth to it: the love should grow out of the life, its
blossoming flower.

Having the tables so turned upon himself, and wishing to "justify," or
to put himself right, the stranger asks still another question: "And who
is my neighbour?" doubtless hoping to cover his retreat in the smoke of
a burning question. To our minds, made familiar with the thought of
humanity, it seems as if a question so simple scarcely deserved such an
elaborate answer as Jesus gave to it. But the thought of humanity had
not yet possessed the world; indeed, it had only just come to earth, to
be spoken by, and incarnate in, Him who was the Son of man. To the Jew
the question of the lawyer was a most important one. The word
"neighbour" could be spoken in a breath; but unwind that word, and it
measures off the whole of our earthly life, it covers all our practical,
every-day duties. It ran through the pages of the Law, the ark in which
the Golden Rule was hidden; or like a silent angel, it flashed its sword
across life's forbidden paths. But if the Jew could not erase this broad
word from the pages of the Law, he could narrow and emasculate its
meaning by an interpretation of his own. And this they had done, making
this Divine word almost of none effect by their tradition. To the Jewish
mind "neighbour" was simply "Jew" spelt large. The only neighbourhood
they recognized was the narrow neighbourhood of Hebrew speech and Hebrew
sympathies. The Hebrew mind was isolated as their land, and all who
could not frame their shibboleths were barbarians, Gentiles, whom they
were at perfect liberty to spoil, as with anathemas and swords they
chased them over their Jordans. Jesus, however, is on the alert; and how
wisely He answers! He does not declaim against the narrowness of Hebrew
thought; He utters no denunciatory word against their proud and false
exclusiveness. He quietly unfolds the word, spreading it out into an
exquisite parable, that all coming times may see how beautiful, how
Divine the word "neighbour" is.

He said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he
fell among robbers, which both stripped him, and beat him, and departed,
leaving him half dead." The parables of Jesus, though drawn from real
life, had no local colouring. They grouped themselves around some
well-known fact of nature, or some general custom of social life; and so
their spirit was national or cosmopolitan, rather than local. Here,
however, Jesus departs from His usual manner, giving to His parable a
local habitation. It is the road which led steeply down from Jerusalem
to Jericho, and which for centuries has been so infested with robbers or
bandits as to earn for itself the darkly ominous name of "the Bloody
Way." Possibly that name itself is an outgrowth from the parable; but
whether so or not, it is scarcely to be supposed that it had so evil a
character in the days of Christ. As Jericho then was a populous city,
and intimately connected with Jerusalem in its social and business life,
the road would be much frequented. Indeed, the parable indicates as
much; for Jesus, whose words were never untrue to nature or to history,
represents His three travellers as all journeying singly; while the khan
or "inn" shows, in its reflection, a constant stream of travel. Our
anonymous traveller, however, does not find it so safe as he had
anticipated. Attacked, in one of its dusky ravines, by a band of
brigands, they strip him of his clothing, with whatever the girdle-purse
might contain, and beating him out of sheer devilry, they leave him by
the road-side, unable to walk, unable even to rise, a living-dying man.

"And by chance, a certain priest was going down that way; and when he
saw him he passed by on the other side. And in like manner a Levite
also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other
side." As in a _tableaux vivants_, Jesus shows us the two ecclesiastics,
who come in sight in the happy, coincidental way that Romance so
delights in. They had probably just completed their "course" of Temple
service, and were now going down to Jericho, which was a favourite
residence of the priests, for the somewhat long interval their sacred
duties allowed them. They had, therefore, no pressure of business upon
them; indeed, the verb would almost imply that the priest was walking
leisurely along. But they bring no help to the wounded man. Directly
they see him, instead of being drawn to him by the attractions of
sympathy, something, either the shock or the fright, acts upon them as
a centrifugal force, and sends them describing an arc of a circle around
that centre of groans and blood. At any rate they "passed by on the
other side," leaving behind them neither deed nor word of mercy, but
leaving behind them a shadow of themselves which, while time itself
lasts, will be vivid, cold, and repelling. It is just possible, however,
that they do not deserve all the unmeasured censure which the critics
and the centuries have given, and are still likely to give. It is very
easy for us to condemn their action as selfish, heartless; but let us
put ourselves in their place, alone in the lonely pass, with this proof
of an imminent danger sprung suddenly upon us, and it is possible that
we ourselves should not have been quite so brave as by our safe
firesides we imagine ourselves to be. The fact is it needed something
more than sympathy to make them turn aside and befriend the wounded man;
it needed physical courage, and that of the highest kind, and this
wanting, sympathy itself would not be sufficient. The heart might long
to help, even when the feet were hastening away. A sudden inrush of
fear, even of vague alarm, will sometimes drive us contrary to the drift
of our sympathies, just as our feet are lifted and we ourselves carried
onwards by a surging crowd.

Whether this be a correct interpretation of their conduct or not, it
certainly harmonizes with the general attitude of Jesus towards the
priesthood. The chief priests were always and bitterly hostile, but we
have reasonable ground for supposing that the priests, as a body, looked
favouringly upon Jesus. The bolts of terrible "woes" are hurled against
Pharisees and scribes, yet Jesus does not condemn the priests in a
single word; while in that aftermath of the Pentecost the Temple courts
yielded the richest harvests, as "a great company of the priests were
obedient to the faith." If, then, Jesus now holds up the priesthood to
execration, setting these ecclesiastics in the pillory of His parable,
that the coming centuries may throw sharp words at them, it is certainly
an exceptional mood. The sweet silence has curdled into acrid speech.
But even here Jesus does not condemn, except, as it would seem, by
implication, the conduct of the priest and Levite. They come into the
parable rather as accessories, and Jesus makes use of them as a foil, to
throw out into bolder relief the central figure, which is the Samaritan,
and so to emphasize His central truth, which is the real answer to the
lawyer's question, that "neighbour" is too broad, and too human, a word
to be cut off and eliminated by any boundaries of race.

But in thus casting a mantle of charity around our priest and Levite, we
must admit that the character is sometimes true even down to recent
days. Ecclesiasticism and religion, alas! are not always synonyms.
Revolted Israel sins and sacrifices by turns, and seeking to keep the
balance in equal poise, she puts over against her multitude of sins her
multitude of sacrifices. Religiousness may be at times but a cloak for
moral laxity, and to some rite is more than right. There are those,
alas! to-day, who wear the livery of the Temple, to whom religion is a
routine mechanism of dead things, rather than the commerce of living
hearts, who open with hireling hand the Temple gates, who chant with
hireling lips how "His mercy endureth for ever," and then step down from
their sacred Jerusalem, to toss justice and mercy to the winds, as they
defraud the widow and oppress the poor.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when
he saw him, he was moved with compassion, and came to him, and bound up
his wounds, pouring on them oil and wine; and he set him on his own
beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." At first sight
it would appear as if Jesus had weakened the narrative by a
topographical inaccuracy, as if He had gone out of His way to place a
Samaritan on the road to Jericho, which was altogether out of the line
of Samaritan travel. But it is a deliberate purpose on the part of
Jesus, and not a _lapsus linguæ_, that introduces this Samaritan; for
this is the gist of the whole parable. The man who had fallen among the
robbers was doubtless a Jew; for had it been otherwise, the fact would
have been stated. Now there was no question as to whether the word
"neighbour" embraced their fellow-countrymen; the question was whether
it passed beyond their national bounds, opening up lines of duty across
the outlying world. It is therefore almost a necessity that the one who
teaches this lesson should be himself an alien, a foreigner, and Jesus
chooses the Samaritan as being of a race against which Jewish
antipathies were especially strong, but for which He Himself had a
special regard and warmest sympathy. Though occupying adjacent
territory, the Jews and the Samaritans practically were far apart,
antipodal races we might almost call them. Between them lay a wide and
deep chasm that trade even could not bridge, and across which the
courtesies and sympathies of life never passed. "The Jews have no
dealings with the Samaritans," said the flippant woman of Samaria, as
she voiced a jealousy and hatred which were as mutual as they were deep.
But here, in this ideal Samaritan, is a noble exception. Though
belonging to a lowly and obscure race, his thoughts are high. The ear of
his soul has so caught the rhythm of Divine harmonies that it does not
hear longer the little lisping shibboleths of earthly speech; and while
the sympathies of smaller hearts flow like a stream down in their
well-defined and accustomed channel, seldom knowing any overflow, save
in some rare freshet of impulse and of feeling, the sympathies of the
Samaritan moved outward like the currents of the wind, sweeping across
all chasms and over all mountain heights of division, bearing their
clouds of blessing anywhither as the need required. It makes no
difference to him that the fallen man is of an alien race. He is a
_man_, and that is enough; and he is down, and must be raised; he is in
need, and must be helped. The priest and Levite thought first and most
of themselves, and giving to the man but a brief and scared look, they
passed on with a quickened pace. Not so with the Samaritan; he loses all
thought of himself, and is perfectly oblivious to the danger he himself
may be running. Upon his great soul he feels the pressure of this
"must;" it runs along the tightened muscles of his arm, as he checks his
steed. He himself comes down, dismounting, that he may help the man to
rise. He opens his flask and puts his wine to the lips, that their
groans may cease, or that they may be soothed down into inarticulate
speech. The oil he has brought for his own food he pours upon the
wounds, and when the man has sufficiently recovered he lifts him upon
his own beast and takes him to the inn. Nor is this enough for his great
heart, but continuing his journey on the morrow, he first arranges with
his host that the man shall be well cared for, giving him two pence,
which was the two days' wages of a labouring man, at the same time
telling him that he must not limit his attentions to the sum he pays in
advance, but that if anything more should be needed he would pay the
balance on his return. We do not read whether it was needed or not, for
the Samaritan, mounting his steed, passes out of our hearing and out of
our sight. Not quite out of our hearing, however, for Heaven has caught
his gentle, loving words, and hidden them within this parable, that all
coming times may listen to their music; nor out of our sight either, for
his photograph was caught in the sunlight of the Master's speech; and as
we turn over the pages of Inspiration there is no picture more beautiful
than that of the nameless Samaritan, whom all the world calls "the
Good," the man who knew so much better than his age what humanity and
mercy meant.

In the new light the lawyer can answer his own question now, and he
does; for when Jesus asks, "Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved
neighbour unto him that fell among the robbers?" he replies, with no
hesitation, but with a lingering prejudice that does not care to
pronounce the, to him, outlandish name, "He that showed mercy on him."
The lesson is learned, the lesson of humanity, for the whole parable is
but an amplification of the Golden Rule, and Jesus dismisses the subject
and the scholar with the personal application, which is but a corollary
of the proposition He has demonstrated, "Go thou and do likewise." Go
and do to others as you would have them do to you, were the
circumstances reversed and your places changed. Read off your duty, not
from your own low standpoint merely, but in a binocular vision, as you
put yourself in his place; so will you find that the line of duty and
the line of beauty are one.

The practical lessons of the parable are easy to trace, as they are of
universal application. The first, lesson it teaches is the lesson of
humanity, the neighbourhood and brotherhood of man. It is a convenience,
and perhaps a necessity, of human life, that the great mass of humanity
should be broken up into fragments, sections, with differing customs,
languages, and names. It gives to the world the stimulus of competition
and helpful rivalries. But these distinctions are superficial,
temporary, and beneath this diversity of speech and thought there is the
deeper unity of soul. We emphasize our differences; we pride ourselves
upon them; but how little does Heaven make of them! Heaven does not even
see them. Our national boundaries may climb up over the Alps, but they
cannot touch the sky. Those skies look down and smile on all alike,
divinely impartial in their gifts of beauty and of light. And how little
of the provincial, or even national, there was about Jesus! Though He
kept Himself almost entirely within the borders of the Holy Land, never
going far from His central pivot, which was Jerusalem, and its cross,
yet He belonged to the world, as the world belonged to Him. He called
Himself the Son of man, at once humanity's flower, and humanity's Son
and Saviour. And as over the cradle of the Son of man the far east and
the far west together leaned, so around His cross was the meeting-place
of the races. The three chief languages inscribed upon it proclaimed His
royalty, while the cross itself, on which the Sacrifice for humanity was
to be offered, was itself the gift of humanity at large, as Asia
provided it, and Europe prepared it, and Africa, in the person of the
Cyrenean, bore it. In the mind of Jesus, as in the purpose of God,
humanity was not a group of fractions, but a unit one and indivisible,
made of one blood, and by one Blood redeemed. In the heart of Jesus
there was the "enthusiasm of humanity," all-absorbing and complete, and
that enthusiasm takes possession of us, a new force generated in our
lives, as we approach in spirit the great Ideal Man.

The second lesson of the parable is the lesson of mercy, the beauty of
self-sacrifice. It was because the Samaritan forgot himself that all the
world has remembered and applauded him. It is because of his stoop of
self-renouncing love that his character is so exalted, his memory so
dear, and that his very name, which is a title without a name, floats
down the ages like a sweet song. "Go and do thou likewise" is the
Master's word to us. Discipline your heart that you may see in man
everywhere a brother, whose keeper you are. Let fraternity be, not a
theory only, but a realized fact, and then a factor of your life. Train
your eye to watch for others' needs, to read another's woe. Train your
soul to sympathy, and your hand to helpfulness; for in our world there
is room enough for both. Bethesda's porches stretch far as our eye can
reach, all crowded, too, with the sorrowing, the sick, and the sad,
thick enough indeed, but not so close as that an angel's foot may not
step between them, and not so sad but an angel's voice may soothe and
cheer. He who lifts another's load, who soothes another's smart, who
brightens a life that else would be dark, who puts a music within a
brother's soul, though it be only for a passing moment, wakes even a
sweeter music within his own, for he enters on earth into his Master's
joy, the joy of a redeeming, self-sacrificing love.



CHAPTER XX.

_THE TWO SISTERS._

LUKE x. 38-42.


At first sight it appears as if our Evangelist had departed from the
orderly arrangement of which he speaks in his prelude, in thus linking
this domestic scene of Judæa with His northern Galilean journey, and to
the casual glance this home-flower does certainly seem an exotic in
_this_ garden of the Lord. The strangeness, the out-of-placeness,
however, vanishes entirely upon a nearer, closer view. If, as is
probable, the parable of the Good Samaritan was spoken during that
northward journey, its scene lies away in Judæa, in the dangerous road
that sweeps down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now, this road to Jericho
lay through the village of Bethany, and in the Evangelist's mind the two
places are intimately connected, as we see (chap. xix. vv. 1, 29); so
that the idyll of Bethany would follow the parable of the Good Samaritan
with a certain naturalness, the one recalling the other by the simple
association of ideas. Then, too, it harmonizes so thoroughly with its
context, as it comes between a parable on works and a chapter on prayer.
In the one, man is the doer, heart and hand going out in the beautiful
ministries of love; in the other, man is the receiver, waiting upon God,
opening hand and heart for the inflow of Divine grace. In one it is Love
in action that we see; in the other it is Love at rest, at rest from
activities of her own, in quest of further good. This is exactly the
picture our Evangelist draws of the two sisters, and which might have
served as a parable had it not been so plainly taken from real life.
Perhaps, too, another consideration influenced the Evangelist, and one
that is suggested by the studied vagueness of the narrative. He gives no
clue as to where the little incident occurred, for the "certain village"
might be equally appropriate in Samaria or Judæa; while the two names,
Martha and Mary, apart from the corroboration of St. John's Gospel,
would not enable us to localize the scene. It is evident that St. Luke
wished to throw around them a sort of _incognito_, probably because they
were still living when he wrote, and too great publicity might subject
them to inconvenience, or even to something more. And so St. Luke
considerately masks the picture, shutting off the background of
locality, while St. John, who writes at a later date, when Jerusalem has
fallen, and who is under no such obligation of reserve, fixes the scene
precisely; for there can be no doubt that the Mary and Martha of his
Gospel, of Bethany, are the Martha and Mary of St. Luke; their very
characters, as well as names, are identical.

It was in one of His journeys to the south, though we have no means of
telling which, that He came to Bethany, a small village on the eastern
slope of Olivet, and about three-quarters of an hour from Jerusalem.
There are several indications in the Gospels that this was a favourite
resort of Jesus during His Judæan ministry (Matt. xxi. 1; John viii. 1);
and it is somewhat singular that the only nights that we read He spent
in Jerusalem were the night in the garden and the two nights He slept
in its grave. He preferred the quiet haven of Bethany; and though we
cannot with absolute certainty recognize the village home where Jesus
had such frequent welcome, yet throwing the side-light of John xi. 5
upon the haze, it seems in part to lift; for the deep affection Jesus
had for the three implies a close and ripened intimacy.

St. John, in his allusions to the family, makes Mary prominent, giving
precedence to her name, as he calls Bethany "the village of Mary and her
sister Martha" (John xi. 1). St. Luke, however, makes Martha the central
figure of his picture, while Mary is set back in the shade, or rather in
the sunshine of that Presence which was and is the Light of the world.
It was, "Martha received Him into her house." She was the recognized
head of the family, "the lady" in fact, as well as by the implication of
her name, which was the native equivalent of "lady." It was she who gave
the invitation to the Master, and on her devolved all the care of the
entertainment, the preparation of the feast, and the reception of the
guests; for though the change of pronoun in ver. 38 from "they" to "Him"
would lead us to suppose that the disciples had gone another way, and
were not with Him now, still the "much serving" would show that it was a
special occasion, and that others had been invited to meet Jesus.

It is a significant coincidence that St. John, speaking (xii. 2) of
another supper at Bethany, in the house of Simon, states that Martha
"served," using the same word that Jesus addressed to her in the
narrative of St. Luke. Evidently Martha was a "server." This was her
forte, so much so that her services were in requisition outside her own
house. Hers was a culinary skill, and she delighted with her sleight of
hand to effect all sorts of transformations, as, conjuring with her
fire, she called forth the pleasures and harmonies of taste. In this
case, however, she overdid it; she went beyond her strength. Perhaps her
guests outnumbered her invitations, or something unforeseen had upset
her plans, so that some of the viands were belated. At any rate, she was
cumbered, distracted, "put about" as our modern colloquialism would have
it. Perhaps we might say she was "put out" as well, for we can certainly
detect a trace of irritability both in her manner and in her speech. She
breaks in suddenly among the guests (the aorist participle gives the
rustle of a quick movement), and in the hearing of them all she says to
Jesus, "Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve
alone? bid her therefore that she help me." Her tone is sharp,
querulous, and her words send a deep chill across the table, as when a
sea-fret drifts coldly inland. If Mary was in the wrong thus to sit at
the feet of Jesus, Martha certainly was not in the right. There was no
occasion to give this public reprimand, this round-hand rebuke. She
might have come and secretly called her, as she did afterwards, on the
day of their sorrow, and probably Mary would have risen as quickly now
as then. But Martha is overweighted, ruffled; her feelings get the
better of her judgment, and she speaks, out of the impatience of her
heart, words she never would have spoken had she but known that
Inspiration would keep their echoes reverberating down all the years of
time. And besides, her words were somewhat lacking in respect to the
Master. True, she addresses Him as "Lord;" but having done this, she
goes off into an interrogative with an implied censure in it, and closes
with an imperative, which, to say the least, was not becoming, while
all through an undue emphasis is laid upon the first personal pronoun,
the "me" of her aggrieved self.

Turning to the other sister, we find a striking contrast, for Mary, as
our Evangelist puts it, "also sat at the Lord's feet, and heard His
word." This does not imply any forwardness on her part, or any desire to
make herself conspicuous; the whole drift of her nature was in the
opposite direction. Sitting "at His feet" now that they were reclining
at the table, meant sitting behind Him, alone amid the company, and
screened from their too-curious gaze by Him who drew all eyes to
Himself. Nor does she break through her womanly reserve to take part in
the conversation; she simply "heard His word;" or "she kept listening,"
as the imperfect tense denotes. She put herself in the listening
attitude, content to be in the shadow, outside the charmed circle, if
she only might hear Him speak, whose words fell like a rain of music
upon her soul. Her sister chided her for this, and the large family of
modern Marthas--for feminine sentiment is almost entirely on Martha's
side--blame her severely, for what they call the selfishness of her
conduct, seeking her own enjoyment, even though others must pay the
price of it. But was Mary so utterly selfish? and did she sacrifice duty
to gratify her inclination? Not at all, and certainly not to the extent
our Marthas would have us believe. Mary had assisted in the preparations
and the reception, as the "also" of ver. 39 shows; while Martha's own
words, "My sister did leave me to serve alone," themselves imply that
Mary had shared the labours of the entertainment before taking her place
at the feet of Jesus. The probability is that she had completed her
task; and now that He who spake as never man spake before was
conversing with the guests, she could not forego the privilege of
listening to the voice she might not hear again.

It is to Jesus, however, that we must go with our rivalry of claims. He
is our Court of Equity. His estimate of character was never at fault. He
looked at the essences of things, the soul of things, and not to the
outward wrappings of circumstance, and He read that palimpsest of
motive, the underlying thought, more easily than others could read the
outward act. And certainly Jesus had no apology for selfishness; His
whole life was one war against it, and against sin, which is but
selfishness ripened. But how does Jesus adjust this sisterly difference?
Does He dismiss the listener, and send her back to an unfinished task?
Does He pass on to her Martha's warm reproof? Not at all; but He gently
reproves the elder sister. "Martha, Martha," He said, as if her mind had
wandered, and the iteration was necessary to call her to herself, "thou
art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful:
for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from
her."

It is easy to see from this where Jesus thought the blame should rest.
It was Martha who had taken too much upon herself. Her generous heart
had gone beyond her strength, and far beyond the need. Wishing to do
honour to her Guest, studying to please Him, she had been over-lavish in
her entertainment, until she had become worried--anxious, troubled, as
Jesus said, the former word referring to the inner disquiet, the unrest
of soul, and the latter to the outward perturbation, the tremor of the
nerves, and the cloudiness that looked from her eyes. The fact was that
Martha had misread the tastes of her Guest. She thought to please Him
by the abundance of her provision, the largeness of her hospitality; but
for these lower pleasures of sense and of taste Jesus cared little. He
had meat to eat that others knew not of, and to do the will of Him that
sent Him was to Jesus more than any ambrosia or nectar of the gods. The
more simple the repast, the more it pleased Him, whose thoughts were
high in the heavenly places, even while His feet and the mortal body He
wore touched lightly the earth. And so while Martha's motive was pure,
her judgment was mistaken, and her eager heart tempted her to works of
supererogation, to an excess of care which was anxiety, the fret and
fever of the soul. Had she been content with a modest service, such as
would have pleased her Guest, she too might have found time to sit at
His feet, and to have found there an Elim of rest and a Mount of
Beatitudes.

But while Jesus has a kind rebuke for Martha, He has only words of
commendation for her sister, whom she has been so openly and sharply
upbraiding. "Mary," He said, speaking the name Martha had not uttered,
"hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." He
answers Martha in her own language, her native tongue; for in speaking
of Mary's choice as the "good part," it is a culinary phrase, the
_parlance_ of the kitchen or the table, meaning the choice bit. The
phrase is in apposition with the one thing which is needful, which
itself is the antithesis to the "many things" of Martha's care. What the
"one thing" is of which Jesus speaks we cannot say with certainty, and
almost numberless have been the interpretations given to it. But without
going into them, can we not find the truest interpretation in the Lord's
own words? We think we may, for in the Sermon on the Mount we have an
exact parallel to the narrative. He finds people burdened, anxious about
the things of this life, wearying themselves with the interminable
questions, "What shall we eat? or What shall we drink?" as if life had
no quest higher and vaster than these. And Jesus rebukes this spirit of
anxiety, exorcising it by an appeal to the lilies and the grass of the
field; and summing up His condemnation of anxiety, He adds the
injunction, "Seek ye His kingdom, and these things shall be added unto
you" (xii. 31). Here, again, we have the "many things" of human care and
strife contrasted with the "one thing" which is of supremest moment.
First, the kingdom; this in the mind of Jesus was the _summum bonum_,
the highest good of man, compared with which the "many things" for which
men strive and toil are but the dust of the balances. And this was the
choice of Mary. She sought the kingdom of God, sitting at the feet of
Him who proclaimed it, and who was, though she knew it not as yet,
Himself the King. Martha too sought the kingdom, but her distracted mind
showed that that was not her only, perhaps not her chief quest. Earthly
things weighed too heavily upon her mind and heart, and through their
dust the heavenly things became somewhat obscured. Mary's heart was set
heavenward. She was the listener, eager to know the will of God, that
she might do it. Martha was so busied with her own activities that she
could not give her thoughts to Christ; Mary ceased from her works, that
so she might enter into His rest, setting the world behind her, that her
undivided gaze might be upon Him who was truly her Lord. And so Jesus
loved Martha, yet pitied and chided her, while He loved and commended
Mary.

Nor was the "good part" ever taken from her, for again and again we find
her returning to the feet of Jesus. In the day of their great sorrow, as
soon as she heard that the Master had come and called her, she arose
quickly, and coming to Jesus, though it was the bare, dusty ground, she
fell at His feet, seeking strength and help where she before had sought
light and truth. And once more: when the shadow of the cross came
vividly near, when Simon gave the feast which Martha served, Mary sought
those feet again, to pour upon them the precious and fragrant nard, the
sweet odours of which filled all the house, as they have since filled
all the world. Yes, Mary did not sit at the feet of Jesus in vain; she
had learned to know Christ as few of the disciples did; for when Jesus
said, "She has done it for My burying," He intends us to infer that Mary
feels, stealing over her retiring but loving soul, the cold and awful
shadow of the cross. Her broken alabaster and its poured-out spikenard
are her unspoken ode to the Redeemer, her pre-dated homage to the
Crucified.

And so we find in Mary the truest type of service. Hers was not always
the passive attitude, receiving and never giving, absorbing and not
diffusing. There was the service before the session; her hands had
prepared and wrought for Christ before she placed herself at His feet,
and the sacrifice followed, as she brought her costly gift, to the
astonishment of all the rest, her sweet and healing balm for the wounds
which were soon to follow.

The life that is all receptive, that has no active ministries of love,
no waiting upon Christ in the person of His followers, is an unnatural,
an unhealthy life, a piece of morbid selfishness which neither pleases
God nor blesses man. On the other hand, the life that is always busy,
that is in a constant swirl of outward duties, flying here and there
like the stormy petrel over the unresting waves, will soon weary or wear
itself out, or it will grow into an automaton, a mechanism without a
soul. Receiving, giving, praying, working--these are the alternate
chords on which the music of our lives should be struck. Heavenward,
earthward, should be the alternate looks--heavenward in our waiting upon
God, and earthward in our service for man. That life shines the most and
is seen the farthest which reflects most of the heavenly light; and he
serves Christ the best who now sits humbly and prayerfully at His feet,
and then goes forth to be a "living echo" of His voice, breaking for Him
the alabaster of a self-sacrificing love. As one has beautifully
expressed it, "The effective life and the receptive life are one. No
sweep of arm that does some work for God but harvests also some more of
the truth of God and sweeps it into the treasury of the life."[3]

  [3] Phillips Brooks.

But if Mary gives us a type of the truest and best service, Martha shows
us a kind of service which is only too common. She gave to Jesus a right
loving welcome, and was delighted with the privilege of ministering to
His wants; but the coming of Jesus brought her, not peace, but
distraction--not rest, but worry. Her very service ruffled and irritated
her, until mind and heart were like the tempestuous lake ere the spell
of the Divine "Peace" fell upon it. And all the time the Christ was
near, who could bear each burden, and still all the disquiet of the
soul! But Martha was all absorbed in the thought of what she could do
for Him, and she forgot how much more He could do for her, giving to
her chafed spirit quietness and rest, even amid her toil. The Divine
Peace was near her, within her home, but the hurryings of her restless
will and her manifold activities effectually excluded that peace from
her heart.

And how many who call themselves Christians are true Marthas, serving
Christ, but feeling the yoke to chafe, and the burden to weight them!
perhaps preaching to others the Gospel of rest and peace, and themselves
knowing little of its experience and blessedness--like the camels of the
desert, which carry their treasures of corn and sweet spices to others,
and themselves feed on the bitter and prickly herbs. Ah, you are too
much upon your feet! Cease for awhile from your own works, and let God
work in you. Wait in His presence. Let His words take hold of you, and
His love enthuse you; so will you find rest amid your toil, calmness
amid the strife, and you will prove that the fret and the fever of life
will all disappear at the touch of the living Christ.



CHAPTER XXI.

_LOST AND FOUND._

LUKE xv.


In this chapter we see how the waves of influence, moving outward from
their Divine centre, touch the outermost fringe of humanity, sending the
pulsations of new excitements and new hopes through classes Religion and
Society both had banned. "Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing
near unto Him, for to hear Him." It was evidently a movement widespread
and deep. The hostility of Pharisees and scribes would naturally give to
these outcasts a certain bias in His favour, causing their hearts to
lean towards him, while His words of hope fell upon their lives like the
breaking of a new dawn. Nor did Jesus forbid their approach. Instead of
looking upon it as an intrusion, an impertinence, the attraction was
mutual. Instead of receiving them with a cold and scant courtesy, He
welcomed them, receiving them gladly, as the verb of the Pharisees'
murmur implies. He even mingled with them in social intercourse, with an
acceptance, if not an interchange, of hospitality. To the Pharisaic
mind, however, this was a flagrant lapse, a breach of the proprieties
which was unpardonable and half criminal, and they gave vent to their
disapprobation and disgust in the loud and scornful murmur, "This man
receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It is from this hard sentence
of withering contempt, as from a prickly and bitter calyx, we have the
trifoliate parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Man,
the last of which is perhaps the crown and flower of all the parables.
With minor differences, the three parables are really one, emphasizing,
as they reiterate, the one truth how Heaven seeks after the lost of
earth, and how it rejoices when the lost is found.

The first parable is pastoral: "What man of you," asks Jesus, using the
_Tu quoque_ retort, "having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of
them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after
that which is lost, until he find it?" It is one of those questions
which only need to be asked to be answered, an interrogative which is
axiomatic and self-evident. Jesus tries to set his detractors in His
place, that they may think His thoughts, feel His feelings, as they look
out on the world from His standpoint; but since they cannot follow Him
to these redemptive heights, He comes down to the lower level of their
vision. "Suppose you have a hundred sheep, and one of them, getting
separated from the rest, goes astray, what do you do? Dismissing it from
your thought, do you leave it to its fate, the certain slaughter that
awaits it from the wild beasts? or do you seek to minimize your loss,
working it out by the rule of proportion as you ask, 'What is one to
ninety-nine?' then writing off the lost one, not as a unit, but as a
common fraction? No; such a supposition is incredible and impossible.
You would go in search of the lost directly. Turning your back upon the
ninety and nine, and turning your thoughts from them too, you would
leave them in their mountain pasture,[4] as you sought the lost one.
Calling it by its name, you would climb the terraced hills, and awake
the echoes of the wadies, until the flinty heart of the mountain had
felt the sympathy of your sorrow, repeating with you the lost wanderer's
name. And when at last you found it you would not chide or punish it;
you would not even force it to retrace its steps across the weary
distance, but taking compassion on its weakness, you would lift it upon
your shoulders and bear it rejoicing home. Then forgetful of your own
weariness, fatigue and anxiety swallowed up in the new-found joy, you
would go round to your neighbours, to break the good news to them, and
so all would rejoice together."

  [4] The word rendered "wilderness" means any land unenclosed.

Such is the picture, warm in colour and instinct with life, Jesus
sketches in a few well-chosen words. He delicately conceals all
reference to Himself; but even the chromatic vision of the Pharisees
would plainly perceive how complete was its justification of His own
conduct, in mingling thus with the erring and the lost; while to us the
parable is but a veil of words, through which we discern the form and
features of the "Good Shepherd," who gave even His life for the sheep,
seeking that He might save that which was lost.

The second, which is a twin parable, is from domestic life. As in the
parables of the kingdom, Jesus sets beside the man with the mustard-seed
the woman with her leaven, so here He makes the same distinction,
clothing the Truth both in a masculine and a feminine dress. He asks
again, "Or what woman" (He does not say "of you," for if women were
present amongst His hearers they would be in the background) "having
ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and
sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she
hath found it, she calleth together her friends and neighbours, saying,
Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost." Much
objection has been taken to this parable for its supposed want of
naturalness and reality. "Is it likely," our objectors say, "that the
loss of a small coin like a drachma, whose value was about
sevenpence-halfpenny, could be the occasion of so much concern, and that
its recovery should be enough to call forth the congratulations of all
the village matrons? Surely that is not parable, but hyperbole." But
things have a real as well as an intrinsic value, and what to others
would be common and cheap, to its possessor might be a treasure beyond
reckoning, with all the added values of association and sentiment. So
the ten drachmas of the woman might have a history; they might have been
a family heirloom, moving quietly down the generations, with whole
poems, ay, and even tragedies, hidden within them. Or we can conceive of
a poverty so dire and strait that even one small coin in the emergent
circumstance might grow into a value far beyond its intrinsic worth. But
the parable does not need all these suppositions to steady it and keep
it from falling to the ground. When rightly understood it becomes
singularly natural, the truth of truth, if such an essence can be
distilled in human speech. The probable interpretation is that the ten
drachmas were the ten coins worn as a frontlet by the women of the east.
This frontlet was given by the bridegroom to the bride at the time of
marriage, and like the ring of western life, it was invested with a kind
of sanctity. It must be worn on all public occasions, and guarded with
a jealous, sacred care; for should one of its pieces be lost, it would
be regarded as an indication that the possessor had not only been
careless, but also that she had been unfaithful to her marriage vow.
Throwing, then, this light of eastern custom upon the parable, how vivid
and lifelike it becomes! With what intense eagerness would she seek for
the missing coin! Lighting her lamp--for the house would be but dimly
lighted with its open door and its small unglazed window--how carefully
and almost tremblingly she would peer along its shelves, and sweep out
the corners of her few rooms! and how great would be her joy as she saw
it glistening in the dust! Her whole soul would go out after it, as if
it were a living, sentient thing. She would clasp it in her hand, and
even press it to her lips; for has it not taken a heavy care and sorrow
from her heart? That one coin rising from the dust has been to her like
the rising of another sun, filling her home with light and her life with
melody; and what wonder that she hastens to communicate her joy, as,
standing by her door, after the eastern wont, she holds up the missing
treasure, and calls on her neighbours and friends (the substantives are
feminine now) to rejoice with her.

The third parable carries the thought still higher, forming the crown of
the ascending series. Not only is there a mathematical progression, as
the lost fraction increases from one-hundredth to one-tenth, and then to
one-half of the whole, but the intrinsic value of the loss rises in a
corresponding series. In the first it was a lost sheep, a loss which
might soon be replaced, and which would soon be forgotten; in the second
it was a lost coin, which, as we have seen, meant the loss of what was
more valuable than gold, even honour and character; while in the third
it is a lost child. We call it the parable of the Prodigal Son; it might
with equal propriety be called the Parable of the Bereaved Father, for
the whole story crystallizes about that name, repeating it, in one form
or another, no less than twelve times.

"A certain man," so begins this parabolic _Paternoster_, "had two sons."
Tired of the restraints of home and the surveillance of the father's
eye, the younger of them determined to see the world for himself, in
order, as the sequel shows, that he might have a free hand, and give
loose reins to his passions. With a cold, impertinent bluntness, he says
to the father, whose death he thus anticipates, "Father, give me the
portion of thy substance that falleth to me," a command whose sharp,
imperative tone shows but too plainly the proud, masterful spirit of the
youth. He respects neither age nor law; for though the paternal estate
could be divided during the father's life, no son, much less the
younger, had any right to demand it. The father grants the request,
dividing "unto them," as it reads, "his living;" for the same line which
marks off the portion of the younger marks out too that of the elder
son, though he holds his portion as yet only in promise. Not many days
after--for having found its wings, the foolish bird is in haste to
fly--the youth gathers all together, and then takes his journey into a
far country. The down grades of life are generally steep and short, and
so one sentence is enough to describe this _descensus Averni_, down
which the youth plunges so insanely: "He wasted his substance with
riotous living," scattering it, as the verb means, throwing it away
after low, illicit pleasures. "And when he had spent all"--the "all" he
had scrambled for and gathered a short while before--"there arose a
mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want;" and so great
were his straits, so remorseless the pangs of hunger, that he was glad
to attach himself to a citizen of that country as swineherd, living out
in the fields with his drove, like the swineherds of Gadara. But such
was the pressure of the famine that his mere pittance could not cope
with famine prices, and again and again he hungered to have his fill of
the carob-pods, which were dealt out statedly and sparingly to the
swine. But no man gave even these to him; he was forgotten, as one
already dead.

Such is the picture Jesus draws of the lost man, a picture of abject
misery and degradation. When the sheep wandered it strayed unwittingly,
blindly, getting farther from its fellows and its fold even when
bleating vainly for them. When the drachma was lost it did not lose
itself, nor had it any consciousness that it had dropped out of its
proper environment. But in the case of the lost man it was altogether
different. Here it is a wilful perversity, which breaks through the
restraints of home, tramples upon its endearments, and throws up a
blighted life, scarred and pealed amid the husks and swine of a far
country. And it is this element of perversity, self-will, which
explains, as indeed it necessitates, another marked difference in the
parables. When the sheep and the drachma were lost there was an eager
search, as the shepherd followed the wanderer over the mountain gullies,
and the woman with broom and lamp went after the lost coin. But when the
youth is lost, flinging himself away, the father does not follow him,
except in thought, and love, and prayer. He sits "still in the house,"
nursing a bitter grief, and the work on the farm goes on just as usual,
for the service of the younger brother would probably be not much
missed. And why does not the father summon his servants, bidding them go
after the lost child, bringing him home, if necessary, by force? Simply
because such a finding would be no finding. They might indeed carry the
wanderer home, setting down his feet by the familiar door; but of what
use is that if his heart is still wayward and his will rebellious? Home
would not be home to him; and with his heart in the far country, he
would walk even in his father's fields and in his father's house as an
alien, a foreigner. And so all embassies, all messages would be in vain;
and even a father's love can do no more than wait, patiently and
prayerfully, in hopes that a better spirit may yet come over him, and
that some rebound of feeling may bring him home, a humbled penitent. The
change comes at length, and the slow morning dawns.

When the photographer wishes to develop the picture that is hidden in
the film of the sensitive plate he carries it to a darkened room, and
bathed in the developing solution the latent image gradually appears,
even to the minutest details. It was so here; for when in his extremest
need, with the pinch of a fearful hunger upon him, and the felt darkness
of a painful isolation surrounding him, there came into the prodigal's
soul a sweet picture of the far-away home, the home which might still
have been his but for his wantonness, but which is his now only in
memory. It is true his first thoughts of that home were not very lofty;
they only crouched with the dogs under the father's table, or hovered
around the plentiful board of the servants, attracted by the "bread
enough and to spare." But such is the natural association of ideas; the
carob-pods of the swine naturally suggest the bread of the servants,
while this in turn opens up all the chambers of the father's house,
reviving its half-faded images of happiness and love, and awaking all
the sweet memories that sin had stifled and silenced. That it was so
here, the lower leading up to the higher thought, is evident from the
young man's soliloquy: "I will arise and go to my father, and will say
unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight: I am no
more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
The hunger for the servants' bread is all forgotten now, swallowed up in
the hunger of the soul, as it pines for the father's presence and for
the father's smile, longing for the lost Eden. The very name "father"
strikes with a strange music upon his awakened and penitent soul, making
him for the time half-oblivious to his present wretchedness; and as
Memory recalls a bright but vanished past, Hope peoples the dark sky
with a heavenly host, who sing a new Advent, the dawn of a heavenly day.
An Advent? Perhaps it was an Easter rather, with a "resurrection from
earth to things above," an Easter whose anthem, in songs without end,
was, "I will arise and go to my father," that _Resurgam_ of a new and
holier life.

No sooner is the "I will" spoken than there is a reversing of all the
wheels. The hands follow whither the heart has gone; the feet shake off
the dust of the far country, retracing the steps they measured so
foolishly and lightly before; while the eyes, washed by their bitter
tears--

  "Not backward are their glances bent,
  But onward to the Father's house."

"And he arose and came to his father." He came to himself first; and
having found that better self, he became conscious of the void he had
not felt before. For the first time he realizes how much the father is
to him, and how terrible the bereavement and loss he inflicted upon
himself when he put between that father and himself the desert of an
awful distance. And as the bright memories of other days flash up within
his soul, like the converging rays of a borealis, they all turn towards
and centre in the father. Servants, home, and loaves of bread alike
speak of him whose very shadow is brightness to the self-orphaned child.
He yearns for the father's presence with a strange and intense yearning;
and could that presence be his again, even if he were nothing more than
a servant, with but casual interviews, hearing his voice but in its
commanding tones, he would be content and happy.

And so he comes and seeks the father; will the father relent and receive
him? Can he overlook and forgive the waywardness and wantonness which
have embittered his old age? Can he receive him back even as a servant,
a child who has scorned his authority, slighted his love, and squandered
his substance in riotous living? Does the father say, "He has made his
own bed, and he must lie upon it; he has had his portion, even to the
swept-up crumbs, and there is nothing left for him now"? No, for there
is something left, a treasure which he might scorn, indeed, but which he
could not throw away, even a heritage of love. And what a picture the
parable draws of the love that hopeth and endureth all things! "But
while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with
compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." As the moon
in her revolutions lifts up the tides, drawing the deep oceans to
herself, so do the unsounded depths of the father's heart turn towards
the prodigal whose life has set, dropping out of sight behind
wildernesses of darkness. Thought, prayer, pity, compassion, love flow
out towards the attraction they can no longer see. Nay, it seems as if
the father's vision were transfixed riveted to the spot where the form
of his erring lad vanished out of sight; for no sooner has the youth
come within sight of the home, than the father's eyes, made telescopic
with love, discern him, and as if by intuition, recognize him, even
though his attire be mean and tattered, and his step has no longer the
lightness of innocence nor the firmness of integrity. It is, it is his
child, the erring but now repenting child, and the pent-up emotions of
the father's soul rush out as in a tumultuous freshet to meet him. He
even "ran" to meet him, all forgetful of the dignity of years, and
throwing himself upon his neck, he kissed him, not either with the cold
kiss of courtesy, but with the warm, fervent kiss of love, as the
intensive prefix of the verb implies.

So far this scene of reconciliation has been as a dumb show. The storm
of emotion so interrupted the electric flow of quiet thought and speech
that no word was spoken in the mutual embrace. When, however, the power
of speech returns the youth is the first to break the silence. "Father,"
he said, repeating the words of his mental resolve when in the far
country, "I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more
worthy to be called thy son." It is no longer the sense of physical
need, but the deeper sense of guilt, that now presses upon his soul. The
moral nature, which by the anodynes of sin had been thrown into a state
of coma, awakes to a vivid consciousness, and in the new awakening, in
the broadening light of the new dawn, he sees one thing only, and that
is his sin, a sin which has thrown its blackness over the wasted years,
which has embittered a father's heart, and which cast its shadow even
into heaven itself. Nor is it the conviction of sin only; there is a
full and frank confession of it, with no attempt at palliation or
excuse. He does not seek to gloss it over, but smiting his breast with
bitter reproaches, he confesses his sin with "a humble, lowly, penitent,
and obedient heart," hoping for the mercy and forgiveness he is
conscious he does not deserve. Nor does he hope in vain. Even before the
confession is completed, the absolution is spoken, virtually at least;
for without allowing the youth to finish his sentence, in which he
offers to renounce his sonship and to accept a menial position, the
father calls to the servants, "Bring forth quickly the best robe, and
put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and
bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry." In
this peal of imperatives we detect the rapid beating of the father's
heart, the loving, eager haste to wipe out all the sad marks that sin
has left. In the luminous atmosphere of the father's love the youth is
no more the prodigal; he is as one transfigured; and now that the
chrysalis has left the mire, and crept up into the sunlight, it must
have a dress befitting its new summer life, wings of gauze, and robes of
rainbow hues. The best, or "the first robe" as it is in the Greek, must
be brought out for him; a signet-ring, the pledge of authority, must be
put upon his hand; shoes, the badge of freedom, must be found for the
tired and bared feet; while for the merry-making which is extemporized,
the domestic _festa_ which is the crown of these rejoicings, the fatted
calf, which was in reserve for some high festival, must be killed. And
all this is spoken in a breath, in a sort of bewilderment, the ecstasy
of an excessive joy; and forgetting that the simple command is enough
for servants, the master must needs tell out his joy to them: "For this
my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."

If the three parables were all through coincident, the parable of the
Prodigal Son should close at this point, the curtain dropping over the
festive scene, where songs, and music, and the rhythm of the dance are
the outward and weak expressions of the father's joy over the son who
comes back from the far country, as one alive from the dead. But Jesus
has another purpose; He must not only plead the cause of the outcast and
the low, setting open for them the door of mercy and of hope; He must
also rebuke and silence the unreasoning murmur of the Pharisees and
scribes--which He does in the picture of the Elder Brother. Coming from
the field, the heir is surprised to find the whole house given up to an
impromptu feast. He hears the sounds of merriment and music, but its
strains fall strange and harsh upon his ear. What can it mean? Why was
_he_ not consulted? Why should his father thus take occasion of his
absence in the fields to invite his friends and neighbours? The proud
spirit chafes under the slight, and calling one of the servants, he asks
what it all means. The answer is not reassuring, for it only perplexes
and pains him the more: "Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed
the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound"--an answer
which does but deepen his displeasure, turning his sullenness to anger.
"And would not go in." They may end the feast, as they began it,
without him. The festive joy is something foreign to his nature; it
awakes but feelings of repulsion, and all its music is to him a grating
discord, a _Miserere_.

But let us not be too severe upon the elder brother. He was not perfect,
by any means, but in any appraisement of his character there are certain
veinings of worth and nobleness that must not be omitted. We have
already seen how, in the division of the father's goods, when he divided
unto them his living, while the younger took away his portion, and
swiftly scattered it in riotous living, the elder brother took no
advantage of the deed of gift. He did not dispossess the father,
securing for himself the paternal estate. He put it back into his
father's hands, content with the filial relation of dependence and
obedience. The father's word was still his law. He was the dutiful son;
and when he said, "These many years do I serve thee, and I never
transgressed a commandment of thine," the boast was no exaggeration but
the statement of a simple truth. Compared with the life of the prodigal,
the life of the elder brother had been consistent, conscientious, and
moral. Where, then, was his failure, his lack? It was just here, in the
lack of heart, the absence of affection. He bore the name of a son, but
he carried the heart of a servant. His nature was servile, rather than
filial; and while his hands offered a service unremitting and precise,
it was the cold service of an impassive mechanism. Instead of love
passing out in living heart-throbs, suffusing all the life with its
warmth, and clothing it in its own iridescent colouring, it was only a
metallic mainspring called "duty." The father's presence is not the
delight to him; he does not once mention that tender name in which the
repenting one finds such a heaven; and when he draws the picture of his
highest happiness, the feast of his earthly Walhalla, "my friends" are
there, though the father is excluded. And so between the father and the
elder brother, with all this seeming nearness, there was a distance of
reserve, and where the voices of affection and of constant communion
should have been heard there was too often a vacancy of silence. It
takes a heart to read a heart; and since this was wanting in the elder
brother, he could not know the heart of the father; he could not
understand his wild joy. He had no patience with his younger brother;
and had he received him back at all, it would have been with a haughty
stiffness, and with a lowering in his looks, which should have been at
once a rebuke for the past and a warning for the future. The father
looked on his son's repentance; the elder brother did not regard the
repentance at all; perhaps he had not heard of it, or perhaps he could
not understand it; it was something that lay out of the plane of his
consciousness. He saw the sin only, how the younger son had devoured his
living with harlots; and so he was severe, exacting, bitter. He would
have brought out the sackcloth, but nothing more; while as to the music
and the fatted calf, they would appear to his loveless soul as an absurd
anachronism.

But far removed as he is from the father's spirit, he is still his son;
and though the father rejoices more over the younger than over the
elder, as was but natural, he loves them both with an equal love. He
cannot bear that there should be any estrangement now; and he even
leaves the festive throng, and the son he has welcomed and robed, and
going out, he begs, he entreats the elder brother to pass in, and to
throw himself into the general joy. And when the elder son complains
that, with all his years of obedient, dutiful service, he has never had
even a kid, much less a fatted calf, on which to feast his friends, the
father says, lovingly, but chidingly, "Son"--or "Child," rather, for it
is a term of greater endearment than the "son" he had just used
before--"thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine. But it
was meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and
is alive again; and was lost, and is found." He plays upon the "child"
as upon a harp, that he may drive away the evil spirits of jealousy and
anger, and that even within the servant-heart he may awake some chords,
if only the far-off echoes of a lost childhood. He reminds him how
vastly different their two positions are. For him there has been no
break in their intercourse; the father's house has been his home; he has
had the free range of all: to the younger that home has been nothing but
a distant memory, with a waste of dreary years between. He has been heir
and lord of all; and so completely have father and son been identified,
their separate personalities merged the one in the other, that the
possessive pronouns, the "mine" and the "thine," are used
interchangeably. The younger returns penniless, disinherited by his own
misdeed. Nay, he has been as one dead; for what was the far country but
a vault of slimy things, the sepulchre of a dead soul? "And should we
not make merry and be glad, when thy brother" (it is the antithesis to
"thy son" of ver. 30, a mutual "thy") "comes back to us as one raised
from the dead?"

Whether the father's pleading prevailed, or not, we are not told. We can
but hope it did, and that the elder brother, with his asperities all
dissolved, and his jealousies removed, did pass within to share the
general joy, and to embrace a lost brother. Then he too would know the
sweetness of forgiveness, and taught by the erring but now forgiven one,
he too would learn to spell out more correctly that deep word "father,"
the word he had stammered at, and perhaps misspelt before, as the
fatherhood and the brotherhood became to him not ideas merely, but
bright realities.

Gathering up now the lessons of the parables, they show us (1) the
Divine grief over sin. In the first two this is the prominent thought,
the sorrow of the loser. God is represented as losing that which is of
worth to Him, something serviceable, and therefore valuable. In the
third parable the same idea is suggested rather than stated; but the
thought is carried farther, for now it is more than a loss, it is a
bereavement the father suffers. The retreating form of the wanderer
throws back its shadow across the father's home and heart, a shadow that
congeals and stays, and that is darker than the shadow of Death itself.
It is the Divine Grief, whose depths we cannot sound, and from whose
mystery we must stand back, not one stone's cast, but many.

The parables show (2) the sad state of the sinner. In the case of the
Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin we see his perfect helplessness to recover
himself, and that he must remain lost, unless One higher than himself
undertakes his cause, and "help is laid upon One that is mighty." It is
the third parable, however, which especially emphasizes the downward
course of sin and the deepening wretchedness of the sinner. The flowery
path leads on to a valley of desolation. The way of transgressors is
ever a downward path; and let an evil spirit possess a soul, it hurries
him directly down the steep place, where, unless the flight be checked,
a certain destruction awaits him. Sin degrades and isolates. Want,
sorrow, penury, and pain are but a part of its viperous brood, and he
who plays with sin, calling it freedom, will find his rod blossom with
bitter fruit, or he will see it grow into a serpent with poison in its
fangs.

The parables show (3) God's willingness and eagerness to save. The long
and eager search after the lost sheep and the lost coin show, though but
imperfectly, the supreme efforts God makes for man's salvation. He is
not left to wander unrebuked and unsought. There is no forbidden path
along which men insanely rush, but some bright angel stands beside it,
warning back the sinner, it may be with a drawn sword, some "terror of
the Lord," or it may be with a cross, the sacrifice of an infinite love.
Though He could send His armies to destroy, He sends His messengers to
win us back to obedience and to love--Conscience, Memory, Reason, the
Word, the Spirit, and even the well-beloved Son. Nor is the great search
discontinued, until it has proved to be in vain.

The parables show (4) the eager interest Heaven takes in man's
salvation, and the deep joy there is among the angels over his
repentance and recovery. And so the three parables close with a
_Jubilate_. The shepherd rejoices over his recovered sheep more than
over the ninety and nine which went not astray; the woman rejoices over
the one coin found more than over the nine which were not lost. And this
is perfectly natural. The joy of acquisition is more than the joy of
possession; and as the crest of the waves is thrown up above the mean
sea-level by the alternate depths of depression, so the very sorrow and
grief over the loss and bereavement, now that the lost is found and the
dead is alive, throw up the emotions beyond their mean level, up to the
summits of an exuberant joy. And whether Jesus meant, by the ninety and
nine just persons who needed no repentance the unfallen intelligences of
heaven, or whether, as Godet thinks, He referred to those who under the
Old Covenant were sincere doers of the Law, and who found their
righteousness therein (Deut. vi. 25), it is still true, and a truth
stamped with a Divine "Verily," that more than the joy of Heaven over
these is its joy over the sinner that repented, the dead who now was
alive, and the lost who now was found!



CHAPTER XXII.

_THE ETHICS OF THE GOSPEL._


Whatever of truth there may be in the charge of "other-worldliness," as
brought against the modern exponents of Christianity, such a charge
could not even be whispered against its Divine Founder. It is just
possible that the Church had been gazing too steadfastly up into heaven,
and that she had not been studying the science of the "Humanities" as
zealously as she ought, and as she has done since; but Jesus did not
allow even heavenly things to obliterate or to blur the lines of earthly
duty. We might have supposed that coming down from heaven, and familiar
with its secrets, He would have much to say about the New World, its
position in space, its society and manner of life. But no; Jesus says
little about the life which is to come; it is the life which now is that
engrosses His attention, and almost monopolizes His speech. Life with
Him was not in the future tense; it was one living present, real,
earnest, but fugitive. Indeed, that future was but the present projected
over into eternity. And so Jesus, founding the kingdom of God on earth,
and summoning all men into it, if he did not bring commandments written
and lithographed, like Moses, yet He did lay down principles and rules
of conduct, marking out, in all departments of human life, the straight
and white lines of duty, the eternal "ought." It is true that Jesus
Himself did not originate much in this department of Christian ethics,
and probably for most of His sayings we can find a symphony struck from
the pages of earlier, and perhaps heathen moralists; but in the wide
realm of Right there can be no new law. Principles may be evolved,
interpreted; they cannot be created. Right, like Truth, holds the
"eternal years;" and through the millenniums before Christ, as through
the millenniums after, Conscience, that "ethical intellect" which speaks
to all men if they will but draw near to her Sinai and listen, spoke to
some in clear, authoritative tones. But if Jesus did no more, He
gathered up the "broken lights" of earth, the intermittent flashes which
had played on the horizon before, into one steady electric beam, which
lights up our human life outward to its farthest reach, and onward to
its farthest goal.

In the mind of Jesus conduct was the outward and visible expression of
some inner invisible force. As our earth moves round its elliptic in
obedience to the subtle attractions of other outlying worlds, so the
orbits of human lives, whether symmetrical or eccentric, are determined
mainly by the two forces' Character and Circumstance. Conduct is
character in motion; for men do what they themselves are, _i.e._ as far
as circumstances will allow. And it is just at this point the ethical
teaching of Jesus begins. He recognizes the _imperium in imperio_, that
hidden world of thought, feeling, sentiment, and desire which, itself
invisible, is the mould in which things visible are cast. And so Jesus,
in His influence upon men, worked outward from within. He sought, not
reform, but regeneration, moulding the life by changing the character;
for, to use His own figure, how could the thorn produce grapes, or the
thistle figs?

And so when Jesus was asked, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal
life?" He gave an answer which at first sight seemed to ignore the
question entirely. He said no word about "doing," but threw the
questioner back upon "being," asking what was written in the law: "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as
thyself" (x. 27). And as Jesus here makes Love the condition of eternal
life, its _sine qua non_, so He makes it the one all-embracing duty, the
fulfilling of the law. If a man love God supremely, and his neighbour as
himself, he cannot do more; for all other commandments are included in
these, the sub-sections of the greater law. Jesus thus sought to create
a new force, hiding it within the heart, as the mainspring of duty,
providing for that duty both aim and inspiration. We call it a "new"
force, and such it was practically; for though it was, in a way,
embedded in their law, it was mainly as a dead letter, so much so that
when Jesus bade His disciples to "love one another" He called it a "new
commandment." Here, then, we find what is at once the rule of conduct
and its motive. In the new system of ethics, as taught and enforced by
Jesus, and illustrated by His life, the Law of Love was to be supreme.
It was to be to the moral world what gravitation is to the natural, a
silent but mighty and all-pervasive force, throwing its spell upon the
isolated actions of the common day, giving impulse and direction to the
whole current of life, ruling alike the little eddies of thought and the
wider sweeps of benevolent activities. To Jesus "the soul of improvement
was the improvement of the soul." He laid His hand upon the heart's
innermost shrine, building up that unseen temple four-square, like the
city of the Apocalypse, and lighting up all its windows with the warm,
iridescent light of love.

With this, then, as the foundation-tone, running through all the spaces
and along all the lines of life, the thoughts, desires, words, and acts
must all harmonize with love; and if they do not, if they strike a note
that is foreign to its key-tone, it breaks the harmony at once, throwing
jars and discords into the music. Such a breach of the harmonic law
would be called a mistake, but when it is a breach of Christ's moral law
it is more than a mistake, it is a wrong.

Before passing to the outer life Jesus pauses, in this Gospel, to
correct certain dissonances of mind and soul, of thought and feeling,
which put us in a wrong attitude towards our fellows. First of all, He
forbids us to sit in judgment upon others. He says, "Judge not, and ye
shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned"
(vi. 37). This does not mean that we close our eyes with a voluntary
blindness, working our way through life like moles; nor does it mean
that we keep our opinions in a state of flux, not allowing them to
crystallize into thought, or to harden into the leaden alphabets of
human speech. There is within us all a moral sense, a miniature Sinai,
and we can no more suppress its thunders or sheath its lightnings than
we can hush the breakers of the shore into silence, or suppress the play
of the Northern Lights. But in that unconscious judgment we pass upon
the actions of others, with our condemnation of the wrong, we pass our
sentence upon the wrong-doer, mentally ejecting him from the courtesies
and sympathies of life, and if we allow him to live at all, compelling
him to live apart, as a moral incurable. And so, with our hatred of the
sin, we learn to hate the sinner, and calling from him both our
charities and our hopes, we hurl him down into some little Gehenna of
our own. But it is exactly this feeling, this kind of judgment, the Law
of Love condemns. We may "hate the sin, and yet the sinner love,"
keeping him still within the circle of our sympathies and our hopes. It
is not meet that we should be merciless who have ourselves experienced
so much of mercy; nor is it for us to hale others off to prison, or
ruthlessly to exact the uttermost farthing, when we ourselves at the
very best are erring and unfaithful servants, standing so much and so
often in need of forgiveness.

But there is another "judging" that the command of Christ condemns, and
that is the hasty and the false judgments we pass on the motives and
lives of others. How apt we are to depreciate the worth of others who do
not happen to belong to our circle! We look so intently for their faults
and foibles that we become blind to their excellences. We forget that
there is some good in every person, some that we can see if we only
look, and we may be always sure that there is some we cannot see. We
should not prejudge. We should not form our opinion upon an _ex parte_
statement. We should not leave the heart too open to the flying germs of
rumour, and we should discount heavily any damaging, disparaging
statement. We should not allow ourselves to draw too many inferences,
for he who is given to drawing inferences draws largely on his
imagination. We should think slowly in our judgment of others, for he
who leaps to conclusions generally takes his leap in the dark. We should
learn to wait for the second thoughts, for they are often truer than
the first. Nor is it wise to use too much "the spur of the moment;" it
is a sharp weapon, and is apt to cut both ways. We should not interpret
others' motives by our own feelings, nor should we "suppose" too much.
Above all, we should be charitable, judging of others as we judge
ourselves. Perhaps the beam that is in a brother's eye is but the
magnified mote that is in our own. It is better to learn the art of
appreciating than that of depreciating; for though the one is easy, and
the other difficult, yet he who looks for the good, and exalts the good,
will make the very wilderness to blossom and be glad; while he who
depreciates everything outside his own little self impoverishes life,
and makes the very garden of the Lord one arid, barren desert.

Again, Jesus condemns pride, as being a direct contravention of His Law
of Love. Love rejoices in the possessions and gifts of others, nor would
she care to add to her own if it must be at the cost of theirs. Love is
an equalizer, levelling up the inequalities the accidents of life have
made, and preferring to stand on some lower level with her fellows than
to sit solitary on some lofty and cold Olympus. Pride, on the other
hand, is a repelling, separating force. Scorning those who occupy the
lower places, she is contented only on her Olympian summit, where she
keeps herself warm with the fires of her self-adulation. The proud heart
is the loveless heart, one huge inflation; if she carries others at all,
it is only as a steadying ballast; she will not hesitate to throw them
over and throw them down, as mere dust or sand, if their fall will help
her to rise. Pride, like the eagle, builds her nest on high, bringing
forth whole broods of loveless, preying passions, hatreds, jealousies,
and hypocrisies. Pride sees no brotherhood in man; humanity to her
means no more than so many serfs to wait upon her pleasure, or so many
victims for her sacrifice! And how Jesus loved to prick these bubbles of
airy nothings, showing up these vanities as the very essence of
selfishness! He did not spare His words, even though they stung, when
"He marked how they chose out the chief seats" at the friendly supper
(xiv. 7); and one of His bitter "woes" He hurled at the Pharisees just
because "they loved the chief seats in the synagogues," worshipping
Self, when they pretended to worship God, so making the house of God
itself an arena for the sport and play of their proud ambitions. "He
that is least among you all," He said, when rebuking the disciples' lust
for pre-eminence, "the same is great." And such is Heaven's law:
humility is the cardinal virtue, the "strait" and low gate which opens
into the very heart of the kingdom. Humility is the one and the only way
of heavenly preferments and eternal promotions; for in the life to come
there will be strange contrasts and inversions, as he that exalted
himself is now humbled, and he that humbled himself is now exalted (xiv.
11).

Tracing now the lines of duty as they run across the outer life, we find
them following the same directions. As the golden milestone of the Forum
marked the centre of the empire, towards which its roads converged, and
from which all distances were measured, so in the Christian commonwealth
Jesus makes Love the capital, the central, controlling power; while at
the focal point of all the duties He sets up His Golden Rule, which
gives direction to all the paths of human conduct: "And as ye would that
men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (vi. 31). In this
general law we have what we might call the ethical compass, for it
embraces within its circle the "whole duty of man" towards his fellow;
and it only needs an adjusted conscience, like the delicately poised
needle, and the line of the "ought" can be read off at once, even in
those uncertain latitudes where no specific law is found. Are we in
doubt as to what course of conduct to pursue, as to the kind of
treatment we should accord to our fellow? we can always find the _via
recta_ by a short mental transposition. We have only to put ourselves in
his place, and to imagine our relative positions reversed, and from the
"would" of our supposed desires and hopes we read the "ought" of present
duty. The Golden Rule is thus a practical exposition of the Second
Commandment, investing our neighbour with the same luminous atmosphere
we throw about ourselves, the atmosphere of a benevolent, beneficent
love.

But beyond this general law Jesus gives us a prescript as to the
treatment of enemies. He says, "Love your enemies, do good to them that
hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use
you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other: and
from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also" (vi.
27-29). In considering these injunctions we must bear in mind that the
word "enemy" in its New Testament meaning had not the wide and general
signification it has to-day. It then stood in antithesis to the word
"neighbour," as in Matt. v. 43; and as the word "neighbour" to the Jew
included those, and those only, who were of the Hebrew race and faith,
the word "enemy" referred to those outside, who were aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel. To the Hebrew mind it stood as a synonym for
"Gentile." In these words, then, we find, not a general and universal
law, but the special instructions as to their course of conduct in
dealing with the Gentiles, to whom they would shortly be sent. No matter
what their treatment, they must bear it with an uncomplaining patience.
Stripped, beaten, they must not resist, much less retaliate; they must
not allow any vindictive feelings to possess them, nor must they take in
their own hot hand the sword of a "sweet revenge." Nay, they must even
bear a good-will towards their enemies, repaying their hate with love,
their spite and enmity with prayers, and their curses with sincerest
benedictions.

It will be observed that no mention is made of repentance or of
restitution: without waiting for these, or even expecting them, they
must be prepared to forgive and prepared to love their enemies, even
while they are shamefully treating them. And what else, under the
circumstances, could they have done? If they appealed to the secular
power it would simply have been an appeal to a heathen court, from
enemies to enemies. And as to waiting for repentance, their "enemies"
are only treating them as enemies, aliens and foreigners, wronging them,
it is true, but ignorantly, and not through any personal malice. They
must forgive just for the same reason that Jesus forgave His Roman
murderers, "for they know not what they do."

We cannot, therefore, take these injunctions, which evidently had a
special and temporary application, as the literal rule of conduct
towards those who are unfriendly or hostile to us. This, however, is
plain, that even our enemies, whose enmity is directly personal rather
than sectional or racial, are not to be excluded from the Law of Love.
We must bear them neither hatred nor resentment; we must guard our
hearts sacredly from all malevolent, vindictive feelings. We must not
be our own avenger, taking vengeance upon our adversaries, as we let
loose the barking Cerberus to track and run them down. All such feelings
are contrary to the Law of Love, and so are contraband, entirely foreign
to the heart that calls itself Christian. But with all this we are not
to meet all sorts of injuries and wrongs without protest or resistance.
We cannot condone a wrong without being accomplices in the wrong. To
defend our property and life is just as much our duty as it was the
wisdom and the duty of those to whom Jesus spoke to offer an
uncomplaining cheek to the Gentile smiter. Not to do this is to
encourage crime, and to put a premium upon evil. Nor is it inconsistent
with a true love to seek to punish, by lawful means, the wrong-doer.
Justice here is the highest type of mercy, and pains and penalties have
a remedial virtue, taming the passions which had grown too wild, or
straightening the conscience that had become warped.

And so Jesus, speaking of the "offences," the occasions of stumbling
that would come, said, "If thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he
repent, forgive him" (xvii. 3). It is not the patient, silent
acquiescence now. No, we must _rebuke_ the brother who has sinned
against us and wronged us. And if this is vain, we must tell it to the
Church, as St. Matthew completes the injunction (xviii. 17); and if the
offender will not hear the Church, he must be cast out, ejected from
their fellowship, and becoming to their thought as a heathen or a
publican. The wrong, though it is a brother who does it, must not be
glossed over with the enamel of a euphemism; nor must it be hushed up,
veiled by a silence. It must be brought to the light of day; it must be
rebuked and punished; nor must it be forgiven until it is repented of.
Let there be, however, a genuine repentance, and there must be on our
part the prompt and complete forgiveness of the wrong. We must set it
back out of our sight, amongst the forgotten things. And if the wrong be
repeated, if the repentance be repeated, the forgiveness must be
repeated too, not only for seven times seven offences, but for seventy
times seven. Nor is it left to our option whether we forgive or no; it
is a duty, absolute and imperative; we must forgive, as we ourselves
hope to be forgiven.

Again, Jesus treats of the true use of wealth. He Himself assumed a
voluntary poverty. Silver and gold had He none; indeed, the only coin
that we read He handled was the borrowed Roman penny, with Cæsar's
inscription upon it. But while Jesus Himself preferred poverty, choosing
to live on the outflowing charities of those who felt it both a
privilege and an honour to minister to Him of their substance, yet He
did not condemn wealth. It was not a wrong _per se_. In the Old
Testament it had been regarded as a sign of Heaven's special favour, and
amongst the rich Jesus Himself found some of His warmest, truest
friends--friends who came nobly to the front when some who had made
louder professions had ignominiously fled. Nor did Jesus require the
renunciation of wealth as the condition of discipleship. He did not
advocate that fictitious _égalité_ of the Commune. He sought rather to
level up than to level down. It is true He did say to the ruler, "Sell
all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor;" but this was an
exceptional case[5] and probably it was put before him as a test
command, like the command to Abraham that he should sacrifice his
son--which was not intended to be carried out literally, but only as far
as the intention, the will. There was no such demand made from
Nicodemus, and when Zacchæus testified that it had been his practice
(the present tense would indicate a retrospective rather than a
prospective rule) to give one-half of his income to the poor, Jesus does
not find fault with his division, and demand the other half; He commends
him, and passes him up, right over the excommunication of the rabbis,
among the true sons of Abraham. Jesus did not pose as an assessor; He
left men to divide their own inheritance. It was enough for Him if He
could put within the soul this new force, the "moral dynamic" of love to
God and man; then the outward relations would shape themselves,
regulated as by some automatic action.

  [5] This demand was made from the Apostles (xii. 33), but not from
  others beyond the Apostolic circle.

But with all this, Jesus recognized the peculiar temptations and dangers
of wealth. He saw how riches tend to engross and monopolize the thought,
diverting it from higher things, and so He classed riches with cares,
pleasures, which choke the Word of life, and make it unfruitful. He saw
how wealth tended to selfishness; that it acted as an astringent,
closing up the valves of the heart, and thus shutting down the outflow
of its sympathies. And so Jesus, whenever He spoke of wealth, spoke in
words of warning: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of God!" He said, when He saw how the rich ruler set wealth
before faith and hope. And singularly enough, the only times Jesus, in
His parables, lifts up the curtain of doom it is to tell of "certain
rich" men--the one, whose soul swung selfishly between his banquets and
his barns, and who, alas! had laid up no treasures in heaven; and the
other, who exchanged his purple and fine linen for the folds of
enveloping flames, and the sumptuous fare of earth for eternal want, the
eternal hunger and thirst of the after-retribution!

What, then, is the true use of wealth? and how may we so hold it that it
shall prove a blessing, and not a bane? In the first place, we must hold
it in our hand, and not lay it up in the heart. We must possess it; it
must not possess us. We may give our thought, moderately, to it, but our
affections must not be allowed to centre upon it. We read that the
Pharisees "were lovers of money" (xvi. 14), and that argentic passion
was the root of all their evils. The love of money, like an opiate,
little by little, steals over the whole frame, deadening the
sensibility, perverting the judgment, and weakening the will, producing
a kind of intoxication, in which the better reason is lost, and the
confused speech can only articulate, with Shylock, "My ducats, my
ducats!" The true way of holding wealth is to hold it in trust,
recognizing God's ownership and our stewardship. Bank it up, give it no
outlet, and your wealth becomes a stagnant pool, breeding malaria and
burning fevers; but open the channel, give it an outlet, and it will
bring life and music to a thousand lower vales, increasing the happiness
of others, and increasing your own the more. And so Jesus strikes in
with His frequent imperative, "Give"--"Give, and it shall be given unto
you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall
they give into your bosom" (vi. 38). And this is the true use of wealth,
its consecration to the needs of humanity. And may we not say that here
is its truest pleasure? He who has learned the art of generous giving,
who makes his life one large-hearted benevolence, living for others and
not for himself, has acquired an art that is beautiful and Divine, an
art that turns the deserts into gardens of the Lord, and that peoples
the sky overhead with unseen singing Ariels. Giving and living are
heavenly synonyms, and he who giveth most liveth best.

But not from the words of Jesus alone do we read off the lines of our
duty. He is in His own Person a Polar Star, to whom all the meridians of
our round life turn, and from whom they emanate. His life is thus our
law, His example our pattern. Do we wish to learn what are the duties of
children to their parents? the thirty silent years of Nazareth speak in
answer. They show us how the Boy Jesus is in subjection to His parents,
giving to them a perfect obedience, a perfect trust, and a perfect love.
They show us the Divine Youth, still shut in within that narrow circle,
ministering to that circle, by hard manual toil becoming the stay of
that fatherless home. Do we wish to learn our duties to the State? See
how Jesus walked in a land across which the Roman eagle had cast its
shadow! He did not preach a crusade against the barbarian invaders. He
recognized in their presence and power the ordination of God--that they
had been sent to chastise a lapsed Israel. And so Jesus spoke no word of
denunciation, no fiery word, which might have proved the spark of a
revolution. He took Himself away from the multitudes when they would by
force make Him King. He spoke in respectful terms of the powers that
were; He even justified the payment of tribute to Cæsar, acknowledging
his lordship, while at the same time He spoke of the higher tribute to
the great Over-Lord, even God. When upon His trial for life or death,
before a Roman tribunal, He even stayed to apologize for Pilate's
weakness, casting the heavier sin back on the hierarchy that had bought
Him and delivered Him up; while upon the cross, amid its untold agonies,
though His lips were glued by a fearful thirst, He opened them to
breathe a last prayer for His Roman executioners: "Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do."

But was Jesus, then, an alien from His kinsmen according to the flesh?
Was patriotism to Him an unknown force? Did He know nothing of love of
country, that inspiration which has turned common men into heroes and
martyrs, that love which oceans cannot quench, nor distance weaken,
which throws an auroral brightness around the most sterile shores, and
which makes the emigrant sick with a strange _Heimweh_? Did the Son of
man, the ideal Man, know nothing at all of this? He did know it, and
know it well. He identified Himself thoroughly with His people; He
placed Himself under the law, observing its rites and ceremonies. After
the Childhood-exile in Egypt, He scarcely passed out of the sacred
bounds; no storms of rough persecution could dislodge the heavenly Dove,
or send Him wheeling off from His native hills. And if He did not preach
rebellion, He did preach that righteousness which gives to a nation its
truest wealth and widest liberty. He did denounce the Pharisaic shams,
the hollow hypocrisies, which had eaten away the nation's heart and
strength. And how He loved Jerusalem, forgetting His own triumph in the
vision of her humiliation, and weeping for the desolations which were
coming sure and fast! This, the Holy City, was the centre to which He
ever returned, and to which He gave His last bequest--His cross and His
grave. Nay, when the cross is taken down, and the grave is vacant, He
lingers to give His Apostles their commission; and when He bids them,
"Go ye out into all the world," He adds, "beginning at Jerusalem." The
Son of man is the Son of David still, and within His deep love for
humanity at large was a peculiar love for His "own," as the ark itself
was enshrined within the Holy of holies.

And so we might traverse the whole ethical domain, and we should find no
duty which is not enforced or suggested by the words or the life of the
great Teacher. As Dr. Dorner says, "There is only one morality; the
original of it is in God; the copy of it is in the Man of God." Happy is
He who sees this Polar Star, whose light shines clear and calm above the
rush of human years and the ebbs and flows of human life! Happier still
is he who shapes his course by it, who reads off all his bearings from
its light! He who builds his life after the Divine model, reading the
Christ-life into his own, will build up another city of God on earth,
four-square and compact together, a city of peace, because a city of
righteousness and a city of love.



CHAPTER XXIII.

_THE ESCHATOLOGY OF THE GOSPEL._


Coifi, in his parable to the thanes and nobles of the North Humber
country, likened the present life of man to the flight of a sparrow
through one of their lighted halls, coming out of the night, and then
disappearing in the dark winter whence it came; and he asked for
Christianity a candid hearing, if perhaps she might tell the secrets of
the beyond. And so indeed she does, lighting up the "dark winter" with a
bright, though a partial apocalypse. It is not our purpose to enter into
a general discussion of the subject; our task is simply to arrest the
beams of inspired light hiding within this Gospel, and by a sort of
spectrum analysis to read from them what they are permitted to reveal.
And--

1. The Gospel teaches that the grave is not the end of life. It may seem
as if we were stating but a truism in saying this; yet if a truism, it
perhaps has not been allowed its due place in our thought, and its
restatement may not be altogether a superfluous word. We cannot study
the life of Jesus without noticing that His views of earth were not the
views of men in general. To them this world was everything; to possess
it, even in some infinitesimal quantity, was their supreme ambition; and
though in their better, clearer moments they caught glimpses of worlds
other than their own, yet to their distant vision they were as the
twinkling stars of the azure, far off and cold, soon losing themselves
in the haze of unreality, or setting in the shadows of the imposing
earth. To Jesus earth was but a fragment of a vaster whole, a fragment
whose substances were but the shadows of higher, heavenlier realities.
Nor were these outlying spaces to His mind voids of silence, a "dark
inane," without life or thought; they were peopled with intelligences
whose personalities were as distinctly marked as is this human _Ego_,
and whose movements, unweighted by the gyves of flesh, seemed subtle and
swift as thought itself. With one of these worlds Jesus was perfectly
familiar. With heaven, which was the abode of His Father and innumerable
hosts of angels, He was in close and constant correspondence, and the
frequent prayer, the frequent upward looks tell us how near and how
intensely real the heavenly places were to Him. But in the mind of Jesus
this empyrean of happiness and light had its antipodes of woe and
darkness, a penal realm of fearful shadow, and which, borrowing the
language of the city, He called the Gehenna of burning. Such were the
two invisible realms, lying away from earth, yet closely touching it
from opposite directions, and to one or other of which all the paths of
human life turned, to find their goal and their self-chosen destiny.

And not only so, but the transition from the Seen to the Unseen was not
to Jesus the abrupt and total change that it seems to man. To us the
dividing-line is both dark and broad. It seems to us a transmigration to
some new and strange world, where we must begin life _de novo_. To Jesus
the line was narrow, like one of the imaginary meridians of earth, the
"here" shading off into the "hereafter," while both were but the
hemispheres of one round life. And so Jesus did not often speak of
"death;" that was too human a word. He preferred the softer names of
"sleep" or "exodus," thus making death the quickener of life, or
likening it to a triumphal march from bondage to liberty. Nor was "the
Valley of the Shadow" to Jesus a strange, unfamiliar place. He knew all
its secrets, all its windings. It was His own territory, where His will
was supreme. Again and again He throws a commanding voice across the
valley, a voice which goes reverberating among the heights beyond, and
instantly the departed spirit retraces its steps, to animate again the
cold clay it had forsaken. "He is not the God of the dead, but of the
living," said Jesus, as He claimed for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob an
existence altogether apart from the crumbling dust of Hebron; and as we
see Moses and Elias coming to the Mount of Transfiguration, we see that
the departed have not so far departed as to take no interest in earthly
things, and as not to hear the strike of earthly hours. And how clearly
this is seen in the resurrection life of Jesus, with which this Gospel
closes! Death and the Grave have done their worst to Him, but how little
is that worst! how insignificant the blank it makes in the Divine Life!
The few hours in the grave were but a semibreve rest in the music of
that Life; the Easter morning struck a fresh bar, and the music went on,
in the higher spaces, it is true, but in the same key and in the same
sweet strain. And just so is it with all human life; "the grave is not
our goal." Conditions and circumstances will of necessity change, as the
mortal puts on immortality, but the life itself will be one and the
same life, here amid things visible and temporal, and there amid the
invisible and eternal.

2. The Gospel shows in what respects the conditions of the after-life
will be changed. In chapter xx. 27 we read how that the Sadducees came
to Jesus, tempting Him. They were the cold materialists of the age,
denying the existence of spirits, and so denying the resurrection. They
put before Him an extreme, though not impossible case, of a woman who
had been the wife, successively, of seven brethren; and they ask, with
the ripple of an inward laugh in their question, "In the resurrection
therefore whose wife of them shall she be?" Jesus answered, "The sons of
this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they that are accounted
worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead,
neither marry, nor are given in marriage: for neither can they die any
more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being
sons of the resurrection." It will be observed how Jesus plays with the
word around which the Sadducean mind revolves. To them marriage was a
key-word which locked up the gates of an after-life, and threw back the
resurrection among the impossibilities and absurdities. But Jesus takes
up their key-word, and turning it round and round in His speech, He
makes it unlock and open the inner soul of these men, showing how, in
spite of their intellectuality, the drift of their thoughts was but low
and sensual. At the same time Jesus shows that their test-word is
altogether mundane. It is made for earth alone; for having a nature of
flesh and blood, it cannot enter into the higher kingdom of glory.
Marriage has its place in the life whose termini are birth and death. It
exists mainly for the perpetuation and increase of the human race. It
has thus to do with the lower nature of man, the physical, the earthly;
but in the world to come birth, marriage, death will be outdated,
obsolete terms. Man then will be "equal unto the angels," the coarser
nature which fitted him for earth being shaken off and left behind,
amongst other mortalities.

And exactly the same truth is taught by the three posthumous appearances
recorded in this Gospel. When they appeared upon the Mount of
Transfiguration, Moses and Elias had been residents of the other world,
the one for nine, the other for fourteen centuries. But while possessing
the form, and perhaps the features of the old body of earth, the
glorious body they wear now is under conditions and laws altogether
different. How easy and aërial are its movements! Though it possesses no
wings, it has the lightness and buoyancy of a bird, moving through space
swiftly and silently as the light pulses through the ether. Or take the
body of Christ's resurrection life. It has not yet become the glorified
body of the heavenly life; it is in its transition state, between the
two; yet how changed it is! Lifted above the needs and laws of our
earth-bound nature, the risen Christ no longer lives among His own; He
dwells apart, where we cannot tell. When He does appear He comes in upon
them suddenly, giving no warning of His approach; and then, after the
bright though brief apocalypse, He vanishes as mysteriously as He came,
passing at the last on the clouds to heaven. There is thus some
correspondence between the body of the old and that of the new life,
though how far the resemblance extends we cannot tell; we can only fall
back upon the Apostle's words, which to our human ear sound like a
paradox, but which give us our only solution of the enigma, "It is
raised a spiritual body" (i Cor. xv. 44). It is no longer the "natural
body," but a supernatural one, with a spiritual instead of a material
form, and under spiritual laws.

But taking the Apostle's words as our base-line, and measuring from
them, we may throw our lines of sight across the hereafter, reading at
least as much as this, that whatever may be the pleasures or the pains
of the after-life, they will be of a spiritual, and not of a physical
kind. It is just here that our vision sometimes gets blurred and
indistinct, as all the descriptions of that after-life, even in
Scripture, are given in earthly figures. And so we have built up before
us a material heaven, with jasper walls, and gates of pearl, and gardens
of perennial fruits, with crowns and other palace delights. But it is
evident that these are but the earthly shadows of the heavenly
realities, the darkened glasses of our earthly speech, which help our
dull vision to gaze upon glories which the eye of our mortality hath not
seen, and which its heart cannot conceive, except dimly, as a few
"broken lights" pass through the dark lenses of these earthly figures.
What new senses may be created we do not know, but if the body of the
after-life is "a spiritual body," then its whole environment must be
changed. Material substances can no longer affect it, either to cause
pleasure or pain; and though we may not yet tell in what the delights of
the one state, or the pains of the other will consist, we do know that
they must be something other than literal palms and crowns, and other
than material fires. These figures are but the stammerings of our
earthly speech, as it tries to tell the unutterable.

3. Our Gospel teaches that character determines destiny. "A man's life,"
said Jesus, when rebuking covetousness (xii. 15), "consisteth not in the
abundance of the things which he possesseth." These are not life's
noblest aim, nor its truest wealth. They are but the accidents of life,
the particles of floating dust, caught up by the stream; they will be
left behind soon as the sediment, if not before, when they reach the
barrier of the grave. A man's possessions do not constitute the true
life; they do not make the real self, the man. Here it is not what a man
has, but what a man is. And a man is just what his heart makes him. The
outer life is but the blossoming of the inner soul, and what we call
character, in its objective meaning, is but the subtle and silent
influence, the odour, as we might call it, fragrant or otherwise, which
the soul unconsciously throws out. And even in this world character is
more than circumstance, for it gives aim and direction to the whole
life. Men do not always reach their goal in earthly things, but in the
moral world each man goes to his "own place," the place he himself has
chosen and sought; he is the arbiter of his own destiny.

And what we find to be a law of earth is the law of the kingdom of
heaven, as Jesus was constantly affirming. The future life would simply
be the present life, with eternity as its coefficient. Destiny itself
would be but the harvest of earthly deeds, the hereafter being only the
after-here. Jesus shows us how while on earth we may lay up "treasures
in the heavens," making for ourselves "purses which wax not old," and
thus becoming "rich toward God." He draws a vivid picture of "a certain
rich man," whose one estimate of life was "the abundance of the things
which he possessed," the size and affluence of his barns, and whose soul
was required of him just when he was congratulating it on the years of
guaranteed plenty, bidding it, "Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be
merry (xii. 16-12)." He does not here trace for us the destiny of such a
soul--He does this in another parable--but He pictures it as suddenly
torn away, and eternally separated, from all it had possessed before,
leaving it, perhaps, to be squandered thriftlessly, or consumed by the
fires of lust; while, starved and shrivelled, the pauper soul is driven
out from its earthly stewardship, to find, alas! no welcome in the
"eternal tabernacles." In the appraisement of this world such a man
would be deemed wise and happy, but to Heaven he is the "foolish one,"
committing the great, the eternal folly.

The same lesson is taught in the parables of the Housebuilders (vi. 47)
and of the Talents (xix. 12). In each there comes the inevitable test,
the down-rush of the flood and the reckoning of the lord, a test which
leaves the obedient secure and happy, the faithful promoted to honour
and rewards, passed up among the kings; but the disobedient, if not
entombed in the ruins of their false hopes, yet all shelterless from the
pitiless storm, and the unfaithful and slothful servant stripped of even
the little he had, passed downwards into dishonour and shame.

In another parable, that of the Rich Man and Lazarus (xvi. 19-31) we
have a light thrown upon our subject which is at once vivid and lurid.
In a few graphic words He draws for us the picture of strange contrasts.
The one is rich, dwelling in a palatial residence, whose imposing
gateway looked down upon the vulgar crowd; clothed in garments of Tyrian
purple and of Egyptian byssus, which only great wealth could purchase,
and faring sumptuously every day. So, with perpetual banquets, the rich
man lived his selfish, sensual life. With thought all centred upon
himself, and that his lowest self, he has no thoughts or sympathies to
spare for the outlying world. They do not even travel so far as to the
poor beggar who is cast daily at his gate, in hopes that some of the
shaken-out crumbs of the banquet may fall within his reach. Such is the
contrast--the extreme of wealth, and the extreme of poverty; the one
with troops of friends, the other friendless--for the verb shows that
the hands which laid him down by the rich man's gate were not the gentle
hands of affection, but the rough hands of duty or of a cold charity;
the one clothed in splendid attire, the other not possessing enough even
to cover his sores; the one gorged to repletion, the other shrunken and
starved; the one the anonymous Epicurean, the other possessing a name
indeed, but nought beside, but a name that had a Divinity hidden within
it,[6] and which was an index to the soul that bore it. Such were the
two characters Jesus portrayed; and then, lifting up the veil of
shadows, He shows how the marked contrast reappears in the after-life,
but with a strange inverting. Now the poor man is blessed, the rich in
distress; the one is enfolded in Abraham's bosom, the other enveloped in
flames; the one has all the delights of Paradise, the other begs for
just a drop of water with which to cool the parched tongue.

  [6] The name "Lazarus" is derived from El-ezer, or "God helps."

It may be said that this is simply parable, set forth in language which
must not be taken literally. So it is; but the parables of Jesus were
not mere word-pictures; they field in solution essential truth. And when
we have eliminated all this figurative colouring there is still left
this residuary, elementary truth, that character determines destiny:
that we cast into our future the shadow of our present selves; that the
good will be blessed, and the evil unblessed, which means accursed; and
that heaven and hell are tremendous realities, whose pleasures and whose
pains lie alike deep beyond the sounding of our weak speech. When the
rich man forgot his duties to humanity; when he banished God from his
mansion, and proscribed mercy from his thoughts; when he left Heaven's
foundling to the dogs, he was writing out his book of doom, passing
sentence upon himself. The tree lies as it falls, and it falls as it
leans; and where is there place for the unforgiven, the unregenerate,
for the sensual and the selfish, the unjust and the unclean, but
somewhere in the outer darkness they themselves have helped to make? To
the sensual and the vile heaven itself would be a hell, its very joys
curdling into pain, its streets, thronged with the multitudes of the
redeemed, offering to the guilty and unrenewed soul but a solitude of
silence and anguish; and even were there no final judgment, no solemn
pronouncement of destiny, the evil could never blend with the good, the
pure with the vile; they would gravitate, even as they do now, in
opposite directions, each seeking its "own place." Wherever and whatever
our final heaven may be, no one is an outcast but who casts himself out,
a self-immolation, a suicide.

But is it destiny? it may be asked. May there not be an after-probation,
so that character itself may be transformed? may not the "great gulf"
itself disappear, or at last be bridged over, so that the repentant may
pass out of its penal but purifying fires? Such, indeed, is the belief,
or rather the hope, of some; but "the larger hope" as they are pleased
to call it, as far as this Gospel is concerned, is a beautiful but
illusive dream. He who was Himself the "Resurrection and the Life," and
who holds in His own hands the keys of death and of Hades, gives no hint
of such a posthumous palingenesis. He speaks again and again of a day of
test and scrutiny, when actions will be weighed and characters assayed,
and when men will be judged according to their works. Now it is at the
"coming" of the Son of man, in the glory of His Father, and with a
retinue of "holy angels;" now it is the returning of the lord, and the
reckoning with his servants; while again it is at the end of the world,
as the angel-reapers separate the wheat from the tares; or as He
Himself, the great Judge, with His "Come ye," passes on the faithful to
the heavenly kingdom, and at the same time, with His "Depart ye," drives
from His presence the unfaithful and unforgiven into the outer darkness.
Nor does Jesus say one word to suggest that the judgment is not final.
The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, whatever that may mean, shall not
be forgiven (xii. 10), or, as St. Matthew expresses it, "neither in this
world, nor in that which is to come." The unfaithful servant is "cut
asunder" (xii. 46); the enemies who would not have their Lord to reign
over them are slain (xix. 27); and when once the door is shut it is all
in vain that those outside cry, "Lord, open to us!" They had an open
door, but they slighted and scorned it, and now they must abide by their
choice, outside the door, outside the kingdom, with the "workers of
iniquity," where "there is weeping and gnashing of teeth" (xiii. 28).

Or if we turn again to the parable of the Rich Man, where is there room
for the "larger hope"? where is the suggestion that these "pains of
hell" may be lessened; and ultimately escaped altogether? We listen in
vain for one syllable of hope. In vain he makes his appeal to "father
Abraham;" in vain he entreats the good offices of Lazarus; in vain he
asks for a momentary alleviation of his pain, in the boon of one drop of
water: between him and help, yea, between him and hope, is a "great gulf
fixed, ... that none may cross" (xvi. 26).

"That none may cross." Such are the words of Jesus, though here put in
the mouth of Abraham; and if finality is not here, where can we find it?
What may be the judgment passed upon those who, though erring, are
ignorant, we cannot tell, though Jesus plainly indicates that the number
of the stripes will vary, as they knew, or they did not know, the Lord's
will; but for those who had the light, and turned from it, who saw the
right, but did it not, who heard the Gospel of love, with its great
salvation, and only rejected it--for these there is only an "outer
darkness" of eternal hopelessness. And what is the outer darkness itself
but the darkness of their own inner blindness, a blindness which was
wilful and persistent?

Our Gospel thus teaches that death does not alter character, that
character makes destiny, and that destiny once determined is unalterable
and eternal. Or, to put it in the words of the angel to the seer, "He
that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is
filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him
do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still"
(Rev. xxii. 11).



CHAPTER XXIV.

_THE WATCH IN GETHSEMANE._


Hitherto the life of Jesus has been comparatively free from sorrow and
from pain. With the exception of the narrow strip of wilderness which
fell between the Baptism and His inaugural miracle, the Divine Life has
lain for the most part in the sunshine, above the fret and fever of
anxious thought and care. True, He had enemies, whose hatred was
persistent and virulent; the shafts of calumny fell around Him in one
steady rain; His motives were constantly misconstrued, His words
misunderstood; but with all this His life was peace. How could He have
spoken of "rest" of soul, and have promised it to the weary and
heavy-laden, if He Himself were a stranger to its experience? How could
He have awoke such songs and shouts of gladness, or have strewn the
lives of men with such unusual brightness, without having that
brightness and music coming back in reflections and echoes within His
own heart--that heart which was the fontal source of their new-found
joys? And if many doubted, or even hated Him, there were many who
admired and feared, and not a few who loved and adored Him, and who were
glad to place at His disposal their entire substance, nay, their entire
selves. But if His anointing thus far has been the anointing of
gladness, there is a baptism of sorrow and anguish prepared for Him,
and to that ordeal He now proceeds, first girding up His soul with the
music of a thanksgiving psalm. Let us, too, arise and follow Him; but
taking off our shoes, let us step softly and reverently into the mystery
of the Divine sorrow; for though we must ever stand back from that
mystery more than a "stone's cast," perhaps, if we keep mind and heart
awake and alert, we may read something of its deep meaning.

The whole scene of Gethsemane is unique. Like the Mount of
Transfiguration, the Garden of the Agony stands "apart" from all other
paths, in a profound isolation. And in more senses than this these two
august scenes are related and coincident. Indeed, we cannot fully
understand the mystery of the Garden but as we allow the mystery of the
Mount to explain it, in part at least, so threading the light of the one
into the darkness of the other. On the Mount of Transfiguration the
Divine Life, as we have seen, reached its culminating point, its
perihelion as we may call it, where it touched the very heavens for one
brief night, passing through its out-streaming glories and crossing the
paths of celestials. In Gethsemane we have the antipodal fact; we see
the Divine Life in its far aphelion, where it touches hell itself,
moving round in an awful gloom, and crossing the paths of the "powers of
darkness." And so our best outlook into Gethsemane is not from the Mount
of Olives--though the two names are related, as the two places are
adjacent, Gethsemane lying at the foot of Olivet--but from that more
distant Mount of Transfiguration.

Leaving the "guest-chamber," where a Passover of a new order has been
instituted, and the cup, with its fruit of the vine, has received a
higher consecration, Jesus leads the broken band down the stairs, which
still vibrate with the heavy tread of the traitor, and in the still,
full moonlight they pass out of the city, the gates being open because
of the Passover. Descending the steep ravine, and crossing the brook
Kedron, they enter the enclosure of Gethsemane. Both St. Luke and St.
John tell us that He was accustomed to resort thither--for, strangely
enough, we do not read of Jesus spending so much as one night within the
city walls--and so probably the garden belonged to one of His adherents,
possibly to St. Mark. Bidding the eight remain near the entrance, and
exhorting them to pray that they enter not into, or, as it means here,
that they "yield not to," the temptation which is shortly to come upon
them, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John farther into the garden. They
were witnesses of His Transfiguration, when His face shone like the sun,
and the spirits of the perfected came to do Him homage; they must now
see a transfiguration of sorrow, as that face is furrowed by the sharp
lines of pain, and half-masked by a veil of blood. From the narratives
of St. Matthew and St. Mark it would appear as if Jesus now experienced
a sudden change of feeling. In the guest-chamber He was calmly
confident; and though we may detect in His words and symbolic acts a
certain undertone of sadness, the salutation of one "about to die," yet
there was no tremor, no fear. He spoke of His own death, which now was
near at hand, as calmly as if the Mount of Sacrifice were but another
mountain of spices; while to His disciples He spoke words of cheer and
hope, putting around their hearts a soothing, healing balm, even before
the dreadful wound is made. But now all this is changed: "He began to be
greatly amazed and sore troubled" (St. Mark xiv. 33). The word we here
render "amazed," as St. Mark uses it, has sometimes the element of fear
within it, as when the women were "amazed," or "affrighted," by the
vision of the angels (xvi. 5); and such, we are inclined to think, is
its meaning here. It was not so much wonder as it was trepidation, and a
certain dread, which now fell of a sudden upon the Master. Over that
pure soul, which ever lay calm and serene as the bright heaven which
stooped to embrace it, has broken a storm of conflicting winds, and
dense, murky clouds, and all is disquiet and distress, where before was
nothing but peace. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;"
such is the strange confession of tremulous lips, as for once He opens
the infinite depths of His heart, and shows the mortal grief which has
suddenly fallen there. It is the first contact of the eclipse, as
between Himself and the Father's smile another world is passing, the
world of the "outer darkness," even hell, throwing down upon His soul a
chilling, awful shadow.

Jesus understands its meaning. It is the signal for the final battle,
the shadow of the "prince of this world," who, rallying all his forces,
cometh to find "nothing in Me." Jesus accepts the challenge, and that He
may meet the enemy single-handed, with no earthly supports, He bids the
three, "Abide ye here, and watch with Me." "With Me," and not "for Me;"
for what could avail to Him the vigilance of human eyes amid this felt
darkness of the soul? It was not for Himself He bade them "watch," but
for themselves, that waking and praying they might gain a strength which
would be proof against temptation, the test which would be keenly
severe, and which now was close at hand.

"And He was parted from them about a stone's cast." The verb implies a
measure of constraint, as if, in the conflict of emotion, the longing
for some human presence and human sympathy held Him back. And why not?
Is not the very presence of a friend a solace in grief, even if no words
are spoken? and does not the "aloneness" of a sorrow make the sorrow
tenfold more bitter? Not like the "stricken deer that left the herd,"
the human heart, when wounded or sore pressed, yearns for sympathy,
finding in the silent look or in the touch of a hand a grateful anodyne.
But this wine-press He must tread alone, and of the people there must be
none with Him; and so the three who are most favoured and most beloved
are left back at a stone's cast from the physical suffering of Christ,
while from His heart-agony they must stand back at an infinite distance.

It was while Jesus was praying upon the holy mount that the heavens were
opened unto Him; and now, as another cloud envelopes Him, not of glory,
but of a thick darkness, it finds Him in the same attitude of prayer. He
at whose feet sinful man had knelt, all unrebuked, Himself now kneels,
as He sends to heaven the earnest and almost bitter cry, "O My Father,
if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!" The three Evangelists
differ in their wording of the Saviour's petition, showing that the
spirit is more than the letter of prayer; that Heaven thinks more of the
inner thought than of the outward drapery of words; but the thought of
the three is identical, while all make prominent the central figure of
the "cup."

The cups of Scripture are of divers patterns and of varied meanings.
There was the cup of blessing, like that of the Psalmist (Psalm xxiii.
5), filled to the brim and running over with mercy. There was the "cup
of salvation," that sacrament of the Old Testament which kept in memory
one deliverance, that of Israel, while it prophesied of another, the
"great salvation" which was to come. What, then, was the cup Jesus so
feared to drink, and which He asked, so earnestly and repeatedly, that
it might pass from Him? Was it the fear of death? Certainly not; for how
could He be afraid of death, who had so triumphed over it, and who had
proclaimed Himself the Resurrection and the Life? How could He fear
death, when He knew so well "the seraph face that smiled beneath the
frowning mask," and knew that it would end for ever all His sufferings
and His pain? Death to Him was a familiar thought. He spoke of it
freely, not either with the hard indifference of the Stoic, or with the
palsied speech of one whose lips shake with an inward fear, but in calm,
sweet accents, as any child of earth might speak of going home. Was this
"cup," then, the death itself? and when He asked that it might pass
away, was He suggesting that possibly some mode of atonement might be
found other than the cross? We think not. Jesus knew full well that His
earthly life would have, and could have, but one issue. Death would be
its goal, as it was its object. Whether, as Holman Hunt represents, the
cross threw its shadow back as far as the shop at Nazareth, we do not
know, for the record is silent. But we do know that the shadow of death
lay across the whole of His public life, for we find it appearing in His
words. The cross was a dark and vivid certainty that He wished neither
to forget nor to evade, for must not the Son of man be "lifted up," that
He may draw all men to Himself? Must not the corn of wheat be hidden in
its grave before it can become fruitful, throwing itself forward down
the years in hundredfold multiplications? Yes; death to Jesus is the
inevitable, and long before the Roman soldiers have pieced together the
transverse beams Jesus had made His cross, fashioning it in His thought,
and hiding it in His words. Nay, He has this very night instituted a new
sacrament, in which, for all generations, the broken bread shall be the
emblem of His bruised and broken body, and the wine, of His blood, the
blood of the New Testament, which is shed for man. And does Jesus now
seek, by reiterated prayers, to shift that cross from the Divine
purpose, substituting in its place something less painful, less cruel?
does He seek now to annul His own predictions, and to make His own
sacrament void and meaningless? This cannot be; and so, whatever the
"cup" may mean, we cannot take it as a synonym for His death.

What, then, is its meaning? The Psalmist had long before sung--

  "For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine foameth;
  It is full of mixture, and He poureth out of the same:
  Surely the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring
      them out, and drink them" (Psalm lxxv. 8);

while St. John, speaking of the last woes (Rev. xiv. 10), tells how they
who have the mark of the beast upon their foreheads "shall drink of the
wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His
anger." Here, then, is the "cup" which now is set before the Son of man,
the very touch of which fills His soul with unutterable dread. It is the
cup of God's anger, filled to the brim with its strange red wine, the
wine of His wrath. Jesus comes to earth as the Representative Man, the
Second Adam, in whom all shall be made alive. He voluntarily assumes the
place of the transgressor, as St. Paul writes (2 Cor. v. 21), "Him who
knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him," a passage which corresponds exactly with
the prophetic idea of substitution, as given by Isaiah (liii. 5), "He
was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are
healed." And so "the iniquity of us all" was laid on Him, the Holy One.
In His own Person He must feel, in its concentrated forms, the smart and
consequence of sin; and as His physical sufferings are the extremest
pain even sin can produce, so Jesus must suffer, too, all the mental
anguish, the agony of a soul bereft of God. And as Jesus, on the
Transfiguration mount, passed up to the very gate of heaven, so lighting
up with splendour and glory the lost path of unfallen man, so now, in
the Garden, Jesus tracks the path of fallen man, right on to its fearful
consummation, which is the "outer darkness" of hell itself. This vivid
consciousness has been graciously withheld from Him hitherto; for the
terrible pressure would simply have unfitted Him for His ministry of
blessing; for how could He have been the "kindly Light," leading
humanity homeward, heavenward, if that Light Himself were hidden in
"encircling gloom," and lost in a felt darkness? But ere His mission is
complete this is an experience that He must know. Identifying Himself
with sin, He must feel its very farthest consequence, the awful
solitude, and the unutterable anguish, of a soul now bereft of hope and
forsaken of God. In the heathen fable Orpheus goes down, lyre in hand,
to the Plutonic realm, to bring back again to life and love the lost
Eurydice; but Jesus, in His vicarious sufferings, goes down to hell
itself, that He may win back from their sins, and bear in triumph to the
upper heavens, a lost humanity.

Rising from the ground, and going back to His three disciples, He finds
them asleep. The Synoptists all seek to explain, and to apologize for,
their unnatural slumber, St. Matthew and St. Mark telling us that their
"eyes were heavy," while St. Luke states that their sleep was the result
of their grief; for, happily, in the wonderful compensations of nature,
intense grief does tend to induce somnolence. But while the Evangelists
refer their slumber to natural causes, might there not be something more
in it, some supernatural element? Sleep can be caused by natural means,
and yet be an unnatural sleep, as when narcotics benumb the senses, or
some mesmeric spell muffles the speech, and makes the soul for a time
unconscious. And might it not have been some invisible touch which made
their eyes so heavy? for it is an exact repetition of their attitude
when on the holy mount, and in that sleep sorrow certainly had no part.
When St. John saw the vision upon Patmos, he "fell at His feet as one
dead;" and when Saul beheld the light, near Damascus, he fell to the
ground. And how often we find the celestial vision connected with a
trance-like state! and why may not the "trance" be an effect of the
vision, just as well as its cause, or rather its circumstance? At any
rate, the fact is plain, that supernatural visions tend to lock up the
natural senses, the veil which is uplifted before the unseen world being
wrapped around the eyes and the soul of the seer. And this, we are
inclined to think, was a possible, partial cause for the slumber upon
the mount and in the garden, a sleep which, under the circumstances,
was strangely unnatural and almost unpardonable.

Addressing Himself directly to Peter, who had promised to follow His
Lord unto death, but whose heart now strangely lagged behind, and
calling him by his earlier name--for Jesus only once made use of the
name He Himself had chosen; the "Rock" was at present in a state of
flux, and had not yet settled down to its petrine character--He said,
"What, Simon, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that
ye enter not into temptation." Then, for a moment forgetting His own
sorrow, and putting Himself in their place, He makes the apology for
them which their lips are afraid to utter: "The spirit indeed is
willing, but the flesh is weak;" so compassionate is He over human
weakness and infirmity, even while He is severity itself towards falsity
and sin.

St. Luke records the narrative only in a condensed form, giving us the
salient points, but not entering so fully into detail. It is from St.
Matthew and St. Mark that we learn how Jesus went back a second time,
and falling prostrate on the ground, prayed still in the self-same
words, and how He returned to His disciples to find them again asleep;
even the reproof of the Master has not been able to counterbalance the
pressure of the supernatural heaviness. No word is spoken this time--at
any rate the Evangelists have not repeated them for us--but how eloquent
would be that look of disappointment and of grief! and how that rebuke
would fall burning hot upon their heart, focussed in the lenses of His
sad and tearful eyes! But the three are dazed, bewildered, and for once
the ready tongue of Peter is speechless; "they wist not what to answer
Him" (Mark xiv. 40).

Not yet, however, is the conflict ended. Three times did the tempter
come to Him in the wilderness, and three times is the fierce battle to
be waged in the garden, the last the sorest. It would almost seem as if
the three assaults were descending steps of sorrow, each marking some
lower deep in the dark mystery; for now the death-sorrow becomes an
"agony" of spirit, a pressure from within so fearful as to arrest the
flow of blood, forcing it through the opened pores in an awful sweat,
until great drops, or "clots," of blood gathered upon His face, and then
fell to the ground. Could there be possibly, even for the lost, an
anguish more intense? and was not Jesus then, as man's Surety, wringing
out and drinking the very last dregs of that cup of His anger which "the
wicked of the earth," if unredeemed, had been doomed to drink? Verily He
was, and the bloody sweat was a part, an earnest, of our atonement,
sprinkling with its redemptive virtues the very ground which was
"cursed" for man's sake (Gen. iii. 17). It was the pledge and the
foregathered fruit of a death already virtually accomplished, in the
absolute surrender of the Divine Son as man's sacrifice.

And so the thrice-uttered prayer of Jesus, even though He prayed the
"more earnestly," was not granted. It was heard, and it was answered,
but not in the specific way of the request. Like Paul's prayer for the
removal of the thorn, and which, though not granted, was yet answered in
the promise of the "sufficient" grace, so now the thrice-uttered prayer
of Jesus does not remove the cup. It is there, and it is there for Him
to drink, as He tastes for man both of the earthly death and of the
bitterness of the after, the second death. But the answer came in the
strengthening of His soul, and in the heavenly greetings the angel
brought down to Him when the conflict was over. But in this reiterated
prayer for the removal of the cup there was no conflict between Himself
and the Father. The request itself was enveloped in submission, the
contingent "if" which preceded it, and the "not My win, but Thine,"
which followed, completely enclosing it. The will of Jesus was ever
adjusted to the will of the Father, working within it in an absolute
precision, with no momentary breaks. But here the "if" implies
uncertainty, doubt. Even Jesus is not quite sure as to what, in the
special case, the Father's will may involve, and so, while He asks for
the removal of the cup, this is the smaller request, inlaid within the
larger, deeper prayer, that "not My will, but Thine, be done." Jesus did
not seek to bend the Father's will, and make it conform to His desires,
but He sought, whatever might be the cost, to configure His desires to
that all-wise and all-loving Will.

So in our smaller lives there may be hours of distress and uncertainty.
We may see, mingled for us, cups of sorrow, loss, or pain, which we fear
to drink, and the shrinking flesh may seek to be exempted from the
ordeal; but let us not too hastily ask that they may be put away, for
fear we may dismiss some cup of blessing from our life. Let us seek
rather for a perfect submission to the will of God, conforming all our
desires and all our prayers to that will. So in that "perfect
acquiescence" there will be for us a "perfect rest." Gethsemane itself
will become bright and all musical with songs, and where the powers of
darkness mocked us Heaven's angels will come, with their sweet ministry.
Nay, the cup of sorrow and of pain, at which we trembled before, if we
see how God's will has wrought and filled it, and we embrace that will,
the cup of sorrow will be a transfigured cup, a golden chalice of the
King, all filled to the brim, and running over, with the new wine of the
kingdom.



CHAPTER XXV.

_THE PASSION._

LUKE xxii. 47-xxiii.


While Jesus kept His sad watch in Gethsemane, treading the winepress
alone, His enemies kept theirs in the city. The step of Judas, as he
passed out into the night, went verberating within the house of the high
priest, and onwards into the palace of Pilate himself, awaking a
thousand echoes, as swift messengers flew hither and thither, bearing
the hurried summons, calling the rulers and elders from their repose,
and marshalling the Roman cohort. Hitherto the powers of darkness have
been restrained, and though they have, again and again, attempted the
life of Jesus, as if some occult spell were upon them, they could not
accomplish their purpose. Far back in the Infancy Herod had sought to
kill Him; but though his cold steel reaped a bloody swath in Ramah, it
could not touch the Divine Child. The men of Nazareth had sought to hurl
Him down the sheer precipice, but He escaped; Jesus had not come into
the world to die at Nazareth, thrown off, as by an accident, from a
Galilean cliff. He had come to "accomplish His decease," as the
celestials put it upon the mount, "at Jerusalem," and that too, as He
indicated plainly and frequently in His speech, upon a cross. Now,
however, the hour of darkness has struck, and the fulness of the time
has come. The cross and the Victim both are ready, and Heaven itself
consents to the great sacrifice.

Strangely enough, the first overture of the "Passion music" is by one of
the twelve--as our Evangelist names him, "Judas who was called Iscariot,
being of the number of the twelve" (xxii. 3). It will be observed that
St. Luke puts a parenthesis of forty verses between the actual betrayal
and its preliminary stages, so throwing the conception of the plot back
to an earlier date than the eve of the Last Supper, and the subsequent
narrative is best read in the light of its programme. At first sight it
would appear as if the part of the betrayer were superfluous, seeing
that Jesus came almost daily into the Temple, where He spoke openly,
without either reserve or fear. What need could there be for any
intermediary to come between the chief priests and the Victim of their
hate? Was not His person familiar to all the Temple officials? and could
they not apprehend Him almost at any hour? Yes, but one thing stood in
the way, and that was "the fear of the people." Jesus evidently had an
influential following; the popular sympathies were on His side; and had
the attack been made upon Him during the day, in the thronged streets of
the city or in the Temple courts, there would have been, almost to a
certainty, a popular rising on His behalf. The arrest must be made in
the absence of the multitude (xxii. 6), which means that they must fall
upon Him in one of His quiet hours, and in one of His quiet retreats; it
must be a night attack, when the multitudes are asleep. Here, then, is
room for the betrayer, who comes at the opportune moment, and offers
himself for the despicable task, a task which has made the name of
"Judas" a synonym for all that is treacherous and vile. How the base
thought could ever have come into the mind of Judas it were hard to
tell, but it certainly was not sprung upon him as a surprise. But men
lean in the direction of their weakness, and when they fall it is
generally on their weakest side, the side on which temptation is the
strongest. It was so here. St. John writes him down in a single
sentence: "He was a thief, and having the bag, took away what was put
therein" (John xii. 6). His ruling passion was the love of money, and in
the delirium of this fever his hot hands dashed to the ground and broke
in pieces the tables of law and equity alike, striking at all the
moralities. And between robbing his Master and betraying Him there was
no great distance to traverse, especially when conscience lay in a numb
stupor, drugged by opiates, these tinctures of silver.

Here, then, is a betrayer ready to their hand. He knows what hour is
best, and how to conduct them to His secret retreats. And so Judas
communed with the chief priests and captains, or he "talked it over with
them" as the word means, the secret conference ending in a bargain, as
they "covenanted" to give him money (xxii. 5). It was a hard and fast
bargain; for the word "covenanted" has about it a metallic ring, and
opening it out, it lets us see the wordy chaffering, as Judas abates his
price to the offer of the high priests, the thirty pieces of silver,
which was the market price of an ordinary slave. Not that Judas intended
to be a participator in His death, as the sequel of his remorse shows.
He probably thought and hoped that his Master would escape, slipping
through the meshes they so cunningly had thrown about Him; but having
done his part of the covenant, his reward would be sure, for the thirty
pieces were already in his possession. Ah, he little dreamed how
far-reaching his action would be! That silver key of his would set in
motion the ponderous wheel which would not stop until his Master was its
Victim, lying all crushed and bleeding beneath it! He only discovered
his mistake when, alas! it was too late for remedy. Gladly would he have
given back his thirty pieces, ay, and thirty times thirty, to have
called back his treacherous "Hail," but he could not. That "Hail,
Master," had gone beyond his recall, reverberating down the ages and up
among the stars, while even its echoes, as they came back to him in
painful memories, threw him out of the world an unloved and guilty
suicide!

What with the cunning of the high priests and the cold calculations of
Judas, whose mind was practised in weighing chances and providing for
contingences, the plot is laid deeply and well. No detail is omitted:
the band of soldiers, who shall put the stamp of officialism upon the
procedure, while at the same time they cower the populace and repress
any attempt at rescue; the swords and staves, should they have to resort
to force; the lanterns and torches, with which to light up the dark
hiding-places of the garden; the cords or chains, with which to bind
their Prisoner; the kiss, which should be at once the sign of
recognition and the signal for the arrest, all are prearranged and
provided; while out of sight the high priests are keeping their midnight
watch, ready for the mock trial, for which the suborned witnesses are
even now rehearsing their parts. Could worldly prudence or malicious
skill go farther?

Stealthily as the leopard approaches its victim, the motley crowd enter
the garden, coming with muffled steps to take and lead away the Lamb of
God. Only the glimmer of their torches gave notice of their approach,
and even these burned dull in the intense moonlight. But Jesus needed no
audible or visible warning, for He Himself knew just how events were
drifting, reading the near future as plainly as the near past; and
before they have come in sight He has awoke the three sleeping sentinels
with a word which will effectually drive slumber from their eyelids:
"Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrayeth Me" (Matt.
xxvi. 46).

It will be seen from this that Jesus could easily have eluded His
pursuers had He cared to do so. Even without any appeal to His
supernatural powers, He could have withdrawn Himself under cover of the
night, and have left the human sleuth-hounds foiled of their prey and
vainly baying at the moon. But instead of this, He makes no attempt at
flight. He even seeks the glades of Gethsemane, when by simply going
elsewhere He might have disconcerted their plot and brought their
counsel to nought. And now He yields Himself up to His death, not
passively merely, but with the entire and active concurrence of His
will. He "offered Himself," as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews
expresses it (Heb. ix. 14), a free-will Offering, a voluntary Sacrifice.
He could, as He Himself said, have called legions of angels to His help;
but He would not give the signal, though it were no more than one
uplifted look. And so He does not refuse even the kiss of treachery; He
suffers the hot lips of the traitor to burn His cheeks; and when others
would have shaken off the viper into the fire, or have crushed it with
the heel of a righteous indignation, Jesus receives patiently the stamp
of infamy, His only word being a question of surprise, not at the
treachery itself, but at its mode: "Betrayest thou the Son of man with a
kiss?" And when for the moment, as St. John tells us, a strange awe fell
upon the multitude, and they "went backward and fell to the ground,"
Jesus, as it were, called in the outshining glories, masking them with
the tired and blood-stained humanity that He wore, so stilling the
tremor that was upon His enemies, as He nerved the very hands that
should take Him. And again, when they do bind Him, He offers no
resistance; but when Peter's quick sword flashes from its scabbard, and
takes off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, and
so one of the leaders in the arrest, Jesus asks for the use of His
manacled hand--for so we read the "Suffer ye thus far"--and touching the
ear, heals it at once. He Himself is willing to be wounded even unto
death, but His alone must be the wounds. His enemies must not share His
pain, nor must His disciples pass with Him into this temple of His
sufferings; and He even stays to ask for them a free parole: "Let these
go their way."

But while for the disciples Jesus has but words of tender rebuke or of
prayer, while for Malchus He has a word and a touch of mercy, and while
even for Judas He has an endearing epithet, "friend," for the chief
priests, captains, and elders He has severer words. They are the
ringleaders, the plotters. All this commotion, this needless parade of
hostile strength, these superfluous insults are but the foaming of their
rabid frenzy, the blossoming of their malicious hate; and turning to
them as they stand gloating in their supercilious scorn, He asks, "Are
ye come out, as against a robber, with swords and staves? When I was
daily with you in the Temple, ye stretched not forth your hands against
Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness." True words, for
they who should have been priests of Heaven are in league with hell,
willing ministers of the powers of darkness. And this was indeed their
hour, but the hour of their victory would prove the hour of their doom.

St. Luke, as do the other Synoptists, omits the preliminary trial before
Annas, the ex-high priest (John xviii. 13), and leads us direct to the
palace of Caiaphas, whither they conduct Jesus bound. Instead, however,
of pursuing the main narrative, he lingers to gather up the side-lights
of the palace-yard, as they cast a lurid light upon the character of
Simon. Some time before, Jesus had forewarned him of a coming ordeal,
and which He called a Satanic sifting; while only a few hours ago He had
prophesied that this night, before the cock should crow twice, Peter
would thrice deny Him--a singular prediction, and one which at the time
seemed most unlikely, but which proved true to the very letter. After
the encounter in the garden, Peter retires from our sight for awhile;
but his flight was neither far nor long, for as the procession moves up
towards the city Peter and John follow it as a rear-guard, on to the
house of Annas, and now to the house of Caiaphas. We need not repeat the
details of the story--how John passed him through the door into the
inner court, and how he sat, or "stood," as St. John puts it, by the
charcoal fire, warming himself with the officers and servants. The
differing verbs only show the restlessness of the man, which was a
life-long characteristic of Peter, but which would be doubly accentuated
here, with suspecting eyes focussed upon him. Indeed, in the whole
scene of the courtyard, as sketched for us in the varying but not
discordant narratives of the Evangelists, we may detect the vibrations
of constant movement and the ripple-marks of intense excitement.

When challenged the first time, by the maid who kept the door, Peter
answered with a sharp, blunt negative: he was not a disciple; he did not
even know Him. At the second challenge, by another maid, he replied with
an absolute denial, but added to his denial the confirmation of an oath.
At the third challenge, by one of the men standing near, he denied as
before, but added to his denial both an oath and an anathema. It is
rather unfortunate that our version renders it (Matt. xxvi. 74; Mark
xiv. 71), "He began to curse and to swear;" for these words have a
peculiarly ill savour, a taste of Billingsgate, which the original words
have not. To our ear, "to curse and to swear" are the accomplishments of
a loose and a foul tongue, which throws out its fires of passion in
profanity, or in coarse obscenities, as it revels in immoralities of
speech. The words in the New Testament, however, have a meaning
altogether different. Here "to swear" means to take an oath, as in our
courts of law, or rather to make an affirmation. Even God Himself is
spoken of as swearing, as in the song of Zacharias (i. 73), where He is
said to have remembered His holy covenant, "the oath which He sware unto
Abraham our father." Indeed, this form of speech, the oath or
affirmation, had come into too general use, as we may see from the
paragraph upon oaths in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 33-37). Jesus
here condemned it, it is true, for to Him who was Truth itself our word
should be as our bond; but His reference to it shows how prevalent the
custom was, even amongst strict legalists and moralists. When, then,
Peter "swore," it does not mean that he suddenly became profane, but
simply that he backed up his denial with a solemn affirmation. So, too,
with the word "curse;" it has not our modern meaning. Literally
rendered, it would be, "He put himself under an anathema," which
"anathema" was the bond or penalty he was willing to pay if his words
should not be true. In Acts xxiii. 12 we have the cognate word, where
the "anathema" was, "They would neither eat nor drink till they had
killed Paul." The curse thus was nothing immoral in itself; it was a
form of speech even the purest might use, a sort of underlined
affirmation.

But though the language of Peter was neither profane nor foul, though in
his "oath" and in his "curse" there is nothing for which the purest
taste need apologize, yet here was his sin, his grievous sin: he made
use of the oath and the curse to back up a deliberate and cowardly lie,
even as men to-day will kiss the book to make God's Word of truth a
cover for perjury. How shall we explain the sad fall of this
captain-disciple, who was first and foremost of the Twelve? Were these
denials but the wild and wandering cries of some delirium? We find that
Peter's lips did sometimes throw off unreasoning and untimely words,
speaking like one in a dream, as he proposed the three tabernacles on
the mount, "not knowing what he said." But this is no delirium, no
ecstasy; his mind is clear as the sky overhead, his thought bright and
sharp as was his sword just now. No, it was not a failure in the reason;
it was a sadder failure in the heart. Of physical courage Simon had an
abundance, but he was somewhat deficient in moral courage. His surname
"Peter" was as yet but a forename, a prophecy; for the "rock"-granite
was yet in a state of flux, pliant, somewhat wavering, and too easily
impressed. It must "be dipped in baths of hissing tears" ere it hardens
into the foundation-rock for the new temple. In the garden he was too
ready, too brave. "Shall we smite with the sword?" he asked, matching
the "we," which numbered two swords, against a whole Roman cohort; but
that was in the presence of his Master, and in the consciousness of
strength which that Presence gave. It is different now. His Master is
Himself a bound and helpless Prisoner. His own sword is taken from him,
or, which is the same thing, it is ordered to its sheath. The bright
dream of temporal sovereignty, which like a beautiful mirage had played
on the horizon of his thought, had suddenly faded, withdrawing itself
into the darkness. Simon is disappointed, perplexed, bewildered, and
with hopes shattered, faith stunned, and love itself in a momentary
conflict with self-love, he loses heart and becomes demoralized, his
better nature falling to pieces like a routed army.

Such were the conditions of Peter's denial, the strain and pressure
under which his courage and his faith gave way, and almost before he
knew it he had thrice denied his Lord, tossing away the Christ he would
die for on his cold, impetuous words, as, with a tinge of disrespect in
his tone and word, he called Him "the Man." But hardly had the denial
been made and the anathema been said when suddenly the cock crew. It was
but the familiar call of an unwitting bird, but it smote upon Peter's
ear like a near clap of thunder; it brought to his mind those words of
his Master, which he had thought were uncertain parable, but which he
finds now were certain prophecy, and thus let in a rush of sweet,
old-time memories. Conscience-stricken, and with a load of terrible
guilt pressing upon his soul, he looks up timidly towards the Lord he
has forsworn. Will He deny _him_, on one of His bitter "woes" casting
him down to the Gehenna he deserves? No; Jesus looks upon Peter; nay, He
even "turns" round toward him, that He may look; and as Peter saw that
look, the face all streaked with blood and lined with an unutterable
anguish, when he felt that glance fixed upon him of an upbraiding but a
pitying and forgiving love, that look of Jesus pierced the inmost soul
of the denying, agnostic disciple, breaking up the fountains of his
heart, and sending him out to weep "bitterly." That look was the supreme
moment in Peter's life. It forgave, while it rebuked him; it passed
through his nature like refining fire, burning out what was weak, and
selfish and sordid, and transforming Simon, the boaster, the man of
words, into Peter, the man of deeds, the man of "rock."

But if in the outer court truth is thrown to the winds, within the
palace justice herself is parodied. It would seem as if the first
interview of Caiaphas with Jesus were private, or in the presence at
most of a few personal attendants. But at this meeting, as the High
Priest of the New was arraigned before the high priest of the Old
Dispensation, nothing was elicited. Questioned as to His disciples and
as to His doctrine, Jesus maintained a dignified silence, only speaking
to remind His pseudo-judge that there were certain rules of procedure
with which he himself was bound to comply. He would not enlighten him;
what He had said He had said openly, in the Temple; and if he wished to
know he must appeal to those who heard Him, he must call his witnesses;
an answer which brought Him a sharp and cruel blow from one of the
officers, the first of a sad rain of blows which bruised His flesh and
made His visage marred more than any man's.

The private interview ended, the doors were thrown open to the mixed
company of chief priests, elders, and scribes, probably the same as had
witnessed the arrest, with others of the council who had been hastily
summoned, and who were known to be avowedly hostile to Jesus. It
certainly was not a properly constituted tribunal, a council of the
Sanhedrim, which alone had the power to adjudicate on questions purely
religious. It was rather a packed jury, a Star Chamber of self-appointed
assessors. With the exception that witnesses were called (and even these
were "false," with discrepant stories which neutralized their testimony
and made it valueless), the whole proceedings were a hurried travesty of
justice, unconstitutional, and so illegal. But such was the virulent
hate of the hierarchy of the Temple, they were prepared to break through
all legalities to gain their end; yea, they would even have broken the
tables of the law themselves, if they might only have stoned the
Nazarene with the fragments, and then have buried Him under the rude
cairn. The only testimony they could find was that He had said He would
destroy the temple made with hands, and in three days build another made
without hands (Mark xiv. 58); and even in this the statements of the two
witnesses did not agree, while both were garbled misrepresentations of
the truth.

Hitherto Jesus had remained silent, and when Caiaphas sprang from his
seat, asking, "Answerest Thou nothing?" seeking to extract some broken
speech by the pressure of an imperious mien and browbeating words,
Jesus answered by a majestic silence. Why should He cast His pearls
before these swine, who were even now turning upon Him to rend Him? But
when the high priest asked, "Art Thou the Christ?" Jesus replied, "If I
tell you, ye will not believe: and if I ask you, ye will not answer. But
from henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the
power of God;" thus anticipating His enthronement far above all
principalities and powers, in His eternal reign. The words "Son of man"
struck with loud vibrations upon the ears of His enraged jurors,
suggesting the antithesis, and immediately all speak at once, as they
clamour, "Art Thou, then, the Son of God?" a question which Caiaphas
repeats as an adjuration, and which Jesus answers with a brief, calm,
"Ye say that I am." It was a Divine confession, at once the confession
of His Messiahship and a confession of His Divinity. It was all that His
enemies wanted; there was no need of further witnesses, and Caiaphas
rent his clothes and asked his echoes of what the blasphemer was worthy?
And opening their clenched teeth, his echoes shouted, "Death!"

The lingering dawn had not broken when the high priest and his barking
hounds had run their Prey down to death--that is, as far as they were
allowed to go; and as the meeting of the full council could not be held
till the broad daylight, the men who have Jesus in charge extemporize a
little interlude of their own. Setting Jesus in the midst, they mock
Him, and make sport of Him, heaping upon that Face, still streaked with
its sweat of blood, all the indignities a malign ingenuity can suggest.
Now they "cover His face" (Mark xiv. 65), throwing around it one of
their loose robes; now they "blindfold" Him, and then strike "Him on
the face" (xxii. 64), as they derisively ask that He will prophecy who
smote Him; while, again, they "spit in His face" (Matt. xxvi. 67),
besmearing it with the venom of unclean, hissing lips! And amid it all
the patient Sufferer answers not a word; He is silent, dumb, the Lamb
before His shearers.

Soon as the day had fairly broke, the Sanhedrists, with the chief
priests, meet in full council, to give effect to the decision of the
earlier conclave; and since it is not in their power to do more, they
determine to hand Jesus over to the secular power, going to Pilate in a
body, thus giving their informal endorsement to the demand for His
death. So now the scene shifts from the palace of Caiaphas to the
Prætorium, a short distance as measured by the linear scale, but a far
remove if we gauge thought or if we consider climatic influences. The
palace of Caiaphas lay toward the Orient; the Prætorium was a growth of
the Occident, a bit of Western life transplanted to the once fruitful,
but now sterile East. Within the palace the air was close and mouldy;
thought could not breathe, and religion was little more than a mummy,
tightly bound by the grave-clothes of tradition, and all scented with
old-time cosmetics. Within the Prætorium the atmosphere was at least
freer; there was more room to breathe; for Rome was a sort of libertine
in religion, finding room within her Pantheon for all the deities of
this and almost any other world. In matters of religion the Roman power
was perfectly indifferent, her only policy the policy of _laissez
faire_; and when Pilate first saw Jesus and His crowd of accusers he
sought to dismiss them at once, remitting Him to be judged "according to
your law," putting, doubtless, an inflection of contempt upon the
"your." It was not until they had shifted the charge altogether, making
it one of sedition instead of blasphemy, as they accuse Jesus of
"perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar," that
Pilate took the case seriously in hand. But from the first his
sympathies evidently were with the strange and lonely Prophet.

Left comparatively alone with Pilate--for the crowd would not risk the
defilement of the Prætorium--Jesus still maintained a dignified reserve
and silence, not even speaking to Pilate's question of surprise,
"Answerest Thou nothing?" Jesus would speak no word in self-defence, not
even to take out the twist His accusers had put into His words, as they
distorted their meaning. When, however, He was questioned as to His
mission and Royalty He spoke directly, as He had spoken before to
Caiaphas, not, however, claiming to be King of the Jews, as His enemies
asserted, but Lord of a kingdom which was not of this world; that is,
not like earthly empires, whose bounds are mountains and seas, and whose
thrones rest upon pillars of steel, the carnal weapons which first
upbuild, and then support them. He was a King indeed; but His realm was
the wide realm of mind and heart; His was a kingdom in which love was
law, and love was force, a kingdom which had no limitations of speech,
and no bounds, either of time or space.

Pilate was perplexed and awed. Governor though he was, he mentally did
homage before the strange Imperator whose nature was imperial, whatever
His realm might be. "I find no fault in this Man," he said, attesting
the innocence he had discovered in the mien and tones of his Prisoner;
but his attestation only awoke a fiercer cry from the chief priests,
"that He was a seditious person, stirring up the people, and preparing
insurrection even from Galilee to Jerusalem." The word Galilee caught
Pilate's ear, and at once suggested a plan that would shift the
responsibility from himself. He would change the _venue_ from Judæa to
Galilee; and since the Prisoner was a Galilean, he would send Him to the
Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.
It was the stratagem of a wavering mind, of a man whose courage was not
equal to his convictions, of a man with a double purpose. He would like
to save his Prisoner, but he _must_ save himself; and when the two
purposes came into collision, as they did soon, the "might" of a timid
desire had to give way to the "must" of a prudential necessity; the
Christ was pushed aside and nailed to a cross, that Self might survive
and reign. And so "Pilate sent Him to Herod."

Herod was proud to have this deference shown him in Jerusalem, and by
his rival, too, and "exceeding glad" that, by a caprice of fortune, his
long-cherished desire, which had been baffled hitherto, of seeing the
Prophet of Galilee, should be realized. He found it, however, a
disappointing and barren interview; for Jesus would work no miracle, as
he had hoped; He would not even speak. To all the questions and threats
of Herod, Jesus maintained a rigid and almost scornful silence; and
though to Pilate He had spoken at some length, Jesus would have no
intercourse with the murderer of the Baptist. Herod had silenced the
Voice of the wilderness; he should not hear the Incarnate Word. Jesus
thus set Herod at nought, counting him as a nothing, ignoring him
purposely and utterly; and stung with rage that his authority should be
thus contemned before the chief priests and scribes, Herod set his
Victim "at nought," mocking Him in coarse banter; and as if the whole
proceeding were but a farce, a bit of comedy, he invests Him with one of
his glittering robes, and sends the Prophet-King back to Pilate.

For a brief space Jesus finds shelter by the judgment-seat, removed from
the presence of His accusers, though still within hearing of their
cries, as Pilate himself keeps the wolves at bay. Intensely desirous of
acquitting his Prisoner, he leaves the seat of judgment to become His
advocate. He appeals to their sense of justice; that Jesus is entirely
innocent of any crime or fault. They reply that according to their law
He ought to die, because He called Himself the "Son of God." He appeals
to their custom of having some prisoner released at this feast, and he
suggests that it would be a personal favour if they would permit him to
release Jesus. They answer, "Not this man, but Barabbas." He offers to
meet them half-way, in a sort of compromise, and out of deference to
their wishes he will chastise Jesus if they will consent to let Him go;
but it is not chastisement they want--they themselves could have done
that--but death. He appeals to their pity, leading Jesus forth, wearing
the purple robe, as if to ask, "Is it not enough already?" but they cry
even more fiercely for His death. Then he yields so far to their clamour
as to deliver up Jesus to be mocked and scourged, as the soldiers play
at "royalty," arraying Him in the purple robe, putting a reed in His
hand as a mock sceptre, and a crown of thorns upon His head, then
turning to smite Him on the head, to spit in His face, and to kneel
before Him in mock homage, saluting Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And
Pilate allows all this, himself leading Jesus forth in this mock array,
as he bids the crowd, "Behold your King!" And why? has He experienced
such a revulsion of feeling towards his Prisoner that he can now vie
with the chief priests in his coarse insult of Jesus? Not so; but it is
Pilate's last appeal. It is a sop thrown out to the mob, in hopes that
it may slake their terrible blood-thirst, a sacrifice of pain and shame
which may perhaps prevent the greater sacrifice of life; while at the
same time it is an ocular demonstration of the incongruity of their
charge; for His Kingship, whatever it might be, was nothing the Roman
power had to fear; it was not even to be taken in a serious way; it was
a matter for ridicule, and not for revenge, something they could easily
afford to play with. But this last appeal was futile as the others had
been, and the crowd only became more fierce as they saw in Pilate traces
of weakening and wavering. At last the courage of Pilate breaks down
utterly before the threat that he will not be Cæsar's friend if he let
this man go, and he delivers up Jesus to their will, not, however,
before he has called for water, and by a symbolic washing of his hands
has thrown back, or tried to throw back, upon his accusers, the crime of
shedding innocent blood. Weak, wavering Pilate--

      "Making his high place the lawless perch
  Of winged ambitions;"

overridden by his fears; governor, but governed by his subjects; sitting
on the judgment-seat, and then abdicating his position of judge; the
personification of law, and condemning the Innocent contrary to the law;
giving up to the extremest penalty and punishment One whom he has thrice
proclaimed as guiltless, without fault, and that, too, in the face of a
Heaven-sent warning dream! In the wild inrush of his fears, which swept
over him like an inbreaking sea, his own weak will was borne down, and
reason, right, conscience, all were drowned. Verily Pilate washes his
hands in vain; he cannot wipe off his responsibility or wipe out the
deep stains of blood.

And now we come to the last act of the strange drama, which the four
Evangelists give from their different stand-points, and so with varying
but not differing details. We will read it mainly from the narrative of
St. Luke. The shadow of the cross has long been a vivid conception of
His mind; and again and again we can see its reflection in the current
of His clear speech; now, however, it is present to His sight, close at
hand, a grim and terrible reality. It is laid upon the shoulder of the
Sufferer, and the Victim carries His altar through the streets of the
city and up towards the Mount of Sacrifice, until He faints beneath the
burden, when the precious load is laid upon Simon the Cyrenian, who,
coming out of the country, met the procession as it issued from the
gate. It was probably during this halt by the way that the incident
occurred, related only by our Evangelist, when the women who followed
with the multitude broke out into loud lamentation and weeping, the
first expression of human sympathy Jesus has received through all the
agonies of the long morning. And even this sympathy He gave back to
those who proffered it, bidding these "daughters of Jerusalem" weep not
for Him, but for themselves and for their children, because of the day
of doom which was fast coming upon their city and on them. Thus Jesus
pushes from Him the cup of human sympathy, as afterwards He refused the
cup of mingled wine and myrrh: He would drink the bitter draught
unsweetened; alone and all unaided He would wrestle with death, and
conquer.

It is somewhat singular that none of the Evangelists have left us a clue
by which we can recognize, with any certainty, the scene of the
Crucifixion. In our thoughts and in our songs Calvary is a mount,
towering high among the mounts of God, higher than Sinai itself. And
such it is, potentially; for it has the sweep of all the earth, and
touches heaven. But the Scriptures do not call it a "mount," but only a
"place." Indeed, the name of "Calvary" does not appear in Scripture,
except as the Latin translation of the Greek _Kranion_, or the Hebrew
_Golgotha_, both of which mean "the place of the skull." All that we can
safely say is that it was probably some rounded eminence, as the name
would indicate, and as modern explorations would suggest, on the north
of the city, near the tomb of Jeremiah.

But if the site of the cross is only given us in a casual way, its
position is noted by all the Evangelists with exactness. It was between
the crosses of two malefactors or bandits; as St. John puts it, in an
emphatic, Divine tautology, "On either side one, and Jesus in the
midst." Possibly they intended it as their last insult, heaping shame
upon shame; but unwittingly they only fulfilled the Scripture, which had
prophesied that He would be "numbered among the transgressors," and that
He would make His grave "with the wicked" in His death.

St. Luke omits several details, which St. John, who was an eye-witness,
could give more fully; but he stays to speak of the parting of His
raiment, and he adds, what the others omit, the prayer for His
executioners, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," an
incident he probably had heard from one of the band of crucifiers,
perhaps the centurion himself.

With a true artistic skill, however, and with brief touches, he draws
for us the scene on which all ages will reverently gaze. In the
foreground is the cross of Jesus, with its trilingual superscription,
"This is the King of the Jews;" while close beside it are the crosses of
the thieves, whose very faces St. Luke lights up with life and
character. Standing near are the soldiers, relieving the _ennui_ with
cruel sport, as they rail at the Christ, offering Him vinegar, and
bidding Him come down. Then we have the rulers, crowding up near the
cross, scoffing, and pelting their Victim with ribald jests, the
"people" standing back, beholding; while "afar off," in the distance,
are His acquaintance and the women from Galilee. But if our Evangelist
touches these incidents lightly, he lingers to give us one scene of the
cross in full, which the other Evangelists omit. Has Jesus found an
advocate in Pilate? has He found a cross-bearer in the Cyrenian, and
sympathisers in the lamenting women? He finds now upon His cross a
testimony to His Messiahship more clear and more eloquent than the
hieroglyphs of Pilate; for when one of the thieves railed upon Him,
shouting out "Christ" in mockery, Jesus made no reply. The other
answered for Him, rebuking his fellow, while attesting the innocence of
Jesus. Then, with a prayer in which penitence and faith were strangely
blended, he turned to the Divine Victim and said, "Jesus, remember me
when Thou comest in Thy kingdom." Rare faith! Through the tears of his
penitence, as through lenses of light, he sees the new Dawn to which
this fearful night will give birth, the kingdom which is sure to come,
and which, coming, will abide, and he salutes the dying One as Christ,
the King! Jesus did not reply to the railer; He received in silence his
barbed taunts; but to this cry for mercy Jesus had a quick
response--"To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise," so admitting the
penitent into His kingdom at once, and, ere the day is spent, passing
him up to the abodes of the Blessed, even to Paradise itself.

And now there comes the hush of a great silence and the awe of a strange
darkness. From the sixth to the ninth hour, over the cross, and the
city, and the land, hung the shadow of an untimely night, when the
"sun's light failed," as our Evangelist puts it; while in the Temple was
another portent, the veil, which was suspended between the Holy Place
and the Most Holy, being rent in the midst! The mysterious darkness was
but the pall for a mysterious death; for Jesus cried with a loud voice
into the gloom, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," and then,
as it reads in language which is not applied to mortal man, "He gave up
the ghost." He dismissed His spirit, a perfectly voluntary Sacrifice,
laying down the life which no man was able to take from Him.

And why? What meant this death, which was at once the end and the crown
of His life? What meant the cross, which thus draws to itself all the
lines of His earthly life, while it throws its shadow back into the Old
Dispensation, over all its altars and its passovers? To other mortals
death is but an appendix to the life, a negation, a something we could
dispense with, were it possible thus to be exempt from the bond we all
must pay to Nature. But not so was it with Jesus. He was born that He
might die; He lived that He might die; it was for this hour on Calvary
that He came into the world, the Word being made flesh, that the sacred
flesh might be transfixed to a cross, and buried in an earthly grave.
Surely, then, it was not _as_ man that Jesus died; He died _for_ man; He
died as the Son of God! And when upon the cross the horror of a great
darkness fell upon His soul, and He who had borne every torture that
earth could inflict without one murmur of impatience or cry of pain,
cried, with a terrible anguish in His voice, "My God, My God, why hast
Thou forsaken Me?" we can interpret the great horror and the strange cry
but in one way: the Lamb of God was bearing away the sin of the world;
He was tasting for man the bitter pains of the second death; and as He
drinks the cup of the wrath of God against sin He feels passing over Him
the awful loneliness of a soul bereft of God, the chill of the "outer
darkness" itself. Jesus lived as our Example; He died as our Atonement,
opening by His blood the Holiest of all, even His highest heaven.

And so the cross of Jesus must ever remain "in the midst," the one
bright centre of all our hopes and all our songs; it must be "in the
midst" of our toil, at once our pattern of service and our inspiration.
Nay, the cross of Jesus will be "in the midst" of heaven itself, the
centre towards which the circles of redeemed saints will bow, and round
which the ceaseless "Alleluia" will roll; for what is "the Lamb in the
midst of the throne" (Rev. vii. 17) but the cross transfigured, and the
Lamb eternally enthroned?



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE FIRST LORD'S DAY.

ST. LUKE xxiv.


The Sabbath came and went over the grave of its Lord, and silence
reigned in Joseph's garden, broken only by the mailed sentinels, who
laughed and chatted by the sealed sepulchre. As to the disciples, this
"high day" is a _dies non_ to them, for the curtain of a deep silence
hides them from our view. Did they go up to the Temple to join in the
Psalm, how "His mercy endureth for ever?" Scarcely: their thoughts were
transfixed to the cross, which haunted them like a horrid dream; its
rude dark wood had stunned them for awhile, as it broke down their faith
and shattered all their hopes. But if the constellation of the Apostles
passes into temporary eclipse, with no beam of inspired light falling
upon them, "the women" are not thus hidden, for we read, "And on the
Sabbath day they rested, according to the commandment". It is true it is
but a negative attitude that is portrayed, but it is an exceedingly
beautiful one. It is Love waiting upon Duty. The voices of their grief
are not allowed to become so excessive and clamorous as to drown the
Divine voice, speaking through the ages, "Remember that thou keep holy
the Sabbath day;" and even the fragrant offerings of their devotion are
set aside, that they may keep inviolate the Sabbath rest.

But if the spices of the women are the spikenard and myrrh of a mingled
love and grief, they are at the same time a tacit admission of their
error. They prove conclusively that the women, at any rate, had no
thought of a resurrection. It appears strange to us that such should be
the case, after the frequent references Jesus made to His death and
rising again. But evidently the disciples attached to these sayings of
Jesus one of those deeper, farther-off meanings which were so
characteristic of His speech, interpreting in some mysterious spiritual
sense what was intended to be read in a strict literalness. At present
nothing could be farther from their thoughts than a resurrection; it had
not even occurred to them as a possible thing; and instead of being
something to which they were ready to give a credulous assent, or a myth
which came all shaped and winged out of their own heated imaginings, it
was something altogether foreign to their thoughts, and which, when it
did occur, only by many infallible proofs was recognized and admitted
into their hearts as truth. And so the very spices the women prepare for
the embalming are a silent but a fragrant testimony to the reality of
the Resurrection. They show the drift of the disciples' thought, that
when the stone was rolled to the door of the sepulchre it shut in to the
darkness, and buried, all their hopes. The only Easter they knew, or
even dreamed of, was that first and final Easter of the last day.

As soon as the restraint of the Sabbath was over, the women turned again
to their labour of love, preparing the ointment and spices for the
embalming, and coming with the early dawn to the sepulchre. Though it
was "yet dark," as St. John tells us, they did not anticipate any
difficulty from the city gates, for these were left open both by night
and day during the Passover feast; but the thought did occur to them on
the way as to how they should roll back the stone, a task for which they
had not prepared, and which was evidently beyond their unaided strength.
Their question, however, had been answered in anticipation, for when
they reached the garden the stone was rolled away, and the sepulchre all
exposed. Surprised and startled by the discovery, their surprise
deepened into consternation as passing within the sepulchre, they found
that the body of Jesus, on which they had come to perform the last kind
offices of affection, had disappeared. And how? could there be more than
one solution of the enigma? The enemies of Jesus had surely laid violent
hands upon the tomb, rifling it of the precious dust they sorrowfully
had committed to its keeping, reserving it for fresh indignities. St.
John supplements the narrative of our Evangelist, telling how the
Magdalene, slipping out from the rest, "ran" back to the city to
announce, in half-hysterical speech, "They have taken away the Lord out
of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him;" for though St.
John names but the Magdalene, the "we" implies that she was but one of a
group of ministering women, a group that she had abruptly left. The rest
lingered by the tomb perplexed, with reason blinded by the whirling
clouds of doubt, when suddenly--the "behold" indicates a swift
surprise--"two men stood by them in dazzling apparel."

In speaking of them as "two men" probably our Evangelist only intended
to call attention to the humanness of their form, as in verse 23 he
speaks of the appearance as "a vision of angels." It will be observed,
however, that in the New Testament the two words "men" and "angels" are
used interchangeably; as in St. Luke vii. 24, Rev. xxii. 8, where the
"angels" are evidently men, while in Mark xvi. 5, and again in the verse
before us, the so-called "men" are angels. But does not this
interchangeable use of the words imply a close relation between the two
orders of being? and is it not possible that in the eternal ripenings
and evolutions of heaven a perfected humanity may pass up into the
angelic ranks? At any rate, we do know that when angels have appeared on
earth there has been a strange humanness about them. They have not even
had the fictitious wings which poetry has woven for them; they have
nearly always appeared wearing the human face divine, and speaking with
the tones and in the tongues of men, as if it were their native speech.

But if their form is earthly, their dress is heavenly. Their garments
flash and glitter like the robes of the transfigured Christ; and awed by
the supernatural portent, the women bow down their faces to the earth.
"Why," asked the angels, "seek ye the living among the dead? He is not
here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in
Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be delivered up into the hands
of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." Even the
angels are not allowed to disclose the secret of His resurrection life,
or to tell where He may be found, but they announce the fact that they
are not at liberty to explain. "He is not here; He is risen," is the
Gospel of the angels, a Gospel whose prelude they themselves have heard,
but, alas! forgotten; and since Heaven does not reveal what by searching
we ourselves may find out, the angels throw them back upon their own
recollections, recalling the words Jesus Himself had spoken, and which,
had they been understood and remembered, would have lighted up the
empty sepulchre and have solved the great mystery. And how much we lose
because we do not remember, or if remembering, we do not believe! Divine
words have been spoken, and spoken to us, but to our ear, dulled by
unbelief, they have come as empty sound, all inarticulate, and we have
said it was some thunder in the sky or the voices of a passing wind. How
many promises, which, like the harps of God, would have made even our
wildernesses vocal, have we hung up, sad and silent, on the willows of
the "strange lands"! If we only "remembered" the words of the Lord
Jesus, if they became to us real and eternally true, instead of being
the unreal voices of a dream, those words would be, not "the distant
lamps" of Heaven, but near at hand, lighting up all dark places, because
throwing their light within, turning even the graves of our buried hopes
into sanctuaries of joy and praise!

And so the women, instead of embalming their Lord, carried their spices
back unused. Not unused, however, for in the spices and ointments the
Living One did not need their own names were embalmed, a fragrant
memory. Coming to the tomb, as they thought, to do homage to a dead
Christ, the Magdalene, and Mary, and Johanna, and Salome found a Christ
who had conquered death, and at the same time found an immortality for
themselves; for the fragrance of their thought, which was not permitted
to ripen into deeds, has filled the whole world.

Returning to the city, whither the Magdalene had outrun them, they
announced to the rest, as she had done to Peter and John, the fact of
the empty grave; but they completed the story with the narrative of the
angelic vision and the statement that Jesus had risen. So little,
however, were the disciples predisposed to receive the tidings of a
resurrection, they would not admit the fact even when attested by at
least four witnesses, but set it down as idle, silly talk, something
which was not only void of truth, but void of sense. Only Peter and John
of the Apostles, as far as we know, visited the sepulchre, and even they
doubted, though they found the tomb empty and the linen clothes
carefully wrapped up. They "believed" that the body had disappeared,
but, as St. John tells us, "as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He
must rise again from the dead" (St. John xx. 9); and as they leave the
empty grave to return to their own home, they only "wondered at that
which was come to pass." It was an enigma they could not solve; and
though the Easter morning had now fully broke, the day which should
light all days, as it drew to itself the honours and songs of the
Sabbath, yet to the minds and hearts of the Apostles it was "yet dark;"
the glory of the Lord had not yet risen upon them.

And now comes one of those beautiful pictures, peculiar to St. Luke, as
he lights up the Judæan hills with a soft afterglow, an afterglow which
at the same time is the aurora of a new dawn. It was in the afternoon of
that first Lord's day, when two disciples set out from Jerusalem for
Emmaus, a village, probably the modern Khamasa, sixty furlongs from the
city. Who the two disciples were we cannot say, for one is unnamed,
while the other bears a name, Cleopas, we do not meet with elsewhere,
though its Greek origin would lead us to infer that he was some Gentile
proselyte who had attached himself to Jesus. As to the second, we have
not even the clue of an obscure name with which to identify him, and in
this somewhat strange anonymity some expositors have thought they
detected the shadow of the Evangelist, Luke, himself. The supposition
is not an impossible one; for though St. Luke was not an eye-witness
from the beginning, he might have witnessed some of the closing scenes
of the Divine life; while the very minuteness of detail which
characterizes his story would almost show that if not himself a
participant, he was closely related to those who were; but had St. Luke
himself been the favoured one, it is scarcely likely that he would have
omitted this personal testimony when speaking of the "many infallible
proofs" of His resurrection.

Whoever the two might be, it is certain that they enjoyed the esteem and
confidence of the disciples, having free access, even at untimely hours,
to the Apostolic circle, while the fact that Jesus Himself sought their
company, and selected them to such honours, shows the high place which
was accorded to them in the Divine regard.

We are not apprised of the object of their journey; indeed, they
themselves seem to have lost sight of that in the gleams of glory which,
all unexpected, fell across their path. It is not unlikely that it was
connected with recent events; for now that the central Sun, around whom
their lives revolved, has disappeared, will not those lives necessarily
take new directions, or drift back into the old orbits? But whatever
their purposes might be, their thoughts are retrospective rather than
prospective; for while their faces are set towards Emmaus, and their
feet are steadily measuring off the furlongs of the journey, their
thoughts are lingering behind, clinging to the dark crest of Calvary, as
the cloud-pennon clings to the Alpine peak. They can speak but of one
theme, "these things which have happened:" the One whom they took to be
the Christ, to whom their hearts had been so strangely drawn; His
character, miracles, and words; the ignominious Death, in which that
Life, with all their hopes, was quenched; and then the strange tidings
which had been brought by the women, as to how they had found the grave
empty, and how they had seen a vision of angels. The word "questioned
together" generally implies a difference of opinion, and refers to the
cross-questioning of disputants; but in this case it probably referred
only to the innumerable questions the report of the Resurrection would
raise in their minds, the honest doubts and difficulties with which they
felt themselves compelled to grapple.

It was while they were discussing these new problems, walking leisurely
along the road--for men walk heavily when weighted at the heart--a
Stranger overtook and joined them, asking, after the usual salutation,
which would not be omitted, "What communications are these that ye have
one with another, as ye walk?" The very form of the question would help
to disguise the familiar voice, while the changed "form" of which St.
Mark speaks would somewhat mask the familiar features; but at the same
time it would appear that there was a supernatural holding of their
eyes, as if a dusky veil were wrapped about the Stranger. His question
startled them, even as a voice from another world, as, indeed, it
seemed; and stopping suddenly, they turned their "sad" faces to the
Stranger in a momentary and silent astonishment, a silence which Cleopas
broke by asking, "Dost thou alone sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know the
things which are come to pass there in these days?" a double question,
to which the stranger replied with the brief interrogative, "What
things?" It needed no more than that solitary word to unseal the
fountain of their lips, for the clouds which had broken so wildly and
darkly over Calvary had filled their hearts with an intense and bitter
grief, which longed for expression, even for the poor relief of words.
And so they break in together with their answer (the pronoun is changed
now), "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet mighty in deed
and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and
our rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
But we hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel. Yea, and beside
all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass.
Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at
the tomb; and when they found not His body, they came, saying, that they
had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And
certain of them that were with us went to the tomb, and found it even so
as the women had said: but Him they saw not."

It is the impetuous language of intense feeling, in which hope and
despair strike alternate chords. In the first strain Jesus of Nazareth
is lifted high; He is a Prophet mighty in word and deed; then He is
stricken down, condemned to death, and crucified. Again, hope speaks,
recalling the bright dream of a redemption for Israel; but having spoken
that word, Hope herself goes aside to weep by the grave where her
Redeemer was hurriedly buried. Still again is the glimmer of a new
light, as the women bring home the message of the angels; but still
again the light sets in darkness, a gloom which neither the eyes of
Reason nor of Faith could as yet pierce; for "Him they saw not" marks
the totality of the eclipse, pointing to a void of darkness, a firmament
without a sun or star.

But incidentally, in the swift current of their speech, we catch a
reflection of the Christ as He appeared to their minds. He was indeed a
Prophet, second to none, and in their hope He was more, for He was the
Redeemer of Israel. It is evident the disciples had not yet grasped the
full purport of the Messianic mission. Their thought was hazy, obscure,
like the vision of men walking in a mist. The Hebrew dream of a temporal
sovereignty seems to have been a prevailing, perhaps _the_ prevailing
force in their minds, the attraction which drew and cheered them on. But
their Redeemer was but a local, temporal one, who will restore the
kingdom to Israel; He was not yet the Redeemer of the world, who should
save His people from their sins. The "regeneration," as they fondly
called it, the "new creation," was purely national, when out of the
chaos of Roman irruptions their Hebrew paradise will come. For one
thing, the disciples were too near the Divine life to see its just and
large proportions. They must stand back from it the distance of a
Pentecost; they must look on it through their lenses of flame, before
they can take in the profound meaning of that Life, or the awful mystery
of that Death. At present their vision is out of focus, and all they can
see is the blurred and shadowy outline of the reality, the temporal
rather than the spiritual, a redeemed nationality rather than a redeemed
and regenerated humanity.

The risen Jesus, for such the Stranger was, though they knew it not,
listened to their requiem patiently and wonderingly, glad to find within
their hearts such deep and genuine love, which even the cross and the
grave had not been able to extinguish. The men themselves were true,
even though their views were somewhat warped--the refractions of their
Hebrew atmosphere. And Jesus leads them in thought to those "shining
uplands" of truth; as it were, spurring them on, by a sharp though kind
rebuke, to the heights where Divine thoughts and purposes move on to
their fulfilment. "O foolish men," He said, "and slow of heart to
believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behoved it not the Christ
to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory?" They thought He
was some stranger in Jerusalem, yet He knows their prophets better than
themselves; and hark, He puts in a word they had feared to use. They
only called Him "Jesus of Nazareth;" they did not give Him that higher
title of "the Christ" which they had freely used before. No; for the
cross had rudely shattered and broken that golden censer, in which they
had been wont to burn a royal incense. But here the Stranger recasts
their broken, golden word, burning its sweet, Divine incense even in
presence of the cross, calling the Crucified the "Christ"! Verily, this
Stranger has more faith than they; and they still their garrulous lips,
which speak so randomly, to hear the new and august Teacher, whose voice
was an echo of the Truth, if not the Truth itself!

"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to
them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." It will be
observed that our Evangelist uses a peculiar word in speaking of this
Divine exposition. He calls it an "interpretation," a word used in the
New Testament only in the sense of translating from one language to
another, from the unknown to the known tongue. And such, indeed, it was;
for they had read the Scriptures but in part, and so misread them. They
had thrown upon those Scriptures the projections of their own hopes and
illusions; while other Scriptures, those relating to the sufferings of
Christ, were set back, out of sight, or if heard at all, they were only
the voice of an unknown tongue, a _vox et preterea nihil_. So Jesus
interprets to them the voices of this unknown tongue. Beginning at
Moses, He shows, from the types, the prophecies, and the Psalms, how
that the Christ must suffer and die, ere the glories of His kingdom can
begin; that the cross and the grave both lay in the path of the
Redeemer, as the bitter and prickly calyx out of which the "glories"
should unfold themselves. And thus, opening their Scriptures, putting in
the crimson lens of the blood, as well as the chromatic lens of the
Messianic glory, the disciples find the cross all transfigured, inwoven
in God's eternal purpose of redemption; while the sufferings of Christ,
at which they had stumbled before, they now see were part of the eternal
plan of mercy, a Divine "ought," a great necessity.

They had now reached Emmaus, the limit of their journey, but the two
disciples cannot lose the company of One whose words have opened to them
a new and a bright world; and though He was evidently going on farther,
they constrained Him to abide with them, as it was towards evening and
the day was far spent. And He went in to tarry with them, though not for
long. Sitting down to meat, the Stranger Guest, without any apology,
takes the place of the host, and blessing the bread, He breaks and gives
to them. Was it the uplifted face threw them back on the old, familiar
days? or did they read the nail-mark in His hand? We do not know; but in
an instant the veil in which He had enfolded Himself was withdrawn, and
they knew Him: it was the Lord Himself, the risen Jesus! In a moment
the hush of a great awe fell upon them, and before they had time to
embrace Him whom they had loved so passionately, indeed before their
lips could frame an exclamation of surprise, He had vanished; He "became
invisible" to them, as it reads, passing out of their sight like a
dissolving cloud. And when they did recover themselves it was not to
speak His name--there was no need of that--but to say one to another,
"Was not our heart burning within, us while He spake to us in the way,
while He opened to us the Scriptures?" It was to them a bright
Apocalypse, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," who was dead, and is alive
for evermore; and all-forgetful of their errand, and though it is
evening, they leave Emmaus at once, their winged feet not heeding the
sixty furlongs now, as they haste to Jerusalem to announce to the
eleven, and to the rest, that Jesus has indeed arisen, and has appeared
unto them.

Returning to Jerusalem, they go direct to the well-known trysting-place,
where they find the Apostles ("the eleven" as the band was now called,
though, as St. John informs us, Thomas was not present) and others
gathered for their evening meal, and speaking of another and later
appearance of Jesus to Simon, which must have occurred during their
absence from the city; and they add to the growing wonder by telling of
their evening adventure, and how Jesus was known of them in breaking of
bread. But while they discussed the subject--for the majority were yet
in doubt as to the reality of the appearances--Jesus Himself stood
before them, passing through the fastened door; for the same fear that
shut the door would securely lock it. Though giving to them the old-time
salutation, "Peace be to you," it did not calm the unrest and agitation
of their soul; the chill of a great fear fell upon them, as the spectral
Shadow, as they thought it; stood before them. "Why are ye troubled?"
asks Jesus, "and wherefore do reasonings arise in your hearts?" for they
fairly trembled with fear, as the word would imply. "See My hands and My
feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not
flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having." He then extended His hands,
drew back His robe from His feet, and, as St. John says, uncovered His
side, that they might see the wounds of the nails and the spear, and
that by these visible, tangible proofs they might be convinced of the
reality of His Resurrection body. It was enough; their hearts in an
instant swung round from an extreme of fear to an extreme of joy, a sort
of wild joy, in which Reason for the moment became confused, and Faith
bewildered. But while the heavenly trance is yet upon them Jesus recalls
them to earthly things, asking if they have any meat; and when they give
Him a piece of a broiled fish, some of the remnants of their own repast,
He takes and eats before them all; not that now He needed the sustenance
of earthly food, in His resurrection life, but that by this simple act
He might put another seal upon His true humanity. It was a kind of
sacrament, showing forth His oneness with His own; that on the farther
side of the grave, in His exaltation, as on this, in His humiliation, He
was still the "Son of man," interested in all things, even the
commonplaces, of humanity.

The interview was not for long, for the risen Christ dwelt apart from
His disciples, coming to them at uncertain times and only for brief
spaces. He lingers, however, now, to explain to the eleven, as before to
the two, the great mystery of the Redemption. He opens their minds,
that the truth may pass within. Gathering up the lamps of prophecy
suspended through the Scriptures, He turns their varying lights upon
Himself, the ME of whom they testify. He shows them how it is written in
their law that the Christ must suffer, the Christ must die, the Christ
must rise again the third day, and "that repentance and remission of
sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from
Jerusalem." And then He gave to these preachers of repentance and
remission the promise of which the Book of the Acts is a fulfilment and
enlargement, the "promise of the Father," which is the gift of the Holy
Ghost. It was the prophecy of the Pentecost, the first rustle of the
mighty rushing wind, that Divine breath which comes to all who will
receive it.

Our Evangelist passes in silence other appearances of the Resurrection
Life, those forty days in which, by His frequent manifestations, He was
training His disciples to trust in His unseen Presence. He only in a few
closing words tells of the Ascension; how, near Bethany, He was parted
from them, and taken up into heaven, throwing down benedictions from His
uplifted hands even as He went; and how the disciples returned to
Jerusalem, not sorrowing, as men bereaved, but with great joy, having
learned now to endure and rejoice as seeing Him who is invisible, the
unseen but ever-present Christ. That St. Luke omits the other
Resurrection appearances is probably because he intended to insert them
in his prelude to the Acts of the Apostles, which he does, as he joins
his second treatise to the first. Nor is it altogether an incidental
coincidence that as he writes his later story he begins at Jerusalem,
lingering in the upper room which was the wind-rocked cradle of the
Church, and inserting as key-words of the new story these four words
from the old: Repentance, Remission, Promise, Power. The two books are
thus one, a seamless robe, woven for the living Christ, the one giving
us the Christ of the Humiliation, the other the Christ of the
Exaltation, who speaks now from the upper heavens, and whose power is
the power of the Holy Ghost.

And was it altogether undesigned that our Evangelist, omitting other
appearances of the forty days, yet throws such a wealth of interest and
of colouring into that first Easter day, filling it up from its early
dawn to its late evening? We think not. He is writing to and for the
Gentiles, whose Sabbaths are not on the last but on the first day of the
week, and he stays to picture for us that first Lord's day, the day
chosen by the Lord of the Sabbath for this high consecration. And as the
Holy Church throughout all the world keeps her Sabbaths now, her anthems
and songs are a sweet incense burned by the door of the empty sepulchre;
for, "The light which threw the glory of the Sabbath into the shade was
the glory of the Risen Lord."



THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE.


  FIRST SERIES.

  Colossians.
  By the Rev. A. MACLAREN, D.D., D.Lit.

  St. Mark.
  By the Right Rev. the Bishop of Derry.

  Genesis.
  By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  1 Samuel.
  By Prof. W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D.

  2 Samuel.
  By the same Author.

  Hebrews.
  By Principal T. C. EDWARDS, D.D.


  SECOND SERIES.

  Galatians.
  By Prof. G. G. FINDLAY, B.A., D.D.

  The Pastoral Epistles.
  By the Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

  Isaiah I.--XXXIX.
  By Prin. G. A. SMITH, D.D. Vol. I.

  The Book of Revelation.
  By Prof. W. MILLIGAN, D.D.

  1 Corinthians.
  By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  The Epistles of St. John.
  By the Most Rev. the Archbishop of Armagh.


  THIRD SERIES.

  Judges and Ruth.
  By the Rev. R. A. WATSON, M.A., D.D.

  Jeremiah.
  By the Rev. C. J. BALL, M.A.

  Isaiah XL.--LXVI.
  By Prin. G. A. SMITH, D.D. Vol. II.

  St. Matthew.
  By the Rev. J. MONRO GIBSON, D.D.

  Exodus.
  By the Right Rev. the Bishop of Derry.

  St. Luke.
  By the Rev. H. BURTON, M.A.


  FOURTH SERIES.

  Ecclesiastes.
  By the Rev. SAMUEL COX, D.D.

  St. James and St. Jude.
  By the Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

  Proverbs.
  By the Rev. R. F. HORTON, D.D.

  Leviticus.
  By the Rev. S. H. KELLOGG, D.D.

  The Gospel of St. John.
  By Prof. M. DODS, D.D. Vol. I.

  The Acts of the Apostles.
  By Prof. STOKES, D.D. Vol. I.


  FIFTH SERIES.

  The Psalms.
  By the Rev. A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. I.

  1 and 2 Thessalonians.
  By Prof. JAMES DENNEY, D.D.

  The Book of Job.
  By the Rev. R. A. WATSON, M.A., D.D.

  Ephesians.
  By Prof. G. G. FINDLAY, B.A., D.D.

  The Gospel of St. John.
  By Prof. M. DODS, D.D. Vol. II.

  The Acts of the Apostles.
  By Prof. STOKES, D.D. Vol. II.


  SIXTH SERIES.

  1 Kings.
  By the Very Rev. F. W. FARRAR, F.R.S.

  Philippians.
  By Principal RAINY, D.D.

  Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
  By Prof. W. F. ADENEY, M.A.

  Joshua.
  By Prof. W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D.

  The Psalms.
  By the Rev. A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. II.

  The Epistles of St. Peter.
  By Prof. RAWSON LUMBY, D.D.


  SEVENTH SERIES.

  2 Kings.
  By the Very Rev. F. W. FARRAR, F.R.S.

  Romans.
  By the Right Rev. H. C. G. MOULE, D.D.

  The Books of Chronicles.
  By Prof. W. H. BENNETT, D.D., D.Lit.

  2 Corinthians.
  By Prof. JAMES DENNEY, D.D.

  Numbers.
  By the Rev. R. A. WATSON, M.A., D.D.

  The Psalms.
  By the Rev. A. MACLAREN, D.D. Vol. III.


  EIGHTH SERIES.

  Daniel.
  By the Very Rev. F. W. FARRAR, F.R.S.

  The Book of Jeremiah.
  By Prof. W. H. BENNETT, D.D., D.Lit.

  Deuteronomy.
  By Prof. ANDREW HARPER, B.D.

  The Song of Solomon and Lamentations.
  By Prof. W. F. ADENEY, M.A.

  Ezekiel.
  By Prof. JOHN SKINNER, M.A.

  The Books of the Twelve Prophets.
  By Prin. G. A. SMITH, D.D. Two Vols.



INDEX.


  Acts, the, and the Gospel, 415.

  Adoration of the shepherds, 67.

  Advent, the, long, delayed, 17.
    "     the music of the, 29.

  Agony, the, and the Transfiguration, 365.

  Angels and "men," 402.

  Anointing, the, of the feet, 209.

  Antioch, 3, 4.

  Apostleship, the, instituted, 190.

  Apostles, the, sent forth, 269.

  Augustus Cæsar, 62.

  Authority, set under, 206.


  Baptism, the, of Jesus, 189.

  Beatitudes, the Mount of, 195.

  Being, more than doing, 338.

  _Benedictus_, the, 42, 43.

  Bethany, 307.

  Bethlehem Ephratah, 61, 62.

  Bethsaida, 157.
    "        Julias, 271.

  Betrayer, the, 378.

  Blind, the, sight for, 138, 139.

  Blindness, spiritual, 140.

  Body, the spiritual, 356.

  "Bread enough and to spare," 324.

  Brotherhood, the, of man, 304.

  Business and religion, 237.


  Caiaphas, 383, 387.

  Calling, the, of the four, 162.

  Cana, 64, 131.
    "  and the desert-place, 280.

  Capernaum, 65, 131, 203.

  Cares, the, of life, 235.

  Carlyle, 32.

  Casual disciples, 234.

  Centurion, faith of the, 195.
    "        humility of the, 204.

  Centurions, the three, 200.

  Character, in the kingdom of heaven, 245.
    "        and circumstance, 337.
    "        makes destiny, 357.

  Childhood consecrated, 85.

  Christ, the transfigured, 283.
    "      "  suffering, 410.

  Christianity, the rapid spread of, 8.

  Chronology of New Testament vague, 16.

  Circumcision, the rite of, 83.

  Citizenship in the new kingdom, 245, 248.

  Cleopas, 405.

  Coifi and his parable, 352.

  Common things made sacred, 75.

  Concerning prayer, 177.

  Conduct, character in motion, 337.

  Court of the women, 47.

  Creed, a, not a Christ, 155.

  Cross, the foreshadow of the, 282.
    "    the, the central thought of heaven, 291.

  Cup, the, of the Agony, 368.
    "   "   of sorrow transfigured, 375.


  Death, foreign to the sinless life, 285.
    "    an "exodus," 288.

  Debtors, the two, 216.

  Decision of character, 167.

  Demonology, 153, 155.

  "Depart from me, O lord," 172.

  Departed, the, interested in earthly things, 290.

  Destiny, eternal, 363.

  Disciples, the three candidate, 246, 247.
    "         "  sleeping, 372, 381.
    "        misunderstand Christ's mission, 409.

  Divided energies, 235.

  Dorner, Dr., 351.

  Drachma, the lost, 339.

  Draught, the, of fishes, 169.

  Duties owing to the State, 349.


  Eastern mind poetic, 31.

  "Eat, drink, and be merry," 358.

  Elder brother, the, 329.

  Elizabeth, 20, 34.
    "        song of, 20, 36, 37.

  Emmaus, the walk to, 405.
    "     the, apocalypse, 411.

  Eschatology, the, of St. Luke, 352.

  Ethics, the, of St. Luke, 336, 351.

  Ethical, the, compass, 342.

  Evolution, not revolution, 170.

  Ewald, 90.


  Faith, the secret of victory, 127.

  Farrar, Archdeacon, 187, 215.

  Fast, the forty days', 110.

  Fasting and prayer, 111.

  Fatherhood, the, of God, 179.

  Forgiveness, the joy of, 217.
    "          to follow repentance, 346.


  Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, 55.

  Gethsemane, 191, 284, 296, 364.

  "Give ye them to eat," 274.

  Giving, 202, 348.

  Godet, Professor, 223, 296, 335.

  Golden rule, the, 303.

  Good tidings to the poor, 136.
    "  part, the, 312.

  Gospel, the, of the Old Testament, 134.
    "      "   "  liberty, 142.

  Gospels, the four, a unity, 1.

  Grave, the, not our goal, 354.

  Growth of the kingdom, 251.

  Gulf, the great, 363.


  Healing, miracles of, 255.

  Hearers, not doers, 226.

  Heaven in the Old Testament, 178.
    "    near and real to Jesus, 189.
    "    and hell, 361.

  Hebraisms in St. Luke, 15.

  Hermon, Mount, 282.

  Herod, king of Judæa, 18.
    "    the Tetrarch, 270.
    "    Jesus before, 392.

  Herodias, daughter of, 103.

  Holy Spirit, full of the, 108.

  Home associations, 82.
    "  and the synagogue, 149.

  Hope and despair, 408.

  Housebuilders, the, 359.

  Humanity and nationality, 5.

  Humility, 342.

  Hundredfold, the, increase, 239.


  Incarnation, the, 48.

  Inn, the, of Bethlehem, 76.
    "   "   "  Chimham, 77.

  Inspiration, the personal element in, 2, 10.
    "           "  work of the Holy Spirit, 12, 13.


  Jesus, baptism of, 97.
    "   returns to Nazareth, 128.
    "   preaches in the synagogue, 132.
    "   no pessimist, 136.
    "   and the Fatherhood of God, 136.
    "   a Lover of freedom, 143.
    "   the King, 244.
    "    "  knowledge of, 264.
    "    "  compassion of, 266.
    "    "  power of, 267.
    "   "offered Himself," 381.
    "   appears to the eleven, 412.

  Jews, the, and the Samaritans, 301.

  Joachim and Anna, 53.

  John the Baptist, a Nazarite, 25.
    "  his mission foretold, 81.
    "  withdraws to the desert, 88.
    "  his manifestation, 89.
    "  effect of his ministry, 92.
    "  secret of his success, 93.
    "  his wavering faith, 100.
    "  belongs to the old dispensation, 102.

  Joseph, 50.

  Judaism and spiritual life, 21.

  Judas Iscariot, 378.

  Judging others, 339.


  Khamasa, the modern Emmaus, 405.

  Kingdom, the, of heaven, 241.
    "      the keys of the, 244.
    "      the, and its citizens, 245.
    "      the growth of the, 251.
    "      the, not of this world, 252.


  Lamb, the, of God, 100.

  "Larger hope," the, 361.

  Law, the, exacting, unforgiving, 220.
    "  of love, the, supreme, 338.

  Leaven, the, hid in the meal, 252.

  Leper, Jesus touches the, 259.

  Life, the, which now is, 336.

  Little things, the Divine care for, 278.

  Loan, the, of the three loaves, 186.

  Loaves, the miracle of the, 269.

  Lord's Day, the first, 400.

  Losing all, to gain all, 175.

  Lost and found, 317.

  Love in action and love at rest, 307.
    "  the all-embracing duty, 338.
    "  of country, 350.

  Loving the sinner, 324.
    "    our enemies, 343.

  Luke, St., and humanity, 4.
    "   "    his Gentile sympathies, 4, 5.
    "   "    his profession, 6, 7.
    "   "    reasons for writing his Gospel, 9.


  Magnificat, the, 39.

  Malchus, 382.

  Mariolatry, 52.

  Marriage in the after-life, 355.

  Martha of Bethany, 309.

  Mary the listener, 310.
    "  anoints the feet of Jesus, 314.

  Miracles, natural and necessary, 148.

  Miracle, a, of a new order, 169, 279.

  Misery, the, of sin, 333.

  Money, the love of, 348, 379.

  Moses and Elijah, 286.

  Mustard seed, a grain of, 252.

  "My soul is exceeding sorrowful," 367.


  Nature, the kingdom of, 243.

  Nazareth, 37, 50.

  Needle's eye, the, 246.

  Neighbour, my, 296.

  Ninety and nine, the, just persons, 335.

  "Numbered among the transgressors," 396.

  _Nunc Dimittis_, 44.


  Oaths and curses, 384.

  Obedience, in the Christian life, 168.

  Obedience to parents, 349.

  Order, Heaven's love of, 277.

  Orpheus and his lyre, 371.


  Papias, 55.

  Passover, an extemporised, 280.
    "       the, 377.

  Paternoster, a parabolic, 322.

  Peter, the faith of, 167.

  Peter's wife's mother, 157.
    "     denial, 383.
    "     lack of moral courage, 386.

  Pharisee, the, and the publican, 181, 250.

  Pharisees, the teaching of the, 200.
    "        the, reject both Jesus and John, 209.

  Philip the evangelist, 247.

  Phillips Brooks, 315.

  Pilate, Jesus before, 390.
    "     pleads for Jesus, 393.
    "     character of, 394.

  Pity, the Divine, 276.

  Pleasures, the, of life, 238.
    "        and pains of the after-life, 357.

  Poor, the, in spirit, 249.
    "    "   and the proud in spirit, 250.

  Prayer and healing, 159.
    "    character, a condition of, 181.
    "    the Lord's, 182.
    "     "  wide realm of, 185.
    "    importunity in, 186.
    "    habitual with Jesus, 189, 194.
    "    of Jesus for Simon, 193.
    "    answered, but not granted, 374.

  Pride condemned, 341.

  Priest, the, and Levite, 298.

  Priesthood, friendly to Jesus, 299.

  Principles, evolved but not created, 337.

  Prodigal son, the, 321.

  Promise, the, of the Father, 414.

  Prophets of the old dispensation, 135.

  Psalms, the, of the Advent, 33.
    "     the four, one song, 45.


  Quarantania, the, 110.


  Receiving and giving, 315.

  Regeneration not reform, 337.

  Religion, little more than form, 149.

  Religiousness not always religion, 300.

  Religious, the, instinct, 177.

  Repentant, Heaven's joy over the, 334.

  Resurrection life, the, 285.

  Return, the, of the prodigal, 325.

  Riches, the pursuit after, 237.

  Rich man, the, and Lazarus, 359.


  Sabbath, a, in Galilee, 148.
    "      the, question, 150.
    "       "   and the Lords Day, 415.

  Sacrament, the new, 370.

  Sacred sites obscure, 68.

  Samaritan, the good, 294.
    "        his thoughtful sympathy, 302.

  Sceptre, the departed, 91.

  Scriptures, the misread, 410.

  Sea, the, is His, 171.

  Seed, the way-side, 227.
    "   the, on the rocks, 230.
    "    "   amid the thorns, 235.
    "    "   in the good ground, 238.

  Self-sacrifice, the beauty of, 305.

  Servant, the, of the centurion, 196.

  Sheep, the lost, 318.

  Shepherds, the, and the angels, 69.
    "        character of the, 73.

  Sight for the soul, 306.

  Silence, four centuries of, 19.

  Simon the Pharisee, 211.
    "    "     "      a seeker after truth, 212.
    "   the Cyrenean, 395.

  Sin, confessed, then forgiven, 328.
    "  the Divine grief over, 330.
    "  to be rebuked, 345.

  Sinners, hope for, 220.

  Sisters, the two, 306.

  Son, a, with a servant's heart, 330.

  Sower, parable of the, 225.

  Spices for the embalming, 401.

  Spikenard and tears, 216.

  Stier, 218.

  Sympathy in sorrow, 368.

  Synagogue, the, at Capernaum, 151.


  Talents, parable of the, 359.

  Taxing, the, 62.

  Temptation, the, 105.

  Testimony, value of personal, 201.

  Testing times, 233.

  Theophilus, 7.

  Thief, the penitent, 397.

  Tower, the, of the flock, 68.

  Transfiguration, the, 191, 281.

  Trial, the mock, 388.


  Ulysses and the sirens, 229.

  Unclean devil, the, 152.

  Unity, the, of the Godhead, 178.

  Unjust judge, the, 187.

  Unquiet heart, the, 315.


  Vacillation, a bar to heavenly citizenship, 246.

  Valley, the, of the shadow, 354.

  Vindictive feelings disallowed, 344.

  Virgin-conception, the, a familiar thought, 50.

  Vision, the double, 141.

  Voice, the human, and the Divine Word, 201.


  Watch, the, in Gethsemane, 364.

  Wayside, the, may become fruitful, 230.

  Wealth, its place in the new kingdom, 245.
    "     the true use of, 346.
    "      "  peculiar dangers of, 347.
    "     to be held in trust, 348.
    "     consecrated, 348.

  Welcome home, the, 328.

  Will, submission to the Father's, 375.

  Woman, a, of the city, 213.

  Words, the, of Jesus, the Word of God, 164.
    "    Divine, forgotten, 403.

  Work and worship, 55, 74.

  Worlds beyond the world, 353.

  Worship, the heart in, 150.
    "      counterfeit, 228.

  Wrong not to be condoned, 345.178



  Zacharias, 20.
    "        in the holy place, 22.
    "        prayer of, 23.
    "        the angel's message to, 23.
    "        asks for a sign, 26.
    "        and the _Benidictus_, 28.

Transcriber's Note:

Minor typographical errors and inconsistencies have been silently
    normalized.

Hyphenation is inconsistent.

The list of the Expositor's Bible Series has been moved from the
    beginning to the end of the book.





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