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Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke
Author: Maclaren, Alexander, 1826-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. Luke" ***

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EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

ST. LUKE

ALEXANDER MACLAREN, D. D., Litt. D.



VOLUME I: ST. LUKE _Chaps. I to XII_



CONTENTS


ELIJAH COME AGAIN (Luke i. 5-17)

TRUE GREATNESS (Luke i. 15)

THE MAGNIFICAT (Luke i. 46-55)

ZACHARIAS'S HYMN (Luke i. 67-80)

THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH (Luke i. 78,79)

SHEPHERDS AND ANGELS (Luke ii. 8-20)

WAS, IS, IS TO COME (Luke ii. 16; Luke xxiv. 51; Acts i. 11)

SIMEON'S SWAN-SONG (Luke ii. 29,30)

THE BOY IN THE TEMPLE (Luke ii. 49)

JOHN THE PREACHER OF REPENTANCE (Luke iii. 1-14)

JOHN'S WITNESS TO JESUS, AND GOD'S (Luke iii. 15-22)

THE TEMPTATION (Luke iv. 1-13)

PREACHING AT NAZARETH (Luke iv. 21)

A SABBATH IN CAPERNAUM (Luke iv. 33-44)

INSTRUCTIONS FOB FISHERMEN (Luke v. 4)

FEAR AND FAITH (Luke v. 8; John xxi. 7)

BLASPHEMER, OR--WHO? (Luke v. 17-26)

LAWS OP THE KINGDOM (Luke vi. 20-31)

THREE CONDENSED PARABLES (Luke vi. 41-49)

WORTHY--NOT WORTHY (Luke vii. 4, 6, 7)

JESUS AT THE BIER (Luke vii. 13-15)

JOHN'S DOUBTS AND CHRIST'S PRAISE (Luke vii. 18-28)

GREATNESS IN THE KINGDOM (Luke vii. 28)

THWARTING GOD'S PURPOSE (Luke vii. 30)

A GLUTTONOUS MAN AND A WINEBIBBER (Luke vii. 34)

THE TWO DEBTORS (Luke vii. 41-43)

LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (Luke vii. 47)

GO INTO PEACE (Luke vii. 50)

THE MINISTRY OP WOMEN (Luke viii 2,3)

ONE SEED AND DIVERSE SOILS (Luke viii. 4-15)

SEED AMONG THORNS (Luke viii. 14)

A MIRACLE WITHIN A MIRACLE (Luke viii. 43-48)

CHRIST TO JAIRUS (Luke viii. 50)

BREAD FROM HEAVEN (Luke ix. 10-17)

'THE LORD THAT HEALETH THEE' (Luke ix. 11)

CHRIST'S CROSS AND OURS (Luke ix. 18-27)

PRAYER AND TRANSFIGURATION (Luke ix. 29)

'IN THE HOLY MOUNT' (Luke ix. 30, 31)

CHRIST HASTENING TO THE CROSS (Luke ix. 51)

CHRIST'S MESSENGERS: THEIR EQUIPMENT AND WORK (Luke x. 1-11; 17-20)

NEIGHBOURS FAR OFF (Luke x. 25-37)

HOW TO PRAY (Luke xi. 1-13)

THE PRAYING CHRIST (Luke xi. 1)

THE RICH FOOL (Luke xii. 13-23)

ANXIOUS ABOUT EARTH, OR EARNEST ABOUT THE KINGDOM (Luke xii. 22-31)

STILLNESS IN STORM (Luke xii. 29)

THE EQUIPMENT OF THE SERVANTS (Luke xii. 35-36)

THE SERVANT-LORD (Luke xii. 37)

SERVANTS AND STEWARDS HERE AND HEREAFTER (Luke xii. 37, 43, 44)

FIRE ON EARTH (Luke xii. 49)



ELIJAH COME AGAIN


    'There was, in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a
    certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia:
    and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her
    name was Elisabeth. 6. And they were both righteous
    before God, walking in all the commandments and
    ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7. And they had no
    child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they
    both were now well stricken in years. 8. And it came
    to pass, that, while he executed the priest's office
    before God in the order of his course, 9. According to
    the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn
    incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
    10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying
    without at the time of incense. 11. And there appeared
    unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right
    side of the altar of incense. 12. And when Zacharias
    saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
    13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias:
    for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall
    bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
    14. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many
    shall rejoice at his birth. 15. For he shall be great
    in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine
    nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy
    Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16. And many of
    the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their
    God. 17. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and
    power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to
    the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the
    just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'
    --LUKE i. 5-17.

The difference between the style of Luke's preface (vs. 1-4) and the
subsequent chapters relating to the Nativity suggests that these are
drawn from some Hebrew source. They are saturated with Old Testament
phraseology and constructions, and are evidently translated by Luke.
It is impossible to say whence they came, but no one is more likely
to have been their original narrator than Mary herself. Elisabeth or
Zacharias must have communicated the facts in this chapter, for
there is no indication that those contained in this passage, at all
events, were known to any but these two.

If we were considering a fictitious story, we should note the
artistic skill which prepared for the appearance of the hero by the
introduction first of his satellite; but the order of the narrative
is due, not to artistic skill, but to the divinely ordered sequence
of events. It was fitting that John's office as Forerunner should
begin even before his birth. So the story of his entrance into the
world prepares for that of the birth which hallows all births.

I. We have first a beautiful outline picture of the quiet home in
the hill country. The husband and wife were both of priestly
descent, and in their modest lives, away among the hills, were
lovely types of Old Testament godliness. That they are pronounced
'blameless' militates against no doctrine of universal sinfulness.
It is not to be taken as dogma at all, but as the expression of
God's merciful estimate of His servants' characters. These two
simple saints lived, as all married believers should do, yoked
together in the sweet exercise of godliness, and helping each other
to all high and noble things. Hideous corruption of wedlock reigned
round them. Such profanations of it as were shown later by Herod and
Herodias, Agrippa and Bernice, were but too common; but in that
quiet nook these two dwelt 'as heirs together of the grace of life,'
and their prayers were not hindered.

The most of the priests who appear in the Gospels are heartless
formalists, if not worse; yet not only Annas and Caiaphas and their
spiritual kindred ministered at the altar, but there were some in
whose hearts the ancient fire burned. In times of religious
declension, the few who still are true are mostly in obscure
corners, and live quiet lives, like springs of fresh water rising in
the midst of a salt ocean. John thus sprang from parents in whom the
old system had done all that it could do. In his origin, as in
himself, he represented the consummate flower of Judaism, and
discharged its highest office in pointing to the coming One.

This 'blameless' pair had a crook in their lot. Childlessness was
then an especial sorrow, and many a prayer had gone up from both
that their solitary home might be gladdened by children's patter and
prattle. But their disappointed hope had not made them sour, nor
turned their hearts from God. If they prayed about it, they would
not murmur at it, and they were not thereby hindered from 'walking
in all God's commandments and ordinances blameless.' Let us learn
that unfulfilled wishes are not to clog our devotion, nor to silence
our prayers, nor to slacken our running the race set before us.

II. We are carried away from the home among the hills to the crowded
Temple courts. The devout priest has come up to the city, leaving
his aged wife in solitude, for his turn of service has arrived.
Details of the arrangements of the sacerdotal 'courses' need not
detain us. We need only note that the office of burning incense was
regarded as an honour, was determined by lot, and took place at the
morning and evening sacrifice. So Zacharias, with his censer in his
hand, went to the altar which stood in front of the veil, flanked on
the right hand by the table of shewbread, and on the left by the
great lamp-stand. The place, his occupation, the murmur of many
praying voices without, would all tend to raise his thoughts to God;
and the curling incense, as it ascended, would truly symbolise the
going up of his heart in aspiration, desire, and trust. Such a man
could not do his work heartlessly or formally.

Mark the manner of the angel's appearance. He was not seen as in the
act of coming, but was suddenly made visible standing by the altar,
as if he had been stationed there before; and what had happened was
not that he came, but that Zacharias's eyes were opened. So, when
Elisha's servant was terrified at the sight of the besiegers, the
prophet prayed that his eyes might be opened, and when they were, he
saw what had been there before, 'the mountain full of horses and
chariots of fire.' Not the Temple courts only, but all places are
full of divine messengers, and we should see them if our vision was
purged. But such considerations are not to weaken the supernatural
element in the appearance of this angel with his message. He was
sent, whatever that may mean in regard to beings whose relation to
place must be different from ours. He had an utterance of God's will
to impart.

It has often been objected to these chapters that they are full of
angelic appearances, which modern thought deems suspicious. But
surely if the birth of Jesus was what we hold it to have been, the
coming into human life of the Incarnate Son of God, it is not legend
that angel wings gleam in their whiteness all through the story, and
angel voices adore the Lord of men as well as angels, and angel eyes
gaze on His cradle, and learn new lessons there.

III. We have next the angel's message. The devoutest heart is
conscious of shrinking dread when brought face to face with
celestial brightness that has overflowed into our darkness. So 'Fear
not' is the first word on the messenger's lips, and one can fancy
the accent of sweetness and the calm of heart which followed. It has
often been thought that Zacharias had been praying for offspring
while he was burning incense; but the narrative does not say so, and
besides the fact that he had ceased to hope for children (as is
shown by his incredulity), surely it casts a slur on his religious
character to suppose that personal wishes were uppermost at so
sacred a moment. Prayers that he had long ago put aside as finally
refused, now started to life again. God delays often, but He does
not forget. Blessings may come to-day as the result of old prayers
which have almost passed from our memory and our hope.

Observe how brief is the announcement of the child's birth,
important as that was to the father's heart, and how the prophecy
lingers on the child's future work, which is important for the
world. His name, character, and work in general are first spoken,
and then his specific office as the Forerunner is delineated at the
close. The name is significant. 'John' means 'The Lord is gracious.'
It was an omen, a condensed prophecy, the fulfilment of which
stretched beyond its bearer to Him as whose precursor alone was John
a token of God's grace.

His character (ver. 15) puts first 'great in the sight of the Lord.'
Then there are some whom God recognises as great, small as we all
are before Him. And His estimate of greatness is not the world's
estimate. How Herod or Pilate or Caesar, or philosophers at Athens,
or rabbis in Jerusalem would have scoffed if they had been pointed
to the gaunt ascetic pouring out words which they would have thought
wild, to a crowd of Jews, and been told that that was the greatest
man in the world (except One)! The elements of greatness in the
estimate of God which is truth, are devotion to His service, burning
convictions, intense moral earnestness, superiority to sensuous
delights, clear recognition of Jesus, and humble self-abnegation
before Him. These are not the elements recognised in the world's
Pantheon. Let us take God's standard.

John was to be a Nazarite, living not for the senses, but the soul,
as all God's great ones have to be. The form may vary, but the
substance of the vow of abstinence remains for all Christians. To
put the heel on the animal within, and keep it well chained up, is
indispensable, if we are ever to know the buoyant inspiration which
comes from a sacreder source than the fumes of the wine-cup. Like
John, we must flee the one if we would have the other, and be
'filled with the Holy Ghost.'

The consequence of his character is seen in his work, as described
generally in verse 16. Only such a man can effect such a change, in
a time of religious decay, as to turn many to God. It needs a strong
arm to check the downward movement and to reverse it. No one who is
himself entangled in sense, and but partially filled with God's
Spirit, will wield great influence for good. It takes a Hercules to
stop the chariot racing down hill, and God's Herculeses are all made
on one pattern, in so far that they scorn delights, and empty
themselves of self and sense that they may be filled with the
Spirit.

John's specific office is described in verse 17, with allusion to
the closing prophecy of Malachi. That prophecy had kindled an
expectation that Elijah, in person, would precede Messias. John was
like a reincarnation of the stern prophet. He came in a similar
epoch. His characteristic, like Elijah's, was 'power,' not
gentleness. If the earlier prophet had to beard Ahab and Jezebel,
the second Elijah had Herod and Herodias. Both haunted the desert,
both pealed out thunders of rebuke. Both shook the nation, and
stirred conscience. No two figures in Scripture are truer brethren
in spirit than Elijah the Tishbite and John the Baptist.

His great work is to go before the Messiah, and to prepare Israel
for its King. Observe that the name of the coming One is not
mentioned in verse 17. 'Him' is enough. Zacharias knew who 'He' was.
But observe, too, that the same mysterious person is distinctly
called 'The Lord,' which in this connection, and having regard to
the original prophecy in Malachi, can only be the divine name. So,
in some fashion not yet made plain, Messiah's advent was to be the
Lord's coming to His people, and John was the Forerunner, in some
sense, of Jehovah Himself.

But the way in which Israel was to be prepared is further specified
in the middle clauses of the verse, which are also based on
Malachi's words. The interpretation of 'to turn the hearts of the
fathers to the children' is very doubtful; but the best explanation
seems to be that the phrase means to bring back to the descendants
of the ancient fathers of the nation the ancestral faith and
obedience. They are to be truly Abraham's seed, because they do the
works and cherish the faith of Abraham. The words imply the same
truth which John afterwards launched as a keen-edged dart, 'Think
not to say, We have Abraham to our father.' Descent after the flesh
should lead to kindred in spirit. If it does not, it is nought.

To turn 'the disobedient to the wisdom of the just' is practically
the same change, only regarded from another point of view. John was
sent to effect repentance, that change of mind and heart by which
the disobedient to the commands of God should be brought to possess
and exercise the moral and religious discernment which dwells only
in the spirits of the righteous. Disobedience is folly. True wisdom
cannot be divorced from rectitude. Real rectitude cannot live apart
from obedience to God.

Such was God's intention in sending John. How sadly the real effects
of his mission contrast with its design! So completely can men
thwart God, as Jesus said in reference to John's mission, 'The
Pharisees and lawyers frustrated the counsel of God against
themselves, being not baptized of him.' Let us take heed lest we
bring to nothing, so far as we are concerned, His gracious purpose
of redemption in Christ!



TRUE GREATNESS


    He shall be great in the sight of the Lord.'--LUKE i. 15.

So spake the angel who foretold the birth of John the Baptist. 'In
the sight of the Lord'--then men are not on a dead level in His
eyes. Though He is so high and we are so low, the country beneath
Him that He looks down upon is not flattened to Him, as it is to us
from an elevation, but there are greater and smaller men in His
sight, too. No epithet is more misused and misapplied than that of
'a great man.' It is flung about indiscriminately as ribbons and
orders are by some petty State. Every little man that makes a noise
for a while gets it hung round his neck. Think what a set they are
that are gathered in the world's Valhalla, and honoured as the
world's great men! The mass of people are so much on a level, and
that level is so low, that an inch above the average looks gigantic.
But the tallest blade of grass gets mown down by the scythe, and
withers as quickly as the rest of its green companions, and goes its
way into the oven as surely. There is the world's false estimate of
greatness and there is God's estimate. If we want to know what the
elements of true greatness are, we may well turn to the life of this
man, of whom the prophecy went before him that he should be 'great
in the sight of the Lord.' That is gold that will stand the test.

We may remember, too, that Jesus Christ, looking back on the career
to which the angel was looking forward, endorsed the prophecy and
declared that it had become a fact, and that 'of them that were born
of women there had not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.' With
the illumination of His eulogium we may turn to this life, then, and
gather some lessons for our own guidance.

I. First, we note in John unwavering and immovable firmness and
courage.

'What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with
the wind?' Nay! an iron pillar that stood firm whatsoever winds blew
against it. This, as I take it, is in some true sense the basis of
all moral greatness--that a man should have a grip which cannot be
loosened, like that of the cuttle-fish with all its tentacles round
its prey, upon the truths that dominate his being and make him a
hero. 'If you want me to weep,' said the old artist-poet, 'there must
be tears in your own eyes.' If you want me to believe, you yourself
must be aflame with conviction which has penetrated to the very
marrow of your bones. And so, as I take it, the first requisite
either for power with others, or for greatness in a man's own
development of character, is that there shall be this unwavering
firmness of grasp of clearly-apprehended truths, and unflinching
boldness of devotion to them.

I need not remind you how magnificently, all through the life of our
typical example, this quality was stamped upon every utterance and
every act. It reached its climax, no doubt, in his bearding Herod
and Herodias. But moral characteristics do not reach a climax unless
there has been much underground building to bear the lofty pinnacle;
and no man, when great occasions come to him, develops a courage and
an unwavering confidence which are strange to his habitual life.
There must be the underground building; and there must have been
many a fighting down of fears, many a curbing of tremors, many a
rebuke of hesitations and doubts in the gaunt, desert-loving
prophet, before he was man enough to stand before Herod and say, 'It
is not lawful for thee to have her.'

No doubt there is much to be laid to the account of temperament, but
whatever their temperament may be, the way to this unwavering
courage and firm, clear ring of indubitable certainty, is open to
every Christian man and woman; and it is our own fault, our own sin,
and our own weakness, if we do not possess these qualities.
Temperament! what on earth is the good of our religion if it is not
to modify and govern our temperament? Has a man a right to jib on
one side, and give up the attempt to clear the fence, because he
feels that in his own natural disposition there is little power to
take the leap? Surely not. Jesus Christ came here for the very
purpose of making our weakness strong, and if we have a firm hold
upon Him, then, in the measure in which His love has permeated our
whole nature, will be our unwavering courage, and out of weakness we
shall be made strong.

Of course the highest type of this undaunted boldness and unwavering
firmness of conviction is not in John and his like. He presented
strength in a lower form than did the Master from whom his strength
came. The willow has a beauty as well as the oak. Firmness is not
obstinacy; courage is not rudeness. It is possible to have the iron
hand in the velvet glove, not of etiquette-observing politeness, but
of a true considerateness and gentleness. They who are likest Him
that was 'meek and lowly in heart,' are surest to possess the
unflinching resolve which set His face like a flint, and enabled Him
to go unhesitatingly and unrecalcitrant to the Cross itself.

Do not let us forget, either, that John's unwavering firmness
wavered; that over the clear heaven of his convictions there did
steal a cloud; that he from whom no violence could wrench his faith
felt it slipping out of his grasp when his muscles were relaxed in
the dungeon; and that he sent 'from the prison'--which was the
excuse for the message--to ask the question, 'After all, art Thou He
that should come?'

Nor let us forget that it was that very moment of tremulousness
which Jesus Christ seized, in order to pour an unstinted flood of
praise for the firmness of his convictions, on the wavering head of
the Forerunner. So, if we feel that though the needle of our compass
points true to the pole, yet when the compass-frame is shaken, the
needle sometimes vibrates away from its true direction, do not let
us be cast down, but believe that a merciful allowance is made for
human weakness. This man was great; first, because he had such
dauntless courage and firmness that, over his headless corpse in the
dungeon at Machaerus, might have been spoken what the Regent Moray
said over John Knox's coffin, 'Here lies one that never feared the
face of man.'

II. Another element of true greatness that comes nobly out in the
life with which I am dealing is its clear elevation above worldly
good.

That was the second point that our Lord's eulogium signalised. 'What
went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A man clothed in soft
raiment?' But you would have gone to a palace, if you had wanted to
see that, not to the reed-beds of Jordan. As we all know, in his
life, in his dress, in his food, in the aims that he set before him,
he rose high above all regard for the debasing and perishable
sweetnesses that appeal to flesh, and are ended in time. He lived
conspicuously for the Unseen. His asceticism belonged to his age,
and was not the highest type of the virtue which it expressed. As I
have said about his courage, so I say about his self-denial--Christ's
is of a higher sort. As the might of gentleness is greater than the
might of such strength as John's, so the asceticism of John is lower
than the self-government of the Man that came eating and drinking.

But whilst that is true, I seek, dear brethren, to urge this old
threadbare lesson, always needed, never needed more than amidst the
senselessly luxurious habits of this generation, needed in few
places more than in a great commercial centre like that in which we
live, that one indispensable element of true greatness and elevation
of character is that, not the prophet and the preacher alone, but
every one of us, should live high above these temptations of gross
and perishable joys, should

  'Scorn delights and live laborious days.'

No man has a right to be called 'great' if his aims are small. And
the question is, not as modern idolatry of intellect, or, still
worse, modern idolatry of success, often makes it out to be, Has he
great capacities? or has he won great prizes? but has he greatly
used himself and his life? If your aims are small you will never be
great; and if your highest aims are but to get a good slice of this
world's pudding--no matter what powers God may have given you to
use--you are essentially a small man.

I remember a vigorous and contemptuous illustration of St. Bernard's,
who likens a man that lives for these perishable delights which John
spurned, to a spider spinning a web out of his own substance, and
catching in it nothing but a wretched prey of poor little flies.
Such a one has surely no right to be called a great man. Our aims
rather than our capacity determine our character, and they who
greatly aspire after the greatest things within the reach of men,
which are faith, hope, charity, and who, for the sake of effecting
these aspirations, put their heels upon the head of the serpent and
suppress the animal in their nature, these are the men 'great in the
sight of the Lord.'

III. Another element of true greatness, taught us by our type, is
fiery enthusiasm for righteousness.

You may think that that has little to do with greatness. I believe
it has everything to do with it, and that the difference between men
is very largely to be found here, whether they flame up into the
white heat of enthusiasm for the things that are right, or whether
the only things that can kindle them into anything like earnestness
and emotion are the poor, shabby things of personal advantage. I
need not remind you how, all through John's career, there burned,
unflickering and undying, that steadfast light; how he brought to
the service of the plainest teaching of morality a fervour of
passion and of zeal almost unexampled and magnificent. I need not
remind you how Jesus Christ Himself laid His hand upon this
characteristic, when He said of him that 'he was a light kindled and
shining.' But I would lay upon all our hearts the plain, practical
lesson that, if we keep in that tepid region of lukewarmness which
is the utmost approach to tropical heat that moral and religious
questions are capable of raising in many of us, good-bye to all
chance of being 'great in the sight of the Lord.' We hear a great
deal about the 'blessings of moderation,' the 'dangers of
fanaticism,' and the like. I venture to think that the last thing
which the moral consciousness of England wants today is a
refrigerator, and that what it needs a great deal more than that is,
that all Christian people should be brought face to face with this
plain truth--that their religion has, as an indispensable part of
it, 'a Spirit of burning,' and that if they have not been baptized
in fire, there is little reason to believe that they have been
baptized with the Holy Ghost.

I long that you and myself may be aflame for goodness, may be
enthusiastic over plain morality, and may show that we are so by our
daily life, by our rebuking the opposite, if need be, even if it
take us into Herod's chamber, and make Herodias our enemy for life.

IV. Lastly, observe the final element of greatness in this man-absolute
humility of self-abnegation before Jesus Christ.

There is nothing that I know in biography anywhere more beautiful,
more striking, than the contrast between the two halves of the
character and demeanour of the Baptist; how, on the one side, he
fronts all men undaunted and recognises no superior, and how neither
threats nor flatteries nor anything else will tempt him to step one
inch beyond the limitations of which he is aware, nor to abate one
inch of the claims which he urges; and on the other hand how, like
some tall cedar touched by the lightning's hand, he falls prone
before Jesus Christ and says, 'He must increase, and I must
decrease': 'A man can receive nothing except it be given him of
God.' He is all boldness on one side; all submission and dependence
on the other.

You remember how, in the face of many temptations, that attitude was
maintained. The very message which he had to carry was full of
temptations to a self-seeking man to assert himself. You remember
the almost rough 'No!' with which, reiteratedly, he met the
suggestions of the deputation from Jerusalem that sought to induce
him to say that he was more than he knew himself to be, and how he
stuck by that infinitely humble and beautiful saying, 'I am a
voice'--that is all. You remember how the whole nation was in a kind
of conspiracy to tempt him to assert himself, and was ready to break
into a flame if he had dropped a spark, for all men were musing in
their heart whether he was the Christ or not,' and all the lawless
and restless elements would have been only too glad to gather round
him, if he had declared himself the Messiah. Remember how his own
disciples came to him, and tried to play upon his jealousy and to
induce him to assert himself: 'Master, He whom thou didst baptize'--and
so didst give Him the first credentials that sent men on His
course--'has outstripped thee, and all men are coming to Him.' And
you remember the lovely answer that opened such depths of unexpected
tenderness in the rough nature: 'He that hath the bride is the
bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom heareth the voice; and that
is enough to fill my cup with joy to the very brim.' And what
conceptions of Jesus Christ had John, that he thus bowed his lofty
crest before Him, and softened his heart into submission almost
abject? He knew Him to be the coming Judge, with the fan in His
hand, who could baptize with fire, and he knew Him to be 'the Lamb
of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' Therefore he fell
before Him.

Brethren, we shall not be 'great in the sight of the Lord' unless we
copy that example of utter self-abnegation before Jesus Christ.
Thomas a Kempis says somewhere, 'He is truly great who is small in
his own sight, and thinks nothing of the giddy heights of worldly
honour.' You and I know far more of Jesus Christ than John the
Baptist did. Do we bow ourselves before Him as he did? The Source
from which he drew his greatness is open to us all. Let us begin
with the recognition of the Lamb of God that takes away the world's
sin, and with it ours. Let the thought of what He is, and what He
has done for us, bow us in unfeigned submission. Let it shatter all
dreams of our own importance or our own desert. The vision of the
Lamb of God, and it only, will crush in our hearts the serpent's
eggs of self-esteem and self-regard.

Then, let our closeness to Jesus Christ, and our experience of His
power, kindle in us the fiery enthusiasm with which He baptizes all
His true servants, and let it because we know the sweetnesses that
excel, take from us all liability to be tempted away by the vulgar
and coarse delights of earth and of sense. Let us keep ourselves
clear of the babble that is round about us, and be strong because we
grasp Christ's hand.

I have been speaking about no characteristic which may not be
attained by any man, woman, or child amongst us. 'The least in the
kingdom of heaven' may be greater than John. It is a poor ambition
to seek to be _called_ 'great.' It is a noble desire to _be_ 'great
in the sight of the Lord.' And if we will keep ourselves close to
Jesus Christ that will be attained. It will matter very little what
men think of us, if at last we have praise from the lips of Him who
poured such praise on His servant. We may, if we will. And then it will
not hurt us though our names on earth be dark and our memories perish
from among men.

  'Of so much fame in heaven expect the meed.'



THE MAGNIFICAT

    'And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47. And
    my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48. For He
    hath regarded the low estate of His hand-maiden: for,
    behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me
    blessed. 49. For He that is mighty hath done to me
    great things; and holy is His name, 50. And His mercy
    is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.
    51. He hath shewed strength with His arm: He hath
    scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
    52. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and
    exalted them of low degree. 53. He hath filled the
    hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent
    empty away. 54. He hath holpen His servant Israel, in
    remembrance of His mercy; 55. As He spake to our
    fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.'
    --LUKE i. 46-55.

Birds sing at dawn and sunrise. It was fitting that the last strains
of Old Testament psalmody should prelude the birth of Jesus. To
disbelievers in the Incarnation the hymns of Mary and Zacharias are,
of course, forgeries; but if it be true nothing can be more
'natural' than these. The very features in this song, which are
appealed to as proof of its being the work of some unknown pious
liar or dishonest enthusiast, really confirm its genuineness.
Critics shake their heads over its many quotations and allusions to
Hannah's song and to other poetical parts of the Old Testament, and
declare that these are fatal to its being accepted as Mary's. Why?
must the simple village maiden be a poetess because she is the
mother of our Lord? What is more likely than that she should cast
her emotions into forms so familiar to her, and especially that
Hannah's hymn should colour hers? These old psalms provided the
mould into which her glowing emotions almost instinctively would
run, and the very absence of 'originality' in the song favours its
genuineness.

Another point may be noticed as having a similar bearing; namely,
the very general and almost vague outline of the consequences of the
birth, which is regarded as being the consummation to Israel of the
mercy promised to the fathers. Could such a hymn have been written
when sad experience showed how the nation would reject their
Messiah, and ruin themselves thereby? Surely the anticipations which
glow in it bear witness to the time when they were cherished, as
prior to the sad tragedy which history unfolded. Little does Mary as
yet know that 'a sword shall pierce through' her 'own soul also,'
and that not only will 'all generations' call her 'blessed,' but
that one of her names will be 'Our Lady of Sorrows.' For her and for
us, the future is mercifully veiled. Only one eye saw the shadow of
the Cross stretching black and grim athwart the earliest days of
Jesus, and that eye was His own. How wonderful the calmness with
which He pressed towards that 'mark' during all His earthly life!

The hymn is sometimes divided into four strophes or sections: first,
the expression of devout emotion (vs. 46-48a); second, the great
fact from which they arise (vs. 48b-50); third, the consequences of
the fact (vs. 51-53); fourth, its aspect to Israel as fulfilment of
promise. This division is, no doubt, in accordance with the course
of thought, but is perhaps somewhat too artificial for our purposes;
and we may rather simply note that in the earlier part the personal
element is present, and that in the later it fades entirely, and the
mighty deeds of God alone fill the meek singer's eye and lips. We
may consider the lessons of these two halves.

I. The more personal part extends to the end of verse 50. It
contains three turnings or strophes, the first two of which have two
clauses each, and the third three. The first is verses 46 and 47,
the purely personal expression of the glad emotions awakened by
Elisabeth's presence and salutation, which came to Mary as
confirmation of the angel's annunciation. Not when Gabriel spoke,
but when a woman like herself called her 'mother of my Lord,' did
she break into praise. There is a deep truth there. God's voice is
made more sure to our weakness when it is echoed by human lips, and
our inmost hopes attain substance when they are shared and spoken by
another. We need not attribute to the maiden from Nazareth
philosophical accuracy when she speaks of her 'soul' and 'spirit.'
Her first words are a burst of rapturous and wondering praise, in
which the full heart runs over. Silence is impossible, and speech a
relief. They are not to be construed with the microscopic accuracy
fit to be applied to a treatise on psychology. 'All that is within'
her praises and is glad. She does not think so much of the
stupendous fact as of her own meekly exultant heart, and of God, to
whom its outgoings turn. There are moods in which the devout soul
dwells on its own calm blessedness and on God, its source, more
directly than on the gift which brings it. Note the twofold
act--magnifying and rejoicing. We magnify God when we take into our
vision some fragment more of the complete circle of His essential
greatness, or when, by our means, our fellows are helped to do so.
The intended effect of all His dealings is that we should think more
nobly--that is, more worthily--of Him. The fuller knowledge of His
friendly greatness leads to joy in Him which makes the spirit bound
as in a dance--for such is the meaning of the word 'rejoice'--and
which yet is calm and deep. Note the double name of God--Lord and
Saviour. Mary bows in lowly obedience, and looks up in as lowly,
conscious need of deliverance, and beholding in God both His majesty
and His grace, magnifies and exults at once.

Verse 48 is the second turn of thought, containing, like the former,
two clauses. In it she gazes on her great gift, which, with maiden
reserve, she does not throughout the whole hymn once directly name.
Here the personal element comes out more strongly. But it is
beautiful to note that the 'lowliness' is in the foreground, and
precedes the assurance of the benedictions of all generations. The
whole is like a murmur of wonder that such honour should come to
her, so insignificant, and the 'behold' of the latter half verse is
an exclamation of surprise. In unshaken meekness of steadfast
obedience, she feels herself 'the handmaid of the Lord.' In
undisturbed humility, she thinks of her 'low estate,' and wonders
that God's eye should have fallen on her, the village damsel, poor
and hidden. A pure heart is humbled by honour, and is not so dazzled
by the vision of future fame as to lose sight of God as the source
of all. Think of that simple young girl in her obscurity having
flashed before her the certainty that her name would be repeated
with blessing till the world's end, and then thus meekly laying her
honours down at God's feet. What a lesson of how to receive all
distinctions and exaltations!

Verses 49 and 50 end this part, and contain three clauses, in which
the personal disappears, and only the thought of God's character as
manifested in His wonderful act remains. It connects indeed with the
preceding by the 'to me' of verse 49; but the main subject is the
new revelation, which is not confined to Mary, of the threefold
divine glory fused into one bright beam, in the Incarnation. Power,
holiness, eternal mercy, are all there, and that in deeper and more
wondrous fashion than Mary knew when she sang. The words are mostly
quotations from the Old Testament, but with new application and
meaning. But even Mary's anticipations fell far short of the reality
of that power in weakness, that holiness mildly blended with
tenderest pity and pardoning love; that mercy which for all
generations was to stretch not only to 'them that fear Him,' but to
rebels, whom it would make friends. She saw but dimly and in part.
We see more plainly all the rays of divine perfection meeting in,
and streaming out to, the whole world, from her Son 'the effulgence
of the Father's glory.'

II. The second part of the song is a lyric anticipation of the
historical consequences of the appearance of the Messiah, cast into
forms ready to the singer's hand, in the strains of Old Testament
prophecy. The characteristics of Hebrew poetry, its parallelism, its
antitheses, its exultant swing, are more conspicuous here than in
the earlier half. The main thought of verses 51 to 53 is that the
Messiah would bring about a revolution, in which the high would be
cast down and the humble exalted. This idea is wrought out in a
threefold antithesis, of which the first pair must have one member
supplied from the previous verse. Those who 'fear Him' are opposed
to 'the proud in the imagination of their hearts.' These are thought
of as an army of antagonists to God and His anointed, and thus the
word 'scattered' acquires great poetic force, and reminds us of many
a psalm, such as the Second and One hundred and tenth, where Messiah
is a warrior.

The next pair represent the antithesis as being that of social
degree, and in it there may be traced a glance at 'Herod the King'
and the depressed line of David, to which the singer belonged, while
the meaning must not be confined to that. The third pair represent
the same opposites under the guise of poverty and riches. Mary is
not to be credited with purely spiritual views in these contrasts,
nor to be discredited with purely material ones. She, no doubt,
thought of her own oppressed nation as mainly meant by the hungry
and lowly; but like all pious souls in Israel, she must have felt
that the lowliness and hunger which Messiah was to ennoble and
satisfy, meant a condition of spirit conscious of weakness and sin,
and eagerly desiring a higher good and food than earth could give.
So much she had learned from many a psalm and prophet. So much the
Spirit which inspired psalmist and prophet spoke in her lowly and
exultant heart now. But the future was only revealed to her in this
wide, general outline. Details of manner and time were all still
blank. The broad truth which she foretold remains one of the salient
historical results of Christ's coming, and is the universal
condition of partaking of His gifts. He has been, and is, the most
revolutionary force in history; for without Him society is
constituted on principles the reverse of the true, and as the world,
apart from Jesus, is down-side up, the mission of His gospel is to
turn it upside-down, and so bring the right side uppermost. The
condition of receiving anything from Him is the humble recognition
of emptiness and need. If princes on their thrones will come to Him
just in the same way as the beggar on the dunghill does, they will
very probably be allowed to stay on them; and if the rich man will
come to Him as poor and in need of all things, he will not be 'sent
empty away.' But Christ is a discriminating Christ, and as the
prophet said long before Mary, 'I ... will bind up that which was
broken, and will strengthen that which was sick; and the fat and the
strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.'

The last turn in the song celebrates the faithfulness of God to His
ancient promises, and His help by His Messiah to Israel. The
designation of Israel as 'His servant' recalls the familiar name in
Isaiah's later prophecies. Mary sees in the great wonder of her
Son's birth the accomplishment of the hopes of ages, and an
assurance of God's mercy as for ever the portion of the people. We
cannot tell how far she had learned that Israel was to be counted,
not by descent but disposition. But, in any case, her eyes could not
have embraced the solemn facts of her Son's rejection by His and her
people. No shadows are yet cast across the morning of which her song
is the herald. She knew not the dark clouds of thunder and
destruction that were to sweep over the sky. But the end has not yet
come, and we have to believe still that the evening will fulfil the
promise of the morning, and 'all Israel shall be saved,' and that
the mercy which was promised from of old to Abraham and the fathers,
shall be fulfilled at last and abide with their seed for ever.



ZACHARIAS'S HYMN


    'And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy
    Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68. Blessed be the Lord
    God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His
    people, 69. And hath raised up an horn of salvation
    for us in the house of His servant David; 70. As He
    spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have
    been since the world began; 71. That we should be
    saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that
    hate us; 72. To perform the mercy promised to our
    fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, 73. The
    oath which He sware to our father Abraham, 74. That He
    would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of
    the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
    75. In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the
    days of our life. 76. And thou, child, shalt be called
    the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before
    the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; 77. To give
    knowledge of salvation unto His people, by the
    remission of their sins, 78. Through the tender mercy
    of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath
    visited us, 79. To give light to them that sit in
    darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet
    into the way of peace. 80. And the child grew, and
    waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the
    day of his shewing unto Israel.'--LUKE i. 67-80.

Zacharias was dumb when he disbelieved. His lips were opened when he
believed. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets, [Footnote:
In the strictest sense, John the Baptist was a prophet of the Old
dispensation, even though he came to usher in the New. (See Matt.
xi. 9-11.) In the same sense, Zacharias was the last prophet of the
Old dispensation, before the coming of his son to link the Old with
the New.] and as standing nearest to the Messiah, his song takes up
the echoes of all the past, and melts them into a new outpouring of
exultant hope. The strain is more impassioned than Mary's, and
throbs with triumph over 'our enemies,' but rises above the mere
patriotic glow into a more spiritual region. The complete
subordination of the personal element is very remarkable, as shown
by the slight and almost parenthetical reference to John. The father
is forgotten in the devout Israelite. We may take the song as
divided into three portions: the first (vs. 68-75) celebrating the
coming of Messiah, with special reference to its effect in freeing
Israel from its foes; the second (vs. 76, 77), the highly dramatic
address to his unconscious 'child'; the third (vs. 78, 79) returns
to the absorbing thought of the Messiah, but now touches on higher
aspects of His coming as the Light to all who sit in darkness.

I. If we remember that four hundred dreary years, for the most part
of which Israel had been groaning under a foreign yoke, had passed
since the last of the prophets, and that during all that time devout
eyes had looked wearily for the promised Messiah, we shall be able
to form some faint conception of the surprise and rapture which
filled Zacharias's spirit, and leaps in his hymn at the thought that
now, at last, the hour had struck, and that the child would soon be
born who was to fulfil the divine promises and satisfy fainting
hopes. No wonder that its first words are a burst of blessing of
'the God of Israel.' The best expression of joy, when long-cherished
desires are at last on the eve of accomplishment, is thanks to God.
How short the time of waiting seems when it is past, and how
needless the impatience which marred the waiting! Zacharias speaks
of the fact as already realised. He must have known that the
Incarnation was accomplished; for we can scarcely suppose that the
emphatic tenses 'hath visited, hath redeemed, hath raised' are
prophetic, and merely imply the certainty of a future event. He must
have known, too, Mary's royal descent; for he speaks of 'the house
of David.'

'A horn' of salvation is an emblem taken from animals, and implies
strength. Here it recalls several prophecies, and as a designation
of the Messiah, shadows forth His conquering might, all to be used
for deliverance to His people. The vision before Zacharias is that
of a victor king of Davidic race, long foretold by prophets, who
will set Israel free from its foreign oppressors, whether Roman or
Idumean, and in whom God Himself 'visits and redeems His people.'
There are two kinds of divine visitations--one for mercy and one for
judgment. What an unconscious witness it is of men's evil
consciences that the use of the phrase has almost exclusively
settled down upon the latter meaning! In verses 71-75, the idea of
the Messianic salvation is expanded and raised. The word 'salvation'
is best construed, as in the Revised Version, as in apposition with
and explanatory of 'horn of salvation.' This salvation has issues,
which may also be regarded as God's purposes in sending it. These
are threefold: first, to show mercy to the dead fathers of the race.
That is a striking idea, and pictures the departed as, in their
solemn rest, sharing in the joy of Messiah's coming, and perhaps in
the blessings which He brings. We may not too closely press the
phrase, but it is more than poetry or imagination. The next issue is
God's remembrance of His promises, or in other words, His fulfilment
of these. The last is that the nation, being set free, should serve
God. The external deliverance was in the eyes of devout men like
Zacharias precious as a means to an end. Political freedom was
needful for God's service, and was valuable mainly as leading to
that.  The hymn rises far above the mere impatience of a foreign
yoke. 'Freedom to worship God,' and God worshipped by a ransomed
nation, are Zacharias's ideal of the Messianic times.

Note his use of the word for priestly 'service.' He, a priest, has
not forgotten that by original constitution all Israel was a nation
of priests; and he looks forward to the fulfilment at last of the
ideal which so soon became impracticable, and possibly to the
abrogation of his own order in the universal priesthood. He knew not
what deep truths he sang. The end of Christ's coming, and of the
deliverance which He works for us from the hand of our enemies,
cannot be better stated than in these words. We are redeemed that we
may be priests unto God. Our priestly service must be rendered in
'holiness and righteousness,' in consecration to God and discharge
of all obligations; and it is to be no interrupted or occasional
service, like Zacharias's, which occupied but two short weeks in the
year, and might never again lead him within the sanctuary, but is to
fill with reverent activity and thankful sacrifice all our days.
However this hymn may have begun with the mere external conception
of Messianic deliverance, it rises high above that here, and will
still further soar beyond it. We may learn from this priest-prophet,
who anticipated the wise men and brought his offerings to the unborn
Christ, what Christian salvation is, and for what it is given us.

II. There is something very vivid and striking in the abrupt address
to the infant, who lay, all unknowing, in his mother's arms. The
contrast between him as he was then and the work which waited him,
the paternal wonder and joy which yet can scarcely pause on the
child, and hurries on to fancy him in the years to come, going
herald-like before the face of the Lord, the profound prophetic
insight into John's work, are all noteworthy. The Baptist did
'prepare the way' by teaching that the true 'salvation' was not to
be found in mere deliverance from the Roman yoke, but in 'remission
of sin.' He thus not only gave 'knowledge of salvation,' in the
sense that he announced the fact that it would be given, but also in
the sense that he clearly taught in what it consisted. John was no
preacher of revolt, as the turbulent and impure patriots of the day
would have liked him to be, but of repentance. His work was to awake
the consciousness of sin, and so to kindle desires for a salvation
which was deliverance from sin, the only yoke which really enslaves.
Zacharias the 'blameless' saw what the true bondage of the nation
was, and what the work both of the Deliverer and of His herald must
be. We need to be perpetually reminded of the truth that the only
salvation and deliverance which can do us any good consist in
getting rid, by pardon and by holiness, of the cords of our sins.

III. The thoughts of the Forerunner and his office melt into that of
the Messianic blessings from which the singer cannot long turn away.
In these closing words, we have the source, the essential nature,
and the blessed results of the gift of Christ set forth in a noble
figure, and freed from the national limitations of the earlier part
of the hymn. All comes from the 'bowels of mercy of our God,' as
Zacharias, in accordance with Old Testament metaphor, speaks,
allocating the seat of the emotions which we attribute to the heart.
Conventional notions of delicacy think the Hebrew idea coarse, but
the one allocation is just as delicate as the other. We can get no
deeper down or farther back into the secret springs of things than
this--that the root cause of all, and most especially of the mission
of Christ, is the pitying love of God's heart. If we hold fast by
that, the pain of the riddle of the world is past, and the riddle
itself more than half solved. Jesus Christ is the greatest gift of
that love, in which all its tenderness and all its power are
gathered up for our blessing.

The modern civilised world owes most of its activity to the
quickening influence of Christianity. The dayspring visits us that
it may shine on us, and it shines that it may guide us into 'the way
of peace.' There can be no wider and more accurate description of
the end of Christ's mission than this--that all His visitation and
enlightenment are meant to lead us into the path where we shall find
peace with God, and therefore with ourselves and with all mankind.
The word  'peace,' in the Old Testament, is used to include the sum
of all that men require for their conscious well-being. We are at
rest only when all our relations with God and the outer world are
right, and when our inner being is harmonised with itself, and
supplied with appropriate objects. To know God for our friend, to
have our being fixed on and satisfied in Him, and so to be
reconciled to all circumstances, and a friend of all men--this is
peace; and the path to such a blessed condition is shown us only by
that Sun of Righteousness whom the loving heart of God has sent into
the darkness and torpor of the benighted wanderers in the desert.
The national reference has faded from the song, and though it still
speaks of 'us' and 'our,' we cannot doubt that Zacharias both saw
more deeply into the salvation which Christ would bring than to
limit it to breaking an earthly yoke, and deemed more worthily and
widely of its sweep, than to confine it within narrower bounds than
the whole extent of the dreary darkness which it came to banish from
all the world.



THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH


    'The day-spring from on high hath visited us, 79. To
    give light to them that sit in darkness and in the
    shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of
    peace.'--LUKE i. 78, 79.

As the dawn is ushered in by the notes of birds, so the rising of
the Sun of Righteousness was heralded by song, Mary and Zacharias
brought their praises and welcome to the unborn Christ, the angels
hovered with heavenly music over His cradle, and Simeon took the
child in his arms and blessed it. The human members of this choir
may be regarded as the last of the psalmists and prophets, and the
first of Christian singers. The song of Zacharias, from which my
text is taken, is steeped in Old Testament allusions, and redolent
of the ancient spirit, but it transcends that. Its early part is
purely national, and hails the coming of the Messiah chiefly as the
deliverer of Israel from foreign oppressors, though even in it their
deliverance is regarded mostly as the means to an end, and the end
one very appropriate on the lips of a priestly prophet---viz.
sacerdotal service by the whole nation 'in holiness and
righteousness all their days.'

But in this latter portion, which is separated from the former by
the pathetic, incidental, and slight reference to the singer's own
child, the national limits are far surpassed. The song soars above
them, and pierces to the very heart and kernel of Christ's work.
'The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them
that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into
the way of peace.' Nothing deeper, nothing wider, nothing truer
about the mission and issue of Christ's coming could be spoken. And
thus we have to look at the three things that lie in this text, as
bearing upon our conceptions of Christ and His work--the darkness,
the dawn, and the directing light.

I. The darkness.

Zacharias, as becomes the last of the prophets, and a man whose
whole religious life was nourished upon the ancient Scriptures,
speaks almost entirely in Old Testament phraseology in this song.
And his description of 'them that sit in darkness and the shadow of
death' is taken almost verbally from the great words from the Book
of the Prophet Isaiah, who speaks, in immediate connection with his
prophecy of the coming of the Christ, of 'the people that walk in
darkness and them that dwell,' or sit, 'in the shadow of death, upon
whom the light hath shined.'

The picture that rises before us is that of a group of travellers
benighted, bewildered, huddled together in the dark, afraid to move
for fear of pitfalls, precipices, wild beasts, and enemies; and so
sighing for the day and compelled to be inactive till it comes. That
is the picture of humanity apart from Jesus Christ, a darkness so
intense, so tragic, that it is, as it were, the very shadow of the
ultimate and essential darkness which is death, and in it men are
sitting torpid, unable to find their way and afraid to move.

Now darkness, all the world over, is the emblem of three
things--ignorance, impurity, sorrow. And all men who are rent
away from Jesus Christ, or on whom His beams have not yet fallen,
this text tells us, have that triple curse lying upon them.

Ignorance. Think of what, without Jesus Christ, the world has deemed
of the unseen, and of the God, if there be a God, that may inhabit
there. He has been to them a great Peradventure, a great Terror, a
great Inscrutable, a stone-eyed Fate, a thin, nebulous Nothing, with
no emotion, no attributes, no heart, no ear to hear, the nearest
approach to nonentity, according to the despairing saying of a
master of philosophy, that 'pure Being is equal to pure Nothing.'
And if all men do not rise to such heights of melancholy abstraction
as that, still how little there is of blessed certainty, how little
clearness of conception of a Divine Person that turns to us with
love and tenderness in His heart, apart from Christ and His
teaching! If you take away from civilised men all the knowledge of
God that they owe to Jesus Christ, what have you left? The ladder by
which they climbed is kicked away by a great many people nowadays,
but it is to Him that they owe the very conceptions in the name of
which some of them turn round and deny Him.

Ignorance of God, ignorance of one's own self and of one's deepest
duties, and ignorance of that solemn future, the fact of which is
plain to most men, but the how of which is such a blank mystery but
for Jesus Christ--these things are elements of the darkness that
wraps the world. Go to heathendom if you want to see the problem
worked out, as to what men know outside of the revelation which
culminates in Jesus Christ. And take your own hearts, dear friends
who stand aside from that sweet Lord and light of our lives, and ask
yourselves, What do I know, with a certainty which is to me as
valid, as--yea! more valid than that given by sense and outward
perceptions? What do I know of God that I do not owe to Jesus
Christ? Nothing. You may guess much, you may hope a little, you may
dread a great deal, you may question more than all, but you will
_know_ nothing.

Well, then, further, this solemn emblem stands for impurity. And we
have only to consult our own hearts to feel how true it is about us
all, that we dwell in a region all darkened, if not by the coarse
transgressions which men consent to call sins, yet darkened more
subtly and oftentimes more hopelessly by the obscuration of pure
selfishness and living to myself and by myself. Wherever that comes,
it is like the mists that steal up from some poisonous marsh, and
shut out stars and sky, and drape the whole country in a melancholy
veil. It is white but it is poisonous, it is white but it is
darkness all the same. There are other kinds of sin than the sins
that break the Ten Commandments; there are other kinds of sin than
the sins that the world takes cognisance of. The worst poisons are
the tasteless ones, and colourless gases are laden with fatal power.
We may walk in a darkness that may be felt, though there be nothing
in our lives that men call sin, and little there of which our
consciences are as yet educated enough to be ashamed. Rent from God,
man lives to himself, and so is sunk in darkness.

And what shall I say about the third of the doleful triad of which
this pregnant emblem is the recognised symbol all the world over?
Surely, though earth be full of blessing, and life of possibilities
of joy, no man travels very far along the road without feeling that
the burden of sorrow is a burden that we all have to carry. There
are blessings in plenty, there is mirth more than enough. There is
'the laughter' which is 'the crackling of thorns' under a pot. There
are plenty of distractions and amusements, 'blessings more plentiful
than hope'; but yet the ground tone of every human life, when the
first flush of inexperience and novelty has worn off, apart from
God, is sadness, conscious of itself sometimes, and driven to all
manner of foolish attempts at forgetfulness, unconscious of itself
sometimes, and knowing not what is the disease of which it
languishes. There it is, like some persistent minor in a great piece
of music, wailing on through all the embroidery and lightsomeness of
the cheerfuller and loftier notes. 'Every heart knoweth its own
bitterness,' and every heart _has_ a bitterness of its own to
know.

I do not understand how it is that men who have no religion in them
can bear their own sorrows and see their neighbours' and not go mad.
Sometimes the world seems to me to be moving round its central sun
with a doleful atmosphere of sighs wherever it goes, and all the
mirth and stir and bustle are but like a thin crust of grass with
flowers upon it, cast across the sulphurous depths of some volcano
that may slumber for a while, but is there all the same.

Brother! you and I, away from Jesus Christ, have to face the
certainties of ignorance, of sin, of sorrow--ignorance unenlightened,
sin unconquered, sorrow uncomforted.

And then comes the other tragic, and yet most picturesque emblem in
the representation here: 'They _sit_ in darkness.' Yes! what
can they do, poor creatures? They know not where to go. The light
has left them, inactivity is a necessity. And so, with folded hands,
they wish for the day, or try to forget the night by lighting some
little torch of their own that only serves to make darkness visible,
and dies all too soon, leaving them to lie down in sorrow.

But, you say, 'What nonsense! Inactivity! look at the fierce energy
of life in our Western lands.' Well, grant it all, there may be
plenty of material activity attendant upon inward stagnation and
torpor. But, again, I would like to ask how much of the most
godless, commercial, artistic, intellectual activity of so-called
civilised and Christian countries is owing to the stimulus and
ferment that Jesus Christ brought. If you want to see how true it is
that men without Him _sit_ in the darkness, go to heathen
lands, and see the stagnation, the torpor, there.

Now, dear brethren, all this is true about us, in the measure in
which we do not participate by faith and love, welcoming Him into
our hearts in the illumination that Jesus Christ brings. And what I
want to do is to lay upon the hearts and consciences of each of us
here this thought, that the solemn, tragic picture of my text is the
picture of me, separate from Christ, however I may try to conceal it
from myself, and to mask it from other people by busying myself with
inferior knowledges, by avoiding to listen to the answer that
conscience gives to the question as to my moral character, and by
befooling myself with noisy joys and tumultuous pleasures, in which
there is no pleasure.

II. Now, note secondly, the dayspring, or dawn.

My text, in the part on which I have just been speaking, links
itself with ancient Messianic prophecy, and this expression, 'the
dayspring from on high.' also links itself with other prophecies of
the same sort. Almost the last word of prophecy before the four
centuries of silence which Mary and Zacharias broke, was, 'Unto you
that fear His name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing
in His beams.' There can be little doubt, I think, that the allusion
of my text is to these all but the last words of the prophet
Malachi. For that final chapter of the Old Testament colours the
song both of Mary and of Zacharias. And it is to be observed that
the Greek translation of the Hebrew uses the same verb, of which the
cognate noun is here employed, for the rising of the Sun of
Righteousness. The picturesque old English word 'dayspring' means
neither more nor less than _sunrising_. And it is here used
practically as a name for Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Sun,
represented as rising over a darkened earth, and yet, with a
singular neglect of the propriety of the metaphor, as descending
from on high, not to shine on us from the sky, but to 'visit us' on
earth.

Jesus Christ Himself, over and over again, said by implication, and
more than once by direct claim, 'I am the Light of the world.' And
my text is the anticipation, perhaps from lips that did not fully
understand the whole significance of the prophecy which they spoke,
of these later declarations. I have said that the darkness is the
emblem of three baleful things, of the converse of which light is
the symbol. As the darkness speaks to us of ignorance, so Christ, as
the Sun illumines us with the light of 'the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' For doubt we have blessed
certainty, for a far-off God we have the knowledge of God close at
hand. For an impassive will or a stony-eyed fate we have the
knowledge (and not only the wistful yearning after the knowledge) of
a loving heart, warm and throbbing. Our God is no unemotional
abstraction, but a living Person who can love, who can pity, and we
are speaking more than poetry when we say, God is compassion, and
compassion is God. This we know because 'He that hath seen Me hath
seen the Father.' And the solid certainty of a loving God, tender,
pitying, mighty to help, quick to hear, ready to forgive, waiting to
bless, is borne into our hearts, and comes there, sweet as the
sunshine, when we turn ourselves to the light of Christ.

In like manner the darkness, born of our own sin, which wraps our
hearts, and shuts out so much that is fair and sweet and strong,
will pass away if we turn ourselves to Him. His light pouring into
our souls will hurt the eye at first, but it will hurt to cure. The
darkness of sin and alienation will pass, and the true light will
shine.

The darkness of sorrow--well! it will not cease, but He will 'smooth
the raven down of darkness till it smiles,' and He will bring into
our griefs such a spirit of quiet submission as that they shall
change into a solemn scorn of ills, and be almost like gladnesses.
Peace, which is better than exuberant delight, will come to quiet
the sorrow of the soul that trusts in Jesus Christ. The day which is
knowledge, purity, gladsomeness, the cheerful day will be ours if we
hold by Him. We 'are all the children of the light and of the day';
we 'are not of the night nor of darkness.'

Brother, it is possible to grope at noontide as in the dark, and in
all the blaze of Christ's revelation still to be left in the
Cimmerian folds of midnight gloom. You can shut your eyes to the
sunshine; have you opened your hearts to its coming?

I cannot dwell (your time will not allow of it) upon the other
points connected with this description of the day spring, except
just to point out in passing the singular force and depth of the
words--which I suppose are more forcible and deep than he who spoke
them understood at the time that visitation was described. The
dayspring is 'from on high.' This Sun has come down on to the earth.
It has not risen on a far-off horizon, but it has come down and
visited us, and walks among us. This Sun, our life-star, 'hath had
elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar.' For He that rises upon
us as the Light of life, hath descended from the heavens, and was,
before He appeared amongst men.

And His coming is a divine visitation. The word here 'hath
_visited_ us' (or 'shall visit us,' as the Revised Version
varies it), is chiefly employed in the Old Testament to describe the
divine acts of self-revelation, and these, mostly redemptive acts.
Zacharias employs it in that sense in the earlier portion of the
song, where he says that 'God hath visited and redeemed His people.'
And so from the use of this word we gather these two thoughts--God
comes to us when Christ comes to us, and His coming is wondrous,
blessed nearness, and nearness to each of us. 'What is man that Thou
shouldst be mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou shouldst
visit him?' said the old Psalmist. We say 'What is man that the
Dayspring from on high should come down upon earth, and round His
immortal beams, should, as it were, cast the veil and obscuration of
a human form; and so walk amongst us, the embodied Light and the
Incarnate God?' 'The dayspring from on high hath visited us.'

III. Lastly, note the directing by the light.

'To guide our feet into the way of peace.' This Sun stoops to the
office of the star that moved before the wise men and hovered over
His cradle, and becomes to each individual soul a guide and
director. The picture of my text, I suppose, carries us on to the
morning, when the benighted travellers catch the first gleams of the
rising sun and resume their activity, and there is a cheerful stir
through the encampment and the way is open before them once more,
and they are ready to walk in it. The force of the metaphor,
however, implies more than that, for it speaks to us of the wonder
that this universal Light should become the special guide of each
individual soul, and should not merely hang in the heavens, to cast
the broad radiance of its beams over the whole surface of the earth,
but should move before each man, a light unto _his_ feet and a
lamp to _his_ path, in special manifestation to him of his duty
and his life's pilgrimage.

There is only one way of peace, and that is to follow His beams and
to be directed by His preceding us. Then we shall realise the most
indispensable of all the conditions of peace--Christ brings you and
me the reconciliation which puts us at peace with God, which is the
foundation of all other tranquillity. And He will guide docile feet
into the way of peace in yet another fashion--in that the following
of His example, the cleaving to Him, the holding by His skirts or by
His hand, and the treading in His footsteps, is the only way by
which the heart can receive the solid satisfaction in which it
rests, and the conscience can cease from accusing and stinging. The
way of wisdom is a path of pleasantness and a way of peace. Only
they who walk in Christ's footsteps have quiet hearts and are at
amity with God, in concord with themselves, friends of mankind, and
at peace with circumstances. There is no strife within, no strained
relations or hostile alienation to God, no gnawing unrest of
unsatisfied desires, no pricks of accusing conscience; for the man
who puts his hand into Christ's hand, and says, 'Order Thou my
footsteps by Thy word'; 'Where Thou goest I will go, and what Thou
commandest I will do.'

Brother, put thy hand out from the darkness and clasp His, and 'the
darkness shall be light about thee'; and He will fulfil His own
promise when He said, 'I am the Light of the world. He that
followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of
life.



SHEPHERDS AND ANGELS


    'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding
    in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
    9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and
    the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they
    were sore afraid. 10. And the angel said unto them,
    Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of
    great joy, which shall be to all people. 11. For unto
    you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour,
    which is Christ the Lord. 12. And this shall be a sign
    unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling
    clothes, lying in a manger. 13. And suddenly there was
    with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising
    God, and saying, 14. Glory to God in the highest, and
    on earth peace, good will toward men. 15. And it came
    to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into
    heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now
    go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is
    come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
    16. And they came with haste, and found Mary and
    Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17. And when
    they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying
    which was told them concerning this child. 18. And all
    they that heard it wondered at those things which were
    told them by the shepherds. 19. But Mary kept all
    these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20. And
    the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God
    for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it
    was told unto them.'--LUKE ii. 8-20.

The central portion of this passage is, of course, the angels'
message and song, the former of which proclaims the transcendent
fact of the Incarnation, and the latter hymns its blessed results.
But, subsidiary to these, the silent vision which preceded them and
the visit to Bethlehem which followed are to be noted. Taken
together, they cast varying gleams on the great fact of the birth of
Jesus Christ.

Why should there be a miraculous announcement at all, and why should
it be to these shepherds? It seems to have had no effect beyond a
narrow circle and for a time. It was apparently utterly forgotten
when, thirty years after, the carpenter's Son began His ministry.
Could such an event have passed from memory, and left no ripple on
the surface? Does not the resultlessness cast suspicion on the
truthfulness of the narrative? Not if we duly give weight to the few
who knew of the wonder; to the length of time that elapsed, during
which the shepherds and their auditors probably died; to their
humble position, and to the short remembrance of extraordinary
events which have no immediate consequences. Joseph and Mary were
strangers in Bethlehem. Christ never visited it, so far as we know.
The fading of the impression cannot be called strange, for it
accords with natural tendencies; but the record of so great an
event, which was entirely ineffectual as regards future acceptance
of Christ's claims, is so unlike legend that it vouches for the
truth of the narrative. An apparent stumbling-block is left, because
the story is true.

Why then, the announcement at all, since it was of so little use?
Because it was of some; but still more, because it was fitting that
such angel voices should attend such an event, whether men gave heed
to them or not; and because, recorded, their song has helped a world
to understand the nature and meaning of that birth. The glory died
off the hillside quickly, and the music of the song scarcely
lingered longer in the ears of its first hearers; but its notes echo
still in all lands, and every generation turns to them with wonder
and hope.

The selection of two or three peasants as receivers of the message,
the time at which it was given, and the place, are all significant.
It was no unmeaning fact that the 'glory of the Lord' shone lambent
round the shepherds, and held them and the angel standing beside
them in its circle of light. No longer within the secret shrine, but
out in the open field, the symbol of the Divine Presence glowed
through the darkness; for that birth hallowed common life, and
brought the glory of God into familiar intercourse with its
secularities and smallnesses. The appearance to these humble men as
they 'sat simply chatting in a rustic row 'symbolised the
destination of the Gospel for all ranks and classes.

The angel speaks by the side of the shepherds, not from above. His
gentle encouragement 'Fear not!' not only soothes their present
terror, but has a wider meaning. The dread of the Unseen, which lies
coiled like a sleeping snake in all hearts, is utterly taken away by
the Incarnation. All messages from that realm are thenceforward
'tidings of great joy,' and love and desire may pass into it, as all
men shall one day pass, and both enterings may be peaceful and
confident. Nothing harmful can come out of the darkness, from which
Jesus has come, into which He has passed, and which He fills.

The great announcement, the mightiest, most wonderful word that had
ever passed angels' immortal lips, is characterised as 'great joy'
to 'all the people,' in which designation two things are to be
noted--the nature and the limitation of the message. In how many
ways the Incarnation was to be the fountain of purest gladness was
but little discerned, either by the heavenly messenger or the
shepherds. The ages since have been partially learning it, but not
till the 'glorified joy' of heaven swells redeemed hearts will all
its sorrow-dispelling power be experimentally known. Base joys may
be basely sought, but His creatures' gladness is dear to God, and if
sought in God's way, is a worthy object of their efforts.

The world-wide sweep of the Incarnation does not appear here, but
only its first destination for Israel. This is manifest in the
phrase 'all the people,' in the mention of 'the city of David' and
in the emphatic 'you,' in contradistinction both from the messenger,
who announced what he did not share, and Gentiles, to whom the
blessing was not to pass till Israel had determined its attitude to
it.

The titles of the Infant tell something of the wonder of the birth,
but do not unfold its overwhelming mystery. Magnificent as they are,
they fall far short of 'The Word was made flesh.' They keep within
the circle of Jewish expectation, and announce that the hopes of
centuries are fulfilled. There is something very grand in the
accumulation of titles, each greater than the preceding, and all
culminating in that final 'Lord.' Handel has gloriously given the
spirit of it in the crash of triumph with which that last word is
pealed out in his oratorio. 'Saviour' means far more than the
shepherds knew; for it declares the Child to be the deliverer from
all evil, both of sin and sorrow, and the endower with all good,
both of righteousness and blessedness. The 'Christ' claims that He
is the fulfiller of prophecy, perfectly endowed by divine anointing
for His office of prophet, priest, and king--the consummate flower
of ancient revelation, greater than Moses the law-giver, than
Solomon the king, than Jonah the prophet. 'The Lord' is scarcely to
be taken as the ascription of divinity, but rather as a prophecy of
authority and dominion, implying reverence, but not unveiling the
deepest secret of the entrance of the divine Son into humanity. That
remained unrevealed, for the time was not yet ripe.

There would be few children of a day old in a little place like
Bethlehem, and none but one lying in a manger. The fact of the
birth, which could be verified by sight, would confirm the message
in its outward aspect, and thereby lead to belief in the angel's
disclosure of its inward character. The 'sign' attested the veracity
of the messenger, and therefore the truth of all his word--both of
that part of it capable of verification by sight and that part
apprehensible by faith.

No wonder that the sudden light and music of the multitude of the
heavenly host' flashed and echoed round the group on the hillside.
The true picture is not given when we think of that angel choir as
floating in heaven. They stood in their serried ranks round the
shepherds and their fellows on the solid earth, and 'the night was
filled with music,' not from overhead, but from every side. Crowding
forms became all at once visible within the encircling 'glory,' on
every face wondering gladness and eager sympathy with men, from
every lip praise. Angels can speak with the tongues of men when
their theme is their Lord become man, and their auditors are men.
They hymn the blessed results of that birth, the mystery of which
they knew more completely than they were yet allowed to tell.

As was natural for them, their praise is first evoked by the result
of the Incarnation in the highest heavens. It will bring 'glory to
God' there; for by it new aspects of His nature are revealed to
those clear-eyed and immortal spirits who for unnumbered ages have
known His power, His holiness, His benignity to unfallen creatures,
but now experience the wonder which more properly belongs to more
limited intelligences, when they behold that depth of condescending
Love stooping to be born. Even they think more loftily of God, and
more of man's possibilities and worth, when they cluster round the
manger, and see who lies there.

'On earth peace.' The song drops from the contemplation of the
heavenly consequences to celebrate the results on earth, and gathers
them all into one pregnant word, 'Peace.' What a scene of strife,
discord, and unrest earth must seem to those calm spirits! And how
vain and petty the struggles must look, like the bustle of an ant-hill!
Christ's work is to bring peace into all human relations, those with
God, with men, with circumstances, and to calm the discords of souls
at war with themselves. Every one of these relations is marred by sin,
and nothing less thorough than a power which removes it can rectify
them. That birth was the coming into humanity of Him who brings peace
with God, with ourselves, with one another. Shame on Christendom that
nineteen centuries have passed, and men yet think the cessation of
war is only a 'pious imagination'! The ringing music of that angel
chant has died away, but its promise abides.

The symmetry of the song is best preserved, as I humbly venture to
think, by the old reading as in the Authorised Version. The other,
represented by the Revised Version, seems to make the second clause
drag somewhat, with two designations of the region of peace. The
Incarnation brings God's 'good will' to dwell among men. In Christ,
God is well pleased; and from Him incarnate, streams of divine
complacent love pour out to freshen and fertilise the earth.

The disappearance of the heavenly choristers does not seem to have
been so sudden as their appearance. They 'went away from them into
heaven,' as if leisurely, and so that their ascending brightness was
long visible as they rose, and attestation was thereby given to the
reality of the vision. The sleeping village was close by, and as
soon as the last gleam of the departing light had faded in the
depths of heaven, the shepherds went 'with haste,' untimely as was
the hour. They would not have much difficulty in finding the inn and
the manger. Note that they do not tell their story till the sight
has confirmed the angel message. Their silence was not from doubt;
for they say, before they had seen the child, that 'this thing' is
'come to pass,' and are quite sure that the Lord has told it them.
But they wait for the evidence which shall assure others of their
truthfulness.

There are three attitudes of mind towards God's revelation set forth
in living examples in the closing verses of the passage. Note the
conduct of the shepherds, as a type of the natural impulse and
imperative duty of all possessors of God's truth. Such a story as
they had to tell would burn its way to utterance in the most
reticent and shyest. But have Christians a less wonderful message to
deliver, or a less needful one? If the spectators of the cradle
could not be silent, how impossible it ought to be for the witnesses
of the Cross to lock their lips!

The hearers of the story did what, alas! too many of us do with the
Gospel. 'They wondered,' and stopped there. A feeble ripple of
astonishment ruffled the surface of their souls for a moment; but
like the streaks on the sea made by a catspaw of wind, it soon died
out, and the depths were unaffected by it.

The antithesis to this barren wonder is the beautiful picture of the
Virgin's demeanour. She 'kept all these sayings, and pondered them
in her heart.' What deep thoughts the mother of the Lord had, were
hers alone. But we have the same duty to the truth, and it will
never disclose its inmost sweetness to us, nor take so sovereign a
grip of our very selves as to mould our lives, unless we too
treasure it in our hearts, and by patient brooding on it understand
its hidden harmonies, and spread our souls out to receive its
transforming power. A non-meditative religion is a shallow religion.
But if we hide His word in our hearts, and often in secret draw out
our treasure to count and weigh it, we shall be able to speak out of
a full heart, and like these shepherds, to rejoice that we have seen
even as it was spoken unto us.



WAS, IS, IS TO COME


    '... The babe lying in a manger...'--LUKE ii. 16.

    '... While He blessed them, He was parted from them,
    and carried up into heaven...'--LUKE xxiv. 51.

    'This same Jesus... shall so come in like manner as
    ye have seen Him go...'--ACTS I. 11.

These three fragments, which I have ventured to isolate and bring
together, are all found in one author's writings. Luke's biography
of Jesus stretches from the cradle in Bethlehem to the Ascension
from Olivet. He narrates the Ascension twice, because it has two
aspects. In one it looks backward, and is necessary as the
completion of what was begun in the birth. In one it looks forward,
and makes necessary, as its completion, that coming which still lies
in the future. These three stand up, like linked summits in a
mountain. We can understand none of them unless we embrace them all.
If the story of the birth is true, a life so begun cannot end in an
undistinguished death like that of all men. And if the Ascension
from Olivet is true, that cannot close the history of His relations
to men. The creed which proclaims He was 'born of the Virgin Mary'
must go on to say '... He ascended up into heaven'; and cannot pause
till it adds '...From thence He shall come to judge the quick and
the dead.' So we have then three points to consider in this sermon.

I. Note first, the three great moments.

The thing that befell at Bethlehem, in the stable of the inn, was a
commonplace and insignificant enough event looked at from the
outside: the birth of a child to a young mother. It had its elements
of pathos in its occurring at a distance from home, among the
publicity and discomforts of an inn stable, and with some cloud of
suspicion over the mother's fair fame. But the outside of a fact is
the least part of it. A little film of sea-weed floats upon the
surface, but there are fathoms of it below the water. Men said, 'A
child is born.' Angels said, and bowed their faces in adoration,
'The Word has become flesh'. The eternal, self-communicating
personality in the Godhead, passed voluntarily into the condition of
humanity. Jesus was born, the Son of God came. Only when we hold
fast by that great truth do we pierce to the centre of what was done
in that poor stable, and possess the key to all the wonders of His
life and death.

From the manger we pass to the mountain. A life begun by such a
birth cannot be ended, as I have said, by a mere ordinary death. The
Alpha and the Omega of that alphabet must belong to the same fount
of type. A divine conformity forbids that He who was born of the
Virgin Mary should have His body laid to rest in an undistinguished
grave. And so what Bethlehem began, Olivet carries on.

Note the circumstances of this second of these great moments. The
place is significant. Almost within sight of the city, a stone's
throw probably from the home where He had lodged, and where He had
conquered death in the person of Lazurus; not far from the turn of the
road where the tears had come into His eyes amidst the shouting of the
rustic procession, as He had looked across the valley; just above
Gethsemane, where He had agonised on that bare hillside to which He
had often gone for communion with the Father in heaven. There, in some
dimple of the hill, and unseen but by the little group that surrounded
Him, He passed from their midst. The manner of the departure is yet
more significant than the place. Here were no whirlwind, no chariots
and horses of fire, no sudden rapture; but, as the narrative makes
emphatic, a slow, leisurely, self-originated floating upwards. He was
borne up from them, and no outward vehicle or help was needed; but by
His own volition and power He rose towards the heavens. 'And a cloud
received Him out of their sight'--the Shechinah cloud, the bright
symbol of the Divine Presence which had shone round the shepherds on
the pastures of Bethlehem, and enwrapped Him and the three disciples
on the Mount of Transfiguration. It came not to lift Him on its soft
folds to the heavens, but in order that, first, He might be plainly
seen till the moment that He ceased to be seen, and might not dwindle
into a speck by reason of distance; and secondly, that it might teach
the truth, that, as His body was received into the cloud, so He entered
into the glory which He 'had with the Father before the world was.'
Such was the second of these moments.

The third great moment corresponds to these, is required by them,
and crowns them. The Ascension was not only the close of Christ's
earthly life which would preserve congruity with its beginning, but
it was also the clear manifestation that, as He came of His own
will, so He departed by His own volition. 'I came forth from the
Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go
unto the Father.' Thus the earthly life is, as it were, islanded in
a sea of glory, and that which stretches away beyond the last moment
of visibility, is like that which stretched away beyond the first
moment of corporeity; the eternal union with the eternal Father. But
such an entrance on and departure from earth, and such a career on
earth, can only end in that coming again of which the angels spoke
to the gazing eleven.

Mark the emphasis of their words. 'This same Jesus,' the same in His
manhood, 'shall so come, in like manner, as ye have seen Him go.'
How much the 'in like manner' may mean we can scarcely dogmatically
affirm. But this, at least, is clear, that it cannot mean less than
corporeally visible, locally surrounded by angel-guards, and
perhaps, according to a mysterious prophecy, to the same spot from
which He ascended. But, at all events, there are the three moments
in the manifestation of the Son of God.

II. Look, in the second place, at the threefold phases of our Lord's
activity which are thus suggested.

I need not dwell, in more than a sentence or two, on the first of
these. Each of these three moments is the inauguration of a form of
activity which lasts till the emergence of the next of the triad.

The birth at Bethlehem had, for its consequence and purpose, a
threefold end: the revelation of God in humanity, the manifestation
of perfect manhood to men, and the rendering of the great sacrifice
for the sins of the world. These three--showing us God; showing
ourselves as we are and as we may be; as we ought to be, and,
blessed be His name, as we shall be, if we observe the conditions;
and the making reconciliation for the sins of the whole world--these
are the things for which the Babe lying in the manger was born and
came under the limitations of humanity.

Turn to the second of the three, and what shall we say of it? That
Ascension has for its great purpose the application to men of the
results of the Incarnation. He was born that He might show us God
and ourselves, and that He might die for us. He ascended up on high
in order that the benefits of that Revelation and Atonement might be
extended through, and appropriated by, the whole world.

One chief thought which is enforced by the narrative of the
Ascension is the permanence, the eternity of the humanity of Jesus
Christ. He ascended up where He was before, but He who ascended is
not altogether the same as He who had been there before, for He has
taken up with Him our nature to the centre of the universe and the
throne of God, and there, 'bone of our bone, and flesh of our
flesh,' a true man in body, soul, and spirit, He lives and reigns.
The cradle at Bethlehem assumes even greater solemnity when we think
of it as the beginning of a humanity that is never laid aside. So we
can look confidently to all that blaze of light where He sits, and
feel that, howsoever the body of His humiliation may have been
changed into the body of His glory, He still remains corporeally and
spiritually a true Son of man. Thus the face that looks down from
amidst the blaze, though it be 'as the sun shineth in his strength,'
is the old face; and the breast which is girded with the golden
girdle is the same breast on which the seer had leaned his happy
head; and the hand that holds the sceptre is the hand that was
pierced with the nails; and the Christ that is ascended up on high
is the Christ that loved and pitied adulteresses and publicans, and
took the little child in His gracious arms--'The same yesterday, and
to-day, and for ever.'

Christ's Ascension is as the broad seal of heaven attesting the
completeness of His work on earth. It inaugurates His repose which
is not the sign of His weariness, but of His having finished all
which He was born to do. But that repose is not idleness. Rather it
is full of activity.

On the Cross He shouted with a great voice ere He died, 'It is
finished.' But centuries, perhaps millenniums, yet will have to
elapse before the choirs of angels shall be able to chant, 'It is
done: the kingdoms of the world are the kingdoms of God and of His
Christ.' All the interval is filled by the working of that ascended
Lord whose session at the right hand of God is not only symbolical
of perfect repose and a completed sacrifice, but also of perfect
activity in and with His servants.

He has gone--to rest, to reign, to work, to intercede, and to
prepare a place for us. For if our Brother be indeed at the right
hand of God, then our faltering feet may travel to the Throne, and
our sinful selves may be at home there. The living Christ, working
to-day, is that of which the Ascension from Olivet gives us the
guarantee.

The third great moment will inaugurate yet another form of activity
as necessary and certain as either of the two preceding. For if His
cradle was what we believe it to have been, and if His sacrifice was
what Scripture tells us it is, and if through all the ages He,
crowned and regnant, is working for the diffusion of the powers of
His Cross and the benefits of His Incarnation, there can be no end
to that course except the one which is expressed for us by the
angels' message to the gazing disciples: He shall so come in like
manner as ye have seen Him go. He will come to manifest Himself as
the King of the world and its Lord and Redeemer. He will come to
inaugurate the great act of Judgment, which His great act of
Redemption necessarily draws after it, and Himself be the Arbiter of
the fates of men, the determining factor in whose fates has been
their relation to Him. No doubt many who never heard His name upon
earth will, in that day be, by His clear eye and perfect judgment,
discerned to have visited the sick and the imprisoned, and to have
done many acts for His sake. And for us who know Him, and have heard
His name, the way in which we stand affected in heart and will to
Christ reveals and settles our whole character, shapes our whole
being, and will determine our whole destiny. He comes, not only to
manifest Himself so as that 'every eye shall see Him,' and to divide
the sheep from the goats, but also in order that He may reign for
ever and gather into the fellowship of His love and the community of
His joys all who love and trust Him here. These are the triple
phases of our Lord's activity suggested by the three great moments.

III. Lastly, notice the triple attitude which we should assume to
Him and to them.

For the first, the cradle, with its consequence of the Cross, our
response is clinging faith, grateful memory, earnest following, and
close conformity. For the second, the Ascension, with its
consequence of a Christ that lives and labours for us, and is with
us, our attitude ought to be an intense realisation of the fact of
His present working and of His present abode with us. The centre of
Christian doctrine has, amongst average Christians, been far too
exclusively fixed within the limits of the earthly life, and in the
interests of a true and comprehensive grasp of all the blessedness
that Christianity is capable of bringing to men, I would protest
against that type of thought, earnest and true as it may be within
its narrow limits, which is always pointing men to the past fact of
a Cross, and slurs over and obscures the present fact of a living
Christ who is with us, and in us. One difference between Him and all
other benefactors and teachers and helpers is this, that, as ages go
on, thicker and ever-thickening folds of misty oblivion wrap them,
and their influence diminishes as new circumstances emerge, but this
Christ's power laughs at the centuries, and is untinged by oblivion,
and is never out of date. For all others we have to say--'having
served his generation,' or a generation or two more, 'according to
the will of God, he fell on sleep.' But Christ knows no corruption,
and is for ever more the Leader, and the Companion, and the Friend,
of each new age.

Brethren! the Cross is incomplete without the throne. We are told to
go back to the historical Christ. Yes, Amen, I say! But do not let
that make us lose our grasp of the living Christ who is with us to-day.
Whilst we rejoice over the 'Christ that died,' let us go on with Paul
to say, 'Yea! rather, that is risen again, and is even at the right
hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.'

For that future, discredited as the thought of the second corporeal
coming of the Lord Jesus in visible fashion and to a locality has
been by the fancies and the vagaries of so-called Apocalyptic
expositors, let us not forget that it is the hope of Christ's
Church, and that 'they who love His appearing' is, by the Apostle,
used as the description and definition of the Christian character.
We have to look forwards as well as backwards and upwards, and to
rejoice in the sure and certain confidence that the Christ who has
come is the Christ who will come.

For us the past should be full of Him, and memory and faith should
cling to His Incarnation and His Cross. The present should be full
of Him, and our hearts should commune with Him amidst the toils of
earth. The future should be full of Him, and our hopes should be
based upon no vague anticipations of a perfectibility of humanity,
nor upon any dim dreams of what may lie beyond the grave; but upon
the concrete fact that Jesus Christ has risen, and that Jesus Christ
is glorified. Does my faith grasp the Christ that was--who died for
me? Does my heart cling to the Christ who is--who lives and reigns,
and with whom my life is hid in God? Do my hopes crystallise round,
and anchor upon, the Christ that is to come, and pierce the dimness
of the future and the gloom of the grave, looking onwards to that
day of days when He, who is our life, shall appear, and we shall
appear also with Him in glory?



SIMEON'S SWAN-SONG


    'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,
    according to Thy word: 30. For mine eyes have seen Thy
    salvation.'--LUKE ii. 29,30.

That scene, when the old man took the Infant in his withered arms,
is one of the most picturesque and striking in the Gospel narrative.
Simeon's whole life appears, in its later years, to have been under
the immediate direction of the Spirit of God. It is very remarkable
to notice how, in the course of three consecutive verses, the
operation of that divine Spirit upon him is noted. 'It was revealed
unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death before he
had seen the Lord's Christ.' 'And he came by the Spirit into the
Temple.' I suppose that means that some inward monition, which he
recognised to be of God, sent him there, in the expectation that at
last he was to 'see the Lord's Christ.' He was there before the
Child was brought by His parents, for we read 'He came by the Spirit
into the Temple, and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus ...
he took Him in his arms.' Think of the old man, waiting there in the
Sanctuary, told by God that he was thus about to have the fulfilment
of his life-long desire, and yet probably not knowing what kind of a
shape the fulfilment would take. There is no reason to believe that
he knew he was to see an infant; and he waits. And presently a
peasant woman comes in with a child in her arms, and there arises in
his soul the voice 'Anoint Him! for this is He!' And so, whether he
expected such a vision or no, he takes the Child in his arms, and
says, 'Lord! Now, now !--after all these years of waiting--lettest
Thou Thy servant depart in peace.'

Now, it seems to me that there are two or three very interesting
thoughts deducible from this incident, and from these words. I take
three of them. Here we have the Old recognising and embracing the
New; the slave recognising and submitting to his Owner; and the
saint recognising and welcoming the approach of death.

I. The Old recognising and embracing the New.

It is striking to observe how the description of Simeon's character
expresses the aim of the whole Old Testament Revelation. All that
was meant by the preceding long series of manifestations through all
these years was accomplished in this man. For hearken how he is
described--'just and devout,' that is the perfection of moral
character, stated in the terms of the Old Testament; 'waiting for
the Consolation of Israel,' that is the ideal attitude which the
whole of the gradual manifestation of God's increasing purpose
running through the ages was intended to make the attitude of every
true Israelite--an expectant, eager look forwards, and in the
present, the discharge of all duties to God and man. 'And the Holy
Ghost was upon him'; that, too, in a measure, was the ultimate aim
of the whole Revelation of Israel. So this man stands as a bright,
consummate flower which had at last effloresced from the roots; and
in his own person, an embodiment of the very results which God had
patiently sought through millenniums of providential dealing and
inspiration. Therefore in this man's arms was laid the Christ for
whom he had so long been waiting.

And he exhibits, still further, what God intended to secure by the
whole previous processes of Revelation, in that he recognises that
they were transcended and done with, that all that they pointed to
was accomplished when a devout Israelite took into his arms the
Incarnate Messiah, that all the past had now answered its purpose,
and like the scaffolding when the top stone of a building is brought
forth with shouting, might be swept away and the world be none the
poorer. And so he rejoices in the Christ that he receives, and sings
the swan-song of the departing Israel, the Israel according to the
Spirit. And that is what Judaism was meant to do, and how it was
meant to end, in an _euthanasia_, in a passing into the nobler
form of the Christian Church and the Christian citizenship.

I do not need to remind you how terribly unlike this ideal the
reality was, but I may, though only in a sentence or two, point out
that that relation of the New to the Old is one that recurs, though
in lees sharp and decisive forms, in every generation, and in our
generation in a very special manner. It is well for the New when it
consents to be taken in the arms of the Old, and it is ill for the
Old when, instead of welcoming, it frowns upon the New, and instead
of playing the part of Simeon, and embracing and blessing the
Infant, plays the part of a Herod, and seeks to destroy the Child
that seems to threaten its sovereignty. We old people who are
conservative, if not by nature, by years, and you young people who
are revolutionary and innovating by reason of your youth, may both
find a lesson in that picture in the Temple, of Simeon with the
Infant Christ in his arms.

II. Further, we have here the slave recognising and submitting to
his Owner.

Now the word which is here employed for 'Lord' is one that very
seldom occurs in the New Testament in reference to God; only some
four or five times in all. And it is the harshest and hardest word
that can be picked out. If you clip the Greek termination off it, it
is the English word 'despot,' and it conveys all that that word
conveys to us, not only a lord in the sense of a constitutional
monarch, not only a lord in the polite sense of a superior in
dignity, but a despot in the sense of being the absolute owner of a
man who has no rights against the owner, and is a slave. For the
word 'slave' is what logicians call the correlative of this word
'despot,' and as the latter asserts absolute ownership and
authority, the former declares abject submission. So Simeon takes
these two words to express his relation and feeling towards God.
'Thou art the Owner, the Despot, and I am Thy slave.' That relation
of owner and slave, wicked as it is, when subsisting between two
men--an atrocious crime, 'the sum of all villainies,' as the good
old English emancipators used to call it--is the sum of all
blessings when regarded as existing between man and God. For what
does it imply? The right to command and the duty to obey, the
sovereign will that is supreme over all, and the blessed attitude of
yielding up one's will wholly, without reserve, without reluctance,
to that infinitely mighty, and--blessed be God!--infinitely loving
Will Absolute authority calls for abject submission.

And again, the despot has the unquestioned right of life and death
over his slave, and if he chooses, can smite him down where he
stands, and no man have a word to say. Thus, absolutely, we hang
upon God, and because He has the power of life and death, every
moment of our lives is a gift from His hands, and we should not
subsist for an instant unless, by continual effluence from Him, and
influx into us, of the life which flows from Him, the Fountain of
life.

Again, the slave-owner has entire possession of all the slave's
possessions, and can take them and do what he likes with them. And
so, all that I call mine is His. It was His before it became mine;
it remains His whilst it is mine, because I am His, and so what
seems to belong to me belongs to Him, no less truly. What, then, do
you do with your possessions? Use them for yourselves? Dispute His
ownership? Forget His claims? Grudge that He should take them away
sometimes, and grudge still more to yield them to Him in daily
obedience, and when necessary, surrender them? Is such a temper what
becomes the slave? What reason has he to grumble if the master comes
to him and says, 'This little bit of ground that I have given you to
grow a few sugar-canes and melons on, I am going to take back
again.' What reason have we to set up our puny wills against Him, if
He exercises His authority over us and demands that we should regard
ourselves not only as sons but also as slaves to whom the owner of
it and us has given a talent to be used for Him?

Now, all that sounds very harsh, does it not? Let in one thought
into it, and it all becomes very gracious. The Apostle Peter, who
also once uses this word 'despot,' does so in a very remarkable
connection. He speaks about men's 'denying the despot that bought
them.' Ah, Peter! you were getting on very thin ice when you talked
about denial. Perhaps it was just because he remembered his sin in
the judgment hall that he used that word to express the very utmost
degree of degeneration and departure from Jesus. But be that as it
may, he bases the slave-owner's right on purchase. And Jesus Christ
has bought us by His own precious blood; and so all that sounds
harsh in the metaphor, worked out as I have been trying to do,
changes its aspect when we think of the method by which He has
acquired His rights and the purpose for which He exercises them. As
the Psalmist said, 'Oh, Lord! truly I am Thy slave. Thou hast loosed
my bonds.'

III. So, lastly, we have here the saint recognising and welcoming
the approach of death.

Now, it is a very singular thing, but I suppose it is true, that
somehow or other, most people read these words, 'Lord! now lettest
Thou Thy servant depart in peace,' as being a petition; 'Lord! now
_let_ Thy servant depart.' But they are not that at all. We
have here not a petition or an aspiration, but a statement of the
fact that Simeon recognises the appointed token that his days were
drawing to an end, and it is the glad recognition of that fact.
'Lord! I see now that the time has come when I may put aside all
this coil of weary waiting and burdened mortality, and go to rest.'
Look how he regards approaching death. 'Thou lettest Thy servant
depart' is but a feeble translation of the original, which is better
given in the version that has become very familiar to us all by its
use in a musical service, the _Nunc Dimittis_; 'Now Thou
_dost send away_' It is the technical word for relieving a
sentry from his post. It conveys the idea of the hour having come
when the slave who has been on the watch through all the long, weary
night, or toiling through all the hot, dusty day, may extinguish his
lantern, or fling down his mattock, and go home to his little hut.
'Lord! Thou dost dismiss me now, and I take the dismission as the
end of the long watch, as the end of the long toil.'

But notice, still further, how Simeon not only recognises, but
welcomes the approach of death. 'Thou lettest Thy servant depart in
peace.' Yes, there speaks a calm voice tranquilly accepting the
permission. He feels no agitation, no fluster of any kind, but
quietly slips away from his post. And the reason for that peaceful
welcome of the end is 'for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.' That
sight is the reason, first of all, for his being sure that the
curfew had rung for him, and that the day's work was done. But it is
also the reason for the peacefulness of his departure. He went 'in
peace,' because of what? Because the weary, blurred, old eyes had
seen all that any man needs to see to be satisfied and blessed. Life
could yield nothing more, though its length were doubled to this old
man, than the sight of God's salvation.

Can it yield anything more to us, brethren? And may we not say, if
we have seen that sight, what an unbelieving author said, with a
touch of self-complacency not admirable, 'I have warmed both hands
at the fire of life, and I am ready to depart.' We may go in peace,
if our eyes have seen Him who satisfies our vision, whose bright
presence will go with us into the darkness, and whom we shall see
more perfectly when we have passed from the sentry-box to the home
above, and have ceased to be slaves in the far-off plantation, and
are taken to be sons in the Father's house. 'Thou lettest Thy
servant depart in peace.'



THE BOY IN THE TEMPLE


    'And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me!
    wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?'
    --LUKE ii. 49.

A number of spurious gospels have come down to us, which are full of
stories, most of them absurd and some of them worse, about the
infancy of Jesus Christ. Their puerilities bring out more distinctly
the simplicity, the nobleness, the worthiness of this one solitary
incident of His early days, which has been preserved for us. How has
it been preserved? If you will look over the narratives there will
be very little difficulty, I think, in answering that question.
Observing the prominence that is given to the parents, and how the
story enlarges upon what they thought and felt, we shall not have
much doubt in accepting the hypothesis that it was none other than
Mary from whom Luke received such intimate details. Notice, for
instance, 'Joseph and His mother knew not of it.' 'They supposed Him
to have been in the company.' 'And when they,' i.e. Joseph and Mary,
'saw Him, they were astonished'; and then that final touch, 'He was
subject to them,' as if His mother would not have Luke or us think
that this one act of independence meant that He had shaken off
parental authority. And is it not a mother's voice that says, 'His
mother kept all these things in her heart,' and pondered all the
traits of boyhood? Now it seems to me that, in these words of the
twelve-year-old boy, there are two or three points full of interest
and of teaching for us. There is--

I. That consciousness of Sonship.

I am not going to plunge into a subject on which certainly a great
deal has been very confidently affirmed, and about which the less is
dogmatised by us, who must know next to nothing about it, the
better; viz. the inter-connection of the human and the divine
elements in the person of Jesus Christ. But the context leads us
straight to this thought--that there was in Jesus distinct growth in
wisdom as well as in stature, and in favour with God and man. And
now, suppose the peasant boy brought up to Jerusalem, seeing it for
the first time, and for the first time entering the sacred courts of
the Temple. Remember, that to a Jewish boy, his reaching the age of
twelve made an epoch, because he then became 'a son of the Law,' and
took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had hitherto
devolved upon his parents. If we will take that into account, and
remember that it was a true manhood which was growing up in the boy
Jesus, then we shall not feel it to be irreverent if we venture to
say, not that here and then, there began His consciousness of His
Divine Sonship, but that that visit made an epoch and a stage in the
development of that consciousness, just because it furthered the
growth of His manhood.

Further, our Lord in these words, in the gentlest possible way, and
yet most decisively, does what He did in all His intercourse with
Mary, so far as it is recorded for us in Scripture--relegated her
back within limits beyond which she tended to advance. For she said,
'Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing,' no doubt thus
preserving what had been the usual form of speech in the household
for all the previous years; and there is an emphasis that would fall
upon her heart, as it fell upon none other, when He answered: 'Wist
ye not that I must be about My Father's business?' We are not
warranted in affirming that the Child meant all which the Man
afterwards meant by the claim to be the Son of God; nor are we any
more warranted in denying that He did. We know too little about the
mysteries of His growth to venture on definite statements of either
kind. Our sounding-lines are not long enough to touch bottom in this
great word from the lips of a boy of twelve; but this is clear, that
as He grew into self-consciousness, there came with it the growing
consciousness of His Sonship to His Father in heaven.

Now, dear brethren, whilst all that is unique, and parts Him off
from us, do not let us forget that that same sense of Sonship and
Fatherhood must be the very deepest thing in us, if we are Christian
people after Christ's pattern. We, too, can be sons through Him, and
only through Him. I believe with all my heart in what we hear so
much about now--'the universal Fatherhood of God.' But I believe
that there is also a special relation of Fatherhood and Sonship,
which is constituted only, according to Scripture teaching in my
apprehension, through faith in Jesus Christ, and the reception of
His life as a supernatural life into our souls. God is Father of all
men--thank God for it! And that means, that He gives life to all
men; that in a very deep and precious sense the life which He gives
to every man is not only derived from, but is kindred with, His own;
and it means that His love reaches to all men, and that His
authority extends over them. But there is an inner sanctuary, there
is a better life than the life of nature, and the Fatherhood into
which Christ introduces us means, that through faith in Him, and the
entrance into our spirits of the Spirit of adoption, we receive a
life derived from, and kindred with, the life of the Giver, and that
we are bound to Him not only by the cords of love, but to obey the
parental authority. Sonship is the deepest thought about the
Christian life.

It was an entirely new thought when Jesus spoke to His disciples of
their Father in heaven. It was a thrilling novelty when Paul bade
servile worshippers realise that they were no longer slaves, but
sons, and as such, heirs of God. It was the rapture of pointing to a
new star flaming out, as it were, that swelled in John's
exclamation: 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God!' For even though
in the Old Testament there are a few occasional references to
Israel's King or to Israel itself as being 'God's son,' as far as I
remember, there is only one reference in all the Old Testament to
parental love towards each of us on the part of God, and that is the
great saying in the 103rd Psalm: 'Like as a father pitieth his
children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.' For the most part
the idea connected in the Old Testament with the Fatherhood of God
is authority: 'If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?' says the
last of the prophets. But when we pass into the New, on the very
threshold, here we get the germ, in these words, of the blessed
thought that, as His disciples, we, too, may claim sonship to God
through Him, and penetrate beyond the awe of Divine Majesty into the
love of our Father God. Brethren, notwithstanding all that was
unique in the Sonship of Jesus Christ, He welcomes us to a place
beside Himself, and if we are the children of God by faith in Him,
then are we 'heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.'

Now the second thought that I would suggest from these words is--

II. The sweet 'must' of filial duty.

'How is it that ye sought Me?' That means: 'Did you not know where I
should be sure to be? What need was there to go up and down
Jerusalem looking for Me? You might have known there was only one
place where you would find Me. Wist ye not that I _must_ be
about My Father's business?' Now, the last words of this question
are in the Greek literally, as the margin of the Revised Version
tells us, 'in the things of My Father'; and that idiomatic form of
speech may either be taken to mean, as the Authorised Version does,
'about My Father's business,' or, with the Revised Version, 'in My
Father's house.' The latter seems the rendering most relevant in
this connection, where the folly of seeking is emphasised--the
certainty of His place is more to the point than that of His
occupation. But the locality carried the occupation with it, for why
must He be in the Father's house but to be about the Father's
business, 'to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His
Temple'?

Do people know where to find us? Is it unnecessary to go hunting for
us? Is there a place where it is certain that we shall be? It was so
with this child Jesus, and it should be so with all of us who
profess to be His followers.

All through Christ's life there runs, and occasionally there comes
into utterance, that sense of a divine necessity laid upon Him; and
here is its beginning, the very first time that the word occurs on
His lips, 'I must.' There is as divine and as real a necessity
shaping our lives because it lies upon and moulds our wills, if we
have the child's heart, and stand in the child's position. In Jesus
Christ the 'must' was not an external one, but He 'must be about His
Father's business,' because His whole inclination and will were
submitted to the Father's authority. And that is what will make any
life sweet, calm, noble. 'The love of Christ constraineth us.' There
is a necessity which presses upon men like iron fetters; there is a
necessity which wells up within a man as a fountain of life, and
does not so much drive as sweetly incline the will, so that it is
impossible for him to be other than a loving, obedient child.

Dear friend, have we felt the joyful grip of that necessity? Is it
impossible for me not to be doing God's will? Do I feel myself laid
hold of by a strong, loving hand that propels me, not unwillingly,
along the path? Does inclination coincide with obligation? If it
does, then no words can tell the freedom, the enlargement, the
calmness, the deep blessedness of such a life. But when these pull
in two different ways, as, alas! they often do, and I have to say,
'I must be about my Father's business, and I had rather be about my
own if I durst,' which is the condition of a great many so-called
Christian people--then the necessity is miserable; and slavery, not
freedom, is the characteristic of such Christianity. And there is a
great deal of such to-day.

And now one last word. On this sweet 'must,' and blessed compulsion
to be about the Father's business, there follows:

III. The meek acceptance of the lowliest duties.

'He went down to Nazareth, and was subject to them.' That is all
that is told us about eighteen years, by far the largest part of the
earthly life of Christ. Legend comes in, and for once not
inappropriately, and tells us, what is probably quite true, that
during these years, Jesus worked in the carpenter's shop, and as one
story says, 'made yokes,' or as another tells, made light implements
of husbandry for the peasants round Nazareth. Be that as it may, 'He
was subject unto them,' and that was doing the Father's will, and
being 'about the Father's business,' quite as much as when He was
amongst the doctors, and learning by asking questions as well as by
hearkening to their instructions. Everything depends on the motive.
The commonest duty may be 'the Father's business,' when we are doing
manfully the work of daily life. Only we do not turn common duty
into the Father's business, unless we remember Him in the doing of
it. But if we carry the hallowing and quickening influence of that
great 'must' into all the pettinesses, and paltrinesses, and
wearinesses, and sorrows of our daily trivial lives, then we shall
find, as Jesus Christ found, that the carpenter's shop is as sacred
as the courts of the Temple, and that to obey Mary was to do the
will of the Father in heaven.

What a blessed transformation that would make of all lives! The
psalmist long ago said: 'One thing have I desired of the Lord, and
that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life.' We may dwell in the house of the Lord all
the days of our lives. We may be in one or other of the many
mansions of the Father's house where-ever we go, and may be doing
the will of the Father in heaven in all that we do. Then we shall be
at rest; then we shall be strong; then we shall be pure; then we
shall have deep in our hearts the joyous consciousness, undisturbed
by rebellious wills, that now 'we are the sons of God,' and the
still more joyous hope, undimmed by doubts or mists, that 'it doth
not yet appear what we shall be'; but that wherever we go, it will
be but passing from one room of the great home into another more
glorious still. 'I must be about my Father's business'; let us make
that the motto for earth, and He will say to us in His own good time
'Come home from the field, and sit down beside Me in My house,' and
so we 'shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.'



JOHN THE PREACHER OF REPENTANCE


    'Now, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius
    Cesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and
    Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip
    tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis,
    and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2. Annas and
    Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came
    unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
    3. And he came into all the country about Jordan,
    preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission
    of sins; 4. As it is written in the book of the words
    of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying
    in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make
    His paths straight. 6. Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and
    the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways
    shall be made smooth; 6. And all flesh shall see the
    salvation of God. 7. Then said he to the multitude that
    came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of
    vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
    come! 8. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of
    repentance; and begin not to say within yourselves, We
    have Abraham to our Father: for I say unto you, That
    God is able of these stones to raise up children unto
    Abraham. 9. And now also the axe is laid unto the root
    of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not
    forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    10. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do
    then? 11. He answereth and saith unto them, He that
    hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none;
    and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12. Then
    came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him,
    Master, what shall we do? 13. And he said unto them,
    Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14. And
    the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what
    shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no
    man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with
    your wages.'--LUKE iii. 144.

Why does Luke enumerate so carefully the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities in verses 1 and 2? Not only to fix the date, but, in
accordance with the world-wide aspect of his Gospel, to set his
narrative in relation with secular history; and, further, to focus
into one vivid beam of light the various facts which witnessed to
the sunken civil and darkened moral and religious condition of the
Jews. What more needed to be said to prove how the ancient glory had
faded, than that they were under the rule of such a delegate as
Pilate, of such an emperor as Tiberius, and that the bad brood of
Herod's descendants divided the sacred land between them, and that
the very high-priesthood was illegally administered, so that such a
pair as Annas and Caiaphas held it in some irregular fashion between
them? It was clearly high time for John to come, and for the word of
God to come to him.

The wilderness had nourished the stern, solitary spirit of the
Baptist, and there the consciousness of his mission and his message
'came to him'--a phrase which at once declares his affinity with the
old prophets. Out of the desert he burst on the nation, sudden as
lightning, and cleaving like it. Luke says nothing as to his garb or
food, but goes straight to the heart of his message, 'The baptism of
repentance unto remission of sins,' in which expression the
'remission' depends neither on 'baptism' alone, nor on 'repentance'
alone. The outward act was vain if unaccompanied by the state of
mind and will; the state of mind was proved genuine by submitting to
the act.

In verses 7 to 14 John's teaching as the preacher of repentance is
summarised. Why did he meet the crowds that streamed out to him with
such vehement rebuke? One would have expected him to welcome them,
instead of calling them 'offspring of vipers,' and seeming to be
unwilling that they should flee from the wrath to come. But Luke
tells why. They wished to be baptized, but there is no word of their
repentance. Rather, they were trusting to their descent as exempting
them from the approaching storm, so that their baptism would not
have been the baptism which John required, being devoid of
repentance. Just because they thought themselves safe as being
'children of Abraham,' they deserved John's rough name, 'ye
offspring of vipers.'

Rabbinical theology has much to say about 'the merits of the
fathers.' John, like every prophet who had ever spoken to the nation
of judgments impending, felt that the sharp edge of his words was
turned by the obstinate belief that judgments were for the Gentile,
and never would touch the Jew. Do we not see the same unbelief that
God can ever visit England with national destruction in full force
among ourselves?  Not the virtues of past generations, but the
righteousness of the present one, is the guarantee of national
exaltation.

John's crowds were eager to be baptized as an additional security,
but were slow to repent. If heaven could be secured by submitting to
a rite, 'multitudes' would come for it, but the crowd thins quickly
when the administrator of the rite becomes the vehement preacher of
repentance. That is so to-day as truly as it was so by the fords of
Jordan. John demanded not only repentance, but its 'fruits,' for
there is no virtue in a repentance which does not change the life,
were such possible.

Repentance is more than sorrow for sin. Many a man has that, and yet
rushes again into the old mire. To change the mind and will is not
enough, unless the change is certified to be real by deeds
corresponding. So John preached the true nature of repentance when
he called for its fruits. And he preached the greatest motive for it
which he knew, when he pressed home on sluggish consciences the
close approach of a judgment for which everything was ready, the axe
ground to a fine edge, and lying at the root of the trees. If it lay
there, there was no time to lose; if it still lay, there was time to
repent before it was swinging round the woodman's head. We have a
higher motive for repentance in 'the goodness of God' leading to it.
But there is danger that modern Christianity should think too little
of 'the terror of the Lord,' and so should throw away one of the
strongest means of persuading men. John's advice to the various
classes of hearers illustrates the truth that the commonest field of
duty and the homeliest acts may become sacred. Not high-flying,
singular modes of life, abandoning the vulgar tasks, but the
plainest prose of jog-trot duty will follow and attest real
repentance. Every calling has its temptations--that is to say, every
one has its opportunities of serving God by resisting the Devil.



JOHN'S WITNESS TO JESUS, AND GOD'S


    'And as the people were in expectation, and all men
    mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the
    Christ, or not; 16. John answered, saying unto them
    all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier
    than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not
    worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy
    Ghost, and with fire: 17. Whose fan is in His hand,
    and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather
    the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn
    with fire unquenchable. 18. And many other things, in
    his exhortation, preached he unto the people. 19. But
    Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias
    his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which
    Herod had done, 20. Added yet this above all, that he
    shut up John in prison. 21. Now, when all the people
    were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being
    baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22. And
    the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a
    dove, upon Him; and a voice came from heaven, which
    said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well
    pleased.'--LUKE iii. 15-22.

This passage falls into three parts: John's witness to the coming
Messiah (vs. 15-17); John's undaunted rebuke of sin in high places,
and its penalty (vs. 18-20); and God's witness to Jesus (vs. 21,
22).

I. Luke sharply parts off the Baptist's work as a preacher of
repentance and plain morality from his work as the herald who
preceded the king. The former is delineated in verses 7-14, and its
effect was to set light to the always smouldering expectation of the
Messiah. The people were ready to rally round him if he would say
that he was the coming deliverer. It was a real temptation, but his
unmoved humility, which lay side by side with his boldness, brushed
it aside, and poured an effectual stream of cold water on the
excitement. 'John answered' the popular questionings, of which he
was fully aware, and his answer crushed them.

In less acute fashion, the same temptation comes to all who move the
general conscience. Disciples always seek to hoist their teacher
higher than is fitting. Adherence to him takes the place of
obedience to his message, and, if he is a true man, he has to damp
down misdirected enthusiasm.

Mark John's clear apprehension of the limitations of his work. He
baptized with water, the symbol and means of outward cleansing. He
does not depreciate his position or the importance of his baptism,
but his whole soul bows in reverence before the coming Messiah,
whose great office was to transcend his, as the wide Mediterranean
surpassed the little lake of Galilee. His outline of that work is
grand, though incomplete. It is largely based upon Malachi's closing
prophecy, and the connection witnesses to John's consciousness that
he was the Elijah foretold there. He saw that the Messiah would
surpass him in his special endowment. Strong as he was, that other
was to be stronger. Probably he did not dream that that other was to
wield the divine might, nor that His perfect strength was to be
manifested in weakness, and to work its wonders by the might of
gentle, self-sacrificing love. But, though he dimly saw, he
perfectly adored. He felt himself unworthy (literally, insufficient)
to be the slave who untied (or, according to Matthew, 'bore') his
lord's sandals. How beautiful is the lowliness of that strong
nature! He stood erect in the face of priests and tetrarchs, and
furious women, and the headsman with his sword, but he lay prostrate
before his King.

Strength and royal authority were not all that he had to proclaim of
Messiah. 'He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire.' We
observe that the construction here is different from that in verse
16 ('with water'), inasmuch as the preposition 'in' is inserted,
which, though it is often used 'instrumentaly,' is here, therefore,
more probably to be taken as meaning simply 'in.' The two nouns are
coupled under one preposition, which suggests that they are fused
together in the speaker's mind as reality and symbol.

Fire is a frequently recurrent emblem of the Holy Spirit, both in
the Old and New Testament. It is not the destructive, but the
vitalising, glowing, transforming, energy of fire, which is
expressed. The fervour of holy enthusiasm, the warmth of ardent
love, the melting of hard hearts, the change of cold, damp material
into its own ruddy likeness, are all set forth in this great symbol.
John's water baptism was poor beside Messiah's immersion into that
cleansing fire. Fire turns what it touches into kindred flame. The
refiner's fire melts metal, and the scum carries away impurities.
Water washes the surface, fire pierces to the centre.

But while that cleansing by the Spirit's fire was to be Messiah's
primary office, man's freedom to accept or reject such blessing
necessarily made His work selective, even while its destination was
universal. So John saw that His coming would part men into two
classes, according as they submitted to His baptism of fire or not.
The homely image of the threshing-floor, on some exposed, windy
height, carries a solemn truth. The Lord of the harvest has an
instrument in His hand, which sets up a current of air, and the
wheat falls in one heap, while the husks are blown farther, and lie
at the edge of the floor. Mark the majestic emphasis on the Christ's
ownership in the two phrases, '_His_ floor' and '_His_ garner.'

Notice, too, the fact which determines whether a man is chaff or
wheat--namely, his yielding to or rejecting the fiery baptism which
Christ offers. Ponder that awful emblem of an empty, rootless,
fruitless, worthless life, which John caught up from Psalm I.
Thankfully think of the care and safe keeping and calm repose
shadowed in that picture of the wheat stored in the garner after the
separating act. And let us lay on awed hearts the terrible doom of
the chaff. There are two fires, to one or other of which we must be
delivered. Either we shall gladly accept the purging fire of the
Spirit which burns sin out of us, or we shall have to meet the
punitive fire which burns up us and our sins together. To be
cleansed by the one or to be consumed by the other is the choice
before each of us.

II. Verses 18-20 show John as the preacher and martyr of
righteousness. Luke tells his fate out of its proper place, in order
to finish with him, and, as it were, clear the stage for Jesus.
Similarly the Baptist's desert life is told by anticipation in
chapter i. 80. That treatment of his story marks his subordination.
His martyrdom is not narrated by Luke, though he knew of it (Luke
ix. 7-9), and this brief summary is all that is said of his heroic
vehemence of rebuke to sin in high places, and of his suffering for
righteousness' sake. John's message had two sides to it, as every
gospel of God's has. To the people he spoke good tidings and
exhortations; to lordly sinners he pealed out stern rebukes.

It needs some courage to tell a prince to his face that he is foul
with corruption, and, still more, to put a finger on his actual
sins. But he is no prophet who does not lift up his voice like a
trumpet, and speak to hardened consciences. King Demos is quite as
impatient of close dealing with his immorality as Herod was. London
and New York get as angry with the Christian men who fight against
their lust and drunkenness as ever he did, and would not be sorry if
they could silence these persistent 'fanatics' as conveniently as he
could. The need for courage like John's, and plain speech like his,
is not past yet. The 'good tidings' has rebuke as part of its
substance. The sword is two-edged.

III. The narrative now turns to Jesus, and does not even name John
as having baptized Him. The peculiarities of Luke's account of the
baptism are instructive. He omits the conversation between Jesus and
John, and the fact of John's seeing the dove and hearing the voice.
Like Mark, he makes the divine voice speak directly to Jesus,
whereas Matthew represents it as spoken _concerning_ Him. The
baptism itself is disposed of in an incidental clause (_having
been baptized_). The general result of these characteristics is
that this account lays emphasis on the bearing of the divine witness
as borne to Jesus Himself. It does not deny, but simply ignores, its
aspect as a witness borne to John.

Another striking point is Luke's mention of Christ's prayer, which
is thus represented as answered by the opened heavens, the
descending dove, and the attesting voice. We owe most of our
knowledge of Christ's prayers to this Evangelist, whose mission was
to tell of the Son of man. Mysteries beyond our plummets are
contained in this story; but however unique it is, it has this which
may be reproduced, that prayer unveiled heaven, and brought down the
dove to abide on the bowed head, and the divine attestation of
sonship to fill the waiting heart.

We need not dwell on the beautiful significance of the emblem of the
dove. It symbolised both the nature of that gracious, gentle Spirit,
and the perpetuity and completeness of its abode on Jesus. Others
receive portions of that celestial fullness, but itself, as if
embodied in visible form, settled down on Him, and, with meekly
folded wings, tarried there unscared. 'God giveth not the Spirit by
measure unto Him.'

Our Evangelist does not venture into the deep waters, nor attempt to
tell what was the relation between the Incarnate Word, as it dwelt
in Jesus before that descent, and the Spirit which came upon Him. We
shall be wise if we refrain from speculating on such points, and
content ourselves with knowing that there has been one manhood
capable of receiving and retaining uninterruptedly the whole Spirit
of God; and that He will fill us with the Spirit which dwelt in Him,
in measure and manner corresponding to our need and our faith.

The heavenly voice spoke to the heart of the man Jesus. What was His
need of it, and what were its effects on Him, we do not presume to
affirm. But probably it originated an increased certitude of the
consciousness which dawned, in His answer to Mary, of His unique
divine sonship. To us it declares that He stands in an altogether
unexampled relation of kindred to the Father, and that His whole
nature and acts are the objects of God's complacency. But He has
nothing for Himself alone, and in Him we may become God's beloved
sons, well pleasing to the Father.



THE TEMPTATION


    4 And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned
    from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the
    wilderness, 2. Being forty days tempted of the devil.
    And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they
    were ended, He afterward hungered. 3. And the devil
    said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, command this
    stone that it be made bread, 4. And Jesus answered him,
    saying, It is written, That man shall not live by
    bread alone, but by every word of God. 5. And the
    devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed
    unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of
    time. 6. And the devil said unto Him, All this power
    will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is
    delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
    7. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be
    Thine. 8. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get
    thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt
    worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou
    serve. 9. And he brought Him to Jerusalem and set Him
    on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If
    Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence:
    10. For it is written, He shall give His angels charge
    over Thee, to keep Thee; 11. And in their hands they
    shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy
    foot against a stone. 12. And Jesus answering, said
    unto Him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord
    Thy God. 13. And when the devil had ended all the
    temptation, he departed from Him for a season.'
    --LUKE iv. 1-13.

If we adopt the Revised Version's reading and rendering, the whole
of the forty days in the desert were one long assault of Jesus by
Satan, during which the consciousness of bodily needs was suspended
by the intensity of spiritual conflict. Exhaustion followed this
terrible tension, and the enemy chose that moment of physical
weakness to bring up his strongest battalions. What a contrast these
days made with the hour of the baptism! And yet both the opened
heavens and the grim fight were needful parts of Christ's
preparation. As true man, He could be truly tempted; as perfect man,
suggestions of evil could not arise within, but must be presented
from without. He must know our temptations if He is to help us in
them, and He must 'first bind the strong man' if He is afterwards
'to spoil his house.' It is useless to discuss whether the tempter
appeared in visible form, or carried Jesus from place to place. The
presence and voice were real, though probably if any eye had looked
on, nothing would have been seen but the solitary Jesus, sitting
still in the wilderness.

I. The first temptation is that of the Son of man tempted to
distrust God. Long experience had taught the tempter that his most
taking baits were those which appealed to the appetites and needs of
the body, and so he tries these first. The run of men are drawn to
sin by some form or other of these, and the hunger of Jesus laid Him
open to their power--if not on the side of delights of sense, yet on
the side of wants. The tempter quotes the divine voice at the
baptism with almost a sneer, as if the hungry, fainting Man before
him were a strange 'Son of God.' The suggestion sounds innocent
enough; for there would have been no necessary harm in working a
miracle to feed Himself. But its evil is betrayed by the words, 'If
Thou art the Son of God,' and the answer of our Lord, which begins
emphatically with 'man,' puts us on the right track to understand
why He repelled the insidious proposal even while He was faint with
hunger. To yield to it would have been to shake off for His own sake
the human conditions which He had taken for our sakes, and to seek
to cease to be Son of man in acting as Son of God. He takes no
notice of the title given by Satan, but falls back on His
brotherhood with man, and accepts the laws under which they live as
His conditions.

The quotation from Deuteronomy, which Luke gives in a less complete
form than Matthew, implies, even in that incomplete form, that bread
is not the only means of keeping a man in life, but that God can
feed Him, as He did Israel in its desert life, with manna; or, if
manna fails, by the bare exercise of His divine will. Therefore
Jesus will not use His power as Son of God, because to do so would
at once take Him out of His fellowship with man, and would betray
His distrust of God's power to feed Him there in the desert. How
soon His confidence was vindicated Matthew tells us. As soon as the
devil departed from Him, 'angels came and ministered unto Him.' The
soft rush of their wings brought solace to His spirit, wearied with
struggle, and once again 'man did eat angels' food.'

This first temptation teaches us much. It makes the manhood of our
Lord pathetically true, as showing Him bearing the prosaic but
terrible pinch of hunger, carried almost to its fatal point. It
teaches us how innocent and necessary wants may be the devil's
levers to overturn our souls. It warns us against severing ourselves
from our fellows by the use of distinctive powers for our own
behoof. It sets forth humble reliance on God's sustaining will as
best for us, even if we are in the desert, where, according to
sense, we must starve; and it magnifies the Brother's love, who for
our sakes waived the prerogatives of the Son of God, that He might
be the brother of the poor and needy.

II. The second temptation is that of the Messiah, tempted to grasp
His dominion by false means. The devil finds that he must try a
subtler way. Foiled on the side of the physical nature, he begins to
apprehend that he has to deal with One loftier than the mass of men;
and so he brings out the glittering bait, which catches the more
finely organised natures. Where sense fails, ambition may succeed.
There is nothing said now about 'Son of God.' The relation of Jesus
to God is not now the point of attack, but His hoped--for relation
to the world. Did Satan actually transport the body of Jesus to some
eminence? Probably not. It would not have made the vision of all the
kingdoms any more natural if he had. The remarkable language 'showed
... all ... in a moment of time' describes a physical impossibility,
and most likely is meant to indicate some sort of diabolic
phantasmagoria, flashed before Christ's consciousness, while His
eyes were fixed on the silent, sandy waste.

There is much in Scripture that seems to bear out the boast that the
kingdoms are at Satan's disposal. But he is 'the father of lies' as
well as the 'prince of this world,' and we may be very sure that his
authority loses nothing in his telling. If we think how many thrones
have been built on violence and sustained by crime, how seldom in
the world's history the right has been uppermost, and how little of
the fear of God goes to the organisation of society, even to-day, in
so-called Christian countries, we shall be ready to feel that in
this boast the devil told more truth than we like to believe. Note
that he acknowledges that the power has been 'given,' and on the
fact of the delegation of it rests the temptation to worship. He
knew that Jesus looked forward to becoming the world's King, and he
offers easy terms of winning the dignity. Very cunning he thought
himself, but he had made one mistake. He did not know what kind of
kingdom Jesus wished to establish. If it had been one of the bad old
pattern, like Nebuchadnezzar's or Caesar's, his offer would have
been tempting, but it had no bearing on One who meant to reign by
love, and to win love by loving to the death.

Worshipping the devil could only help to set up a devil's kingdom.
Jesus wanted nothing of the 'glory' which had been 'given' him. His
answer, again taken from Deuteronomy, is His declaration that His
kingdom is a kingdom of obedience, and that He will only reign as
God's representative. It defines His own position and the genius of
His dominion. It would come to the tempter's ears as the broken law,
which makes his misery and turns all his 'glory' into ashes. This is
our Lord's decisive choice, at the outset of His public work, of the
path of suffering and death. He renounces all aid from such arts and
methods as have built up the kingdoms of earth, and presents Himself
as the antagonist of Satan and his dominion. Henceforth it is war to
the knife.

For us the lessons are plain. We have to learn what sort of kingdom
Jesus sets up. We have to beware, in our own little lives, of ever
seeking to accomplish good things by questionable means, of trying
to carry on Christ's work with the devil's weapons. When churches
lower the standard of Christian morality, because keeping it up
would alienate wealthy or powerful men, when they wink hard at sin
which pays, when they enlist envy, jealousy, emulation of the baser
sort in the service of religious movements, are they not worshipping
Satan? And will not their gains be such as he can give, and not such
as Christ's kingdom grows by? Let us learn, too, to adore and be
thankful for the calm and fixed decisiveness with which Jesus chose
from the beginning, and trod until the end, with bleeding but
unreluctant feet, the path of suffering on His road to His throne.

III. The third temptation tempts the worshipping Son to tempt God.
Luke arranges the temptations partly from a consideration of
locality, the desert and the mountain being near each other, and
partly in order to bring out a certain sequence in them. First comes
the appeal to the physical nature, then that to the finer desires of
the mind; and these having been repelled, and the resolve to worship
God having been spoken by Jesus, Luke's third temptation is
addressed to the devout soul, as it looks to the cunning but shallow
eyes of the tempter. Matthew, on the other hand, in accordance with
his point of view, puts the specially Messianic temptation last. The
actual order is as undiscoverable as unimportant. In Luke's order
there is substantially but one change of place--from the solitude of
the wilderness to the Temple. As we have said, the change was
probably not one of the Lord's body, but only of the scenes flashed
before His mind's eye. 'The pinnacle of the Temple' may have been
the summit that looked down into the deep valley where the enormous
stones of the lofty wall still stand, and which must have been at a
dizzy height above the narrow glen on the one side and the Temple
courts on the other. There is immense, suppressed rage and malignity
in the recurrence of the sneer, 'If Thou art the Son of God' and in
the use of Christ's own weapon of defence, the quotation of
Scripture.

What was wrong in the act suggested? There is no reference to the
effect on the beholders, as has often been supposed; and if we are
correct in supposing that the whole temptation was transacted in the
desert, there could be none. But plainly the point of it was the
suggestion that Jesus should, of His own accord and needlessly, put
Himself in danger, expecting God to deliver Him. It looked like
devout confidence; it was really 'tempting God'. It looked like the
very perfection of the trust with which, in the first round of this
duel, Christ had conquered; it was really distrust, as putting God
to proof whether He would keep His promises or no. It looked like
the very perfection of that worship with which He had overcome in
the second round of the fight; it wag really self-will in the mask
of devoutness. It tempted God, because it sought to draw Him to
fulfil to a man on self-chosen paths His promises to those who walk
in ways which He has appointed.

We trust God when we look to Him to deliver us in perils met in meek
acceptance of His will. We tempt Him when we expect Him to save us
from those encountered on roads that we have picked oat for
ourselves. Such presumption disguised as filial trust is the
temptation besetting the higher regions of experience, to which the
fumes of animal passions and the less gross but more dangerous airs
from the desires of the mind do not ascend. Religious men who have
conquered these have still this foe to meet. Spiritual pride, the
belief that we may venture into dangers either to our natural or to
our religious life, where no call of duty takes us, the thrusting
ourselves, unbidden, into circumstances where nothing but a miracle
can save us-these are the snares which Satan lays for souls that
have broken his coarser nets. The three answers with which Jesus
overcame are the mottoes by which we shall conquer. Trust God, by
whose will we live. Worship God, in whose service we get all of this
world that is good for us. Tempt not God, whose angels keep us in
our ways, when they are His ways, and who reckons trust that is not
submission to His ways to be tempting God, and not trusting Him.

'All the temptation' was ended. So these three made
a complete whole, and the quiver of the enemy was for
the time empty. He departed 'for a season,' or rather,
until an opportunity. He was foiled when he tried
to tempt by addressing desires. His next assault will
be at Gethsemane and Calvary, when dread and the
shrinking from pain and death will be assailed as
vainly.



PREACHING AT NAZARETH


    'And He began to say unto them, This day is this
    scripture fulfilled In your ears.'--LUKE iv. 21.

This first appearance of our Lord, in His public work at Nazareth,
the home of His childhood, was preceded, as we learn from John's
Gospel, by a somewhat extended ministry in Jerusalem. In the course
of it, He cast the money-changers out of the Temple, did many
miracles, had His conversation with Nicodemus, and on His return
towards Galilee met the woman of Samaria at the well. The report of
these things, no doubt, had preceded Him, and kindled the Nazarenes'
curiosity to see their old companion who had suddenly shot up into a
person of importance, and had even made a sensation in the
metropolis. A great man's neighbours are keen critics of, and slow
believers in, his greatness. So it was natural and very prudent that
Jesus should not begin His ministry in Nazareth.

We can easily imagine the scene that morning in the little village,
nestling among the hills. How many memories would occupy Christ as
He entered the synagogue, where He had so often sat a silent
worshipper! How Mary's eyes would fill with tears if she was there,
and how the companions of His boyhood, who used to play with Him,
would watch Him; all curious, some sympathetic, some jealous, some
contemptuous!

The synagogue service began with prayer and praise. Then followed
two readings, one from the Law, one from the Prophets. When the
latter point was reached, in accordance with usage, Jesus rose,
thereby signifying His desire to be reader of the Prophetic portion.
We can understand how there would be a movement of quickened
attention as the roll was handed to Him and He turned its sheets. He
'found the place'; that looks as if He sought for it; that is to
say, that it was not the appointed lesson for the day--if there was
such--but that it was a passage selected by Himself.

I need not enter upon the divergences between Luke's quotation as
given in our English version and the Hebrew. They are partly due to
the fact that he is quoting from memory the Greek version of the
LXX. He inserts, for instance, one clause which is not found in that
place in Isaiah, but in another part of the same prophet. Having
read standing, as was the usage, in token of reverence for the
Scripture, Jesus resumed His seat, not as having finished, but, as
was the usage, taking the attitude of the teacher, which signified
authority. And then, His very first sentence was the most unlimited
assertion that the great words which He had been reading had reached
their full accomplishment in Himself. They are very familiar to our
ears. If we would understand their startling audacity we must listen
to them with the ears of the Nazarenes, who had known Him ever since
He was a child. 'This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.'
Now, it seems to me that this first sermon of our Lord's to His old
fellow-townsmen brings into striking prominence some characteristics
of His whole teaching, to which I desire briefly to direct
attention.

I. I note Christ's self-assertion.

To begin in Nazareth with such words as these in my text was
startling enough, but it is in full accord with the whole tone of
our Lord's teaching. If you will carefully search for the most
essential characteristics and outstanding differentia of the words
of Jesus Christ, even if you make all allowance that some make
for the non-historical character of the Gospels, you have this left
as the residuum, that the impression which He made upon the men that
were nearest to Him, and that caught up most fully the spirit of His
teaching, was that the great thing that differentiated it from all
other was His unhesitating persistence in pushing into the very
forefront, His testimony about Himself. I do not think that there is
anything parallel to that anywhere else amongst the men whom the
world recognises as being great religious geniuses or great moral
teachers. What characterises as perfectly unique our Lord's teaching
is not only the blessed things that He said about God or the deep
truths that He said about men and their duty, or the sad things that
He said about men and their destiny, or the radiant hopes that He
unveiled as to men and their possibility, but what He said about
Himself. His message was not so much 'Believe in God and do right,'
as it was 'Believe in Me and follow Me.'

I need only point you to the Sermon on the Mount, which is popularly
supposed to contain very little of Christ's reference to Himself, and to
remind you how there, in that authoritative proclamation of the laws of
the new kingdom, He calmly puts His own utterances as co-ordinate
with--nay! as superior to--the utterances of the ancient law, and sweeps
aside Moses--though recognising Moses' divine mission--with an 'I say
unto you.' I need only remind you, further, how, at the end of that
'compendium of reasonable morality,' He lays down this principle--that
these sayings of 'Mine' are a rock-foundation, on which whoever builds
shall never be put to confusion. This is but a specimen of the golden
thread, if I may call it so, of self-assertion which runs through the
whole of our Lord's teaching.

Now, I venture to say that this undeniable characteristic is only
warranted on the supposition that He is the Son of God, and His work
the salvation of the world. If He is so, if 'He that hath seen Me
hath seen the Father,' if the revelation of Himself which He makes
is the Revelation of God, if His death is for the life of the world;
and if, when we honour Him, we honour God; when we trust Him, we
trust God; when we obey Him we obey God; then I can understand His
persistent self-assertion. But otherwise does He not deliberately
intercept emotions which are only rightly directed to God? Does He
not claim prerogatives, such as forgiveness of sins, bestowal of
life, answering of prayer, which are only possessed by the Divine
Being?

I know that many who will not go with me in my intellectual
formularising of the truth about Christ's nature do bow to Him with
unfeigned reverence. But it seems to me, I humbly confess, that
there is no logical basis for such reverence except the full-toned
recognition that the mystery of His self-assertion is explained by
the mystery of His nature, God manifest in the flesh. I, for my
part, do not see how the moral perfectness of Jesus Christ is to be
saved, in view of that unmistakable strand in His teaching, unless
by such admission. Rather, I feel that the recognition of it brings
us face to face with the tremendous alternative, and that the people
who were moved to indignation by His self-assertion because they
recognised not His divine origin, and said 'This man blasphemeth';
'This deceiver said,' have more to say in defence of their
conclusion than those who bow before Him with reverence, and declare
Him to be the pattern of all human perfectness, and yet falter when
they are asked to join in the great confession, 'Thou are the
Christ, the Son of the living God.'

II. Secondly, note here our Lord's sad conception of humanity.

There are, as it were, two strands running through the prophetic
passage which He quotes, one in reference to Himself, one in
reference to those whom He came to help. To the latter I now turn,
to get our Lord's point of view when He looked upon the facts of
human life.

No man will ever do much for the world whose ears have not been
opened to hear its sad music. An inadequate conception of its
miseries is sure to lead to inadequate prescriptions for their
remedy. We must bear upon our own hearts the burdens that we seek to
lift off our brothers' shoulders. There is nothing about the
Master's words concerning mankind more pathetic and more plain than
the sad, stern, and yet pitying view which He always took concerning
them and their condition.

In the passage on which Jesus based His claims, as given by Luke,
one of the clauses is probably not in this place genuine, for 'the
healing of the brokenhearted' should be struck out of the true text.
There are then four symbols employed: the poor, the captives, the
blind, the bruised. And these four are representations of the result
of one fell cause, and that is--sin.

Sin impoverishes. Our true wealth is God. No man that possesses Him,
by love, and trust, and conformity of will and effort to His
discerned will, is poor, whatever else he has, whatever else he
lacks. And no man who has lost this one durable treasure, the loving
communion with, and possession of, God, in mind and heart and will
and effort, but is a pauper whatever else he possesses. Wherever a
man has sold himself to his own will, and has made himself and his
own inclinations and misread good his centre and his aim, which is
the definition of sin, there bankruptcy and poverty have come.
Thieves sometimes beset travellers from the gold mines, as they are
bringing down their dust or their nuggets to market, and empty the
pockets of the gold, and fill them up with sand. That is what sin
does for us; it takes away our true treasure, and befools us by
giving us what seems to be solid till we come to open the bag; and
then there is no power in it to buy anything for us. 'Why will ye
spend your labour for that which satisfieth not?' The one poverty is
the impoverishment that lays hold of every soul that wrenches
itself, in self-will, apart from God. Sin makes poor.

Sin not only impoverishes, but imprisons 'the captives.' Ah! you
have only to think of your own experience to find out what that
means. Is there nothing in the set of your affections, in the
mastery that your passion has over you, in the habits of your lives,
which you know as well as God knows it, to be wrong and ruinous, and
of which you have tried to get rid? I know the answer, and every one
of us, if we will look into our own hearts, knows it: we are 'tied
and bound by the chains of our sin.' You do not need to go to
inebriate homes, where there are people that would cut their right
hands off if they could get rid of the craving, and cannot, to find
instances of this bondage. We have only to be honest with ourselves,
and to try to pull the boat against the stream instead of letting it
drift with it, to know the force with which the current runs. A tiny
thread like a spider's draws after it a bit of cotton a little
thicker, and knotted to that there is a piece of pack-thread, and
after that a two-stranded cord, and then a cable that might hold an
ironclad at anchor. That is a parable of how we draw to ourselves,
by imperceptible degrees, an ever-thickening set of manacles that
bind our wills and make us the servants of sin. 'His slaves ye are
whom ye obey.' Sin imprisons. That is, your sin--do not let us
befool ourselves with abstractions--_your_ sin imprisons you.

Sin blinds. Wherever there comes over a soul the mist of self-will
and self-regard, sight fails; and all the greatest things are
blurred and blotted. The man that is immersed in his own evil is
like one plunged in the ocean. The cold, salt waters are about him,
and above him; and to him the glories of the sky, and the brightness
of the sun, the tenderness of the colouring, are all blotted out. He
who goes through life as some of us do, never seeing God, never
seeing the loftiest beauty of goodness, never beholding with any
clearness of vision the radiant possibilities of the future and its
awful threatenings, may indeed see the things an inch from the point
of his nose; but he is blind and cannot see afar off, and can only
behold, and that darkly, the insignificances that are around him.
Sin blinds.

And sin bruises. It takes all the health out of us, and makes us,
from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, masses of
'wounds and bruises and putrifying sores.'

The enchantress having worked all this havoc, then gives us a cup of
illusion which, when we drink, we know not that there is anything
the matter with us. We are like a lunatic in a cell, who thinks
himself a prince in a palace, and though living on porridge and
milk, fancies that he is partaking of all the dainties of a
luxurious table. The deceitfulness of sin is not the least of its
tragical consequences.

III. Lastly, we have here our Lord's conception of Himself and of
His own work.

Your time will not allow of my dwelling upon this as I would fain
have done, but let me point out one or two of the salient features
of this initial programme of His. He claims to be the theme and the
fulfilment of prophecy. Now, whatever influences modern notions
about the genesis of the Old Testament, and the characteristics of
its prophetic utterances may have done, they have not touched, and
they never will touch, this one central characteristic of all that
old system, that embedded in it there was an onward-looking gaze,
anticipatory of a higher fulfilment and a further development of all
that it taught. To those of us to whom Christ's words are the end of
all strife I need only point out that, here, He endorses the belief
that prophetic utterances, however they may have had, and did have,
a lower and immediate meaning, were only realised in the whole sweep
and significance in Himself. So He presents Himself before His
acquaintances in the little synagogue at Nazareth, and before the
whole world to all time, as the centre-point and pivot on which the
history of the world, so to speak, revolves; all that was before
converging to Him, all that was after flowing down from Him. 'They
that went before, and they that followed after, cried, Hosanna!
blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.'

He claims to possess the whole fullness of the divine Spirit: 'The
Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.' That is a reminiscence, no doubt, of
the experience by the fords of the Jordan, at the Baptism. But it
also opens up a wondrous consciousness, on His part, of a complete
and uninterrupted possession of the divine life in all its fullness,
which involves an entire separation from the miseries and needs of
men. He claims to be the Messiah of the Old Covenant, with all the
fullness of meaning, and loftiness of dignity which clustered round
that word and that thought. He claims not only to proclaim, but to
bestow, the blessings of which He speaks. For He not only comes to
'preach good tidings to the poor,' but 'to heal the broken-hearted,'
and 'to set at liberty all them that are bound.' He is the Gospel
which He utters. He not merely proclaims the favour of heaven, but
He brings 'the acceptable year of the Lord.'

This, in barest outline--which is all that your time will admit--is
the summary of what Jesus Christ, in that first sermon in the
synagogue at Nazareth, asserted Himself to be.

He does not detail the means by which He is about to bring the
golden year, the year of Jubilee, 'the acceptable year of the Lord.'
But I venture to say that it is hard to find, in the life of Jesus
Christ, that which fulfils Christ's own programme, as thus
announced, unless you bring in His death on the Cross for the
abolition of sin, His Resurrection for the abolition of death; His
reign in glory for the bestowment on all sinful and bruised souls of
the Spirit of healing and of righteousness.

These Nazarenes listened. Their hearts and consciences attested the
magnetic power of His personality, and the truth of His word. So do
the hearts and consciences of most of us. They wondered at the 'words
of grace'--whose matter was grace, whose manner was gracious--that
proceeded from His mouth. So do most of us. But they let the incipient
movement of their hearts be arrested by the cold, carping question,
'Is not this Joseph's son?' and all the enthusiasm chilled into
indifference; 'indignation' followed, and some of those who had
almost been drawn to Him, in an hour's time had their hands on His
robe, to cast Him from the brow of the hill on which their village
was built. Every man who comes to the point of feeling some emotions
towards Christ as his Redeemer, as his King, is at a fork of the
road. He may either take to the right, which will lead him to full
communion and acceptance; or he may go to the left, which will carry
him away out into the desert. The critical hour in the alchemist's
laboratory was when the lead in his crucible began to melt. If a
cold current got at it, it resumed its dead solidity, and no gold
could be made.

Brother! do not let the world's cold currents get at your heart and
freeze it again, if you feel that in any measure it is beginning to
melt into penitence, and to flow with faith. The same voice that in
the synagogue of Nazareth said, 'He hath anointed Me to preach the
Gospel to the poor' speaks to us to-day from heaven, saying, 'I
counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest
be rich ... and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest
see.'


***

A SABBATH IN CAPERNAUM


    'And in the synagogue there was a man which had a
    spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud
    voice, 34. Saying, Let us alone; 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. 35. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy
    peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had
    thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt
    him not. 36. And they were all amazed, and spake among
    themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with
    authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits,
    and they come out. 37. And the fame of Him went out
    into every place of the country round about. 38. And
    He arose out of the synagogue, and entered into
    Simon's house: and Simon's wife's mother was taken
    with a great fever; and they besought Him for her.
    39. And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and
    it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered
    unto them. 40. Now, when the sun was setting, all they
    that had any sick with divers diseases brought them
    unto Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them,
    and healed them. 41. And devils also came out of many,
    crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ, the Son of
    God. And He, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak:
    for they knew that He was Christ. 42. And when it was
    day, He departed, and went into a desert place; and the
    people sought Him, and came unto Him, and stayed Him,
    that He should not depart from them. 43. And He said
    unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other
    cities also: for therefore am I sent. 44. And He
    preached in the synagogues of Galilee.'--LUKE iv.33-44.

There are seven references to Christ's preaching in the synagogues
in this chapter, and only two in the rest of this Gospel. Probably
our Lord somewhat changed His method, and Luke, as the Evangelist of
the gospel for Gentile as well as Jew, emphasises the change, as
foreshadowing and warranting the similar procedure in Paul's
preaching. This lesson takes us down from the synagogue at Nazareth,
among its hills, to that at Capernaum, on the lakeside, where Jesus
was already known as a worker of miracles. The two Sabbaths are in
sharp contrast. The issue of the one is a tumult of fury and hate;
that of the other, a crowd of suppliants and an eager desire to keep
Him with them. The story is in four paragraphs, each showing a new
phase of Christ's power and pity.

I. Verses 33-37 present Christ as the Lord of that dark world of
evil. The hushed silence of the synagogue, listening to His gentle
voice, was suddenly broken by shrieks of rage and fear, coming from
a man who had been sitting quietly among the others. Possibly his
condition had not been suspected until Christ's presence roused his
dreadful tyrant. The man's voice is at the demon's service, and only
Jesus recognises who speaks through the wretched victim. We take for
granted the reality of demoniacal possession, as certified for all
who believe Jesus, by His words and acts in reference to it, as well
as forced on us, by the phenomena themselves, which are clearly
distinguishable from disease, madness, or sin. The modern aversion
to the supernatural is quite as much an unreasonable prejudice as
any old woman's belief in witchcraft  and Professor Huxley, making
clumsy fun of the 'pigs at Gadara,' is holding opinions in the same
sublime indifference  to evidence of facts as the most superstitious
object of his narrow-visioned scorn.

Napoleon called 'impossible' a 'beast of a word.' So it is in
practical life,--and no less so when glibly used to discredit
well-attested facts. We neither aspire to the omniscience which
pronounces that there can be no possession by evil spirits, nor
venture to brush aside the testimony of the Gospels and the words of
Christ, in order to make out such a contention.

Note the rage and terror of the demon. The presence  of purity is a
sharp pain to impurity, and an evil spirit is stirred to its depths
when in contact with Jesus. Monstrous growths that love the dark
shrivel and die in sunshine. The same presence which is joy to some
may be a very hell to others. We may approach even here that state
of feeling which broke out in these shrieks of malignity, hatred,
and dread. It is an awful thing when the only relief is to get away
from Jesus, and when the clearest recognition of His holiness only
makes us the more eager to disclaim any connection with Him. That is
the hell of hells. In its completeness, it makes the anguish of the
demon; in its rudiments, it is the misery of some men.

Observe too, the unclean spirit's knowledge, not only of the
birthplace and name, but of the character and divine relationship of
Jesus. That is one of the features of demoniacal possession which
distinguish it from disease or insanity, and is quite incapable of
explanation on any other ground. It gives a glimpse into a dim
region, and suggests that the counsels of Heaven, as effected on
earth, are keenly watched and understood by eyes whose gleam is
unsoftened by any touch of pity or submission. It is most natural,
if there are such spirits, that they should know Jesus while men
knew Him not, and that their hatred should keep pace with their
knowledge, even while by the knowledge the hatred was seen to be
vain.

Observe Christ's tone of authority and sternness. He had pity for
men, who were capable of redemption, but His words and demeanour to
the spirits are always severe. He accepts the most imperfect
recognition from men, and often seems as if labouring to evoke it,
but He silences the spirits' clear recognition. The confession which
is 'unto salvation' comes from a heart that loves, not merely from a
head that perceives; and Jesus accepts nothing else. He will not
have His name soiled by such lips.

Note, still further, Christ's absolute control of the demon. His
bare word is sovereign, and secures outward obedience, though from
an unsubdued and disobedient will. He cannot make the foul creature
love, but He can make him act. Surely Omnipotence speaks, if demons
hear and obey. Their king had been conquered, and they knew their
Master. The strong man had been bound, and this is the spoiling of
his house. The question of the wondering worshippers in the
synagogue goes to the root of the matter, when they ask what they
must think of the whole message of One whose word gives law to the
unclean spirits; for the command to them is a revelation to us, and
we learn His Godhead by the power of His simple word, which is but
the forth-putting of His will.

We cannot but notice the lurid light thrown by the existence of such
spirits on the possibility of undying and responsible beings
reaching, by continued alienation of heart and will from God, a
stage in which they are beyond the capacity of improvement, and
outside the sweep of Christ's pity.

II. Verses 38 and 39 show us Christ in the gentleness of His healing
power, and the immediate service of gratitude to Him. The scene in
the synagogue manifested 'authority and power,' and was prompted by
abhorrence of the demon even more than by pity for his victim; but
now the Lord's tenderness shines unmingled with sternness. Mark
gives details of this cure, which, no doubt, came from Peter--such
as his joint ownership of the house with his brother, the names of
the companions of Jesus, and the infinitely tender action of taking
the sick woman by the hand and helping her to rise. But Luke, the
physician, is more precise in his description of the case: 'holden
by a great fever.' He traces the cure to the word of rebuke, which,
no doubt, accompanied the clasp of the hand.

Here again Christ puts forth divine power in producing effects in
the material sphere by His naked word. 'He spake and it was done.'
That truly divine prerogative was put forth at the bidding of His
own pity, and that pity which wielded Omnipotence was kindled by the
beseechings of sorrowing hearts. Is not this miracle, which shines
so lustrously by the side of that terrible scene with the demon, a
picture in one case, and that the sickness of one poor and probably
aged woman, of the great truth that heartens all our appeals to Him?
He who moves the forces of Deity still from His throne lets us move
His heart by our cry.

Luke is especially struck with one feature in the case--the
immediate return of usual strength. The woman is lying, the one
minute, pinned down and helpless with 'great fever,' and the next is
bustling about her domestic duties. No wonder that a physician
should think so abnormal a case worthy of note. When Christ heals,
He heals thoroughly, and gives strength as well as healing. What
could a woman, with no house of her own, and probably a poor
dependant on her son-in-law, do for her healer? Not much. But she
did what she could, and that without delay. The natural impulse of
gratitude is to give its best, and the proper use of healing and new
strength is to minister to Him. Such a guest made humble household
cares worship; and all our poor powers or tasks, consecrated to His
praise and become the offerings of grateful hearts, are lifted into
greatness and dignity. He did not despise the modest fare hastily
dressed for Him; and He still delights in our gifts, though the
cattle on a thousand hills are His. 'I will sup with him,' says He,
and therein promises to become, as it were, a guest at our humble
tables.

III. Verses 40 and 41 show us the all-sufficiency of Christ's pity
and power. The synagogue worship would be in the early morning, and
the healing of the woman immediately after, and the meal she
prepared the midday repast. The news had time to spread; and as soon
as the sinking sun relaxed the Sabbatical restrictions, a motley
crowd came flocking round the house, carrying all the sick that
could be lifted, all eager to share in His healing. The same kind of
thing may be seen yet round many a traveller's tent. It did not
argue real faith in Him, but it was genuine sense of need, and
expectation of blessing from His hand; and the measure of faith was
the measure of blessing. They got what they believed He could give.
If their faith had been larger, the answers would have been greater.

But men are quite sure that they want to be well when they are ill,
and bodily healing will be sought with far more earnestness and
trouble than soul-healing. Crowds came to Jesus as Physician who
never cared to come to Him as Redeemer. Offer men the smaller gifts,
and they will run over one another in their scramble for them; but
offer them the highest, and they will scarcely hold out a languid
hand to take them.

But the point made prominent by Luke is the inexhaustible fullness
of pity and power, which met and satisfied all the petitioners. The
misery spoke to Christ's heart; and so as the level rays of the
setting sun cast a lengthening shadow among the sad groups, He moved
amidst them, and with gentle touch healed them all. To-day, as then,
the fountain of His pity and healing power is full, after thousands
have drawn from it, and no crowd of suppliants bars our way to His
heart or His hands. He has 'enough for all, enough for each, enough
for ever more.'

The reference to demoniacs adds nothing to the particulars in the
earlier verses except the evidence it gives of the frequency of
possession then.

IV. Verses 42-44 show us Jesus seeking seclusion, but willingly
sacrificing it at men's call. He withdraws in early morning, not
because His store of power was exhausted, or His pity had tired, but
to renew His communion with the Father. He needed solitude and
silence, and we need it still more. No work worth doing will ever be
done for Him unless we are familiar with some quiet place, where we
and God alone together can hold converse, and new strength be poured
into our hearts. Our Lord is here our pattern, also, of willingly
leaving the place of communion when duty calls and men implore. We
must not stay on the Mount of Transfiguration when demoniac boys are
writhing on the plain below, and heart-broken fathers wearying for
our coming. A great, solemn 'must' ruled His life, as it should do
ours, and the fulfilment of that for which He 'was sent' ever was
His aim, rather than even the blessedness of solitary communion or
repose of the silent hour of prayer.



INSTRUCTIONS FOR FISHERMEN


    'Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon,
    Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a
    draught.'--LUKE v. 4.

The day's work begins early in the East. So the sun, as it rose
above the hills on the other side of the lake, shone down upon a
busy scene, fresh with the dew and energy of the morning, on the
beach by the little village of Bethsaida. One group of fishermen was
washing their nets, their boats being hauled up on the strand. A
crowd of listeners was thus early gathered round the Teacher; but
the fishermen, who were His disciples, seem to have gone on with
their work, never minding Christ or the crowd. It is sometimes quite
as religious to be washing nets as to be listening to Christ's
teaching.

The incident which follows the words of my text, and which is called
the first miraculous draught of fishes, is stamped by our Lord
Himself with a symbolic purpose; for at the end of it He says: 'Fear
not! from henceforth thou shalt catch men.' And that flings back a
flood of light on the whole story; and not only warrants but obliges
us to take it as being by Him intended for the instruction in their
Christian work of these four whom He has chosen to be His workers.
However many of our Lord's miracles may not come under this category
of symbolism (and I, for my part, do not believe that there are any
of them which do not), this one clearly does. We have His own
commentary to compel us to interpret its features as meaning
something beyond what appears on the surface. I take it, then, that
we have here a first vivid code of instructions which our Lord gives
to all His servants who do work for Him; and I wish to look at the
various stages of this incident from that point of view.

If there are any of my hearers who think to themselves, 'Ah, well!
he is not going to say anything that I have anything to do with,' so
much the worse for you, if you are not a Christian; or, so much the
worse for you if, being a Christian, you are not an active servant.
Jesus Christ had four disciples who were fishermen, and out of them
He made four fishers of men. The obligation is universal.

I. The Law of Service.

'Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.'
Now there is nothing more remarkable in the whole narrative than the
matter-of-course fashion in which our Lord takes the disposal of
these men, and orders them about. It is not explicable unless we
fall back upon what Luke does not tell us, but John does, in his
Gospel, that this was by no means the first time that He had come
across Peter and Andrew his brother, or James and John his brother.
We do not need to trouble ourselves with the chronological question
how long before they had been drawn to Him at the fords of Jordan by
the witness of John the Baptist, and by the witness of some of them
to the others. The relationship had been then commenced which is
presupposed by our Lord's authoritative tone here. It leads in the
incident of my text to a closer discipleship, which did not admit of
Simon and John hauling or cleaning their nets any more. They had
been disciples before in a certain loose fashion, a fashion which
permitted them to go home and look after their ordinary avocations.
Hence-forward they were disciples in a much more stringent fashion.
It was because they had already said 'Rabbi! Thou art the Son of
God! Thou art the King of Israel,' that this strange imperative
command, inexplicable, except by the supplement of the last of the
four Gospels, came from Christ's lips and secured immediate
obedience.

If we thus understand that His authority follows on our
discipleship, and that the words of my text, first of all, insist
upon and assert His right to command and absolutely dispose of the
activities, resources, and persons of all His disciples, we have
learned something that we only need to practise in order to make our
lives noble with a strange nobility, and blessed and sweet with an
unearthly sanctity and blessedness.

Further, the words of my text not only declare for us thus the
absolute authority of Jesus Christ over all His disciples, but also
reveal His sweet promise and gracious assurance that He cares to
guide, to direct, to prescribe spheres, to determine methods, to
lead those who docilely look to Him and wait upon Him, in paths in
which their activity may most profitably be employed for Him and for
His Church. If there is anything that is declared to us plainly in
the Scriptures, with regard to the relationships between men and
Jesus Christ, it is this, that a docile heart will always be a
guided heart, partly by inward whispers, which only they disbelieve
who limit God in His relation to men, beyond what they have a right
to do; and partly by outward providences which only they disbelieve
who limit God in His power over the external world, beyond what they
have a right to do. He will guide, sometimes with His eye, to which
the loving eye flashes back response; sometimes with His whispered
word, when the noises of earth and the pulsations of self-will are
stilled; sometimes with His rod, which the less sensitive of His
sons do often need; sometimes by successes in paths that we venture
upon tentatively and timidly; and sometimes by failures in paths
into which we rush confidently and presumptuously; but always, the
waiting heart is a guided heart, and if we listen we shall hear
'This is the way, walk ye in it.' And sometimes it is God's will
that we should make mistakes, for these too help us to learn His
will.

But, further, and more particularly, I do not think that I am unduly
reading too much meaning into this story, if I ask you to put emphasis
upon one word, 'Launch out into the _deep_.' As long as you keep
pottering along, a boat's length from the shore, you will only catch
little fishes. The big ones, and the heavy takes are away out yonder.
Go out there, if you want to get them. Which, being translated, is
this--The same spirit of daring enterprise, which is a condition of
success in secular matters, is no less potent a factor in the success
of Christian men in their enterprises for Jesus Christ. As long as we
keep Him down, within the limits of use and wont, and are horribly
afraid of anything that our great-grandfathers did not use to do,
there will be very few fish in the bottom of the boat.

Oh, brethren! if one thinks of the world into which it has been
God's providence to put us, a world all seething with new
aspirations and unrest--if we think of the condition of the great
city in which we live, which is only a specimen of the cities of
England, and of the tragical insufficiency of Christian enterprise
and effort, as compared with the overwhelming masses of the
community, surely, surely, there is nothing more wanted to make
Christian people wake up from their old jog-trot habits, and cast
themselves with new earnestness, new daring and enterprise, into
forms of service which conscience and sober wisdom may approve. Of
course, I do not forget that any such new methods must each approve
themselves at the tribunal of the Christian consciousness. It is no
part of my business here to descend into details and particulars,
but I do want to lay on my own heart, and especially on the hearts
of the members of the church of which I have the honour to be the
pastor, and also upon all other Christian people whom my voice may
reach, the solemn responsibility which the conditions of life in our
generation lay upon Christian men and women, 'Launch out into the
deep and let down your nets.' I believe, for my part, that if all
the good, God-fearing, Christ-loving men and women in Manchester
were to hear this voice sounding in their ears, and to obey it, they
would change the face of the city.

II. The Response.

Peter, characteristically, speaks out, and says exactly what a
fisherman would be likely to say to a carpenter from Nazareth, that
came down to teach him his business. The landsman would not know
what the fisherman knew well enough, that it was useless to go
fishing in the morning if you had not caught anything all night.
There was very little chance of getting any better success when the
sun's rays were glinting on the surface of the water.

'We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.' Experience
said, 'No! do not.' Christ said, 'Yes! do.' And so when Peter has
made a clean breast of his objection, founded on experience, he goes
on with the consent prompted by the devotion and consecration of
love, 'nevertheless.' A great word that. 'We have toiled all the
night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at _Thy_ word we will
let down the net. So here goes.' And away they went, breakfastless
perhaps, with their nets half cleaned, and sleepy and tired with the
night's work.

Here, then, we see obedience that springs delighted to obey, because
it is impelled by love. That is the spirit which can be trusted to
go out into the deep, which does not ask whether things are
recognised and usual or not, but which, if once it is sure of the
Lord's will, takes no counsel of anything else. How should it,
seeing that there is nothing so delightsome to a heart that truly
loves as to know and do the will of its beloved? And that, dear
brethren, is the spirit that all we Christian people need--a deeper,
more vivid, more continual, soul-subduing, muscle-straining
consciousness that Jesus Christ 'loved me and gave Himself for me.'
Then His whisper will be like thunder, and the motto of our lives
will be 'At Thy word, I will!'

Further, here is obedience that was not in the least degree
depressed by the recognition of past failure. All night long they
had been dropping the net overboard, and drawing it in, and with
horny, wet hands seeking in its meshes, and finding nothing. Then
overboard with it again, and more pulling at the heavy sweeps, till
the dawn began to show, and all in vain. Now the weary task must be
done all over again, though in all the past hours though they were
the best, there has been only failure.

I think that our Christian courage and consecration would be
immensely increased, if we could learn the lesson of my text; and
feel that, however often in the past I may have broken down, the
word of Christ's command, which thrills into my will, is also the
word of Christ's promise which should stay my heart, and give me the
assurance that past defeat shall be converted into future victory.

There is an obedience which did not grudge fresh toil before the
effect of past toils had been quite got over. The nets, as I said,
were only half cleaned. It was a pity to begin and dirty them again.
The fishers had had a very hard night's toil. If they had been like
some of us they would have said, 'Oh! I have been working hard all
the night. I cannot possibly do any more this morning.' 'I am so
very busy with my business all the week, that it is perfectly absurd
to talk about my teaching in a Sunday-school.' That was not their
spirit at all. No matter how they had to rub their eyes to get the
sleep out of them, they just bundled the nets into the boat once
more, pushed her down the strand, and shoved her out into the blue
waters at Christ's bidding. And that is the sort of workmen that He
wants, and that you and I should be.

Further, we have here an obedience that kept the Master's word
sounding in its heart whilst it was at work. 'At Thy word will I let
down the net.'

Ah! we very often begin working with a very pure motive, and as we
go on, the motive gradually oozes away, and what was begun in the
spirit is continued in the flesh; and what was begun with a true
devotion to Jesus Christ is continued because we were doing it
yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and
because it is the custom to do it. So we go on. The heart having all
gone out of our service, the blessing is gone out of it too. But if
we will keep our hearts near that Lord and listen to His voice
calling us, wearied or not wearied, beaten before or not beaten
before, and do as He bids us, launch out into the deep, we shall not
toil in vain.

III. The result.

Christ's command ever includes His promise. Work done for Him is never
resultless. True, His most faithful servants have often to say, if
they look at their few sheaves with the eye of sense, 'I have spent
my strength for nought.' True, the Apostolic experience is, at the
best, but too exactly repeated, 'Some believed, and some believed not.'
Christ's Gospel always produces its twofold effect, being 'a savour of
life unto life, or of death unto death.' If the great Sower, when He
went forth to sow, expected but a fourth part of the seed to fall into
good ground, His servants need look for no larger results. But still
it remains true that honest, earnest work for Jesus, wisely planned
and prayerfully carried out with self-oblivion and self-surrender, will
not be unblessed. If our labour is 'in the Lord,' it will not be 'in
vain.' Just as pain is a danger signal, pointing to mischief at work
on the body, so failure in achieving the results of Christian service
is, for the most part, an indication of something wrong in method or
spirit.

But, if we are toiling in loving obedience to Christ's voice, and
seeking His direction as to sphere and manner of service, we may be
quite sure of this, that whether we get, immediately or no, the
outward and visible results which this incident promises to all who
fulfil the conditions, we shall get the results which were
symbolised in the second form of this miraculous draught of fishes.
For, if you remember, there was another incident at the end of
Christ's life, modelled upon this one, and equally significant,
though in a different fashion. On that occasion, when the disciples
had been toiling all the night, and saw, in the dim twilight of the
morning, the questionable figure standing on the shore there, they
were bidden to bring of the fish that they had caught, and when they
came to land they saw a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon, and
bread; and His voice said, 'Come, and eat!' Blessed are the workers
that work for the Master, for living they shall not be left without
His blessing, and dying, 'they rest from their labours'--by the side
of that mysterious fire, and Christ-provided food--'and their works
do follow them, in that they bring of the fish which they have
caught.



FEAR AND FAITH


    'When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees,
    saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'
    --LUKE v. 8.

    'Now, when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he
    girt his fisher's coat unto him,... and did cast
    himself into the sea.'--JOHN xxi. 7.

These two instances of the miraculous draught of fishes on the Lake
of Gennesareth are obviously intended to be taken in conjunction.
Their similarities and their differences are equally striking and
equally instructive. In the fragment of the incident which I have
selected for our consideration now, we have the same man, in the
same scene and circumstances, in the presence of the same Lord,
acting under the influences of the same motive, and doing two
exactly opposite things.

In the first case, the miracle at once struck him with the
consciousness that he was now, in some way, he knew not how, in the
immediate presence of the supernatural. That was immediately
followed by a quick spasm and sense of sin, and that again by a
recoil of terror, and that again by the cry, 'Go out of the boat;
for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'

In the other instance, as soon as he saw (or rather, by the help of
his friend's clearer sight, learned) that that dim and questionable
figure on the morning beach there, was the Lord, the sight brought
back his sin to his mind. But this time the consciousness of sin
sent him splashing over the side, and through the shallow water, to
struggle anyhow to get close to his Lord, not because he thought
more complacently of himself or less loftily of his Master, but
because he had learned that the best place for a sinful man was as
close to Christ as ever he could get. And so, if we put these two
incidents together, we get two or three thoughts that it is worth
our while to dwell upon.

I. I ask you to notice, first, that instinctive and swift awaking of
conscience.

This was not Peter's first acquaintance with Jesus Christ, nor his
first enrolment in the ranks of disciples. John's Gospel tells the
very beginning, and how, long before this incident, he had
recognised Jesus Christ to be the King of Israel. This was not his
first experience of a miracle. There had been many wrought in
Capernaum of which probably he was an observer; and he had been at
the wedding of Cana of Galilee; and in many ways and at many times,
no doubt had seen manifestations of our Lord's supernatural power.
But here, in his own boat, with his own nets, about his own sort of
work, the thing came home to him as it never had come home before.
And although he had long ago recognised Jesus Christ as the Messiah,
there is a new, tremulous accession of conviction in that 'O Lord!'
It means more than 'Master,' as he had just called Jesus. It means
more than he knew himself, no doubt, but it means at least a great,
sudden illumination as to who and what Christ was. And so the
consciousness of sin flashes upon him at once, as a consequence of
that new vision of the divine, as manifested in Jesus Christ. The
links of the process of thought are suppressed. We only see the two
ends of it. He passed through a series of thoughts with lightning
rapidity. The beginning was the recognition of Christ as in some
sense the manifestation to him of the Divine Presence, and the end
of it was the recognition of his own sinfulness. He had no new
facts; but new meaning and vitality were given to the facts that had
long been familiar to him. The first result of this was a new
conviction of his own hollowness and evil; and then, side by side
with that sense of demerit and sin, came this other trembling
apprehension of personal consequences. And so, not thinking so much
about the sin as about the punishment that he thought must
necessarily come when the holy and the impure collided, he cried,
'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'

Now I take it that you get there, in that one instance, packed into
small and picturesque compass, just the outlines of what it is
reasonable and right that there should always go on in a heart when
it first catches a glimpse of the purity, and holiness, and nearness
of God, and of the awful, solemn verity that we do, each of us for
himself, stand in a living, personal relation to Him. That sudden
conviction may come by a thousand causes. A sunset opening the gates
to the infinite distance may do it. A chance word may do it. A
phrase in a sermon may do it. Some personal sorrow or sickness may
do it. Any accidental push may touch the spring, and then the door
flies open, for we all of us carry, buried deep down in most of us,
and not easily got at, that hidden conviction, only needing the
letting in of air to flame up, that we have indeed to do with a
living God; that we are sinful and He is pure, and that, that being
the case, the discord between us, if we come to close quarters, must
end disastrously for us.

You remember the grand vision of Isaiah, how, when he saw the King
sitting on His throne, 'high and lifted up, and His train filled the
Temple,' the first thought was, not of rapture at the Apocalypse,
not of adoration of the greatness, not of aspiration after the
purity, not of any desire to join in the 'Holy! Holy! Holy!' of the
burning spirits, but 'Woe is me, for I am undone; for mine eyes have
seen the King; for I am a man of unclean lips.' Ah, brethren!
whenever the commonplaces of our professed religious belief are
turned into realities for us, and these things that we have all been
familiar with from our childhood, flame before us as true and real,
then there comes something analogous to the experience of that other
Old Testament character--'I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the
ear, but now mine eyes see Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and
repent in dust and ashes.'

And then there comes, in like manner, and there ought to come, along
with this new vision of a God in His purity, and the new sense of my
own sinfulness, the apprehension of personal evil. For, although it
be the lowest of its functions, it is a function of conscience, not
only to say to me, 'It is wrong to do what is wrong,' but to say,
too, 'If you do wrong, you will have to bear the consequences.' I
believe that a part of the instinctive voice of conscience is the
declaration, not only of a law, but of a Lawgiver, and that part of
its message to me is not only that sin is a transgression of the
law, but that 'the wages of sin is death.'

Now, let me ask you to ask yourselves whether it is not a strange
and solemn and sad testimony to the reality and universality of the
fact of sin that the sense of impurity and dread of its issues are
the uniform results of any vivid, thrilling consciousness of
nearness to God. And let me ask you to ask yourself one other
question, and that is, whether it is a wise thing to live upon a
surface that may be shattered at any moment; whether that is true
peace which needs but a touch to melt away; whether you are wise
with all this combustible material deep down in your conscience, in
paying no regard to it but living and frolicking, and feasting and
trafficking, and lusting and sinning on the surface, like those
light-hearted, light-headed fools that build their houses on the
slopes of volcanoes when the lava rush may come at any moment?

II. That brings me to note, secondly, the mistaken cry of fear.

Peter felt uneasy in the presence of that pure eye, and he also
felt, and was mistaken in feeling, that somehow or other he would be
safer if he was not so near the Master. Well, if it were true that
Jesus Christ brought God near to him, and if it were true that the
proximity of God was the revelation of his blackness and the
premonition and prophecy of evil to himself, would getting Christ
out of the boat help him much? The facts would remain the same. The
departure of the physician does not tend to cure the disease; and
thus the cry,' Go away from me because I am sinful,' was all but
ludicrous if it had not been so tragical in its misapprehension of
the facts of the case and the cure for them.

Now the parallel to that, with you and me, is--what? How do we
commit this same error? By trying to get rid of the thoughts which
evoke these uncomfortable feelings of being impure and in peril. But
does ceasing to remember the facts make any difference in the facts?
Surely not. Just recall for a moment the many ways in which people
manage to blind themselves to these plain, and to some of us
unwelcome, truths. You may do it by availing yourselves of that
strange power that we all have, of not attending to things that we
do not like to think about. It is a strange thing that a man should
be able to do that; it is a sad thing that any man should be fool
enough to do it. But there are many among my hearers, I have no
doubt whatever, who know that if they were to let their thoughts
dwell on the facts of their own characters and relation to God they
would be uncomfortable, and who, therefore, do their best to keep
such thoughts at a safe distance. So, as soon as the sermon is over,
some of you will begin to criticise me, or to discuss politics, or
gossip, and so get rid of the impressions that the truth might
produce. Or you fling yourselves into business. One of the reasons
for the fierce energy which some men throw into their common
avocations is their knowledge that if they have leisure, there may
come into their chambers, and sit down beside them there, these
unwelcome thoughts, that kill mirth. Some of you try to get rid of
the Christ out of your boat by another way. You plunge into
sensualism, and live in the low, vulgar atmosphere of fleshly
delight and sensuous excitements in order to drown thought. And some
of you do it by the even simpler process of merely giving no heed to
such thoughts when kindled. The fire, unfed and unstirred, goes out.
That is one way in which people come to have consciences, to use the
dreadful words of the New Testament, 'seared as with a hot iron.' If
you will only never listen to it, it will stop speaking after a
while, and then you will have an exemption from all these thoughts.
When Felix first heard about temperance and righteousness and
judgment to come he trembled, but paid no heed to his tremor, and
said, 'Go away for this time, and when I am not busy at anything
else, I will have thee back again.' He did have Paul back again many
a time, and communed with him, but we never read that he trembled
any more. The impression is not always reproduced, although the
circumstances that produced it at first may be. The most
impenetrable armour in which to clothe oneself against the sword of
the Spirit is hammered out of former convictions that were never
acted on. A soul cased in these is very hard to get at.

But consider the folly of seeking to get rid of truth, however
unwelcome, under the delusion that it ceases to be true because we
cease to look at it. Christ's leaving the boat would not have helped
Peter. The facts remained, however he refused to look at them. If he
could have changed them by getting rid of Him who reminded him of
them, it might have been worth while to send Him away--but to
dismiss the physician is a new way of curing the disease. Pain is an
alarm bell for the physical nature to point to something wrong
there, and this sense of evil, this shrinking from God regarded as
the judge, is the alarm bell in the spiritual nature to warn of
something wrong there. Do you think that you banish the danger for
which the alarm bell is rung because you wrap a clout round the
clapper so as to prevent it from sounding? and do you think that you
make it less true that 'every transgression and disobedience shall
receive its just recompense of reward' by bidding your conscience
hold its peace when it tells you so, or by trying to drown its voice
amidst the shouts of revelry, or the whirr of spindles, or the roar
of traffic? By no means. The facts remain; and nothing except what
deals with the facts is the cure which a wise man will adopt.

You remember the old story of the king of Babylon who sat feasting
on the night when the city was captured. When the Finger came out
and wrote upon the wall, 'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,' it did not
stop the feast. They went on with their rioting, and whilst they
were carousing, the enemy was creeping up the dried bed of the
diverted river, 'and in that night was Belshazzar slain' amidst his
wine-cups, and the flowers on his temples were dabbled with his
blood. No more insane way of curing the consciousness of sin and the
dread of judgment than that of stifling the voice that evokes it was
ever dreamed of in an asylum.

III. Lastly, notice the right place for a sinful man.

On the second occasion to which our texts refer we have the Apostle
far more deeply conscious of his sin than he was on the first. He
remembered his denial, and no doubt he remembered also the secret
interview that Jesus Christ had with him on the day of the
Resurrection, when, no doubt, He communicated to him His frank and
full assurance of forgiveness, He knows far more of Christ's dignity
and character and nature after the Resurrection than he had done on
that day, long ago, by the banks of the lake. The deeper sense of
his own sin, and the clearer and loftier view of who and what Jesus
Christ was, send him struggling to his Master, and make him blessed
only at His feet.

Ah yes, brother! the superficial knowledge of my evil may drive me
away from Jesus Christ; the deepest conviction of it will send me
right into His arms. A partial knowledge of the divine nature as
revealed in Him as judge, and punitive and necessarily antagonistic
to the blackness of my sin, in the lustrous whiteness of His purity,
may drive me away from Him, but the deeper knowledge of God
manifested in Jesus Christ, the long-suffering, the gentle, loving,
pardoning, will send me to Him in all the depth of my self-abasement
and in the confidence in His love as covering over my sin and
accepting me. Where does the child go when it has transgressed
against its mother's word? Into its mother's arms to hide its face
upon her bosom near her heart. 'Against Thee, Thee only have I
sinned'; and therefore to Thee, Thee only will I go. Only in
nearness to Jesus Christ can we get the anodyne that quiets the
conscience--the blessed assurance of forgiveness that lightens us of
our burden and dread, and the power for holiness that will change
our impurity into the likeness of His own purity. He, and He only,
can forgive. He, and He only, brings the loving God into the midst
of unloving men. He, and He only, hath offered the sacrifice in
which all sin is done away. He, and He only, by the communication of
His Spirit and life to me, will make me pure and deliver me from the
burden of my sin.

And so the man who knows his own need and Christ's grace will not
say, 'Depart from me for I am a sinful man,' but he will say, 'Leave
me never, nor forsake me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord; but in Thee
I have forgiveness and righteousness.'

Dear friends! that consciousness of demerit once evoked in a man's
heart, however imperfectly, as I believe it is in some of your
hearts now, must issue in one of two things. Either it will send you
further into darkness to get away from the light, as the bats in a
cave will flit to the deepest recesses of it in order to escape the
torch, or it will bring you nearer to Him, and at His feet you will
find cleansing.

Oh, dear friends!--strangers many of you, but all friends--let me
beseech you that, if the merciful Spirit of God is in any measure
using my poor words to touch your consciences and hearts, you would
not venture to seek escape from the convictions which are stirring
in you by any other way than by betaking yourselves to the Cross.
Let it not be, I pray you, that because you know yourselves to be in
need of forgiveness, and to stand in peril of judgment, you say to
God,' Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.'
But rather do you cast yourselves into Christ's arms and keep near
Him; saying as this same Peter did, on another occasion, 'Lord! to
whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.'



BLASPHEMER, OR--WHO?


    'And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was
    teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the
    law sitting by, which were come out of every town of
    Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem; and the power of
    the Lord was present to heal them. 18. And, behold,
    men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a
    palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to
    lay him before Him. 19. And when they could not find
    by what way they might bring him in because of the
    multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him
    down through the tiling, with his couch, into the
    midst before Jesus. 20. And when He saw their faith,
    He said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
    21. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason,
    saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who
    can forgive sins but God alone? 22. But when Jesus
    perceived their thoughts, He, answering, said unto
    them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23. Whether is
    easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say,
    Rise up and walk! 24. But that ye may know that the
    Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He
    said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee,
    Arise, and take up thy couch, and go unto thine house.
    25. And immediately he rose up before them, and took
    up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house,
    glorifying God. 26. And they were all amazed, and they
    glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We
    have seen strange things to-day.'--LUKE v. 17-26.

Luke describes the composition of the unfriendly observers in this
crowd with more emphasis and minuteness than the other Evangelists
do. They were Pharisees and doctors, and they were assembled from
every part of Galilee, and even from Judea, and, what was most
remarkable, from Jerusalem itself. Probably the conflict with the
authorities in the capital recorded in John v. had taken place by
this time, and if so, a deputation from the Sanhedrim would very
naturally be despatched to Capernaum, and its members would as
naturally summon the local lights to sit with them, and watch this
revolutionary young teacher, who had no licence from them, and
apparently not much reverence for them.

One can easily imagine that these heresy-hunters would be much too
superior persons to mix with the crowd about the door of Peter's
house, and would, as Luke says, be 'sitting by,' near enough to see
and hear, but far enough to show that they had no share in the
vulgar enthusiasm of these provincial peasants. They were too holy
to mingle with the mob, so they kept together by themselves, and
waited hopefully for some heresy or breach of their multitudinous
precepts. They got more than they expected.

We may note the contrast between their cynical watchfulness and the
glorious manifestations for which they had no eyes. 'The power of
the Lord'--that is, of Christ--'was' (operative) 'in His healing,'
or, according to another reading, 'to heal them.' But the critics
took no heed of that. There is a temper of mind which is sharp-eyed
as a lynx for faults, and blind as a bat to evidences of divine
power in the Gospel or its adherents. Some noses are keen to smell
stenches, and dull to perceive fragrance. The race of such
inquisitors is not extinct.

They contrast, too, with the earnestness of the four friends who
brought the paralysed man. The former sat cool and critical, because
they had no sense of need either for themselves or for others. The
latter made all the effort they could to fight through the crowd,
and then took to the roof by some outside stair, and hastily
stripping off enough of the tiling, lowered their friend, bed and
all, right down in front of the young Rabbi. The house would be low,
and the roof slight, and Jesus was probably seated in an open inner
court or verandah, At any rate, the description gives a piece of
local colour, and presents no improbability.

Earnestness in striving to come oneself or to bring a dear one to
Christ's feet seems a supremely absurd waste of energy to a cynical
critic, who feels no need of anything that Christ can give. It looks
rather different to the paralytic on his couch, and to the friends
who long for his healing.

The first lesson from this incident is that our deepest need is
forgiveness. No doubt, something in the paralytic's case determined
Christ's method with him. Perhaps his sickness had been brought on
by dissipation, and possibly conscience was lashing him with a whip
of scorpions, so that, while his friends sought for his healing, he
himself was more anxious for pardon. It is very unlikely that Jesus
would have offered forgiveness unless He had known that it was
yearned for. But whether that is so or not, we may fairly generalise
the order of givings in this miracle, and draw from it the lesson
that what Jesus then gave first is His chief gift. In most of His
other miracles He gave bodily healing first. First or second, it is
always Christ's chief gift in the beginning of discipleship. His
miracles of bodily healing are parables of that higher miracle. This
incident brings out what is always the order of relative importance,
whether it is that of chronological sequence or not.

And we all need to lay that truth to heart for ourselves. No
tinkering with superficial discomforts, or culture of intellect and
taste, or success in worldly pursuits, will avail to stanch the deep
wound through which our life-blood is ebbing out. We need something
that goes deeper than all these styptics. Only a power which can
deal with our sense of sin, and soothe that into blessed assurance
of pardon, is strong enough to grapple with our true root of misery.
It is useless to give a man dying of cancer medicine for pimples.
That is what all attempts to make man happy and restful while sin
remains unforgiven, are doing.

Social reformers need this lesson. Many voices proclaim many gospels
to-day. Culture, economical or social reconstruction, is trumpeted
as the panacea. But it matters comparatively little how society is
organised. If its individual members retain their former natures,
the former evils will come back, whatever its organisation. The only
thorough cure for social evils is individual regeneration. Christ
deals with men singly, and remoulds society by renewing the
individual. The most elaborate machinery may be used for filtering
the black waters. What will be the good of that if the fountain of
blackness is not sealed up, or rather purified, at its hidden
source? Make the tree good, and its fruit will be good. To make the
tree good, you must begin with dealing with sin.

The second lesson from this incident is that Christ's claim to
forgive sins is either blasphemy or the manifest token of divinity.
These Pharisees scented heresy at once. They were blind to the
pathos of the story, and hard as millstones towards the poor
sufferer's wistful looks. But they pounced at once gleefully on
Christ's words. They were perfectly right in their premises that
forgiveness was a divine prerogative which no man could share. For
sin is the name of evil, when considered in its relation to God. He
only can forgive it, for 'against Thee, Thee only,' as David
confessed, is it committed. True, the same act may be full of
harmful results to men, and may be a breach of human law, but in its
character as sin it refers to God only. Forgiveness is the
outpouring of God's love on a sinner, uninterrupted by his sin. Only
God can pour out that love.

But the cavillers were quite wrong in their conclusion. He did not
'blaspheme.' The fact that Jesus knew and answered their whispered
or unspoken 'reasonings in their hearts' might have taught them that
here was more than a rabbi, or even a prophet. But He goes on to
reiterate His assertion that He has power to forgive sins.

Observe that He does not deny their premises. Nor does He, as He was
bound in common honesty to do, set them right if they were wrong in
supposing that He had claimed divine power. A wise religious
teacher, who saw himself misunderstood as asserting that he could
give what he only meant to assure a penitent that God would give,
would have instantly said, 'Do not mistake me. I am only doing what
every servant of God's should and can do, telling this poor brother
that God is ready to forgive. God forbid that I should be supposed
to do more than to declare his forgiveness!' Christ's answer is the
strongest possible contrast to that. He knew what these Pharisees
supposed Him to have meant by His authoritative words, and knowing
it, He repeats them, and points to the miracle about to be done as
their vindication.

Is there any possible way of escaping from the conclusion that Jesus
solemnly and deliberately laid claim to exercise the divine
prerogative of dispensing pardon? If He did, what shall we say of
Him? Surely there is no third judgment of Him and His words
possible; but either the Pharisees were right, and 'this man,' this
pattern of all meekness and perfect example of humility, blasphemed,
or else Peter was right when he said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son
of the living God.'

The third lesson is that the visible effects of Christ's power
attest the reality of His claim to produce the invisible effects of
peaceful assurance of forgiveness. It was equally easy to say, 'Thy
sins are forgiven thee,' and to say, 'Take up thy bed and walk.' It
was equally impossible for a mere man to forgive, and to give the
paralytic muscular force to move. But the one saying could be
tested, and its fulfilment verified by sight. The other could not;
but if the visible impossibility was done, it was a witness that the
invisible one could be.

The striking way in which our Lord weaves in His command to the
palsied man to take up his bed with His words to the Pharisees is
preserved in all the Gospels, and gives vividness to the narrative,
while it brings out the main purpose of the miracle. It was a
demonstration in the visible sphere of Christ's power in the
invisible. Both were divine acts, and that which could be verified
by sight established the reality of that which could not.

The same principle may be widely extended. It includes all the
outward effects of Christ's gospel in the world. There are abundance
of these which are patent to fair-minded observers. If one wishes to
know what these are, he has only to contrast heathen lands with
those in which, however imperfectly, Jesus is recognised as King and
Example. The lives of His disciples are full of faults, but they
should, and in a measure, do, witness to the reality of His gifts of
forgiveness and conquest of sin. He has done more to restore
strength to humanity paralysed for good than all other would-be
physicians put together have done; and since He has visibly effected
such manifest changes on outward lives, it is no rash conclusion to
draw that He can change the inward nature. If He has healed the
palsy, that is a work surpassing human power, and it proves that He
can forgive the sin which brought the paralysis, and tied the
helpless sufferer to his couch of pain.



LAWS OF THE KINGDOM


    'And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said,
    Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God,
    21. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be
    filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall
    laugh. 22. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you,
    and when they shall separate you from their company,
    and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as
    evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23. Rejoice ye in
    that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward
    is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their
    fathers unto the prophets. 24. But woe unto you that
    are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
    25. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.
    Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and
    weep. 26. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well
    of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
    27. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies,
    do good to them which hate you, 28. Bless them that
    curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use
    you. 29. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one
    cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away
    thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. 30. Give
    to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that
    taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31. And as
    ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them
    likewise.'--LUKE vi. 20-31.

Luke condenses and Matthew expands the Sermon on the Mount. The
general outline is the same in both versions. The main body of both
is a laying down the law for Christ's disciples. Luke, however,
characteristically omits what is prominent in Matthew, the polemic
against Pharisaic righteousness, and the contrast between the moral
teaching of Christ and that of the law. These were appropriate in a
Gospel which set forth Jesus as the crown of earlier revelation,
while Luke is true to the broad humanities of his Gospel, in setting
forth rather the universal aspect of Christian duty, and gathering
it all into the one precept of love.

The fragment which forms the present passage falls into two parts--the
description of the subjects of the kingdom and their blessedness,
contrasted with the character of the rebels; and the summing up of
the law of the kingdom in the all-including commandment of love.

I. The subjects and blessedness of the kingdom, and the rebels. It
is to be well kept in view that the discourse is addressed to 'His
disciples.' That fact remembered would have saved some critics from
talking nonsense about the discrepancy between Luke and Matthew, and
supposing that the former meant merely literal poverty, hunger, and
tears. No doubt he omits the decisive words which appear in Matthew,
who appends 'in spirit' to 'poor,' and 'after righteousness' to
'hunger and thirst,' but there is no ground for supposing that Luke
meant anything else than Matthew.

Notice that in our passage the sayings are directly addressed to the
disciples, while in Matthew they are cast into the form of general
propositions. In that shape, the additions were needed to prevent
misunderstanding of Christ, as if He were talking like a vulgar
demagogue, flattering the poor, and inveighing against the rich.
Matthew's view of the force of the expressions is involved in Luke's
making them an address _to the disciples.,_ 'Ye poor' at once
declares that our Lord is not thinking of the whole class of
literally needy, but of such of these as He saw willing to learn of
Him. No doubt, the bulk of them were poor men as regards the world's
goods, and knew the pinch of actual want, and had often had to weep.
But their earthly poverty and misery had opened their hearts to
receive Him, and that had transmuted the outward wants and sorrows
into spiritual ones, as is evident from their being disciples; and
these are the characteristics which He pronounces blessed. In this
democratic and socialistic age, it is important to keep clearly in
view the fact that Jesus was no flatterer of poor men as such, and
did not think that circumstances had such power for good or evil, as
that virtue and true blessedness were their prerogatives.

The foundation characteristic is poverty of spirit, the
consciousness of one's own weakness, the opposite of the delusion
that we are 'rich and increased with goods.' All true subjection to
the kingdom begins with that accurate, because lowly, estimate of
ourselves. Humility is life, lofty mindedness is death. The heights
are barren, rivers and fertility are down in the valleys.

Luke makes hunger the second characteristic, and weeping the third,
while Matthew inverts that order. Either arrangement suggests
important thoughts. Desire after the true riches naturally follows
on consciousness of poverty, while, on the other hand, sorrow for
one's conscious lack of these may be regarded as preceding and
producing longing. In fact, the three traits of character are
contemporaneous, and imply each other. Outward condition comes into
view, only in so far as it tends to the production of these
spiritual characteristics, and has, in fact, produced them, as it
had done, in some measure, in the disciples. The antithetical
characteristics of the adversaries of the kingdom are, in like
manner, mainly spiritual; and their riches, fullness, and laughter
refer to circumstances only in so far as actual wealth, abundance,
and mirth tend to hide from men their inward destitution,
starvation, and misery.

But what paradoxes to praise all that flesh abhors, and to declare
that it is better to be poor than rich, better to feel gnawing
desire than to be satisfied, better to weep than to laugh! How
little the so-called Christian world believes it! How dead against
most men's theory and practice Christ goes! These Beatitudes have a
solemn warning for all, and if we really believed them, our lives
would be revolutionised. The people who say, 'Give me the Sermon on
the Mount: I don't care for your doctrines, but I can understand
_it,' have not felt the grip of these Beatitudes.

Note that the blessings and woes are based on the future issues of
the two states of mind. These are not wholly in the future life, for
Jesus says, 'Yours _is_ the kingdom.' That kingdom is a state
of obedience to God, complete in that future world, but begun here.
True poverty secures entrance thither, since it leads to submission
of will and trust. True hunger is sure of satisfaction, since it
leads to waiting on God, who 'will fulfil the desire of them that
fear Him.' Sorrow which is according to God, cannot but bring us
near Him who 'will wipe away tears from off all faces.'

On the other hand, they who in condition are prosperous and
satisfied with earth, and in disposition are devoid of suspicion of
their own emptiness, and draw their joys and sorrows from this world
alone, cannot but have a grim awaking waiting for them. Here they
will often feel that earth's goods are no solid food, and that
nameless yearnings and sadness break in on their mirth; and in the
dim world beyond, they will start to find their hands empty and
their souls starving.

The fourth of Luke's Beatitudes contrasts the treatment received
from men by the subjects and the enemies of the kingdom. Better to
be Christ's martyr than the world's favourite! Alas, how few
Christians wear the armour of that great saying! They would not set
so much store by popularity, nor be so afraid of being on the
unpopular side, if they did.

II. The second part of the passage contains the summary of the laws
of the kingdom from the lips of the King. Its keynote is love. The
precept follows strikingly on the predictions of excommunication and
hatred. The only weapon to fight hate is love. 'The hate of hate,
the scorn of scorn,' are not Christian dispositions, though Tennyson
tells us that they are the poet's. So much the worse for him if they
are! First, the commandment, so impossible to us unless our hearts
are made Christlike by much dwelling with Christ, is laid down in
the plainest terms. Enmity should only stimulate love, as a gash in
some tree bearing precious balsam makes the fragrant treasure flow.
Who of us has conformed to that law which in three words sums up
perfection? How few of us have even honestly tried to conform to it!

But the command becomes more stringent as it advances. The sentiment
is worth much, but it must bear fruit in act. So the practical
manifestations of it follow. Deeds of kindness, words of blessing,
and highest of all, and the best help to fulfilling the other two,
prayer, are to be our meek answers to evil. Why should Christians
always let their enemies settle the terms of intercourse? They are
not to be mere reverberating surfaces, giving back echoes of angry
voices. Let us take the initiative, and if men scowl, let us meet
them with open hearts and smiles. 'A soft answer turneth away
wrath.' 'It takes two to make a quarrel.' Frost and snow bind the
earth in chains, but the silent sunshine conquers at last, and evil
can be overcome with good.

Our Lord goes on to speak of another form of love--namely, patient
endurance of wrong and unreasonableness. He puts that in terms so
strong that many readers are fain to pare down their significance.
Non-resistance is commanded in the most uncompromising fashion, and
illustrated in the cases of assault, robbery, and pertinacious
mendicancy. The world stands stiffly on its rights; the Christian is
not to bristle up in defence of his, but rather to suffer wrong and
loss. This is regarded by many as an impossible ideal. But it is to
be observed that the principle involved is that love has no limits
but itself. There may be resistance to wrong, and refusal of a
request, if love prompts to these. If it is better for the other man
that a Christian should not let him have his way or his wish, and if
the Christian, in resisting or refusing, is honestly actuated by
love, then he is fulfilling the precept when he says 'No' to some
petition, or when he resists robbery. We must live near Jesus Christ
to know when such limitations of the precept come in, and to make
sure of our motives.

The world and the Church would be revolutionised if even approximate
obedience were rendered to this commandment. Let us not forget that
it _is_ a commandment, and cannot be put aside without disloyalty.

Christ then crystallises His whole teaching on the subject of our
conduct to others into the immortal words which make our wishes for
ourselves the standard of our duty to others, and so give every man
an infallible guide. We are all disposed to claim more from others
than we give to them. What a paradise earth would be if the two
measuring-lines which we apply to their conduct and to our own were
exactly of the same length!



THREE CONDENSED PARABLES


    'And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy
    brother's eye, but perceiveth not the beam that is in
    thine own eye? 42. Either, how canst thou say to thy
    brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in
    thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam
    that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out
    first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt
    thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy
    brother's eye. 43. For a good tree bringeth not forth
    corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth
    good fruit. 44. For every tree is known by his own
    fruit: for of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a
    bramble-bush gather they grapes. 45. A good man, out
    of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that
    which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil
    treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is
    evil; for of the abundance of the heart his mouth
    speaketh, 46. And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do
    not the things which I say? 47. Whosoever cometh to
    Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will
    shew you to whom he is like: 48. He is like a man
    which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the
    foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the
    stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not
    shake it; for it was founded upon a rock. 49. But he
    that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that,
    without a foundation, built an house upon the earth;
    against which the stream did beat vehemently, and
    immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was
    great.'--LUKE vi. 41-49.

Three extended metaphors, which may almost be called parables, close
Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount, and constitute this
passage. These are the mote and the beam, the good and bad trees,
the houses on the rock and on the sand. Matthew puts the first of
these earlier in the sermon, and connects it with other precepts
about judging others. But whichever order is the original, that
adopted by Luke has a clear connection of thought underlying it
which will come out as we proceed.

I. The striking and somewhat ludicrous image of the beam and the
mote is found in Rabbinical writings, and may have been familiar to
Christ's hearers. But His use of it is deeper and more searching
than the rabbis' was. He has just been speaking of blind guides and
their blind followers. That 'parable,' as Luke calls it, naturally
images another defect which may attach to the eye. A man may be
partly blind because some foreign body has got in. If we might
suppose a tacit reference to the Pharisees in the blind guides,
their self-complacent censoriousness would be in view here; but the
application of the saying is much wider than to them only.

Verse 41 teaches that the accurate measurement of the magnitude of
our own failings should precede our detection of our brother's.
Christ assumes the commonness of the opposite practice by asking
'why' it is so. And we have all to admit that the assumption is
correct. The keenness of men's criticism of their neighbour's faults
is in inverse proportion to their familiarity with their own. It is
no unusual thing to hear some one, bedaubed with dirt from head to
foot, declaiming with disgust about a speck or two on his
neighbour's white robes.

Satan reproving sin is not an edifying sight, but Satan criticising
sin is still less agreeable. If only 'he that is without sin among
you' would fling stones, there would be fewer reputations pelted
than there are. Most men know less about their own faults than about
their brother's. They use two pairs of spectacles--one which
diminishes, and is put on for looking at themselves; one which
magnifies, and is worn for their neighbour's benefit. But when their
respective good qualities are to be looked at, the other pair is
used in each case. That is men's way, all the world over.

Christ's question asks the reason for this all but universal
dishonesty of having two weights and measures for faults. He would
have us ponder on the cause, that we may discover the remedy. He
would have us reflect, that we may get a vivid conviction of the
unreasonableness of the practice. There is nothing in the fact that
a fault is mine which should make it small in my judgment; nor, on
the other hand, in the accident that it is another's, which should
make it seem large. A fault is a fault, whoever it belongs to, and
we should judge ourselves and others by the same rule. Only we
should be most severe in its application to ourselves, for we cannot
tell how much our brother has had, to diminish the criminality of
his sin, and we can tell, if we will be honest, how much we have
had, to aggravate that of ours. So the conscience of a true
Christian works as Paul's did when he said 'Of whom I am chief,' and
is more disposed to make its own motes into beams than to censure
its brother's.

The reason, so far as there is a reason, can only lie in our
diseased selfishness, which is the source of all sin. And the
blindness to our 'beams' is partly produced by their very presence.
All sin blinds conscience. A man with a beam in his eye would not be
able to see much. One device of sin, practised in order to withdraw
the doer's attention from his own deed, is to make him censorious of
his fellows, and to compound for the sins he is inclined to by
condemning other people's.

Verse 42 teaches that the conquest of our own discovered evils must
precede efficient attempts to cure other people's. To pose as a
curer of them while we are ignorant of our own faults is,
consciously or unconsciously, hypocrisy, for it assumes a hatred of
evil, which, if genuine, would have found first a field for its
working in ourselves. An oculist with diseased eyes would not be
likely to be a successful operator. 'Physician, heal thyself' would
fit him well, and be certainly flung at him. A cleansed eye will
see the brother's mote clearly, but only in order to help its
extraction. It is a delicate bit of work to get it out, and needs a
gentle hand.

Our discernment of others' faults must be compassionate, not to be
followed by condemnation nor self-complacency but by loving efforts
to help to a cure. And such will not be made unless we have learned
our own sinfulness, and can go to the wrongdoer in brotherly
humility, and win him to use the 'eye-salve' which our conduct shows
has healed us.

II. The second compressed parable of the two trees springs from the
former naturally, as stating the general law of which verse 42 gives
one case, namely, that good deeds (such as casting out the mote) can
only come from a good heart (made good by confession of its own
evils and their ejection). It is often said that Christ's teaching
is unlike that of His Apostles in that He places stress on works,
and says little of faith. But how does He regard works? As fruits.
That is to say, they are of value in His eyes only as being products
and manifestations of character. He does not tell us in this parable
how the character which will effloresce in blossoms and set in
fruits of goodness is produced. That comes in the next parable. But
here is sufficiently set forth the great central truth of Christian
ethics that the inward disposition is the all-important thing, and
that deeds are determined as to their moral quality by the character
from which they have proceeded.

Our actions are our self-revelations. The words are not to be
pressed, as if they taught the entire goodness of one class of men,
so that all their acts were products of their good character, nor
the unmingled evil of another, so that no good of any kind or in any
degree is in them or comes from them. They must be read as embodying
a general truth which is not as yet fully exemplified in any
character or conduct.

In verse 45 the same idea is presented under a different figure--that
of a wealthy man who brings his possessions out of his store-house.
The application of the figure is significantly varied so as to include
the other great department of human activity. Speech is act. It, too,
will be according to the cast of the inner life. Of course, feigned
speech of all sorts is not in view. The lazy judgment of men thinks
less of words than of deeds. Christ always attaches supreme importance
to them. Intentional lying being excluded, speech is an even more
complete self-revelation than act. When one thinks of the floods of
foul or idle or malicious talk which half drown the world as being
revelations of the sort of hearts from which they have gushed, one
is appalled. What a black, seething fountain that must be which
spurts up such inky waters!

III. The third parable, of the two houses, shows in part how hearts may
be made 'good.' It is attached to the preceding by verse 46. Speech
does not always come from 'the abundance of the heart.' Many call Him
Lord who do not act accordingly. Deeds must confirm words. If the two
diverge, the latter must be taken as the credible self-revelation. Now
the first noticeable thing here is Christ's bold assumption that His
words are a rock foundation for any life. He claims to give an absolute
and all-sufficient rule of conduct, and to have the right to command
every man.

And people read such words and then talk about their Christianity
not being the belief of His divinity, but the practice of the Sermon
on the Mount! His words are the foundation for every firm, lasting
life. They are the basis of all true thought about God, ourselves,
our duties, our future. 'That rock was Christ.' Every other
foundation is as sand. Unless we build on Him, we build on
changeable inclinations, short-lived desires, transitory aims,
evanescent circumstances. Only the Christ who ever liveth, and is
ever 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,' is fit to be
the foundation of lives that are to be immortal.

Note the two houses built on the foundations. The metaphor suggests
that each life is a whole with a definite character. Alas, how many
of our lives are liker a heap of stones tilted at random out of a cart
than a house with a plan. But there is a character stamped on every
life, and however the man may have lived from hand to mouth without
premeditation, the result has a character of its own, be it temple
or pig-sty. Each life, too, is built up by slow labour, course by
course. Our deeds become our dwelling-places. Like coral-insects, we
live in what we build. Memory, habit, ever-springing consequences,
shape by slow degrees our isolated actions into our abodes. What do
we build?

One storm tries both houses. That may refer to the common trials of
every life, but it is best taken as referring to the future
judgment, when God 'will lay judgment to the line, and righteousness
to the plummet';  and whatever cannot stand that test will be
swept away. Who would run up a flimsy structure on some windy
headland in northern seas? The lighthouses away out in ocean are
firmly bonded into living rock. Unless our lives are thus built on
and into Christ, they will collapse into a heap of ruin. 'Behold I
lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious
corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make
haste.'



WORTHY-NOT WORTHY


    '... They besought Him ... saying, That he was worthy
    for whom He should do this:... 6. I am not worthy that
    Thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7. Wherefore
    neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee....'
    --LUKE vii. 4. 6. 7.

A Roman centurion, who could induce the elders of a Jewish village
to approach Jesus on his behalf, must have been a remarkable person.
The garrison which held down a turbulent people was not usually
likely to be much loved by them. But this man, about whom the
incident with which our texts are connected is related, was
obviously one of the people of whom that restless age had many, who
had found out that his creed was outworn, and who had been drawn to
Judaism by its lofty monotheism and its austere morality. He had
gone so far as to build a synagogue, and thereby, no doubt, incurred
the ridicule of his companions, and perhaps the suspicions of his
superiors. What would the English authorities think of an Indian
district officer that conformed to Buddhism or Brahminism, and built
a temple? That is what the Roman officials would think of our
centurion. And there were other beautiful traits in his character.
He had a servant 'that was dear to him.' It was not only the nexus
of master and servant and cash payments that bound these two
together. And very beautiful is this story, when he himself speaks
about this servant. He does not use the rough word which implies a
bondservant, and which is employed throughout the whole of the rest
of the narrative, but a much gentler one, and speaks of him as his
'boy.' So he had won the hearts of these elders so far as to make
them swallow their dislike to Jesus, and deign to go to Him with a
request which implied His powers at which at all other times they
scoffed.

Now, we owe to Luke the details which show us that there was a
double deputation to our Lord--the first which approached Him to ask
His intervention, and the second which the centurion sent when he
saw the little group coming towards his house, and a fresh gush of
awe rose in his heart. The elders said, 'He is worthy'; he said, 'I
am not worthy.' The verbal resemblance is, indeed, not so close in
the original as in our versions, for the literal rendering of the
words put into the centurion's mouth is 'not fit.' But still the
evident antithesis is preserved: the one saying expresses the
favourable view that partial outsiders took of the man, the other
gives the truer view that the man took of himself. And so, putting
away the story altogether, we may set these two verdicts side by
side, as suggesting wider lessons than those which arise from the
narrative itself.

I. And, first, we have here the shallow plea of worthiness.

These elders did not think loftily of Jesus Christ. The conception
that we have of Him goes a long way to settle whether it is possible
or not for us to approach Him with the word 'worthy' on our lips.
The higher we lift our thought of Christ, the lower becomes our
thought of ourselves. These elders saw the centurion from the
outside, and estimated him accordingly. There is no more frequent,
there is no more unprofitable and impossible occupation, than that
of trying to estimate other people's characters. Yet there are few
things that we are so fond of doing. Half our conversation consists
of it, and a very large part of what we call literature consists of
it; and it is bound to be always wrong, whether it is eulogistic or
condemnatory, because it only deals with the surface.

Here we have the shallow plea advanced by these elders in reference
to the centurion which corresponds to the equally shallow plea that
some of us are tempted to advance in reference to ourselves. The
disposition to do so is in us all. Luther said that every man was
born with a Pope in his belly. Every man is born with a Pharisee in
himself, who thinks that religion is a matter of barter, that it is
so much work, buying so much favour here, or heaven hereafter.
Wherever you look, you see the working of that tendency. It is the
very mainspring of heathenism, with all its penances and
performances. It is enshrined in the heart of Roman Catholicism,
with its dreams of a treasury of merits, and works of supererogation
and the like. Ay! and it has passed over into a great deal of what
calls itself Evangelical Protestantism, which thinks that, somehow
or other, it is all for our good to come here, for instance on a
Sunday, though we have no desire to come and no true worship in us
when we have come, and to do a great many things that we would much
rather not do, and to abstain from a great many things that we are
strongly inclined to, and all with the notion that we have to bring
some 'worthiness' in order to move Jesus Christ to deal graciously
with us.

And then notice that the religion of barter, which thinks to earn
God's favour by deeds, and is, alas! the only religion of
multitudes, and subtly mingles with the thoughts of all, tends to
lay the main stress on the mere external arts of cult and ritual.
'He loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue'; not, 'He is
gentle, good, Godlike.' 'He has built a synagogue.' That is the type
of work which most people who fall into the notion that heaven is to
be bought, offer as the price. I have no doubt that there are many
people who have never caught a glimpse of any loftier conception than
that, and who, when they think--which they do not often do--about
religious subjects at all, are saying to themselves, 'I do as well
as I can,' and who thus bring in some vague thought of the mercy of
God as a kind of make-weight to help out what of their own they put
in the scale. Ah, dear brethren! that is a wearying, an endless, a
self-torturing, an imprisoning, an enervating thought, and the plea
of 'worthiness' is utterly out of place and unsustainable before God.

II. Now let me turn to the deeper conviction which silences that
plea.

'I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof, wherefore
neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee.' This man had a
loftier conception of who and what Christ was than the elders had.
To them He was only one of themselves, perhaps endowed with some
kind of prophetic power, but still one of themselves. The centurion
had pondered over the mystic power of the word of command, as he
knew it by experience in the legion, or in the little troop of which
he, though a man under the authority of his higher officers, was the
commander; and he knew that even his limited power carried with it
absolute authority and compelled obedience. And he had looked at
Christ, and wondered, and thought, and had come at last to a dim
apprehension of that great truth that, somehow or other, in this Man
there did lie a power which, by the mere utterance of His will,
could affect matter, could raise the dead, could still a storm,
could banish disease, could quell devils. He did not formulate his
belief, he could not have said exactly what it led to, or what it
contained, but he felt that there was something divine about Him.
And so, seeing, though it was but through mists, the sight of that
great perfection, that divine humanity and human divinity, he bowed
himself and said, 'Lord! I am not worthy.'

When you see Christ as He is, and give Him the honour due to His
name, all notions of desert will vanish utterly.

Further, the centurion saw himself from the inside, and that makes
all the difference. Ah, brethren! most of us know our own characters
just as little as we know our own faces, and find it as difficult to
form a just estimate of what the hidden man of the heart looks like
as we find it impossible to form a just estimate of what we look to
other people as we walk down the street. But if we once turned the
searchlight upon ourselves, I do not think that any of us would long
be able to stand by that plea, 'I am worthy.' Have you ever been on
a tour of discovery, like what they go through at the Houses of
Parliament on the first day of each session, down into the cellars
to see what stores of explosive material, and what villains to fire
it, may be lurking there? If you have once seen yourself as you are,
and take into account, not only actions but base tendencies, foul,
evil thoughts, imagined sins of the flesh, meannesses and basenesses
that never have come to the surface, but which you know are bits of
you, I do not think that you will have much more to say about 'I am
worthy.' The flashing waters of the sea may be all blazing in the
sunshine, but if they were drained off, what a frightful sight the
mud and the ooze at the bottom would be! Others look at the dancing,
glittering surface, but you, if you are a wise man, will go down in
the diving-bell sometimes, and for a while stop there at the bottom,
and turn a bull's-eye straight upon all the slimy, crawling things
that are there, and that would die if they came into the light.

'I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof.' But then,
as I have said, most of us are strangers to ourselves. The very fact
of a course of action which, in other people, we should describe
with severe condemnation, being ours, bribes us to indulgence and
lenient judgment. Familiarity, too, weakens our sense of the
foulness of our own evils. If you have been in the Black Hole all
night, you do not know how vitiated the atmosphere is. You have to
come out into the fresh air to find out that. We look at the errors
of others through a microscope; we look at our own through the wrong
end of the telescope; and the one set, when we are in a cynical
humour, seem bigger than they are; and the other set always seem
smaller.

Now, that clear consciousness of my own sinfulness ought to underlie
all my religious feelings and thoughts. I believe, for my part, that
no man is in a position to apprehend Christianity rightly who has
not made the acquaintance of his own bad self. And I trace a very
large proportion of the shallow Christianity of this day as well as
of the disproportion in which its various truths are set forth, and
the rising of crops of erroneous conceptions just to this, that this
generation has to a large extent lost--no, do not let me say this
generation, _you and I_--have to a large extent lost, that
wholesome consciousness of our own unworthiness and sin.

But on the other hand, let me remind you that the centurion's deeper
conviction is not yet the deepest of all, and that whilst the
Christianity which ignores sin is sure to be impotent, on the other
hand the Christianity which sees very little but sin is bondage and
misery, and is impotent too. And there are many of us whose type of
religion is far gloomier than it should be, and whose motive of
service is far more servile than it ought to be, just because we
have not got beyond the centurion, and can only say, 'I am not
worthy; I am a poor, miserable sinner.'

III. And so I come to the third point, which is not in my text, but
which both my texts converge upon, and that is the deepest truth of
all, that worthiness or unworthiness has nothing to do with Christ's
love.

When these elders interceded with Jesus, He at once rose and went
with them, and that not because of their intercession or of the
certificate of character which they had given, but because His own
loving heart impelled Him to go to any soul that sought His help. So
we are led away from all anxious questionings as to whether we are
worthy or no, and learn that, far above all thoughts either of undue
self-complacency or of undue self-depreciation, lies the motive for
Christ's gracious and healing approach in

  'His ceaseless, unexhausted love,
  Unmerited and free.'

This is the truth to which the consciousness of sinfulness and
unworthiness points us all, for which that consciousness prepares
us, in which that consciousness does not melt away, but rather is
increased and ceases to be any longer a burden or a pain. Here,
then, we come to the very bed-rock of everything, for

  'Merit lives from man to man,
  But not from man, O Lord, to Thee.'

Jesus Christ comes to us, not drawn by our deserts, but impelled by
His own love, and that love pours itself out upon each of us. So we
do not need painfully to amass a store of worthiness, nor to pile up
our own works, by which we may climb to heaven. 'Say not, who shall
ascend up into heaven,' to bring Christ down again, 'but the word is
nigh thee, that if thou wilt believe with thine heart, thou shalt be
saved.' Worthiness or unworthiness is to be swept clean out of the
field, and I am to be content to be a pauper, to owe everything to
what I have done nothing to procure, and to cast myself on the sole,
all-sufficient mercy of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And then comes liberty, and then comes joy. If the gift is given
from no consideration of men's deserts, then the only thing that men
have to do is to exercise the faith that takes it. As the Apostle
says in words that sound very hard and technical, but which, if you
would only ponder them, are throbbing with vitality, 'It is of faith
that it might be by grace.' Since He gives simply because He loves,
the only requisites are the knowledge of our need, the will to
receive, the trust that, in clasping the Giver, possesses the gift.

The consciousness of unworthiness will be deepened. The more we know
ourselves to be sinful, the more we shall cleave to Christ, and the
more we cleave to Christ, the more we shall know ourselves to be
sinful. Peter caught a glimpse of what Jesus was when he sat in the
boat, and he said, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!'
But Peter saw both himself and his Lord more clearly, that is more
truly, when, subsequent to his black treachery, his brother Apostle
said to him concerning the figure standing on the beach in the grey
morning, 'It is the Lord,' and he flung himself over the side and
floundered through the water to get to his Master's feet. For that
is the place for the man who knows himself unworthy. The more we are
conscious of our sin, the closer let us cling to our Lord's
forgiving heart, and the more sure we are that we have that love
which we have not earned, the more shall we feel how unworthy of it
we are. As one of the prophets says, with profound meaning, 'Thou
shalt be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more
because of thy transgression, when I am pacified towards thee for
all that thou hast done.' The child buries its face on its mother's
breast, and feels its fault the more because the loving arms clasp
it close.

And so, dear brethren, deepen your convictions, if you are deluded
by that notion of merit; deepen your convictions, if you see your
own evil so clearly that you see little else. Come into the light,
come into the liberty, rise to that great thought, 'Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us.'
Have done with the religion of barter, and come to the religion of
undeserved grace. If you are going to stop on the commercial level,
'the wages of sin is death'; rise to the higher ground: 'the gift of
God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'



JESUS AT THE BIER


    'And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her,
    and said unto her, Weep not. 14. And He came and
    touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still.
    And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
    15. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.
    And He delivered him to his mother.'--LUKE vii. 13-15.

We owe our knowledge of this incident to Luke only. He is the
Evangelist who specially delights in recording the gracious
relations of our Lord with women, and he is also the Evangelist who
delights in telling us of unasked miracles which Christ performed.
Both of these characteristics unite in this story, and it may have
been these, rather than the fact of its being a narrative of a
resurrection, that found for it a place in this Gospel.

Be that as it may, it is obvious to remark that this miracle was not
wrought with any intention of establishing Christ's claims thereby.
Its motive was simply pity; its purpose was merely to comfort a
desolate woman whose hope and love and defence were lying stretched
on her boy's bier. Was that a sufficient reason for a miracle?
People tell us that a test of a spurious miracle is that it is done
without any adequate purpose to be served. Jesus Christ thought that
to comfort one poor, sorrowful heart was reason enough for putting
His hand out, and dragging the prey from the very jaws of death, so
loftily did He think of human sorrow and of the comforting thereof.

Now I think we unduly limit the meaning of our Lord's miracles when we
regard them as specially intended to authenticate His claims. They are
not merely the evidences of revelation; they are themselves a large
part of revelation. My purpose in this sermon is to look at this
incident from that one point of view, and to try to set clearly before
our minds what it shows us of the character and work of Jesus Christ.
And there are three things on which I desire to touch briefly. We have
Him here revealed to us as the compassionate Drier of all tears; the
life-giving Antagonist of death; and as the Re-uniter of parted hearts.

Note, then, these three things.

I. First of all, look at that wonderful revelation that lies here of
Jesus Christ as the compassionate Drier of all tears.

The poor woman, buried in her grief, with her eyes fixed on the
bier, has no thought for the little crowd that came up the rocky
road, as she and her friends are hurrying down it to the place of
graves. She was a stranger to Christ, and Christ a stranger to her.
The last thing that she would have thought of would have been
eliciting any compassion from those who thus fortuitously met her on
her sad errand. But Christ looks, and His eye sees far more deeply
and far more tenderly into the sorrow of the desolate, childless
widow than any human eyes looked. And as swift as was His perception
of the sorrow, so swiftly does He throw Himself into sympathy with
it. The true human emotion of unmingled pity wells up in His heart
and moves Him to action.

And just because the manhood was perfect and sinless, therefore the
sympathy of Christ was deeper than any human sympathy, howsoever
tender it may be; for what unfits us to feel compassion is our
absorption with ourselves. That makes our hearts hard and
insensitive, and is the true, 'witches' mark'--to recur to the old
fable--the spot where no external pressure can produce sensation.
The ossified heart of the selfish man is closed against divine
compassion. Since Jesus Christ forgot Himself in pitying men, and
Himself 'took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses,' He must have
been what none of us are--free from all taint of selfishness, and
from all insensibility born of sin.

But there is another step to be taken. That pitying Christ, on the
rocky road outside the little Galilean village, feeling all the pain
and sorrow of the lonely mother--that is God! 'Lo! this is our God;
and we have waited for Him.' Ay! waited through all the
uncompassionating centuries, waited in the presence of the false
gods, waited whilst men have been talking about an impassive Deity
careless in the heavens, over whose serene blessedness no shadow can
ever pass. This is our God. No impassive monster that no man can
love or care for, but a God with a heart, a God that can pity, a God
who, wonderful as it is, can and does enter, in the humanity of
Jesus Christ, into a fellow-feeling of our infirmities.

If Jesus Christ in His pity was only a perfect and lovely example of
unselfish sympathy such as man can exercise, what in the name of
common-sense does it matter to me how much, or how tenderly, He
pitied those past generations? The showers and the sunshine of this
summer will do as much good to the springing corn in the fields to-day
as the pity of a dead, human Christ will do for you and me. In our
weaknesses, in our sorrows great and small, in our troubles and
annoyances, you and I need, dear brethren, a living Jesus to pity
us, there in the heavens, just as He pitied that poor woman outside
the gate of Nain. Blessed be God!, we have Him. The human Christ is
the manifestation of the Divine, and as we listen to the Evangelist
that says, 'When He saw her He had compassion upon her,' we bow our
heads and feel that the old psalmist spoke a truth when He said,
'His compassions fail not,' and that the old prophet spoke a truth,
the depth of which his experience did not enable him to fathom, when
he said that 'in all their afflictions He was afflicted.'

Then, note that the pitying Christ dries the tears before He raises
the dead. That is beautiful, I think. 'Weep not,' He says to the
woman--a kind of a prophecy that He is going to take away the
occasion for weeping; and so He calls lovingly upon her for some
movement of hope and confidence towards Himself. With what an
ineffable sweetness of cadence in His sympathetic voice these words
would be spoken! How often, kindly and vainly, men say to one
another, 'Weep not,' when they are utterly powerless to take away or
in the smallest degree to diminish the occasion for weeping! And how
often, unkindly, in mistaken endeavour to bring about resignation
and submission, do well-meaning and erring good people say to
mourners in the passion of their sorrow, 'Weep not!' Jesus Christ
never dammed back tears when tears were wholesome, and would bring
blessing. And Jesus Christ never said, 'Dry your tears,' without
stretching out His own hand to do it.

How does He do it? First of all by the assurance of His sympathy.
Ah! in that word there came a message to the lonely heart, as there
comes a message, dear brethren, to any man or woman among us now who
may be fighting with griefs and cares or sorrows, great or small--the
assurance that Jesus Christ knows all about your pain and will help
you to bear it if you will let Him. The sweet consciousness of
Christ's sympathy is the true antidote to excessive grief.

And He dries the tears, not only by the assurance of His sympathy,
but by encouraging expectation and hope. When He said, 'Weep not,'
He was pledging Himself to do what was needed in order to stay the
flow of weeping. And He would encourage us, in the midst of our
cares and sorrows and loneliness, not indeed to suppress the natural
emotion of sorrow, nor to try after a fantastic and unreal
suppression of its wholesome signs, but to weep as though we wept
not, because beyond the darkness and the dreariness we see the
glimmering of the eternal day. He encourages expectation as the
antagonist of sorrow, for the curse of sorrow is that it is ever
looking backwards, and the true attitude for all men who have an
immortal Christ to trust, and an immortality for themselves to
claim, is that not 'backward' should their 'glances be, but forward
to their Father's home.' These are the thoughts that dry our tears,
the assurance of the sympathy of Christ, and the joyous expectation
of a great good to be ours, where beyond those voices there is
peace.

Brother! it may be with all of us--for all of us carry some burden
of sorrow or care--as it is with the hedgerows and wet ploughed
fields to-day; on every spray hangs a raindrop, and in every
raindrop gleams a reflected sun. And so all our tears and sorrows
may flash into beauty, and sparkle into rainbowed light if the smile
of His face falls upon us.

And then, still further, this pitying Christ is moved by His pity to
bring unasked gifts. No petition, no expectation, not the least
trace of faith or hope drew from Him this mighty miracle. It came
welling up from His own heart. And therein it is of a piece with all
His work. For the divine love of which Christ is the Bearer, the
Agent, and the Channel for us men, 'tarries not for men, nor waiteth
for the sons of men,' but before we ask, delights to bestow itself,
and gives that which no man ever sought, even the miracles of the
Incarnation and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ our Lord. If heaven had
waited until men's prayers had forced its gates ere it sent forth
its greatest gift, it had waited for ever, and all mankind had
perished. God's love flows out of its own expansive and diffusive
nature. Its necessity is to impart itself, and its nature and
property is to give. A measureless desire to bestow itself, and in
itself all good, is the definition of the love of God. And Christ
comes 'to the unthankful and to the evil,' bringing a gift which
none of us have asked, and giving as much of Himself as He can give,
undesired, to every heart, that thereby we may be led to desire
these better gifts which cannot be bestowed unless we seek them.

So here we have the compassion of the human Christ, which is the
divine compassion, drying all tears and giving unasked blessings.

II. Note, secondly, the further revelation of our Lord here as being
the life-giving Antagonist of Death.

There is something exceedingly picturesque, and if I might use the
word, dramatic, in the meeting of these two processions outside the
city gate, the little crowd of mourners hurrying, according to the
Eastern fashion, down the hill to the place of tombs, and the other
little group toiling up the hill to the city. There Life and Death
stand face to face. Jesus Christ puts out His hand, and lays it upon
the bier, not to communicate anything, but simply to arrest its
progress. Is it not a parable of His work in the world? His great
work is to stop the triumphant march of Death--that grim power which
broods like a thundercloud over humanity, and sucks up all
brightness into its ghastly folds, and silences all song. He comes
and says 'Stop'; and it stands fixed upon the spot. He arrests the
march of Death. Not indeed that He touches the mere physical fact.
The physical fact is not what men mean by death. It is not what they
cower before. What the world shrinks from is the physical fact plus
its associations, its dim forebodings, its recoilings from the
unknown regions into which the soul goes from out of 'the warm
precincts of the cheerful day,' and plus the possibilities of
retribution, the certainty of judgment. All these Christ sweeps
away, so that we may say, 'He hath abolished Death,' even though we
all have to pass through the mere externals of dying, for the dread
of Death is gone for ever, if we trust Him.

And then note, still further, we have Christ here as the Life-giver.
'Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!'

Christ took various methods of imparting His miraculous power. These
methods varied, as it would appear, according to the religious
necessities of the subjects or beholders of the miracle. Sometimes
He touched, sometimes He employed still more material vehicles, such
as the clay with which He moistened the eyes of the blind man, and
the spittle with which He touched the ears of the deaf. But all
these various methods were but helps to feeble faith, and in the
case of all the raisings from the dead it is the voice alone that is
employed.

So, then, what is the meaning of that majestic 'I say unto thee,
Arise'? He claims to work by His own power. Unless Jesus Christ
wielded divine authority in a fashion in which no mere human
representative and messenger of God ever has wielded it, for Him to
stand by that bier and utter, 'I say unto thee, Arise!' was neither
more nor less than blasphemy. And yet the word had force. He assumed
to act by His own power, and the event showed that He assumed not
too much. 'The Son quickeneth whom He will.'

Further, He acts by His bare word. So He did on many other
occasions--rebuking the fever and it departs, speaking to the wind
and it ceases, calling to the dead and they come forth. And who is
He, the bare utterance of whose will is supreme, and has power over
material things? Let that centurion whose creed is given to us in
the earlier portion of this chapter answer the question. 'I say to
my servant, Go! and he goeth; Come! and he cometh; Do this! and he
doeth it. Speak Thou, and all the embattled forces of the universe
will obey Thine autocratic and sovereign behest,' they 'hearken to
His commandments, and do the voice of His word.'

Then note, still further, that this voice of Christ's has power in
the regions of the dead. Wherever that young man was, he heard; in
whatsoever state or condition he was, his personality felt and
obeyed the magnetic force of Christ's will. The fact that the Lord
spake and the boy heard, disposes, if it be true, of much error, and
clears away much darkness. Then the separation of body and soul
_is_ a separation and not a destruction. Then consciousness is
not a function of the brain, as they tell us. Then man lives wholly
after he is dead. Then it is possible for the spirit to come out of
some dim region, where we know not, in what condition we know not.
Only this we know--that, wherever it is, Christ's will has authority
there; and there, too, is obedience to His commandment.

And so let me remind you that this Voice is not only revealing as to
Christ's authority and power, and illuminative as to the condition
of the disembodied dead, but it is also prophetic as to the future.
It tells us that there is nothing impossible or unnatural in that
great assurance. 'The hour is coming when they that are in the
graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.' There shall be
for the dead a reunion with a body, which will bring men again into
connection with an external universe, and be the precursor of a
fuller judgment and an intenser retribution.

Brethren, that Voice that raised one poor bewildered boy to sit up
on his bier, and begin to speak--broken exclamations possibly, and
stammering words of astonishment--shall be flung, like a trumpet
that scatters marvellous sounds, through the sepulchres of the
nations and compel all to stand before the throne. You and I will
hear it; let us be ready for it.

III. So, lastly, we have here the revelation of our Lord as the
Reuniter of parted hearts.

That is a wonderfully beautiful touch, evidently coming from an
eye-witness--'He delivered him to his mother.' That was what it had
all been done for. The mighty miracle was wrought that that poor
weeping woman might be comforted.

May we not go a step further? May we not say, If Jesus Christ was so
mindful of the needs of a sorrowful solitary soul here upon earth, will
He be less mindful of the enduring needs of loving hearts yonder in the
heavens? If He raised this boy from the dead that his mother's arms
might twine round him again, and his mother's heart be comforted, will
He not in that great Resurrection give back dear ones to empty,
outstretched arms, and thereby quiet hungry hearts? It is impossible
to suppose that, continuing ourselves, we should be deprived of our
loves. These are too deeply engrained and enwrought into the very
texture of our being for that to be possible. And it is as impossible
that, in the great day and blessed world where all lost treasures are
found, hearts that have been sad and solitary here for many a day
shall not clasp again the souls of their souls--'and with God be the
rest.'

So, though we know very little, surely we may take the comfort of
such a thought as this, which should be very blessed and sweet to
some of us, and with some assurance of hope may feel that the risen
boy at the gate of Nain was not the last lost one whom Christ, with
a smile, will deliver to the hearts that mourn for them, and there
we 'shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss in over-measure
for ever.' 'And so shall we'--they and I, for that is what _we_
means--' so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one
another with these words.'



JOHN'S DOUBTS AND CHRIST'S PRAISE


    'And the disciples of John shewed him of all these
    things. 19. And John calling unto him two of his
    disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou He
    that should come? or look we for another? 20. When
    the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist
    hath sent us unto Thee, saying, Art Thou He that
    should come? or look we for another? 21. And in the
    same hour He cured many of their infirmities and
    plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were
    blind He gave sight. 22. Then Jesus, answering, said
    unto them, 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.
    23. And blessed is be, whosoever shall not be offended
    in Me. 24. And when the messengers of John were
    departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning
    John. What went ye out into the wilderness for to see?
    A reed shaken with the wind? 25. But what went ye out
    for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold,
    they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live
    delicately, are in kings' courts. 26. But what went ye
    out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and
    much more than a prophet. 27. This is he, of whom it
    is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy
    face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. 28. For
    I say unto you, Among those that are born of women
    there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist;
    but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater
    than he.'--LUKE vii. 18-28.

We take three stages in this passage--the pathetic message from the
prisoner, Christ's double answer to it, and His grand eulogium on
John.

I. The message from the prisoner. Had mists of doubt crept over
John's clear conviction that Jesus was the Messiah? Some have
thought it incredible that the man who had seen the descending dove,
and heard the voice proclaiming 'This is My beloved Son,' should
ever have wavered. But surely our own experience of the effect of
circumstances and moods on our firmest beliefs gives us parallels to
John's doubts. A prison would be especially depressing to the
desert-loving Baptist; compelled inaction would fret his spirit; he
would be tempted to think that, if Jesus were indeed the Bridegroom,
he might have spared a thought for the friend of the Bridegroom
languishing in Machaerus. Above all, the kind of works that Jesus
was doing did not fill the _rôle_ of the Messiah as he had
conceived it. Where were the winnowing fan, the axe laid to the
roots of the trees, the consuming fire? This gentle friend of
publicans and sinners was not what he had expected the One mightier
than himself to be.

Probably his disciples went farther in doubting than he did, but his
message was the expression of his own hesitations, as is suggested
by the answer being directed to him, not to the disciples. It may
have also been meant to stir Jesus, if He were indeed Messiah, to
'take to Himself His great power.' But the most natural explanation
of it is that John's faith was wavering. The tempest made the good
ship stagger. But reeling faith stretched out a hand to Jesus, and
sought to steady itself thereby. We shall not come to much harm if
we carry our doubts as to Him to be cleared by Himself. John's
gloomy prison thoughts may teach us how much our faith may be
affected by externals and by changing tempers of mind, and how
lenient, therefore, should be our judgments of many whose trust may
falter when a strain comes. It may also teach us not to write bitter
things against ourselves because of the ups and downs of our
religious experience, but yet to seek to resist the impression that
circumstances make on it, and to aim at keeping up an equable
temperature, both in the summer of prosperity and the winter of
sorrow.

II. The twofold answer. Its first part was a repetition of the same
kind of miracles, the news of which had evoked John's message; and
its second part was simply the command to report these, with one
additional fact--that good tidings were preached to the poor. That
seemed an unsatisfactory reply, but it meant just this--to send John
back to think over these deeds of gracious pity and love as well as
of power, and to ask himself whether they were not the fit signs of
the Messiah. It is to be noted that the words which Christ bids the
disciples speak to their master would recall the prophecies in
Isaiah xxxv. 5 and lxi. 1, and so would set John to revise his ideas
of what prophecy had painted Messiah as being. The deepest meaning
of the answer is that love, pity, healing, are the true signs, not
judicial, retributive, destructive energy. John wanted the lightning;
Christ told him that the silent sunshine exerts energy, to which the
fiercest flash is weak. We need the lesson, for we are tempted to
exalt force above love, if not in our thoughts of God, yet in looking
at and dealing with men; and we are slow to apprehend the teaching of
Bethlehem and Calvary, that the divinest thing in God, and the strongest
power among men, is gentle, pitying, self-sacrificing love. Rebuke
could not be softer than that which was sent to John in the form of
a benediction. To take offence at Jesus, either because He is not what
we expect Him to be, or for any other reason, is to shut oneself out
from the sum of blessings which to accept Him brings with it.

III. Christ's eulogium on John. How lovingly it was timed! The
people had heard John's message and its answer, and might expect
some disparaging remarks about his vacillation. But Jesus chooses
that very time to lavish unstinted praise on him. That is praise
indeed. The remembrance of the Jordan banks, where John had
baptized, shapes the first question. The streams of people would not
have poured out there to look at the tall reeds swaying in the
breeze, nor to listen to a man who was like them. He who would rouse
and guide others must have a firm will, and not be moved by any
blast that blows. Men will rally round one who has a mind of his own
and bravely speaks it, and who has a will of his own, and will not
be warped out of his path. The undaunted boldness of John, of whom,
as of John Knox, it might be said that 'he never feared the face of
man,' was part of the secret of his power. His imprisonment
witnessed to it. He was no reed shaken by the wind, but like another
prophet, was made 'an iron pillar, and brazen walls' to the whole
house of Israel. But he had more than strength of character, he had
noble disregard for worldly ease. Not silken robes, like courtiers',
but a girdle of camels' hair, not delicate food, but locusts and
wild honey, were his. And that was another part of his power, as it
must be, in one shape or other, of all who rouse men's consciences,
and wake up generations rotting away in self-indulgence. John's
fiery words would have had no effect if they had not poured hot from
a life that despised luxury and soft ease. If a man is once
suspected of having his heart set on material good, his usefulness
as a Christian teacher is weakened, if not destroyed. But even these
are not all, for Jesus goes on to attest that John was a prophet,
and something even more; namely, the forerunner of the Messiah. As,
in a royal progress, the nearer the king's chariot the higher the
rank, and they who ride just in front of him are the chiefest, so
John's proximity in order of time to Jesus distinguished him above
those who had heralded him long ages ago. It is always true that,
the closer we are to Him, the more truly great we are. The highest
dignity is to be His messenger. We must not lose sight of the
exalted place which Jesus by implication claims for Himself by such
a thought, as well as by the quotation from Malachi, and by the
alteration in it of the original 'My' and 'Me' to 'Thy' and 'Thee.'
He does not mean that John was the greatest man that ever lived, as
the world counts greatness, but that in the one respect of relation
to Him, and consequent nearness to the kingdom, he surpassed all.

The scale employed to determine greatness in this saying is position
in regard to the kingdom, and while John is highest of those who
(historically) were without it, because (historically) he was
nearest to it, the least _in_ it is greater than the greatest
without. The spiritual standing of John and the devout men before
him is not in question; it is their position towards the
manifestation of the kingdom in time that is in view. We rejoice to
believe that John and many a saint from early days were subjects of
the King, and have been 'saved into His everlasting kingdom.' But
Jesus would have us think greatly of the privilege of living in the
light of His coming, and of being permitted by faith to enter His
kingdom. The lowliest believer knows more, and possesses a fuller
life born of the Spirit, than the greatest born of woman, who has
not received that new birth from above.



GREATNESS IN THE KINGDOM


    'He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than
    he.'--LUKE vii. 28.

We were speaking in a preceding sermon about the elements of true
greatness, as represented in the life and character of John the
Baptist. As we remarked then, our Lord poured unstinted eulogium
upon the head of John, in the audience of the people, at the very
moment when he showed himself weakest. 'None born of women' was, in
Christ's eyes, 'greater than John the Baptist.' The eulogium,
authoritative as it was, was immediately followed by a depreciation
as authoritative, from Christ's lips: 'The least in the kingdom is
greater than he.' Greatness depends, not on character, but on
position. The contrast that is drawn is between being _in_ and
being _out_ of the kingdom; and this man, great as he was among
them 'that are born of women,' stood but upon the threshold;
therefore, and only therefore, and in that respect, was he 'less
than the least' who was safely within it.

Now, there are two things in these great words of our Lord to notice
by way of introduction. One is the calm assumption which He makes of
authority to marshal men, to stand above the greatest of them, and
to allocate their places, because He knows all about them; and the
other is the equally calm and strange assumption of authority which
He makes, in declaring that the least within the kingdom is greater
than the greatest without. For the kingdom is embodied in Him, its
King, and He claimed to have opened the door of entrance into it.
'The kingdom of God,' or of heaven--an old Jewish idea--means,
whatever else it means, an order of things in which the will of God
is supreme. Jesus Christ says, 'I have come to make that real reign
of God, in the hearts of men, possible and actual.' So He presents
Himself in these words as infinitely higher than the greatest
within, or the greatest without the kingdom, and as being Himself
the sovereign arbiter of men's claims to greatness. Greater than the
greatest is He, the King; for if to be barely across the threshold
stamps dignity upon a man, what shall we say of the conception of
His own dignity which He formed who declared that He sat on the
throne of that kingdom, and was its Monarch?

I. The first thought that I suggest is the greatness of the little
ones in the kingdom.

As I have said, our Lord puts the whole emphasis of His
classification on men's position. Inside all are great, greater than
any that are outside. The least in the one order is greater than the
greatest in the other. So, then, the question comes, How does a man
step across that threshold? Our Lord evidently means the expression
to be synonymous with His true disciples. We may avail ourselves, in
considering how men come to be in the kingdom, of His own words.
Once He said that unless we _received_ it as little children,
we should never be _within_ it. There the blending of the two
metaphors adds force and completeness to the thought. The kingdom is
without us, and is offered to us; we must receive it as a gift, and
it must come into us before we can be in it. The point of comparison
between the recipients of the kingdom and little children does not
lie in any sentimental illusions about the innocence of childhood,
but in its dependence, in its absence of pretension, in its sense of
clinging helplessness, in its instinctive trust. All these things in
the child are natural, spontaneous, unreflecting, and therefore of
no value. You and I have to think ourselves back to them, and to
work ourselves back to them, and to fight ourselves back to them,
and to strip off their opposites which gather round us in the course
of our busy, effortful life. Then they become worth infinitely more
than their instinctive analogues in the infant. The man's absence of
pretension and consciousness of helplessness and dependent trust are
beautiful and great, and through them the kingdom of God, with all
its lights and glories, pours into his heart, and he himself steps
into it, and becomes a true servant and subject of the King.

Then there is another word of the Master's, equally illuminative, as
to how we pass into the kingdom, when He spoke to the somewhat
patronising Pharisee that came to talk to Him by night, and
condescended to give the young Rabbi a certificate of approval from
the Sanhedrim, 'We know that Thou art a Teacher come from God.'
Christ's answer was, in effect, 'Knowing will not serve your turn.
There is something more than that wanted: "Except a man be born of
water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."'
So, another condition of entering the kingdom--that is, of coming
for myself into the attitude of lowly, glad submission to God's
will--is the reception into our natures of a new life-principle, so
that we are not only, like the men whom Christ compared with John,
'born of women,' but by a higher birth are made partakers of a
higher life, and born of the Spirit of God. These are the
conditions--on our side the reception with humility, helplessness,
dependent trust like those of children, on God's side the imparting,
in answer to that dependence and trust, of a higher principle of
life--these are the conditions on which we can pass out of the realm
of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

This being so, then we have next to consider the greatness that
belongs to the least of those who thus have crossed the threshold,
and have come to exercise joyous submission to the will of God. The
highest dignity of human nature, the loftiest nobility of which it
is capable, is to submit to God's will. 'Man's chief end is to
glorify God.' There is nothing that leads life to such sovereign
power as when we lay all our will at His feet, and say, 'Break,
bend, mould, fashion it as Thou wilt.' We are in a higher position
when we are in God's hand. His tools and the pawns on His board,
than we are when we are seeking to govern our lives at our pleasure.
Dignity comes from submission, and they who keep God's commandments
are the aristocracy of the world.

Then, further, there comes the thought that the greatness that
belongs to the least of the little ones within the kingdom springs
from their closer relation to the Saviour, whose work they more
clearly know and more fully appropriate. It is often said that the
Sunday-school child who can repeat the great text, 'God so loved the
world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,' stands far
above prophet, righteous man, and John himself. This is not exactly
true, for knowledge of the truth is not what introduces into the
kingdom; but it is true that the weakest, the humblest, the most
ignorant amongst us, who grasps that truth of the God-sent Son whose
death is the world's life, and who lives, therefore, nestling close
to Jesus Christ, walks in a light far brighter than the twilight
that shone upon the Baptist, or the yet dimmer rays that reached
prophets and righteous men of old. It is not a question of
character; it is a question of position. True greatness is
regulated, by closeness to Jesus Christ, and by apprehension and
appropriation of His work to myself. The dwarf on the shoulders of
the giant sees further than the giant; and 'the least in the
kingdom,' being nearer to Jesus Christ than the men of old could
ever be, because possessing the fuller revelation of God in Him, is
greater than the greatest without. They who possess, even in germ,
that new life-principle which comes in the measure of a man's faith
in Christ, thereby are lifted above saints and martyrs and prophets
of old. The humblest Christian grasps a fuller Christ, and therein
possesses a fuller spiritual life, than did the ancient heroes of
the faith. Christ's classification here says nothing about
individual character. It says nothing about the question as to the
possession of true religion or of spiritual life by the ancient
saints, but it simply declares that because we have a completer
revelation, we therefore, grasping that revelation, are in a more
blessed position, 'God having provided some better thing for us,
that they without us should not be made perfect.' The lowest in a
higher order is higher than the highest in a lower order. As the
geologist digs down through the strata, and, as he marks the
introduction of new types, declares that the lowest specimen of the
mammalia is higher than the highest preceding of the reptiles or of
the birds, so Christ says, 'He that is lowest in the kingdom of
heaven is greater than he.'

Brethren! these thoughts should stimulate and should rebuke us that
having so much we make so little use of it. We know God more fully,
and have mightier motives to serve Him, and larger spiritual helps
in serving Him than had any of the mighty men of old. We have a
fuller revelation than Abraham had; have we a tithe of his faith? We
have a mightier Captain of the Lord's host with us than stood before
Joshua; have we any of his courage? We have a tenderer and fuller
revelation of the Father than had psalmists of old; are our
aspirations greater after God, whom we know so much better, than
were theirs in the twilight of revelation? A savage with a shell and
a knife of bone will make delicate carvings that put our workers,
with their modern tools, to shame. A Hindoo, weaving in a shed, with
bamboos for its walls and palm leaves for its roof, and a rude loom,
the same as his ancestors used three thousand years ago, will turn
out muslins that Lancashire machinery cannot rival. We are exalted
in position, let us see to it that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,
and all the saints, do not put us to shame, lest the greatest should
become the guiltiest, and exaltation to heaven should lead to
dejection to hell.

II. Notice the littleness of the great ones in the kingdom.

Our Lord here recognises the fact that there will be varieties of
position, that there will be an outer and an inner court in the
Temple, and an aristocracy in the kingdom. 'In a great house there
are not only vessels of gold and silver, but of wood and of clay.'
When a man passes into the territory, it still remains an open
question how far into the blessed depths of the land he will
penetrate. Or, to put away the figure, if as Christian people we
have laid hold of Jesus Christ, and in Him have received the kingdom
and the new life-power, there still remains the question, how much
and how faithfully we shall utilise the gifts, and what place in the
earthly experience and manifestation of His kingdom we shall occupy.
There are great and small within it.

So it comes to be a very important question for us all, how we may
not merely be content, as so many of us are, with having scraped
inside and just got both feet across the boundary line, but may
become great in the kingdom. Let me answer that question in three
sentences. The little ones in Christ's kingdom become great by the
continual exercise of the same things which admitted them there at
first. If greatness depends on position in reference to Jesus
Christ, the closer we come to Him and the more we keep ourselves in
loving touch and fellowship with Him, the greater in the kingdom we
shall be. Again, the little ones in Christ's kingdom become great by
self-forgetting service. 'He that will be great among you, let him
be your minister.' Self-regard dwarfs a man, self-oblivion magnifies
him. If ever you come across, even in the walks of daily life,
traces in people of thinking much of themselves, and of living
mainly for themselves, down go these men in your estimation at once.
Whether you have a beam of the same sort in your own eye or not, you
can see the mote in theirs, and you lower your appreciation of them
immediately. It is the same in Christ's kingdom, only in an infinitely
loftier fashion. There, to become small is to become great. Again, the
little ones in Christ's kingdom become great, not only by cleaving
close to the Source of all greatness, and deriving thence a higher
dignity by the suppression and crucifixion of self-esteem and
self-regard, but by continual obedience to their Lord's commandment.
As He said on the Sermon on the Mount, 'Whoso shall do and teach one
of the least of these commandments shall be called great in the kingdom
of heaven.' The higher we are, the more we are bound to punctilious
obedience to the smallest injunction. The more we are obedient to
the lightest of His commandments, the greater we become. Thus the
least in the kingdom may become the greatest there, if only, cleaving
close to Christ, he forgets himself, and lives for others, and does
the Father's will.

III. Lastly, I travel for a moment beyond my text, and note the
perfect greatness of all in the perfected kingdom.

The very notion of a kingdom of God established in reality, however
imperfectly here on earth, demands that somewhere, and some time,
and somehow, there should be an adequate, a universal and an eternal
manifestation and establishment of it. If, here and now, dotted
about over the world, there are men who, with much hindrance and
many breaks in their obedience, are still the subjects of that
realm, and trying to do the will of God, unless we are reduced to
utter bewilderment intellectually, there must be a region in which
that will shall be perfectly done, shall be continually done, shall
be universally done. The obedience that we render to Him, just
because it is broken by so much rebellion, slackened by so much
indifference, hindered by so many clogs, hampered by so many
limitations, points, by its attainments and its imperfections alike,
to a region where the clogs and limitations and interruptions shall
have all vanished, and the will of the Lord shall be the life and
the light thereof.

So there rises up before us the fair prospect of that heavenly
kingdom, in which all that here is interrupted and thwarted tendency
shall have become realised effect.

That state must necessarily be a state of continual advance. For if
greatness consists in apprehension and appropriation of Christ and
His work, there are no limits to the possible expansion and
assimilation of a human heart to Him, and the wealth of His glory is
absolutely boundless. An infinite Christ to be assimilated, and an
indefinite capacity of assimilation in us, make the guarantee that
eternity shall see the growing progress of the subjects of the
kingdom, in resemblance to the King.

If there is this endless progress, which is the only notion of
heaven that clothes with joy and peace the awful thought of unending
existence, then there will be degrees there too, and the old
distinction of 'least' and 'greatest' in the kingdom will subsist to
the end. The army marches onwards, but they are not all abreast.
They that are in front do not intercept any of the blessings or of
the light that come to the rearmost files; and they that are behind
are advancing and envy not those who lead the march.

Only let us remember, brother, that the distinction of least and
great in the kingdom, in its imperfect forms on earth, is carried
onwards into the kingdom in its perfect form into heaven. The
highest point of our attainment here is the starting-point of our
progress yonder. 'An entrance shall be ministered'; it may be
'ministered abundantly,' or we may be 'saved yet so as by fire.' Let
us see to it that, being least in our own eyes, we belong to the
greatest in the kingdom. And that we may, let us hold fast by the
Source of all greatness, Christ Himself, and so we shall be launched
on a career of growing greatness, through the ages of eternity. To
be joined to Him is greatness, however small the world may think us.
To be separate from Him is to be small, though the hosannas of the
world may misname us great.



THWARTING GOD'S PURPOSE


    'The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God
    against themselves, being not baptized of Him.'
    --LUKE vii. 30.

Our Lord has just been pouring unstinted praise on the head of John
the Baptist. The eulogium was tenderly timed, for it followed, and
was occasioned by the expression, through messengers, of John's
doubts of Christ's Messiahship. Lest these should shake the people's
confidence in the Forerunner, and make them think of him as weak and
shifting, Christ speaks of him in the glowing words which precede my
text, and declares that he is no 'reed shaken with the wind.'

But what John was was of less moment to Christ's listeners than was
what they had done with John's message. So our Lord swiftly passes
from His eulogium upon John to the sharp thrust of the personal
application to His hearers. In the context He describes the twofold
treatment which that message had received; and so describes it as,
in the description, to lay bare the inmost characteristics of the
reception or rejection of the message. As to the former, He says
that the mass of the common people, and the outcast publicans,
'justified God'; by which remarkable expression seems to be meant
that their reception of John's message and baptism acknowledged
God's righteousness in accusing them of sin and demanding from them
penitence.

On the other hand, the official class, the cultivated people,
the orthodox respectable people--that is to say, the dead
formalists--'rejected the counsel of God against themselves.'

Now the word 'rejected' would be more adequately rendered
'_frustrated,_' thwarted, made void, or some such expression,
as indeed it is employed in other places of Scripture, where it is
translated 'disannulled,' 'made void,' and the like. And if we take
that meaning, there emerge from this great word of the Master's two
thoughts, that to disbelieve God's word is to thwart God's purpose,
and that to thwart His purpose is to harm ourselves.

I. And I remark, first, that the sole purpose which God has in view
in speaking to us men is our blessing.

I suppose I need not point out to you that 'counsel' here does not
mean _advice_, but _intention_. In regard to the matter immediately
in hand, God's purpose or _counsel_ in sending the Forerunner was,
first of all, to produce in the minds of the people a true consciousness
of their own sinfulness and need of cleansing; and so to prepare the
way for the coming of the Messiah, who should bring the inward gift
which they needed, and so secure their salvation. The intention
was, first, to bring to repentance, but that was a preparation for
bringing to them full forgiveness and cleansing. And so we may fairly
widen the thought into the far greater and nobler one which applies
especially to the message of God in Jesus Christ, and say that
the only design which God has in view, in the gospel of His Son, is
the highest blessing--that is, the salvation--of every man to whom
it is spoken.

Now, by the gospel, which, as I say, has thus one single design in
the divine mind, I mean, what I think the New Testament means, the
whole body of truths which underlie and flow from the fact of
Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, which in brief are
these--man's sin, man's helplessness, the Incarnation of the Son of
God, the Death of Christ as the sacrifice for the world's sin;
Faith, as the one hand by which we grasp the blessing, and the gift
of a Divine Spirit which follows upon our faith, and bestows upon us
sonship and likeness to God, purity of life and character, and
heaven at last. That, as I take it, is in the barest outline what is
meant by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And now I want to press upon you, dear friends, that that great and
sublime body of truths made known to us, as I believe, from God
Himself, has one sole object in view and none beside--viz. that
every man who hears it may partake of the salvation and the hope
which it brings. It has a twofold effect, alas! but the twofold
effect does not imply a twofold purpose. There have been schemes of
so-called Christian theology which have darkened the divine
character in this respect, and have obscured the great thought that
God has one end in view, and one only, when He speaks to us in all
good faith, desiring nothing else but only that we shall be gathered
into His heart, and made partakers of His love. He is not willing
that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of
the truth.

If so, the question comes very sharp and direct to each of us, Is
that gospel fulfilling its purpose in me? There are many subordinate
good things flowing from the Christian revelation, such as blessings
for social outward life, which are as flowers that spring up in its
path; but unless it has effected its one purpose in regard to you
and me, it has failed altogether. God meant His word to save your
soul. Has it done so? It is a question that any man can answer if
he--will be honest with himself.

Further, this single purpose of the divine speech embraces in its
intention each of the hearers of that message. I want to gather the
wide-flowing generality, 'God so loved the world that He sent His
Son that whosoever believeth,' into this sharp point, 'God so loved
_me_, that He sent His Son that _I_, believing, might have
life eternal.' We shall never understand the universality of
Christianity until we have appreciated the personality and the
individuality of its message to each of us. God does not lose thee in
the crowd, do not thou lose thyself in it, nor fail to apprehend that
_thou_ art personally meant by His broadest declarations. It is
_thy_ salvation that Christ had in view when He became man and
died on the Cross; and it is thy salvation that He had in view when
He said to His servants, 'Go into _all_ the world'--there is
universality--'and preach the Gospel to _every_ creature'--there
is individuality.

Then, further, God is verily seeking to accomplish this purpose even
now, by my lips, in so far as I am true to my Master and my message.
The outward appearance of what we are about now is that I am trying,
lamely enough, to speak to you. You may judge this service by rules
of rhetoric, or anything else you like. But you have not got to the
bottom of things unless you feel, as I am praying that every one of
you may feel, that even with all my imperfections on my head--and I
know them better than you can tell me them--I, like all true men who
are repeating God's message as they have caught it, neither more nor
less, and have sunk themselves in it, may venture to say, as the
Apostle said: 'Now, then, we are ambassadors for God, as though God
did beseech by us, we pray in Christ's stead.' John's voice was a
revelation of God's purpose, and the voice of every true preacher of
Jesus Christ is no less so.

II. Secondly, this single divine purpose, or 'counsel,' may be
thwarted.

'They frustrated the counsel of God.' Of all the mysteries of this
inexplicable world, the deepest, the mother-mystery of all, is, that
given an infinite will and a creature, the creature can thwart the
infinite. I said that was the mystery of mysteries: 'Our wills are
ours we know not how,'--No! indeed we don't!--'Our wills are ours to
make them Thine.' But that purpose necessarily requires the
possibility of the alternative that our wills are ours, and we
_refuse_ 'to make them Thine.' The possibility is mysterious;
the reality of the fact is tragic and bewildering. We need no proof
except our own consciousness; and if that were silenced we should
have the same fact abundantly verified in the condition of the world
around us, which sadly shows that not yet is God's 'will' done 'on
earth as it is in heaven,' but that men can and do lift themselves
up against God and set themselves in antagonism to His most gracious
purposes. And whosoever refuses to accept God's message in Christ
and God's salvation revealed in that message is thus setting himself
in battle array against the infinite, and so far as in him lies
(that is to say, in regard to his own personal condition and
character) is thwarting God's most holy will.

Now, brethren, I said that there was only one thought in the divine
heart when He sent His Son, and that was to save you and me and all
of us. But that thought cannot but be frustrated, and made of none
effect, as far as the individual is concerned, by unbelief. For
there is no way by which any human being can become participant of
the spiritual blessings which are included in that great word
'salvation,' except by simple trust in Jesus Christ. I cannot too
often and earnestly insist upon this plain truth, which, plain as it
is, is often obscured, and by many people is never apprehended at
all, that when the Apostle says 'It is the power of God unto
salvation to every one that believeth,' he is laying down no
limitation of the universality or of the adequacy of that power, but
is only setting forth the plain condition, inherent in the very
nature of things and in the nature of the blessings bestowed, that
if a man does not trust God he cannot get them, and God cannot give
him them, though His heart yearns to give him them He cannot do it.
How can any man get any good out of a medicine if he locks his teeth
and won't take it? How can any truth that I refuse to believe
produce any effect upon me? How is it possible for the blessings of
forgiveness and cleansing to be bestowed upon men who neither know
their need of forgiveness nor desire to be washed from their sins?
How can there be the flowing of the Divine Spirit into a heart which
is tightly barred against His entrance? In a word, how a man can be
saved with the salvation that the Gospel offers, except on condition
of his simple trust in Christ the Giver, I, for my part, fail to
see. And so I remind you that the thwarting of God's counsel is the
awful prerogative of unbelief.

Then, note that, in accordance with the context, you do not need to
put yourselves to much effort in order to bring to nought God's
gracious intention about you. 'They thwarted the counsel of God,
being _not_ baptized of Him.' They did not _do_ anything. They simply
did nothing, and that was enough. There is no need for violent
antagonism to the counsel. Fold your hands in your lap, and the gift
will not come into them. Clench them tightly, and put them behind
your back, and it cannot come. A negation is enough to ruin a man. You
do not need to do anything to slay yourselves. In the ocean, when the
lifebelt is within reach, simply forbear to put out your hand to it,
and down you will go, like a stone, to the very bottom. 'They rejected
the counsel,' 'being _not_'--and that was all.

Further, the people who are in most danger of frustrating God's gracious
purpose are not blackguards, not men and women steeped to the eyebrows
in the stagnant pool of sensuous sin, but clean, respectable
church-and-chapel-going, sermon-hearing, doctrine-criticising Pharisees.
The man or woman who is led away by the passions that are lodged in
his or her members is not so hopeless as the man into whose spiritual
nature there has come the demon of self-complacent righteousness, or
who, as is the case with many a man and woman sitting in these pews
now, has listened to, or at all events, has _heard_, men
preaching, as I am trying to preach, ever since childhood, and has
never done anything in consequence. These are the hopeless people. The
Pharisees--and there are hosts of their great-great-grandchildren in
all our congregations--'the Pharisees ... frustrated the counsel of
God.'

III. Lastly, this thwarting brings self-inflicted harm.

A little skiff of a boat comes athwart the bows of a six thousand
ton steamer, with triple-expansion engines, that can make twenty
knots an hour. What will become of the skiff, do you think? You can
thwart God's purpose about yourself, but the great purpose goes on
and on. And 'Who hath hardened himself against Him and prospered?'
You can thwart the purpose, but it is kicking against the pricks.

Consider what you lose when you will have nothing to do with that
divine counsel of salvation. Consider not only what you lose, but
what you bring upon yourself; how you bind your sin upon your
hearts; how you put out your hands, and draw disease and death
nearer to yourselves; how you cannot turn away from, or be
indifferent to, the gracious, sweet, pleading voice that speaks to
you from the Cross and the Throne, without doing damage--in many
more ways than I have time to enlarge upon now--to your own
character and inward nature. And consider how there lie behind dark
and solemn results about which it does not become me to speak, but
which it still less becomes me--believing as I do--to suppress.
'After death the judgment'; and what will become of the thwarters of
the divine counsel then?

These wounds, many, deep, deadly as they are, are self-inflicted.
There do follow, on God's message and unbelief of it, awful
consequences; but these are not His intention. They are the results
of our misuse of His gracious word. 'Oh, Israel!' wailed the
prophet, 'thou hast destroyed _thyself_' Man's happiness or woe
is his own making, and his own making only. There is no creature in
heaven or earth or hell that is chargeable with your loss but
yourself. We are our own betrayers, our own murderers, our own
accusers, our own avengers, and--I was going to say, and it is
true--our own hell.

Dear friends! this message comes to you once more now, that Jesus
Christ has died for your sins, and that if you will trust Him as
your Saviour, and obey Him as your Sovereign, you will he saved with
an everlasting salvation. Even through my lips God speaks to you.
What are you going to do with His message? Are you going to receive
it, and 'justify' Him, or are you going to reject it, and thwart
Him? You thwart Him if you treat my words now as a mere sermon to be
criticised and forgotten; you thwart Him if you do anything with His
message except take it to your heart and rest wholly upon it. Unless
you do you are suicides; and neither God, nor man, nor devil is
responsible for your destruction. He can say to you, as His servant
said: 'Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean.' Jesus Christ
is calling to every one of us, 'Turn ye! turn ye! Why will ye die?
As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.'



A GLUTTONOUS MAN AND A WINEBIBBER


    'The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye
    say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a
    friend of publicans and sinners!'--LUKE vii. 34.

Jesus Christ very seldom took any notice of the mists of calumny
that drifted round Him. 'When He was reviled He reviled not again.'
If ever He did allude to them it was for the sake of the people who
were harming themselves by uttering them. So here, without the
slightest trace of irritation, He quotes a malignant charge which
was evidently in the popular mouth, and of which we should never
have known if He had not repeated it; not with anger, but simply in
order that He might point to the capricious inconsistency of finding
fault with John and Himself on precisely opposite grounds. The
former did not suit because he came neither eating nor drinking.
Well, if His asceticism did not please, surely the geniality of a
Christ who comes doing both will be hailed. But He is rejected like
the other. What is the cause of this dislike that can look two
different ways at once? Not the traits that it alleges, but
something far deeper, a dislike to the heavenly wisdom of which John
and Jesus were messengers. The children of wisdom would see that
there was right in both courses; the children of folly would condemn
them both. If the message is unwelcome, nothing that the messenger
can say or do will be right.

The same kind of thing is common to-day. Never mind consistency,
find fault with Christianity on all its sides, and with all its
preachers, though you have to contradict yourself in doing so.
Object to this man that he is too learned and doctrinal; to that one
that he is too illiterate, and gives no food for thought; to this
one that he is always thundering condemnation; to that one that he
is always running over with love; to this one that he is perpetually
harping upon duties; to that other one that he is up in the clouds,
and forgets the tasks of daily life; to this one that he is
sensational; to that one that he is dull; and so on, and so on. The
generation that liked neither piping nor mourning has its
representatives still.

But my business now is not with the inconsistency of the objectors
to John and Jesus, but simply with this caricature which He quotes
from them of some of His characteristics. It is a distorted
refraction of the beam of light that comes from His face, through
the muddy, thick medium of their prejudice. And if we can, I was
going to say, pull it straight again, we shall see something of His
glories. I take the two clauses of my text separately because they
are closely connected with our design, and cover different ground.

I. I ask you to note, first, the enemies' attestation to Christ's
genial participation in the joys and necessities of common life.

'The Son of man came eating and drinking.' There is nothing that
calumny, if it be malignant enough, cannot twist into an accusation;
and out of glorious and significant facts, full of lessons and
containing strong buttresses of the central truth of the Gospel,
these people made this charge, 'a winebibber and gluttonous.' The
facts were facts; the inferences were slanders.

Notice how precious, how demonstrative of the very central truth of
Christianity, is that plain fact, 'The Son of man came eating and
drinking.' Then that pillar of all our hope, the Incarnation of the
word of God, stands irrefragable. Sitting at tables, hungering in
the wilderness, faint by the well, begging a draught of water from a
woman, and saying on His Cross 'I thirst!'--He is the Incarnation of
Deity, the manifestation of God in the flesh. Awe and mystery and
reverence and hope and trust clasp that fact, in which prejudice and
dislike could only find occasion for a calumny.

By eating and drinking He declared that 'forasmuch as the children
were partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise took part in
the same.' If it is true that every spirit that confesseth that
Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God,' then it is true that
no miracle in His life, nor any of the supernatural glories which we
are accustomed to regard as evidences of His majesty, are more
blessed, or more important as revelations of His nature, than the
fact that 'the Son of man came eating and drinking.'

But, still further, mark how the truth which gave colour to the
slander attests that Jesus Christ presents to the world the highest
type of manhood. The ideal for life is not the suppression, but the
consecration, of material satisfactions and pleasures of appetite.
And they are likest to the Master who, like the Master, come eating
and drinking, and yet ever hold all appetites and desires rigidly
under control, and subordinate them all to loftier purposes. John
the Baptist could be an ascetic; the Pattern Man must not be.

The highest type of religion, as it is shown to us in His perfect
life, includes the acceptance of all pure material blessings.
Asceticism is second best; the religion that can take and keep
secondary all outward and transitory sources of enjoyment, and can
hallow common life, is loftier than all pale hermits and emaciated
types of sanctity, who preserve their purity only by avoiding things
which it were nobler to enjoy and to subdue.

There is nothing more striking about the Old Testament than the fact
that its heroes and saints were kindly with their kind, and took
part in common life, accepting, enjoying its blessings. They were
warriors, statesmen, shepherds, vinedressers; 'they bought, they
sold, they planted, they builded; they married and were given in
marriage,' and all the while they were the saints of God. That was a
nobler type of religion than the one that came after it, into which
Jesus Christ was born. When devotion cools it crusts; and the crust
is superstition and formalism and punctilious attention to the
proprieties of worship and casuistry, instead of joyful obedience to
a law, and abstinence from, instead of sanctification of, earthly
delights and supplies.

So, protesting against all that, and showing the more excellent way,
and hallowing the way because He trod it, 'the Son of man came
eating and drinking.' Hence-forward every table may be a communion
table, and every meal may be a sacrament, eaten in obedience to His
dying injunction: 'This do in remembrance of Me.' If we can feel
that Christ sits with us at the feast, the feast will be pure and
good. If it is of such a sort as that we dare not fancy Him keeping
us company there, it is no place for us. Wherever Jesus Christ went
the consecration of His presence lingers still; whatever Jesus
Christ did His servants may do, if in the same spirit and in the
same manner.

He hallowed infancy when He lay an infant in His mother's arms; He
hallowed childhood when, as a boy, He was obedient to His parents;
He hallowed youth during all those years of quiet seclusion and
unnoticed service in Nazareth; He hallowed every part of human life
and experience by bearing it. Love is consecrated because He loved;
tears are sacred because He wept; life is worship, or may be made
so, because He passed through it; and death itself is ennobled and
sanctified because He has died.

Only let us remember that, if we are to exercise this blessed
hallowing of common things, of which He has set us the example, we must
use them as He did; that is, in such sort as that our communion with
God shall not be broken thereby, and that nothing in them shall darken
the vision and clip the wings of the aspiring and heavenward-gazing
spirit. Brethren! the tendency of this day--and one rejoices, in many
respects, that it is so--is to revolt against the extreme of narrowness
in the past that prescribed and proscribed a great many arbitrary and
unnecessary abstinences and practices as the sign of a Christian
profession. But whilst I would yield to no man in my joyful application
of the principle that underlies that great fact that 'He came eating
and drinking,' I do wish at this point to put in a _caveat_ which
perhaps may not be so welcome to some of you as the line of thought
that I have been pursuing. It is this: it is an error to quote
Christ's example as a cover for luxury and excess, and grasping at
material enjoyments which are not innocent in themselves, or are mixed
up with much that is not innocent. There is many a table spread by
so-called Christian people where Jesus Christ will not sit. Many a
man darkens his spirit, enfeebles his best part, blinds himself to the
things beyond, by reason of his taking the liberty, as he says, which
Christianity, broadly and generously interpreted, gives, of
participating in all outward delights. I have said that asceticism is
not the highest, but it is sometimes necessary. It is better to enjoy
and to subdue than to abstain and to suppress, but abstinence and
suppression are often essential to faithfulness and noble living. If
I find that my enjoyment of innocent things harms me, or is tending to
stimulate cravings beyond my control; or if I find that abstinence from
innocent things increases my power to help a brother, and to fight
against a desolating sin; or if things good and innocent in
themselves, and in some respects desirable and admirable, like the
theatre, for instance, are irretrievably intertwisted with evil
things, then Christ's example is no plea for our sharing in such. It
is better for us to cut off the offending hand, and so, though
maimed, to enter into life, than to keep two hands and go into the
darkness of death. Jesus Christ 'came eating and drinking,' and
therefore the highest and the best thing is that Christian people
should innocently, and with due control, and always keeping
themselves in touch with God, enjoy all outward blessings, only
subject to this law, 'whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever we do,
to do all to the glory of God,' and remembering this warning, 'He
that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.'

II. Now, secondly, notice the enemies' witness that Christ is the
Friend of outcasts.

As I said about the other charge, so I say of this, the facts were
facts, the inferences were errors. The slanderers saw, as nobody
could help seeing, that there was a strange kind of mutual
attraction between Jesus and publicans and sinners; that harlots as
well as little children seemed to be drawn to Him; and that He
obviously delighted in the company of those at whose presence,
partly from pride, partly from national enmity, partly from
heartless self-righteousness, Pharisaism gathered its dainty skirts
around itself in abhorrence, lest a speck should fall upon their
purity. That being the fact, low natures, who always misunderstand
lofty ones, because they can only believe in motives as low as their
own, said of Jesus, 'Ah! you can tell what sort of a man He is by
the company He keeps. He is the friend of publicans because He is a
bad Jew; the friend of sinners because He likes their wicked ways.'

There was a mysterious sense of sympathy which drew Jesus Christ to
these poor people and drew them to Him. It would have been a long
while before any penitent woman would have come in and wept over
the feet of Gamaliel and his like. It would have been a long while
before any sinful men would have found their way, with tears and yet
with trust, to these self-righteous hypocrites. But perfect purity
somehow draws the impure, though assumed sanctity always repels
them. And it is a sign, not that a man is bad, but that he is good
in a Christlike fashion, if the outcasts that durst not come near
your respectable people find themselves drawn to Him. Oh! if there
were more of us liker Jesus Christ in our purity, there would be
more of us who would deserve the calumny which is praise--'the
friend of sinners.'

It was an attestation of His love, as I need not remind you. I
suppose there is nothing more striking in the whole wonderful and
unique picture of Jesus Christ drawn in the Gospels than the way in
which two things, which we so often fancy to be contradictory, blend
in the most beautiful harmony in Him--viz. infinite tenderness and
absolute condemnation of transgression. To me the fact that these
two characteristics are displayed in perfect harmony in the life of
Jesus Christ as written in these Gospels, is no small argument for
believing the historical veracity of the picture there drawn. For I
do not know a harder thing for a dramatist, or a romancer, or a
legend-monger to effect than to combine, in one picture--without
making the combination monstrous-these two things, perfect purity
and perfect love for the impure.

But, dear brethren, remember, that if we are to believe Jesus
Christ's own words, that strange love of His, which embraced in its
pure clasp the outcasts, was not only the love of a perfect Man, but
it was the love of God Himself. 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the
Father.' When we see Jesus Christ looking across the valley to the
city, with tears in His sad and gentle eyes; and when we see harlots
and sinners coming near Him with new hope, and a strange
consciousness of a fascination which He wields; and when we see Him
opening His heart to all the impure, just as He laid His clean hand
on the leper's ulcers, let us rejoice to believe that the Friend of
publicans and sinners is God manifest in the flesh.

Then, still further, this wondrous, seeking love of His for all the
outcasts is the sign to us of His boundless hopefulness concerning
the most degraded.

The world talks of races too low to be elevated, of men too hardened
to be softened. Jesus Christ walks through the hospitals of this
world, and nowhere sees incurables. His hope is boundless, because,
first of all, He sees the dormant possibilities that slumber in the
most degraded; and because, still more, He knows that He bears in
Himself a power that will cleanse the foulest and raise the most
fallen. There are some metals that resist all attempts to volatilise
them by the highest temperature producible in our furnaces. Carry
them up into the sun and they will all pass into vapour. No man or
woman who ever lived, or will live, is so absolutely besotted, and
held by the chains of his or her sins, as that Jesus cannot set them
free. His hope for outcasts is boundless, because He knows that
every sin can be cleansed by His precious blood. Therefore,
Christianity should know nothing of desperate cases. There should be
no incurables in our estimate of the world, but our hope should be
as boundless as the Master's, who drew to Himself the publicans
and sinners, and made them saints.

I need not remind you how this is the unique glory of Christ and of
Christianity. Men have been asking the question whether Christianity
is played out or not. What has been the motive power of all the
great movements for the elevation of mankind that have occurred for
the last nineteen centuries? What was it that struck the fetters of
the slaves? What is it that sends men out amongst savage tribes? Has
there ever been found a race of men so degraded that the message of
Christ's love could not find its way into their hearts? Did not
Darwin subscribe to the Patagonian Mission--a mission which takes in
hand perhaps the lowest types of humanity in the world--and did he
not do it because his own eyes had taught him that in this strange
superstition that we call the Gospel there is a power that, somehow
or other, nothing else can wield? Brethren! if the Church begins to
lose its care for, and its power of drawing, outcasts and sinners,
it has begun to lose its hold on Christ. The sooner such a Church
dies the better, and there will be few mourners at its funeral.

The Friend of publicans and sinners has set the example to all of us
His followers. God be thanked that there are signs to-day that
Christian people are more and more waking up to the consciousness of
their obligations in regard to the outcasts in their own and other
lands. Let them go to them, as Jesus Christ did, with no false
flatteries, but with plain rebukes of sin, and yet with manifest
outgoing of the heart, and they will find that the same thing which
drew these poor creatures to the Master will draw others to the
feeblest, faintest reflection of Him in His servants.

And, last of all, dear friends, let each think that Jesus Christ is
my Friend, and your Friend, because He is the Friend of sinners, and
we are sinners. If He did not love sinners there would be nobody for
Him to love. The universality of sin, however various in its degrees
and manifestations, makes more wonderful the universal sweep of His
friendship.

How do I know that He is my Friend? 'Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,' and when we
were yet enemies He was our Friend, and died for us. How shall we
requite that love? 'Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command
you to do.' All over the Eastern world to this day the name by which
the Patriarch Abraham is known is the 'Friend' or the 'Companion.'
Well for us, for time and for eternity, if, knowing that Jesus is
our Friend, we yield ourselves, in faith and love, to become His
friends!



THE TWO DEBTORS


    'There was a certain creditor which had two debtors;
    the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
    42. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly
    forgave them both. Tell Me therefore, which of them
    will love him most? 43. Simon answered and said, I
    suppose that he to whom he forgave most.'--LUKE vii.41-43.

We all know the lovely story in which this parable is embedded. A
woman of notoriously bad character had somehow come in contact with
Jesus Christ, and had by Him been aroused from her sensuality and
degradation, and calmed by the assurance of forgiveness. So, when
she heard that He was in her own town, what could she do but hasten
to the Pharisee's house, and brave the cruel, scornful eyes of the
eminently respectable people that would meet her there? She carries
with her part of the spoils and instruments of her sinful adornment,
to devote it to His service; but before she can open the cruse, her
heart opens, and the hot tears flow on His feet, inflicting an indignity
where she had meant an honour. She has nothing at hand to repair the
fault, she will not venture to take her poor garment, which might have
done it, but with a touch, she loosens her long hair, and with the
ingenuity and self-abasement of love, uses that for a towel. Then,
gathering confidence from her reception, and carried further than she
had meant, she ventures to lay her sinful lips on His feet, as if asking
pardon for the tears that would come--the only lips, except those of
the traitor, that are recorded as having touched the Master. And only
then does she dare to pour upon Him her only wealth.

What says the Pharisee? Has he a heart at all? He is scandalised at
such a scene at his respectable table; and no wonder, for he could
not have known that a change had passed upon the woman, and her evil
repute was obviously notorious. He does not wonder at her having
found her way into his house, for the meal was half public. But he
began to doubt whether a Man who tolerates such familiarities from
such a person could be a prophet; or if He were, whether He could be
a good man. 'He would have known her if He had been a prophet,'
thinks he. The thought is only a questionably true one. 'If He had
known her, He would have thrust her back with His foot,' he thinks;
and that thought is obviously false. But Simon's righteousness was
of the sort that gathers up its own robes about it, and shoves back
the poor sinner into the filth. 'She is a sinner,' says he. No,
Simon! she _was_ a sinner, but she _is_ a penitent, and is
on the road to be a saint, and having been washed, she is a great
deal cleaner than thou art, who art only white-washed.

Our Lord's parable is the answer to the Pharisee's thought, and in
it Jesus shows Simon that He knows him and the woman a great deal
better than he did. There are three things to which briefly I ask
your attention--the common debt, in varying amounts; the common
insolvency; and the love, like the debt, varying in amount. Now,
note these things in order.

I. There is, first of all, the common debt.

I do not propose to dwell at all upon that familiar metaphor,
familiar to us all from its use in the Lord's Prayer, by which sin
and the guilt of sin are shadowed forth for us in an imperfect
fashion by the conception of debt. For duty neglected is a debt to
God, which can only be discharged by a penalty. And all sin, and its
consequent guilt and exposure to punishment, may be regarded under
the image of indebtedness.

But the point that I want you to notice is that these two in our
parable, though they are meant to be portraits of Simon and the
woman, are also representatives of the two classes to one or other
of which we all belong. They are both debtors, though one owes but a
tenth of what the other does. That is to say, our Lord here draws a
broad distinction between people who are outwardly respectable,
decent, cleanly living, and people who have fallen into the habit,
and are living a life, of gross and open transgression. There has
been a great deal of very pernicious loose representation of the
attitude of Christianity in reference to this matter, common in
evangelical pulpits. And I want you to observe that our Lord draws a
broad line and says, 'Yes! you, Simon, are a great deal better than
that woman was. She was coarse, unclean, her innocence gone, her
purity stained. She had been wallowing in filth, and you, with your
respectability, your rigid morality, your punctilious observance of
the ordinary human duties, you were far better than she was, and had
far less to answer for than she had.' Fifty is only a tenth of five
hundred, and there is a broad distinction, which nothing ought to be
allowed to obliterate, between people who, without religion, are
trying to do right, to keep themselves in the paths of morality and
righteousness, to discharge their duty to their fellows, controlling
their passions and their flesh, and others who put the reins upon
the necks of the horses and let them carry them where they will, and
live in an eminent manner for the world and the flesh and the devil.
And there is nothing in evangelical Christianity which in the
smallest degree obliterates that distinction, but rather it
emphasises it, and gives a man full credit for any difference that
there is in his life and conduct and character between himself and
the man of gross transgression.

But then it says, on the other side, the difference which does
exist, and is not to be minimised, is, after all, a difference of
degree. They are both debtors. They stand in the same relation to
the creditor, though the amount of the indebtedness is extremely
different. We are all sinful men, and we stand in the same relation
to God, though one of us may be much darker and blacker than the
other.

And then, remember, that when you begin to talk about the guilt of
actions in God's sight, you have to go far below the mere surface.
If we could see the infinite complexity of motives--aggravations on
the one side and palliations on the other--which go to the doing of
a single deed, we should not be so quick to pronounce that the
publican and the harlot are worse than the Pharisee. It is quite
possible that an action which passes muster in regard to the
morality of the world may, if regard be had (which God only can
exercise) to the motive for which it is done, be as bad as, if not
worse than, the lust and the animalism, drunkenness and debauchery,
crime and murder, which the vulgar scales of the world consider to
be the heavier. If you once begin to try to measure guilt, you will
have to pass under the surface appearance, and will find that many a
white and dazzling act has a very rotten inside, and that many a
very corrupt and foul one does not come from so corrupt a source as
at first sight might seem to be its origin. Let us be very modest in
our estimate of the varying guilt of actions, and remember that,
deep down below all diversities, there lies a fundamental identity,
in which there is no difference, that all of us respectable people
that never broke a law of the nation, and scarcely ever a law of
propriety, in our lives, and the outcasts, if there are any here
now, the drunkards, the sensualists, all of us stand in this respect
in the same class. We are all debtors, for we have 'all sinned and
come short of the glory of God,' A viper an inch long and the
thickness of whipcord has a sting and poison in it, and is a viper.
And if the question is whether a man has got small-pox or not, one
pustule is as good evidence as if he was spotted all over. So,
remember, he who owes five hundred and he who owes the tenth part of
it, which is fifty, are both debtors.

II. Now notice the common insolvency.

'They had nothing to pay.' Well, if there is no money, 'no effects'
in the bank, no cash in the till, nothing to distrain upon, it does
not matter very much what the amount of the debt is, seeing that
there is nothing to meet it, and whether it is fifty or five hundred
the man is equally unable to pay. And that is precisely our
position.

I admit, of course, that men without any recognition of God's
pardoning mercy, or any of the joyful impulse that comes from the
sense of Christ's redemption, or any of the help that is given by
the indwelling of the Spirit who sanctifies may do a great deal in
the way of mending their characters and making themselves purer and
nobler. But that is not the point which my text contemplates,
because it deals with a past. And the fact that lies under the
metaphor of my text is this, that none of us can in any degree
diminish our sin, considered as a debt to God. What can you and I do
to lighten our souls of the burden of guilt? What we have written we
have written. Tears will not wash it out, and amendment will not
alter the past, which stands frowning and irrevocable. If there be a
God at all, then our consciences, which speak to us of demerit,
proclaim guilt in its two elements--the sense of having done wrong,
and the foreboding of punishment therefor. Guilt cannot be dealt
with by the guilty one: it must be Some One else who deals with it.
He, and only He against whom we have sinned, can touch the great
burden that we have piled upon us.

Brother! we have nothing to pay. We may mend our ways; but that does
not touch the past. We may hate the evil; that will help to keep us
from doing it in the future, but it does not affect our
responsibility for what is done. We cannot touch it; there it stands
irrevocable, with this solemn sentence written over the black pile,
'Every transgression and disobedience shall receive its just
recompense of reward.' We have nothing to pay.

But my text suggests, further, that a condition precedent to
forgiveness is the recognition by us of our penniless insolvency.
Though it is not distinctly stated, it is clearly and necessarily
implied in the narrative, that the two debtors are to be supposed as
having come and held out a couple of pairs of empty hands, and sued
in _formâ pauperis_. You must recognise your insolvency if you
expect to be forgiven. God does not accept dividends, so much in the
pound, and let you off the rest on consideration thereof. If you are
going to pay, you have to pay all; if He is going to forgive, you
have to let Him forgive all. It must be one thing or the other, and
you and I have to elect which of the two we shall stand by, and
which of the two shall be applied to us.

Oh, dear friends! may we all come and say,

  Nothing in my hand I bring,
  Simply to Thy Cross I cling.

III. And so, lastly, notice the love, which varies with the
forgiveness.

'Tell Me which of them will love him most.' Simon does not penetrate
Christ's design, and there is a dash of supercilious contempt for the
story and the question, as it seems to me, in the languid, half-courteous
answer:--'I suppose, if it were worth my while to think about such a
thing, that he to whom he forgave the most.' He did not know what a
battery was going to be unmasked. Jesus says, 'Thou hast rightly judged.'

The man that is most forgiven is the man that will love most. Well,
that answer is true if all other things about the two debtors are
equal. If they are the same sort of men, with the same openness to
sentiments of gratitude and generosity, the man who is let off the
smaller debt will generally be less obliged than the man who is let
off the larger. But it is, alas! not always the case that we can
measure benefits conferred by gratitude shown. Another element comes
in--namely, the consciousness of the benefit received--which
measures the gratitude far more accurately than the actual benefit
bestowed. And so we must take both these things, the actual amount
of forgiveness, so to speak, which is conferred, and the depth of
the sense of the forgiveness received, in order to get the measure
of the love which answers it. So that this principle breaks up into
two thoughts, of which I have only just a word or two to say.

First, it is very often true that the greatest sinners make the
greatest saints. There have been plenty of instances all down the
history of the world, and there are plenty of instances, thank God,
cropping up every day still in which some poor, wretched outcast,
away out in the darkness, living on the husks that the swine do eat,
and liking to be in the pigstye, is brought back into the Father's
house, and turns out a far more loving son and a far better servant
than the man that had never wandered away from it. 'The publicans
and the harlots' do often yet 'go into the Kingdom of God before'
the respectable people.

And there are plenty of people in Manchester that you would not
touch with a pair of tongs who, if they could be got hold of, would
make far more earnest and devoted Christians than you are. The very
strength of passion and feeling which has swept them wrong, rightly
directed, would make grand saints of them, just as the very same
conditions of climate which, at tropics, bring tornadoes and
cyclones and dreadful thunder-storms, do also bring abundant
fertility. The river which devastates a nation, dammed up within
banks, may fertilise half a continent. And if a man is brought out
of the darkness, and looks back upon the years that are wasted, that
may help him to a more intense consecration. And if he remembers the
filth out of which Jesus Christ picked him, it will bind him to that
Lord with a bond deep and sacred.

So let no outcast man or woman listening to me now despair. You can
come back from the furthest darkness, and whatever ugly things you
have in your memories and your consciences, you may make them
stepping-stones on which to climb to the very throne of God. Let no
respectable people despise the outcasts;  there may be the making in
them of far better Christians than we are.

But, on the other hand, let no man think lightly of sin. Though it
can be forgiven and swept away, and the gross sinner may become the
great saint, there will be scars and bitter memories and habits
surging up again after we thought they were dead; and the old ague
and fever that we caught in the pestilential land will hang by us
when we have migrated into a more wholesome climate. It is never
good for a man to have sinned, even though, through his sin, God may
have taken occasion to bring him near to Himself.

But the second form of this principle is always true--namely, that
those who are most conscious of forgiveness will be most fruitful of
love. The depth and fervour of our individual Christianity depends
more largely on the clearness of our consciousness of our own
personal guilt and the firmness of our grasp of forgiveness than
upon anything else.

Why is it that such multitudes of you professing Christians are such
icebergs in your Christianity? Mainly for this reason--that you have
never found out, in anything like an adequate measure, how great a
sinner you are, and how sure and sweet and sufficient Christ's
pardoning mercy is. And so you are like Simon--you will ask Jesus to
dinner, but you will not give Him any water for His feet or ointment
for His head. You will do the conventional and necessary pieces of
politeness, but not one act of impulse from the heart ever comes
from you. You discharge 'the duties of religion.' What a phrase! You
discharge the duties of religion. Ah! My brother, if you had been
down into the horrible pit and the miry clay, and had seen a hand
and a face looking down, and an arm outstretched to lift you; and if
you had ever known what the rapture was after that subterraneous
experience of having your feet set upon a rock and your goings
established, you would come to Him and you would say, 'Take me all,
O Lord! for I am all redeemed by Thee.' 'To whom little is forgiven
the same loveth little.' Does not that explain the imperfect
Christianity of thousands of us?

Fifty pence and five hundred pence are both small sums. Our Lord had
nothing to do here with the absolute amount of debt, but only with the
comparative amount of the two debts. But when He wanted to tell the
people what the absolute amount of the debt was, he did it in that
other story of the Unfaithful Servant. He owed his lord, not fifty
pence (fifty eightpences or thereabouts), not five hundred pence, but
'ten thousand talents,' which comes to near two and a half millions
of English money. And that is the picture of our indebtedness to God.
'We have nothing to pay.' Here is the payment--that Cross, that dying
Christ. Turn your faith there, my brother, and then you will get ample
forgiveness, and that will kindle love, and that will overflow in
service. For the aperture in the heart at which forgiveness enters in
is precisely of the same width as the one at which love goes out.
Christ has loved us all, and perfectly. Let us love Him back again,
who has died that we might live, and borne our sins in His own body.



LOVE AND FORGIVENESS


    'Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved
    much.'--LUKE  vii. 47.

This story contains three figures, three persons, who may stand for
us as types or representatives of the divine love and of all its
operation in the world, of the way in which it is received or rejected,
and of the causes and consequences of its reception or rejection. There
is the unloving, cleanly, respectable, self-complacent Pharisee, with
all his contempt for 'this woman.' There is the woman, with gross sin
and mighty penitence, the great burst of love that is flowing out of
her heart sweeping away before it, as it were, all the guilt of her
transgressions. And, high over all, brooding over all, loving each,
knowing each, pitying each, willing to save and be the Friend and
Brother of each, is the embodied and manifested divine Love, the
knowledge of whom is love in our hearts, and is 'life eternal.' So that
now I have simply to ask you to look with me, for a little while, at
these three persons as representing for us the divine love that comes
forth amongst sinners, and the twofold form in which that love is
received. There is, first, Christ the love of God appearing amongst
men, the foundation of all our love to Him. Then there is the woman,
the penitent sinner, lovingly recognising the divine love. And then,
last, there is the Pharisee, the self-righteous man, ignorant of
himself, and empty of all love to God. These are the three figures to
which I ask your attention now.

I. We have Christ here standing as a manifestation of the divine
love coming forth amongst sinners. His person and His words, the
part He plays in this narrative, and the parable that He speaks in
the course of it, have to be noticed under this head.

First, then, you have this idea--that He, as bringing to us the love
of God, shows it to us, as not at all dependent upon our merits or
deserts: 'He frankly forgave them both' are the deep words in which
He would point us to the source and the ground of all the love of
God. Brethren, have you ever thought what a wonderful and blessed
truth there lies in the old words of one of the Jewish prophets, 'I
do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy
Name's sake'? The foundation of all God's love to us sinful men,
that saying tells us, lies not in us, nor in anything about us, not
in anything external to God Himself. He, and He alone, is the cause
and reason, the motive and the end, of His own love to our world.
And unless we have grasped that magnificent thought as the
foundation of all our acceptance in Him, I think we have not yet
learnt half of the fullness which, even in this world, may belong to
our conceptions of the love of God--a love that has no motive but
Himself; a love that is not evoked even (if I may so say) by regard
to His creatures' wants; a love, therefore, which is eternal, being
in that divine heart before there were creatures upon whom it could
rest; a love that is its own guarantee, its own cause--safe and
firm, therefore, with all the firmness and serenity of the divine
nature-incapable of being affected by our transgression, deeper than
all our sins, more ancient than our very existence, the very essence
and being of God Himself. 'He frankly forgave them both.' If you
seek the source of divine love, you must go high up into the
mountains of God, and learn that it, as all other of His (shall I
say) emotions, and feelings, and resolutions, and purposes, owns no
reason but Himself, no motive but Himself; lies wrapped in the
secret of His nature, who is all-sufficient for His own blessedness,
and all whose work and being is caused by, and satisfied, and
terminates in His own fullness. 'God is love': therefore beneath all
considerations of what we may want--deeper and more blessed than all
thoughts of a compassion that springs from the feeling of human
distress and the sight of man's misery--lies this thought of an
affection which does not need the presence of sorrow to evoke it,
which does not want the touch of our finger to flow out, but by its
very nature is everlasting, by its very nature is infinite, by its
very nature must be pouring out the flood of its own joyous fullness
for ever and ever!

Then, again, Christ standing here for us as the representative and
revelation of this divine love which He manifests to us, tells us,
too, that whilst it is not caused by us, but comes from the nature
of God, it is not turned away by our sins. 'This man, if he were a
prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that
toucheth Him,' says the unloving and self-righteous heart, 'for she
is a sinner.' Ah! there is nothing more beautiful than the
difference between the thought about sinful creatures which is
natural to a holy being, and the thought about sinful creatures
which is natural to a self-righteous being. The one is all contempt;
the other, all pity. He knew what she was, and therefore He let her
come close to Him with the touch of her polluted hand, and pour out
the gains of her lawless life and the adornments of her former
corruption upon His most blessed and most holy head. His knowledge
of her as a sinner, what did it do to His love for her? It made that
love gentle and tender, as knowing that she could not bear the
revelation of the blaze of His purity. It smoothed His face and
softened His tones, and breathed through all His knowledge and
notice of her timid and yet confident approach. 'Daughter, I know
all about it--all thy wanderings and thy vile transgressions: I know
them all, and My love is mightier than all these. They may be as the
great sea, but my love is like the everlasting mountains, whose
roots go down beneath the ocean, and My love is like the everlasting
heaven, whose brightness covers it all over.' God's love is Christ's
love; Christ's love is God's love. And this is the lesson that we
gather--that that infinite and divine loving-kindness does not turn
away from thee, my brother and my friend, because thou art a sinner,
but remains hovering about thee, with wooing invitations and with
gentle touches, if it may draw thee to repentance, and open a
fountain of answering affection in thy seared and dry heart. The
love of God is deeper than all our sins. 'For His great love
wherewith He loved us, when we were dead in sins, He quickened us.'

Sin is but the cloud behind which the everlasting sun lies in all
its power and warmth, unaffected by the cloud; and the light will
yet strike, the light of His love will yet pierce through, with its
merciful shafts bringing healing in their beams, and dispersing all
the pitchy darkness of man's transgression. And as the mists gather
themselves up and roll away, dissipated by the heat of that sun in
the upper sky, and reveal the fair earth below--so the love of
Christ shines in, molting the mist and dissipating the fog, thinning
it off in its thickest places, and at last piercing its way right
through it, down to the heart of the man that has been lying beneath
the oppression of this thick darkness, and who thought that the fog
was the sky, and that there was no sun there above. God be thanked!
the everlasting love of God that comes from the depth of His own
being, and is there because of Himself, will never be quenched
because of man's sin.

And so, in the next place, Christ teaches us here that this divine
love, when it comes forth among sinners, necessarily manifests
itself first in the form of forgiveness. There was nothing to be
done with the debtors until the debt was wiped out; there was no
possibility of other gifts of the highest sort being granted to
them, until the great score was cancelled and done away with. When
the love of God comes down into a sinful world, it must come first
and foremost as pardoning mercy. There are no other terms upon which
there can be a union betwixt the loving-kindness of God, and the
emptiness and sinfulness of my heart, except only this--that first
of all there shall be the clearing away from my soul of the sins
which I have gathered there, and then there will be space for all
other divine gifts to work and to manifest themselves. Only do not
fancy that when we speak about forgiveness, we simply mean that a
man's position in regard to the penalties of sin is altered. That is
not all the depth of the scriptural notion of forgiveness. It
includes far more than the removal of outward penalties. The heart
of it all is, that the love of God rests upon the sinner, unturned
away even by his sins, passing over his sins, and removing his sins
for the sake of Christ. My friend, if you are talking in general
terms about a great divine loving-kindness that wraps you round--if
you have a great deal to say, apart from the Gospel, about the love
of God as being your hope and confidence--I want you to reflect on
this, that the first word which the love of God speaks to sinful men
is pardon; and unless that is your notion of God's love, unless you
look to that as the first thing of all, let me tell you, you may
have before you a very fair picture of a very beautiful, tender,
good-natured benevolence, but you have not nearly reached the height
of the vigour and yet the tenderness of the Scripture notion of the
love of God. It is not a love which says, 'Well, put sin on one
side, and give the man the blessings all the same,' not a love which
has nothing to say about that great fact of transgression, not a
love which gives it the go-by, and leaves it standing: but a love
which passes into the heart through the portal of pardon, a love
which grapples with the fact of sin first, and has nothing to say to
a man until it has said that message to him.

And but one word more on this part of my subject--here we see the
love of God thus coming from Himself; not turned away by man's sins;
being the cause of forgiveness; expressing itself in pardon; and
last of all, demanding service. 'Simon, thou gavest Me no water,
thou gavest Me no kiss, My head thou didst not anoint: I expected
all these things from thee--I desired them all from thee: My love
came that they might spring in thy heart; thou hast not given them;
My love is wounded, as it were disappointed, and it turns away from
thee!' Yes, after all that we have said about the freeness and
fullness, the unmerited, and uncaused, and unmotived nature of that
divine affection--after all that we have said about its being the
source of every blessing to man, asking nothing from him, but giving
everything to him; it still remains true, that God's love, when it
comes to men, comes that it may evoke an answering echo in the human
heart, and 'though it might be much bold to enjoin, yet for love's
sake rather beseeches' us to give unto Him who has given all unto
us. There, then, stands forth in the narrative, Christ as a
revelation of the divine love amongst sinners.

II. Now, in the second place, let us look for a moment at 'this
woman' as the representative of a class of character--the penitent
lovingly recognising the divine love.

The words which I have read as my text contain a statement as to the
woman's character: 'Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she
loved much.' Allow me just one word of explanation, in the shape of
exposition, on these words. Great blunders have been built upon
them. I dare say you have seen epitaphs--(I have)--written often on
gravestones with this misplaced idea on them--'Very sinful; but
there was a great deal of love in the person; and for the sake of
the love, God passed by the sin!' Now, when Christ says 'She loved
much,' He does not mean to say that her love was the cause of her
forgiveness--not at all. He means to say that her love was the proof
of her forgiveness, and that it was so because her love was a
consequence of her forgiveness. As, for instance, we might say, 'The
woman is in great distress, for she weeps'; but we do not mean
thereby that the weeping is the reason of the distress, but the
means of our knowing the sorrow. It is the proof because it is the
consequence. Or (to put it into the simplest shape) the love does
not go before the forgiveness, but the forgiveness goes before the
love; and because the love comes after the forgiveness, it is the
sign of the forgiveness. That this is the true interpretation, you
will see if you look back for a moment at the narrative which
precedes, where He says, 'He frankly forgave them both: tell me,
therefore, which of them will love him most?' Pardon is the
pre-requisite of love, and love is a consequence of the sense of
forgiveness.

This, then, is the first thing to observe: all true love to God is
preceded in the heart by these two things--a sense of sin, and an
assurance of pardon. Brethren, there is no love possible--real,
deep, genuine, worthy of being called love of God--which does not
start with the belief of my own transgression, and with the thankful
reception of forgiveness in Christ. You do nothing to get pardon for
yourselves; but unless you have the pardon you have no love to God.
I know that sounds a very hard thing--I know that many will say it
is very narrow and very bigoted, and will ask, 'Do you mean to tell
me that the man whose bosom glows with gratitude because of earthly
blessings, has no love--that all that natural religion which is in
people, apart from this sense of forgiveness in Christ, do you mean
to tell me that this is not all genuine?' Yes, most assuredly; and I
believe the Bible and man's conscience say the same thing. I do not
for one moment deny that there may be in the hearts of those who are
in the grossest ignorance of themselves as transgressors, certain
emotions of instinctive gratitude and natural religiousness, directed
to some higher power dimly thought of as the author of their blessings
and the source of much gladness: but has that kind of thing got any
living power in it? I demur to its right to be called love to God at
all, for this reason--because it seems to me that the object that is
loved is not God, but a fragment of God. He who but says, 'I owe to
Him breath and all things; in Him I live and move, and have my being,'
has left out one-half at least of the Scriptural conception of God.
Your God, my friend, is not the God of the Bible, unless He stands
before you clothed in infinite loving-kindness indeed; but clothed
also in strict and rigid justice. Is your God perfect and entire? If
you say that you love Him, and if you do so, is it as the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you meditated on the depths of
the requirements of His law? Have you stood silent and stricken at
the thought of the blaze of His righteousness? Have you passed through
all the thick darkness and the clouds with which He surrounds His
throne, and forced your way at last into the inner light where He
dwells? Or is it a vague divinity that you worship and love? Which?
Ah, if a man study his Bible, and try to find out for himself, from
its veracious records, who and what manner of God the living God is,
there will be no love in his heart to that Being except only when he
has flung himself at His feet, and said, 'Father of eternal purity,
and God of all holiness and righteousness, forgive Thy child, a
sinful broken man--forgive Thy child, for the sake of Thy Son!' That,
and that alone, is the road by which we come to possess the love of
God, as a practical power, filling and sanctifying our souls; and
such is the God to whom alone our love ought to be rendered; and I
tell you (or rather the Bible tells you, and the Gospel and the
Cross of Christ tell you), there is no love without pardon, no
fellowship and sonship without the sense of sin and the
acknowledgment of foul transgression!

So much, then, for what precedes the love of Christ in the heart;
now a word as to what follows. 'Her sins, which are many, are
forgiven; for she loved much.' The sense of sin precedes
forgiveness: forgiveness precedes love; love precedes all acceptable
and faithful service. If you want to do, love. If you want to know,
love. This poor woman knew Christ a vast deal better than that
Pharisee there. He said, 'This man is not a prophet; He does not
understand the woman.' Ay, but the woman knew herself better than
the Pharisee knew himself, knew herself better than the Pharisee
knew her, knew Christ, above all, a vast deal better than he did.
Love is the gate of all knowledge.

This poor woman brings her box of ointment, a relic perhaps of past
evil life, and once meant for her own adornment, and pours it on His
head, lavishes offices of service which to the unloving heart seem
bold in the giver and cumbersome to the receiver. It is little she
can do, but she does it. Her full heart demands expression, and is
relieved by utterance in deeds. The deeds are spontaneous, welling
out at the bidding of an inward impulse, not drawn out by the force
of an external command. It matters not what practical purpose they
serve. The motive of them makes their glory. Love prompts them, love
justifies them, and His love interprets them, and His love accepts
them. The love which flows from the sense of forgiveness is the
source of all obedience as well as the means of all knowledge.

Brethren, we differ from each other in all respects but one, 'We
have all sinned and come short of the glory of God'; we all need the
love of Christ; it is offered to us all; but, believe me, the sole
handle by which you can lay hold of it, is the feeling of your own
sinfulness and need of pardon. I preach to you a love that you do
not need to buy, a mercy that you do not need to bribe, a grace that
is all independent of your character, and condition, and merits,
which issues from God for ever, and is lying at your doors if you
will take it. You are a sinful man; Christ died for you. He comes to
give you His forgiving mercy. Take it, be at rest. So shalt thou
love and know and do, and so shall He love and guide thee!

III. Now one word, and then I have done. A third character stands
here--the unloving and self-righteous man, all ignorant of the love
of Christ.

He is the antithesis of the woman and her character. You remember
the traditional peculiarities and characteristics of the class to
which he belonged. He is a fair specimen of the whole of them.
Respectable in life, rigid in morality, unquestionable in orthodoxy;
no sound of suspicion having ever come near his belief in all the
traditions of the elders; intelligent and learned, high up among the
ranks of Israel! What was it that made this man's morality a piece
of dead nothingness? What was it that made his orthodoxy just so
many dry words, from out of which all the life had gone? What was
it? This one thing: there was no love in it. As I said, Love is the
foundation of all obedience; without it, morality degenerates into
mere casuistry. Love is the foundation of all knowledge; without it,
religion degenerates into a chattering about Moses, and doctrines,
and theories; a thing that will neither kill nor make alive, that
never gave life to a single soul or blessing to a single heart, and
never put strength into any hand for the conflict and strife of
daily life. There is no more contemptible and impotent thing on the
face of the earth than morality divorced from love, and religious
thoughts divorced from a heart full of the love of God. Quick
corruption or long decay, and in either case death and putrefaction,
are the end of these. You and I need that lesson, my friends. It is
of no use for us to condemn Pharisees that have been dead and in
their graves for nineteen hundred years. The same thing besets us
all; we all of us try to get away from the centre, and dwell
contented on the surface. We are satisfied to take the flowers and
stick them into our little gardens, without any roots to them, when
of course they all die out! People may try to cultivate virtue
without religion, and to acquire correct notions of moral and
spiritual truth; and partially and temporarily they may succeed, but
the one will be a yoke of bondage, and the other a barren theory. I
repeat, love is the basis of all knowledge and of all right-doing.
If you have got that firm foundation laid in the soul, then the
knowledge and the practice will be builded in God's own good time;
and if not, the higher you build the temple, and the more aspiring
are its cloud-pointing pinnacles, the more certain will be its
toppling some day, and the more awful will be the ruin when it
comes. The Pharisee was contented with himself, and so there was no
sense of sin in him, therefore there was no penitent recognition of
Christ as forgiving and loving him, therefore there was no love to
Christ. Because there was no love, there was neither light nor heat
in his soul, his knowledge was barren notions, and his painful
doings were soul-destructive self-righteousness.

And so it all comes round to the one blessed message: My friend, God
hath loved us with an everlasting love. He has provided an eternal
redemption and pardon for us. If you would know Christ at all, you
must go to Him as a sinful man, or you are shut out from Him
altogether. If you _will_ go to Him as a sinful being, fling
yourself down there, not try to make yourself better, but say, 'I am
full of unrighteousness and transgression; let Thy love fall upon me
and heal me'; you will get the answer, and in your heart there shall
begin to live and grow up a root of love to Him, which shall at last
effloresce into all knowledge and unto all purity of obedience; for
he that hath had much forgiveness, loveth much; and 'he that loveth
knoweth God,' and 'dwelleth in God, and God in Him'!



GO INTO PEACE


    'And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee:
    go in peace.'--LUKE vii. 50.

We find that our Lord twice, and twice only, employs this form of
sending away those who had received benefits from His hand. On both
occasions the words were addressed to women: once to this woman, who
was a sinner, and who was gibbeted by the contempt of the Pharisee
in whose house the Lord was; and once to that poor sufferer who
stretched out a wasted hand to lay upon the hem of His garment, in
the hope of getting healing--filching it away unknown to the Giver.
In both cases there is great tenderness; in the latter case even
more so than in the present, for there He addressed the tremulous
invalid as 'daughter'; and in both cases there is a very remarkable
connection hinted at between faith and peace; 'Thy faith hath saved
thee, go in peace.'

Now, there are three things that strike me about these words; the
first of them is this--

I. The dismissal of the woman.

One might have expected that our Lord would have flung the shield of
His companionship, for a little while, at any rate, over this
penitent, and so have saved her from the scoffs and sneers of her
neighbours, who knew that she was a sinner. One might have supposed
that the depth of her gratitude, as expressed by her costly offering
and by her tears, would have spoken to His heart, and that He would
have let her stop beside Him for a little while; but no! Jesus said
to her in effect; 'You have got what you wished; go away, and take
care of it.' Such a dismissal is in accordance with the way in which
He usually acted. For very seldom indeed, after He had gathered the
first nucleus of four disciples, do we find that He summoned any
individual to His side. Generally He broke the connection between
Himself and the recipients of His benefits at as early a moment as
possible, and dismissed them. And that was not only because He did
not wish to be surrounded and hampered by a crowd of slightly
attached disciples, but for two other reasons; one, the good of the
people themselves, and the other, that, scattered all over northern
Palestine, they might in their several circles become centres of
light and evangelists for the King. He dispersed them that He might
fling the seed broadcast over the land.

Jesus Christ says to us, if we have been saved by our faith, 'Go!'
And He intends two things thereby. First, to teach us that it is
good for us to stand by ourselves, to feel responsibility for the
ordering of our lives, not to have a visible Presence at our sides
to fall back upon, but to grow by solitude. There is no better way
of growing reliant, of becoming independent of circumstances, and in
the depths of our own hearts being calm, than by being deprived of
visible stay and support, and thus drawing closer and closer to our
unseen Companion, and leaning harder and heavier upon Him. 'It is
expedient for you that I go away.' For solitude and self-reliance,
which is bottomed upon self-distrust and reliance upon Him, are the
things that make men and women strong. So, if ever He carries us
into the desert, if ever He leaves us forsaken and alone, as we
think, if ever He seems--and sometimes He does with some people, and
it is only seeming--to withdraw Himself from us, it is all for the
one purpose, that we may grow to be mature men and women, not always
children, depending upon go-carts of any kind, and nurses' hands and
leading-strings. Go, and alone with Christ realise by faith that you
are not alone. Christian men and women, have you learned that
lesson--to be able to do without anybody and anything because your
whole hearts are filled, and your courage is braced up and
strengthened by the thought that the absent Christ is the present
Christ?

There is another reason, as I take it, for which this separation of
the new disciple from Jesus was so apparently mercilessly and
perpetually enforced. At the very moment when one would have thought
it would have done this woman good to be with the Lord for a little
while longer, she is sent out into the harshly judging world. Yes,
that is always the way by which Christian men and women that have
received the blessing of salvation through faith can retain it, and
serve Him--by going out among men and doing their work there. The
woman went home. I dare say it was a home, if what they said about
her was true, that sorely needed the leavening which she now would
bring. She had been a centre of evil. She was to go away back to the
very place where she had been such, and to be a centre of good. She
was to contradict her past by her present which would explain itself
when she said she had been with Jesus. For the very same reason for
which to one man that besought to be with Him, He said, 'No, no! go
away home and tell your friends what great things God has done for
you,' He said to this woman, and He says to you and me, 'Go, and
witness for Me.' Communion with Him is blessed, and it is meant to
issue in service for Him. 'Let us make here three tabernacles,' said
the Apostle; and there was scarcely need for the parenthetical
comment, 'not knowing what he said.' But there was a demoniac boy
down there with the rest of the disciples, and they had been trying
in vain to free him from the incubus that possessed him, and as long
as that melancholy case was appealing to the sympathy and help of
the transfigured Christ, it was no time to stop on the Mount.
Although Moses and Elias were there, and the voice from God was
there, and the Shechinah cloud was there, all were to be left, to go
down and do the work of helping a poor, struggling child. So Jesus
Christ says to us, 'Go, and remember that work is the end of
emotion, and that to do the Master's will in the world is the surest
way to realise His presence.'

II. Now, the second point I would suggest is--

The region into which Christ admitted this woman. It is remarkable
that in the present case, and in that other to which I have already
referred, the phraseology employed is not the ordinary one of that
familiar Old Testament leave-taking salutation, which was the
'goodbye' of the Hebrews, 'Go in peace.' But we read occasionally in
the Old Testament a slight but eloquent variation. It is not 'Go in
peace,' as our Authorised Version has it, but 'Go into peace,' and
that is a great deal more than the other. 'Go in peace' refers to
the momentary emotion; 'Go into peace' seems, as it were, to open
the door of a great palace, to let down the barrier on the borders
of a land, and to send the person away upon a journey through all
the extent of that blessed country. Jesus Christ takes up this as He
does a great many very ordinary conventional forms, and puts a
meaning into it. Eli had said to Hannah, 'Go into peace.' Nathan had
said to David, 'Go into peace.' But Eli and Nathan could only wish
that it might be so; their wish had no power to realise itself.
Christ takes the water of the conventional salutation and turns it
into the wine of a real gift. When He says, 'Go into peace,' He puts
the person into the peace which He wishes them, and His word is like
a living creature, and fulfils itself.

So He says to each of us: 'If you have been saved by faith, I open
the door of this great palace. I admit you across the boundaries of
this great country. I give you all possible forms of peace for
yours.' Peace with God--that is the foundation of all--then peace
with ourselves, so that our inmost nature need no longer be torn in
pieces by contending emotions, 'I dare not' waiting upon 'I would,'
and 'I ought' and 'I will' being in continual and internecine
conflict; but heart and will, and calmed conscience, and satisfied
desires, and pure affections, and lofty emotions being all drawn
together into one great wave by the attraction of His love, as the
moon draws the heaped waters of the ocean round the world. So our
souls at rest in God may be at peace within themselves, and that is
the only way by which the discords of the heart can be tuned to one
key, into harmony and concord; and the only way by which wars and
tumults within the soul turn into tranquil energy, and into peace
which is not stagnation, but rather a mightier force than was ever
developed when the soul was cleft by discordant desires.

In like manner, the man who is at peace with God, and consequently
with himself, is in relations of harmony with all things and with
all events. 'All things are yours if ye are Christ's.' 'The stars in
their courses fought against Sisera,' because Sisera was fighting
against God; and all creatures, and all events, are at enmity with
the man who is in antagonism and enmity to Him who is Lord of them
all. But if we have peace with God, and peace with ourselves, then,
as Job says, 'Thou shalt make a league with the beasts of the field,
and the stones of the field shall be at peace with thee.' 'Thy faith
hath saved thee; go into peace.'

Remember that this commandment, which is likewise a promise and a
bestowal, bids us progress in the peace into which Christ admits us.
We should be growingly unperturbed and calm, and 'there is no joy
but calm,' when all is said and done. We should be more and more
tranquil and at rest; and every day there should come, as it were, a
deeper and more substantial layer of tranquillity enveloping our
hearts, a thicker armour against perturbation and calamity and
tumult.

III. And now there is one last point here that I would suggest,
namely:

The condition on which we shall abide in the Land of Peace.

Our Lord said to both these women: 'Thy faith hath saved thee.' To
the other one it was even more needful to say it than to this poor
penitent prostitute, because that other one had the notion that,
somehow or other, she could steal away the blessing of healing by
contact of her finger with the robe of Jesus. Therefore He was
careful to lift her above that sensuous error, and to show her what
it was in her that had drawn healing 'virtue' from Him. In substance
He says to her: 'Thy faith, not thy forefinger, has joined thee to
Me; My love, not My garment, has healed thee.'

There have been, and still are, many copyists of the woman's mistake who
have ascribed too much healing and saving power to externals--sacraments,
rites, and ceremonies. If their faith is real and their longing earnest,
they get their blessing, but they need to be educated to understand
more clearly what is the human condition of receiving Christ's saving
power, and that robe and finger have little to do with it.

The sequence of these two sayings, the one pointing out the channel
of all spiritual blessing, the other, the bestowment of the great
blessing of perfect peace, suggests that the peace is conditional on
the faith, and opens up to us this solemn truth, that if we would
enjoy continuous peace, we must exercise continuous faith. The two
things will cover precisely the same ground, and where the one stops
the other will stop. Yesterday's faith does not secure to-day's
peace. As long as I hold up the shield of faith, it will quench all
the fiery darts of the wicked, but if I were holding it up
yesterday, and have dropped it to-day, then there is nothing between
me and them, and I shall be wounded and burned before long. No past
religious experience avails for present needs. If you would have
'your peace' to be 'as the waves of the sea,' your trust in Christ
must be continuous and strong. The moment you cease trusting, that
moment you cease being peaceful. Keep behind the breakwater, and you
will ride smoothly, whatever the storm. Venture out beyond it, and
you will be exposed to the dash of the waves and the howling of the
tempest. Your own past tells you where the means of blessing are. It
was your faith that saved you, and it is as you go on believing that
you 'Go into peace'.



THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN


    'And certain women, which had been healed of evil
    spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out
    of whom went seven devils, 3. And Joanna the wife of
    Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others,
    which ministered unto Him of their substance.'
    --LUKE viii. 2,3.

The Evangelist Luke has preserved for us several incidents in our
Lord's life in which women play a prominent part. It would not, I
think, be difficult to bring that fact into connection with the main
characteristics of his Gospel, but at all events it is worth
observing that we owe to him those details, and the fact that the
service of these grateful women was permanent during the whole of
our Lord's wandering life after His leaving Galilee. An incidental
reference to the fact is found in Matthew's account of the
Crucifixion, but had it not been for Luke we should not have known
the names of two or three of them, nor should we have known how
constantly they adhered to Him. As to the women of the little group,
we know very little about them. Mary of Magdala has had a very hard
fate. The Scripture record of her is very sweet and beautiful.
Delivered by Christ from that mysterious demoniacal possession, she
cleaves to Him, like a true woman, with all her heart. She is one of
the little group whose strong love, casting out all fear, nerved
them to stand by the Cross when all the men except the gentle
Apostle of love, as he is called, were cowering in corners, afraid
of their lives, and she was one of the same group who would fain
have prolonged their ministry beyond His death, and who brought the
sweet spices with them in order to anoint Him, and it was she who
came to the risen Lord with the rapturous exclamation, 'Rabboni, my
Master.' By strange misunderstanding of the Gospel story, she has
been identified with the woman who was a sinner in the previous
chapter in this book, and her fair fame has been blackened and her
very name taken as a designation of the class to which there is no
reason whatever to believe she belonged. Demoniacal possession was
neither physical infirmity nor moral evil, however much it may have
simulated sometimes the one or the other.

Then as to Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, old Church
tradition tells us that she was the consort of the nobleman whose
son Christ healed at Capernaum. It does not seem very likely that
Herod's steward would have been living in Capernaum, and the
narrative before us rather seems to show that she herself was the
recipient of healing from His hands. However that may be, Herod's
court was not exactly the place to look for Christian disciples, was
it? But you know they of Caesar's household surrounded with their
love the Apostle whom Nero murdered, and it is by no means an
uncommon experience that the servants' hall knows and loves the
Christ that the lord in the saloon does not care about.

And then as for Susanna, is it not a sweet fate to be known to all
the world for ever more by one line only, which tells of her service
to her Master?

So I will try to take out of these little incidents in our text some
plain lessons about this matter of Christian service and ministry to
Christ, with which it seems to be so full. It will apply to
missionary work and all other sorts of work, and perhaps will take
us down to the bottom of it all, and show us the foundation on which
it should all rest.

Let me ask you for a moment to look with me first of all at the
centre figure, as being an illustration of--what shall I say? may I
venture to use a rough word and say the pauper Christ?--as the great
Pattern and Motive for us, of the love that becomes poor. We very
often cover the life of our Lord with so much imaginative reverence
that we sometimes lose the hard angles of the facts of it. Now, I
want you to realise it, and you may put it into as modern English as
you like, for it will help the vividness of the conception, which is
a simple, prosaic fact, that Jesus Christ was, in the broadest
meaning of the word, a pauper; not indeed with the sodden poverty
that you can see in our slums, but still in a very real sense of the
word. He had not a thing that He could call His own, and when He
came to the end of His life there was nothing for His executioners
to gamble for except His one possession, the seamless robe. He is
hungry, and there is a fig-tree by the roadside, and He comes,
expecting to get His breakfast off that. He is tired, and He borrows
a fishing-boat to lie down and sleep in. He is thirsty, and He asks
a woman of questionable character to give Him a draught of water. He
wants to preach a sermon about the bounds of ecclesiastical and
civil society, and He says, 'Bring Me a penny.' He has to be
indebted to others for the beast of burden on which He made His
modest entry into Jerusalem, for the winding sheet that wrapped Him,
for the spices that would embalm Him, for the grave in which He lay.
He was a pauper in a deeper sense of the word than His Apostle when
he said, 'Having nothing, and yet possessing all things, as poor,
and yet making many rich.' For let us remember that the great
mystery of the Gospel system--the blending together in one act and
in one Person all the extremes of lowliness and of the loftiness
which go deep down into the very profundities of the Gospel, is all
here dramatised, as it were, and drawn into a picturesque form on
the very surface; and the same blending together of poverty and
absolute love, which in its loftiest form is the union in one Person
of Godhead and of manhood, is here for us in this fact, that all the
dark cloud of poverty, if I may so say, is shot through with strange
gleams of light like sunshine caught and tangled in some cold, wet
fog, so that whenever you get some definite and strange mark of
Christ's poverty, you get lying beside it some definite and strange
mark of His absoluteness and His worth. For instance, take the
illustration I have already referred to--He borrows a fishing-boat
and lies down, weary, to sleep on the wooden pillow at the end of
it; aye, but He rises and He says, 'Peace, be still,' and the waves
fall. He borrows the upper room, and with a stranger's wine and
another man's bread He founds the covenant and the sacrament of His
new kingdom. He borrows a grave; aye, but He comes out of it, the
Lord both of the dead and of the living. And so we have to say,
'Consider the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was
rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty
might become rich.'

The noblest life that was ever lived upon earth-I hope you and I
think it is a great deal more than that, but we all think it is that
at any rate--the noblest life that was ever lived upon earth was the
life of a poor man. Remember that pure desires, holy aspirations,
noble purposes, and a life peopled with all the refinement and
charities that belong to the spirit, and that is ever conscious of
the closest presence of God and of the innate union with Him, is
possible under such conditions, and so remember that the pauper
Christ is, at the least, the perfect Man.

But then what I more immediately intended was to ask you to take
that central figure with this external fact of His poverty, of the
depth of His true inanition, the emptying of Himself for our sakes,
as being the great motive, and Oh! thank God that with all humility,
we may venture to say, the great Pattern to which you and I have to
conform. There is the reason why we say, 'I love to speak His name,'
there is the true measure of the devotion of the consecration and
the self-surrender which He requires. Christ gave all for us even to
the uttermost circumference of external possession, and standing in
the midst of those for whose sakes He became poor, He turns to them
with a modest appeal when He says, 'Minister unto Me, for I have
made Myself to need your ministrations for the sake of your
redemption.' So much, then, for the first point which I would desire
to urge upon you from this incident before us.

Now, in the next place, and pursuing substantially the same course
of thought, let me suggest to you to look at the love--the love here
that stoops to be served.

It is a familiar observation and a perfectly true one that we have no
record of our Lord's ever having used miraculous power for the supply
of His own wants, and the reason for that, I suppose, is to be found
not only in that principle of economy and parsimony of miraculous
energy, so that the supernatural in His life was ever pared down to
the narrowest possible limits, and inosculated immediately with the
natural, but it is also to be found in this--let me put it into very
plain words--that Christ liked to be helped and served by the people
that He loved, and that Christ knew that they liked it as well as He.
It delighted Him, and He was quite sure that it delighted them. You
fathers and mothers know what it is when one of your little children
comes, and seeing you engaged about some occupation says, 'Let me
help you.' The little hand perhaps does not contribute much to the
furtherance of your occupation. It may be rather an encumbrance than
otherwise, but is not there a gladness in saying 'Yes, here, take
this and do this little thing for me'? And do not we all know how
maimed and imperfect that love is which only gives, and how maimed
and imperfect that love is which only receives, so that there must
be an assumption of both attitudes in all true commerce of affection,
and that same beautiful flashing backwards and forwards from the two
poles which makes the sweetness of our earthly love find its highest
example there in the heavens. There are the two mirrors facing each
other, and they reverberate rays from one polished surface to another,
and so Christ loves and gives, and Christ loves and takes, and His
servants love and give, and His servants love and take. Sometimes we
are accustomed to speak of it as the highest sign of our Lord's true,
deep conviction that He has given so much to us. It seems to me we may
well pause and hesitate whether the mightiness and the wonderfulness
of His love to us are shown more in that He gives everything to us,
or in that He takes so much from us. It is much to say, 'The Son of
man came not to be ministered unto but to minister'; I do not know
but that it is more to say that the Son of man let this record be
written: 'Certain women also which ministered to Him of their
substance.' At all events there it stands and for us. What although
we have to come and say, 'All that I bring is Thine'; what then?
Does a father like less to get a gift from his boy because he gave
him the shilling to buy it? And is there anything that diminishes
the true sweetness of our giving to Christ, and as we may believe
the true sweetness to Him of receiving it from us, because we have
to herald all our offerings, all our love, aspirations, desires,
trust, conformity, practical service, substantial help, with the
old acknowledgment, 'All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have
we given Thee.'

Now, dear friends, all these principles which I have thus
imperfectly touched upon as to the necessity of the blending of the
two sides in all true commerce of love, the giving and bestowing the
expression of the one affection in both hearts, all bears very
directly upon the more special work of Christian men in spreading
the name of Christ among those who do not know it. You get the same
economy of power there that I was speaking about. The supernatural
is finished when the divine life is cast into the world. 'I am come
to fling fire upon the earth,' said He, 'and oh, that it were
already kindled!' _There_ is the supernatural; after that you
have to deal with the thing according to the ordinary laws of human
history and the ordinary conditions of man's society. God trusts the
spread of His word to His people; there will not be one moment's
duration of the barely, nakedly supernatural beyond the absolute
necessity. Christ comes; after that you and I have to see to it, and
then you say, 'Collections, collections, collections, it is always
collections. This society and that society and the other society,
there is no end of the appeals that are made. Charity sermons--men
using the highest motives of the Gospel for no purpose but to get a
shilling or two out of people's pockets. I am tired of it.' Very
well; all I have to say is, first of all, 'Ye have not resisted unto
blood'; some people have had to pay a great deal more for their
Gospel than you have. And another thing, a man that had lost a great
deal more for his Master than ever you or I will have to do, said,
'Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace
given, that I should preach amongst the heathen the unsearchable
riches of Christ.' Ah! a generous, chivalrous spirit, a spirit
touched to fine issues by the fine touch of the Lord's love, will
feel that it is no burden; or if it be a burden, it is only a burden
as a golden crown heavy with jewels may be a burden on brows that
are ennobled by its pressure. This grace is given, and He has
crowned us with the honour that we may serve Him and do something
for Him.

Dear brethren! of all the gracious words that our Master has spoken
to us, I know not that there is one more gracious than when He said,
'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature'; and
of all the tender legacies that He has left His Church, though there
be included amongst these His own peace and His own Spirit, I know
not that there is any more tender or a greater sign of His love
towards us and His confidence in us than when departing to the far
country to receive a kingdom and to return, He gave authority to His
servants, and to every man his work.'

And so, in the next place, let me ask you to look for a moment at
the complement to this love that stoops to serve and delights to
serve--the ministry or service of our love. Let me point to two
things.

It seems to me that the simple narrative we have before us goes very
deep into the heart of this matter. It gives us two things--the
foundation of the service and the sphere of the service.

First there is the foundation--'Certain women which had been healed
of evil spirits and infirmities.' Ah, there you come to it! The
consciousness of redemption is the one master touch that evokes the
gratitude which aches to breathe itself in service. There is no
service except it be the expression of love. That is the one great
Christian principle; and the other is that there is no love that
does not rest on the consciousness of redemption; and from these
two--that all service and obedience are the utterance and eloquence
of love, and that all love has its root in the sense of redemption--you
may elaborate all the distinct characteristics and peculiarities
of Christian ethics, whereby duty becomes gladness. 'I will,' and 'I
ought' overlap and cover each other like two of Euclid's triangles;
and whatsoever He commands that I spring to do; and so though the
burden be heavy, considered in regard to its requirements, and
though the yoke do often press, considered _per se_, yet
because the cords that fasten the yoke to our neck are the cords of
love, I can say, 'My burden is light.' One of the old psalms puts it
thus; 'O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; Thou hast loosed my bonds;
and because Thou hast loosed, therefore O hear me; speak, Lord, for
Thy servant heareth.'

So much then for the foundation--now for the sphere. 'Ah,' you say,
'there is no parallel there, at any rate. These women served Him
with personal ministration of their substance.' Well, I think there
is a parallel notwithstanding. If I had time I should like to dwell
upon the side thoughts connected with that sphere of service, and
remind you how very prosaic were their common domestic duties,
looking after the comfort of Christ and the travel-stained Twelve
who were with Him--let us put it into plain English--cooking their
dinners for them, and how that became a religious act. Take the
lesson out of it, you women in your households, and you men in your
counting-houses and behind your counters, and you students at your
dictionaries and lexicons. The commonest things done for the Master
flash up into worship, or as good old George Herbert puts it--

  'A servant with this clause
  Makes drudgery divine;
  Who sweeps a room, as for Thy cause,
  Makes that and th' action fine.'

But then beyond that, is there any personal ministration to do? If
any of you have ever been in St. Mark's Convent at Florence, I dare
say you will remember that in the Guest Chamber the saintly genius
of Fra Angelico has painted, as an appropriate frontispiece, the two
pilgrims on the road to Emmaus, praying the unknown man to come in
and partake of their hospitality; and he has draped them in the
habit of his order, and he has put Christ as the Representative of
all the poor and wearied and wayworn travellers that might enter in
there and receive hospitality, which is but the lesson, 'Inasmuch as
ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have
done it unto Me.'

And there is another thing, dear friends. Do we not minister to Him
best when we do the thing that is nearest His heart and help Him
most in the purpose of His life and in His death? What would you
think of a would-be helper of some great reformer who said: 'I will
give you all sorts of material support; but I have not a grain of
sympathy with the cause to which you have devoted your life. I think
it is madness and nonsense: I will feed you and house you and make
you comfortable, but I do not care one rush for the object for which
you are to be housed and fed and made comfortable.' Jesus Christ let
these poor women help Him that He might live to bear the Cross; He
lets you and me help Him for that for which on the Cross He died;
'This honour have all the saints'; The foundation of our service is
the consciousness of redemption; its sphere is ministering to Him in
that which is nearest His heart.

And then, brethren, there is another thing that does not so
immediately belong to the incident before us, but which suggests
itself to me in connection with it. We have tried to show the motive
and the pattern, the foundation and the sphere, of the service: let
me add a last thought--the remembrance and the record of it.

How strange that is, that just as a beam of light coming into a room
would enable us to see all the motes dancing up and down that lay in
its path, so the beam from Christ's life shoots athwart the society
of His age, and all those little insignificant people come for a
moment into the full lustre of the light. Years before and years
afterward they lived, and we do not know anything about them; but
for an instant they crossed the illuminated track and there they
blazed. How strange Pharisees, officials, and bookmen of all sorts
would have felt if anybody had said to them: 'Do you see that
handful of travel-stained Galileans there, those poor women you have
just passed by the way? Well, do you know that these three women's
names will never perish as long as the world lasts?' So we may learn
the eternity of work done for Him. Ah, a great deal of it may be
forgotten and unrecorded! How many deeds of faithful love and noble
devotion are all compressed into those words, 'which ministered unto
Him'! It is the old story of how life shrinks, and shrinks, and
shrinks in the record. How many acres of green forest ferns in the
long ago time went to make up a seam of coal as thick as a sixpence?
But still there is the record, compressed indeed, but existent.

And how many names may drop out and not be associated with the work
which they did? Do you not think that these anonymous 'many others
which ministered' were just as dear to Jesus Christ as Mary and
Joanna and Susannah? A great many people helped Him whose deeds are
related in the Gospel, but whose names are not recorded. But what
does it matter about that? With many 'others of my fellow-labourers
also,' says St. Paul; 'whose names'--well, I have forgotten them;
but that is of little consequence; they 'are in the Lamb's book of
life.' And so the work is eternal, and will last on in our blessed
consciousness and in His remembrance who will never forget any of
it, and we shall self-enfold the large results, even if the rays of
dying fame may fade.

And there is one other thought on this matter of the eternity of the
work on which I would just touch for an instant.

How strange it must be to these women now! If, as I suppose, you and
I believe, they are living with Christ, they will look up to Him and
think, 'Ah! we remember when we used to find your food and prepare
for your household comforts, and there Thou art on the throne! How
strange and how great our earthly service seems to us now!' So it
will be to us all when we get up yonder. We shall have to say,
'Lord, when saw I Thee?' He will put a meaning into our work and a
majesty into it that we know nothing about at present. So, brethren,
account the name of His slaves your highest honour, and the task
that love gives you your greatest joy. When we have in our poor love
poorly ministered unto Him who in His great love greatly died for
us, then, at the last, the wonderful word will be fulfilled: 'Verily
I say unto you, He shall gird Himself and make them to sit down to
meat and will come forth and serve them.'



ONE SEED AND DIVERSE SOILS


    'And when much people were gathered together, and were
    come to Him out of every city, He spake by a parable:
    5. A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed,
    some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and
    the fowls of the air devoured it. 6. And some fell upon
    a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered
    away, because it lacked moisture. 7. And some fell
    among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and
    choked it. 8. And other fell on good ground, and sprang
    up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when He had said
    these things, He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let
    him hear. 9. And His disciples asked Him, saying, What
    might this parable be? 10. And He said, Unto you it is
    given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but
    to others in parables; that seeing they might not see,
    and hearing they might not understand. 11. Now the
    parable is this; The seed is the word of God. 12. Those
    by the  way-side are they that hear: then cometh the
    devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts,
    lest they should believe and be saved. 13. They on the
    rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word
    with joy; and these have no root, which for a while
    believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14. And
    that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they
    have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and
    riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit
    to perfection. 15. But that on the good ground are
    they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard
    the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.'
    --LUKE viii. 4-16.

Luke is particular in dating this parable as spoken at a time when
crowds resorted to Jesus, and the cities of Galilee seemed emptied
out to hear Him. No illusions as to the depth or worth of this
excitement beset Him. Sadly He looked on the eager multitudes,
because He looked through them, and saw how few of them were
bringing 'an honest and good heart' for the soil of His word. Just
because He saw the shallowness of the momentary enthusiasm, He spoke
this pregnant parable from a heavy heart, and as He tells us in His
explanation of it to the disciples (ver. 10), uses the parabolic
garb as a means of hiding the truth from the unsusceptible, and of
bringing it home to those who were prepared to receive it. Every
parable has that double purpose of obscuring and revealing. The
obscuring is punitive, but the punishment is meant to be remedial.
God never cheats men by a revelation that does not reveal, and the
very hiding is meant to stimulate to a search which cannot be vain.

The broad outstanding fact of the parable is tragic. Three failures
and one success! It may be somewhat lightened by observing that the
proportion which each 'some' bears to the whole seed-basketful is
not told; but with all alleviation, it is sad enough. What a lesson
for all eager reformers and apostles of any truth, who imagine that
they have but to open their mouths and the world will listen! What a
warning for any who are carried off their feet by their apparent
'popularity'! What a solemn appeal to all hearers of God's message!

I. Commentators have pointed out that all four kinds of soil might
have been found close together by the lake, and that there may have
been a sower at work within sight. But the occasion of the parable
lay deeper than the accident of local surroundings. A path through a
cornfield is a prosaic enough thing, but one who habitually holds
converse with the unseen, and ever sees it shining through the seen,
beholds all things 'apparelled in celestial light,' and finds deep
truths in commonplace objects. The sower would not intentionally
throw seed on the path, but some would find its resting-place there.
It would lie bare on the surface of the hard ground, and would not
be there long enough to have a chance of germinating, but as soon as
the sower's back was turned to go up the next furrow, down would
come the flock of thievish birds that fluttered behind him, and bear
away the grains. The soil might be good enough, but it was so hard
that the seed did not get in, but only lay on it. The path was of
the same soil as the rest of the field, only it had been trodden
down by the feet of passengers, perhaps for many years.

A heart across which all manner of other thoughts have right of way
will remain unaffected by the voice of Jesus, if He spoke His
sweetest, divinest tones, still more when He speaks but through some
feeble man. The listener hears the words, but they never get farther
than the drum of his ear. They lie on the surface of his soul, which
is beaten hard, and is non-receptive. How many there are who have
been listening to the preaching of the Gospel, which is in a true
sense the sowing of the seed, all their lives, and have never really
been in contact with it! Tramp, tramp, go the feet across the path,
heavy drays of business, light carriages of pleasure, a never-ending
stream of traffic and noise like that which pours day and night
through the streets of a great city, and the result is complete
insensibility to Christ's voice.

If one could uncover the hearts of a congregation, how many of them
would be seen to be occupied with business or pleasures, or some
favourite pursuit, even while they sit decorously in their pews! How
many of them hear the preacher's voice without one answering thought
or emotion! How many could not for their lives tell what his last
sentence was! No marvel, then, that, as soon as its last sound has
ceased, down pounce a whole covey of light-winged fancies and
occupations, and carry off the poor fragments of what had been so
imperfectly heard. One wonders what percentage of remembrances of a
sermon is driven out of the hearers' heads in the first five minutes
of their walk home, by the purely secular conversation into which
they plunge so eagerly.

II. The next class of hearers is represented by seed which has had
somewhat better fate, inasmuch as it has sunk some way in, and begun
to sprout. The field, like many a one in hilly country, had places
where the hard pan of underlying rock had only a thin skin of earth
over it. Its very thinness helped quick germination, for the rock
was near enough to the surface to get heated by the sun. So, with
undesirable rapidity, growth began, and shoots appeared above ground
before there was root enough made below to nourish them. There was
only one possible end for such premature growth--namely, withering
in the heat. No moisture was to be drawn from the shelf of rock, and
the sun was beating fiercely down, so the feeble green stem drooped
and was wilted.

It is the type of emotional hearers, who are superficially touched
by the Gospel, and too easily receive it, without understanding what
is involved. They take it for theirs 'with joy,' but are strangers
to the deep exercises of penitence and sorrow which should precede
the joy. 'Lightly come, lightly go,' is true in Christian life as
elsewhere. Converts swiftly made are quickly lost. True, the most
thorough and permanent change may be a matter of a moment; but, if
so, into that moment emotions will be compressed like a great river
forced through a mountain gorge, which will do the work of years.

Such surface converts fringe all religious revivals. The crowd
listening to our Lord was largely made up of them. These were they
who, when a ground of offence arose, 'went back, and walked no more
with Him.' They have had their successors in all subsequent times of
religious movement. Light things are caught up by the wind of a
passing train, but they soon drop to the ground again. Emotion is
good, if there are roots to it. But 'these have no root.' The Gospel
has not really touched the depths of their natures, their wills,
their reason, and so they shrivel up when they have to face the toil
and self-sacrifice inherent in a Christian life.

III. The third parcel of seed advanced still farther. It rooted and
grew. But the soil had other occupants. It was full of seeds of
weeds and thorns (not thorn _bushes_). So the two crops ran a
race, and as ill weeds grow apace, the worse beat, and stifled the
green blades of the springing corn, which, hemmed in and shut out
from light and air, came to nothing.

The man represented has not made clean work of his religion. He has
received the good seed, but has forgotten that something has to be
grubbed up and cast out, as well as something to be taken in, if he
would grow the fair fruits of Christian character. He probably has
cut down the thorns, but has left their roots or seeds where they
were. He has fruit of a sort, but it is scanty, crude, and green.
Why? Because he has not turned the world out of his heart. He is
trying to unite incompatibles, one of which is sure to kill the
other. His 'thorns' are threefold, as Luke carefully distinguishes
them into 'cares and riches and pleasures,' but they are one in
essence, for they are all 'of this life.' If he is poor, he is
absorbed in cares; if rich, he is yet more absorbed in wealth, and
his desires go after worldly pleasures, which he has not been
taught, by experience of the supreme pleasure of communion with God,
to despise.

Mark that this man does not 'fall away.' He keeps up his Christian
name to the end. Probably he is a very influential member of the
church, universally respected for his wealth and liberality, but his
religion has been suffocated by the other growth. He has fruit, but
it is not to 'perfection.' If Jesus Christ came to Manchester, one
wonders how many such Christians He would discover in the chief
seats in the synagogues.

IV. The last class avoids the defects of the three preceding. The
soil is soft, deep, and clean. The seed sinks, roots, germinates,
has light and air, and brings forth ripened grain. The 'honest and
good heart' in which it lodges has been well characterised as one
'whose aim is noble, and who is generously devoted to his aim'
(Bruce, _The Parabolic Teaching of Christ_, p. 33). Such a soul
Christ recognises as possible, prior to the entrance into it of the
word. There are dispositions which prepare for the reception of the
truth. But not only the previous disposition, but the subsequent
attitude to the word spoken, is emphasised by our Lord. 'They having
heard the word, hold it fast.' Docilely received, it is steadily
retained, or held with a firm grip, whoever and whatever may seek to
pluck it from mind or heart.

Further, not only tenacity of grasp, but patient perseverance of
effort after the fruit of Christian character, is needed. There must
be perseverance in the face of obstacles within and without, if
there is to be fruitfulness. The emblem of growth does not suffice
to describe the process of Christian progress. The blade becomes the
ear, and the ear the full corn, without effort. But the Christian
disciple has to fight and resist, and doggedly to keep on in a
course from which many things would withdraw him. The nobler the
result, the sorer the process. Corn grows; character is built up as
the result, first of worthily receiving the good seed, and then of
patient labour and much self-suppression.

These different types of character are capable of being changed. The
path may be broken up, the rock blasted and removed, the thorns
stubbed up. We make ourselves fit or unfit to receive the seed and
bear fruit. Christ would not have spoken the parable if He had not
hoped thereby to make some of His hearers who belonged to the three
defective classes into members of the fourth. No natural,
unalterable incapacity bars any from welcoming the word, housing it
in his heart, and bringing forth fruit with patience.



SEED AMONG THORNS


    'And that which fell among thorns are they, which,
    when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with
    cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and
    bring no fruit to perfection.'--Luke viii. 14.

No sensible sower would cast his seed among growing thorn-bushes,
and we must necessarily understand that the description in this
verse is not meant to give us the picture of a field in which these
were actually growing, but rather of one in which they had been
grubbed up, and so preparation been made for the sowing of the seed.
They had been grubbed up, but they had not been grubbed out. The
roots were there, although the branches and the stems had been cut
down, or if the roots were not there, abundant seeds were lying
buried, and when the good seed was sown it went into ground full of
them--and that was the blunder out of which all the mischief came.

I. These three different instances of failure in this parable
represent to us, first, the seed carried off at the very beginning,
before it has sunk into the ground and before it has had time to
germinate. It lies on the surface and it goes at once. But suppose
it is safely piloted past that first danger, then comes another
peril. It gets a little deeper into the ground, but there is a shelf
of rock an inch or two below the skin of soil, and the poor little
rootlets cannot get through that, and so when the hot Syrian sun
shines down upon the field, there is an unnatural heat, and a swift
vegetation. There is growth, but the same sun that at first
stimulated the unnaturally rapid growth, gets a little hotter or
continues to pour down during the fervid summer and dries up the
premature vegetation which it had called into feeble life. That
second seed went further on the road towards fruit.

But suppose a seed is piloted past that second risk, there comes
this third one. This seed gets deeper still, and does take root, and
does grow, and does bear fruit. That is to say, this is a picture of
a real Christian, in whom the seed of the kingdom, which is the word
of God, has taken root, and to whom there has been the communication
of the divine life that is in the seed; and yet that, too, comes to
grief, and our parable tells us how--by three things, the thorns,
the growth of the thorns, and the choking of the word.

Luke puts the interpretation of the thorns even more vividly than
the other Evangelists, because he represents them as being three
different forms of one thing, 'cares and riches and pleasures,'
which all come into the one class, 'of this life.' Or, in other
words, the present world, with all its various appeals to our animal
and sensual nature, with all its possible delights for part of our
being, a real and important part of it; and with all the troubles
and anxieties which it is cowardly for us to shirk, and impossible
for us to escape--this world is ever present to each of us, and if
there is anything in us to which it appeals, then certainly the
thorns will come up. The cares and the wealth and the pleasures are
three classes of one thing. Perhaps the first chiefly besets
struggling people; the second mainly threatens well-to-do people;
the third, perhaps, is most formidable to leisurely and idle people.
But all three appeal to us all, for in every one of us there are the
necessary anxieties of life, and every one of us knows that there is
real and substantial good to a part of our being, in the possession
of a share of this world's wealth, without which no man can live,
and all of us carry natures to which the delights of sense do
legitimately and necessarily appeal.

So the soil for the growth of the thorns is always in us all. But
what then? Are these things so powerful in our hearts as that they
become hindrances to our Christian life? That is the question. The
cares and the occupation of mind with, and desire for, the wealth
and the pleasures are of God's appointment. He did not make them
thorns, but you and I make them thorns; and the question for us is,
has our Christianity driven out the undue regard to this life,
regarded in these three aspects--undue in measure or in any other
respect, by which they are converted into hindrances that mar our
Christian life? Dear brethren, it is not enough to say, 'I have
received the word into my heart.' There is another question besides
that--Has the word received into your heart cast out the thorns? Or
are they and the seed growing there side by side? The picture of my
text is that of a man who, in a real fashion, has accepted the
Gospel, but who has accepted it so superficially as that it has not
exercised upon him the effect that it ought to produce, of expelling
from him the tendencies which may become hindrances to his Christian
life. If we have known nothing of 'the expulsive power of a new
affection,' and if we thought it was enough to cut down the thickest
and tallest thorn-bushes, and to leave all the seeds and the roots
of them in our hearts, no wonder if, as we get along in life, they
grow up and choke the word. 'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon'; that
is just putting into a sentence the lesson of my text.

II. Further, note the growth of the thorns. Luke employs a very
significant phrase. He says, 'When they have heard they _go
forth_, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of
this life.' That is to say, the path of daily life upon which we all
have to walk, the common duties which necessarily draw us to
themselves, will certainly stimulate the growth of the thorns if
these are not rooted out. Life is full of appeals to our desires
after earthly good or pleasure, to our greed after earthly gain, to
our dread of earthly sorrow, of pain, of loss, and of poverty. As
surely as we are living, and have to go out into the world day by
day, so surely will the thorns grow if they are left in us. And so
we come back to the old lesson that because we are set in this
world, with all its temptations that appeal so strongly to many
needs and desires of our nature, we must make thorough work of our
religion if it is to be of any good to us at all, and we are not to
go on the Christian pilgrimage with one foot upon the higher level
and the other upon the lower, like a man walking with one foot on
the kerbstone and the other on the roadway. Let us be one thing or
the other, out and out, thorough and  consistent. If we have the
seed in our hearts, remember that _we_ are responsible for its
growth.

Let us make certain that we have cast out the thorns. There is an
old German proverb, the vulgarity of which may be excused for its
point. 'You must not sit near the fire if your head is made of
butter.' We should not try to walk through this wicked world without
making very certain that we have stubbed the thorns out of our
hearts. Oh, dear friends! here is the secret to the miserable
inconsistencies of the great bulk of professing Christians. They
have got the seed in, but they have not got the thorns out.

III. Lastly, mark the choking of the growth. Of course it is rapid,
according to the old saying, 'Ill weeds grow apace.' 'They are
choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life and
bring no fruit to perfection.' The weeds grow faster than the seed.
'Possession is nine-tenths of the law,' and they have got possession
of the soil, and their roots go far and strike deep, and so they
come up, with their great, strong, coarse, quick-growing stems and
leaves, and surround the green, infant, slender shoot, and keep the
air and light out from it, and exhaust all the goodness of the soil,
which has not nutriment in it enough for the modest seed and for the
self-asserting thorn. And so the thorn beats in the race, and grows
inches whilst the other grows hairbreadths. Is not that a true
statement of our experience? If Christian men and women permit as
much of their interest and affection and effort and occupation of
mind to go out towards the world and worldly things, as, alas! most
of us do, no wonder if the tiny, yellow, rather than green, blade is
choked and gets covered with parasitical disease, and perhaps dies
at last. You cannot grow two crops on one field. Some of us have
tried; it will never do. It must be one thing or another, and we
must make up our minds whether we are going to cultivate corn or
thorn. May God help us to make the right choice of the crop we
desire to bear!

Our text tells us that this man, represented by the seed among
thorns, was a Christian, did, and does, bear fruit, but, as Luke
says, 'brings no fruit to perfection.' The first seed never grew at
all; the second got the length of putting forth a blade; this one
has got as far as the ear, but not so far as 'the full corn in the
ear.' It has fruited, but the fruit is green and scanty, not
ripened, as it ought to be, since it grows under such a sky and was
taken out of such a seed-basket as our seed has come from. It brings
forth no fruit _to perfection_';--is not that a picture of so
many Christian people? One cannot say that they are not Christians.
One cannot say that there are no signs of a divine life in them. One
cannot say but that they do a good many things that are right and
pure, and obviously the result of a Divine Spirit working upon them;
but all that they do just falls short of the crowning grace and
beauty. There is always something about it that strikes one as being
incomplete. They are Christian men and Christian women bringing
forth many of the fruits of the Christian life, but the climax
somehow or other is always absent. The pyramid goes up many stages,
but there is never the gilded summit flashing in the light--'No
fruit to perfection.'

Dear brethren, let us take our poor, imperfect services, and lay
them down at the Master's feet, and ask Him to help us to make clean
work of these hearts of ours, and to turn out of them all our
worldly hankerings after the seen and temporal. Then we shall bear
fruit that He will gather into His garner. The cares and the
pleasures and the wealth that terminate in, and are occupied with,
this poor fleeting present are small and insignificant. Let us try
to yield ourselves up wholly to the higher influences of that Divine
Spirit, and in true consecration receive the engrafted word. And
then He will give to us to drink of that river of His pleasures,
drinking of which we shall not thirst, nor need to come to any of
earth's fountains to draw. If the Saviour comes in in His power, He
will cast out the uncleanness that dwells in us and make us fruitful
as He would have us to be.



A MIRACLE WITHIN A MIRACLE


    'And a woman, having an issue of blood twelve years,
    which had spent all her living upon physicians,
    neither could be healed of any, 44. Came behind Him,
    and touched the border of His garment: and immediately
    her issue of blood stanched. 45. And Jesus said, Who
    touched Me? When all denied, Peter, and they that were
    with Him, said, Master, the multitude throng Thee and
    press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? 46. And
    Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive
    that virtue is gone out of Me. 47. And when the woman
    saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and,
    falling down before Him, she declared unto Him before
    all the people for what cause she had touched Him, and
    how she was healed immediately. 48. And He said unto
    her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made
    thee whole; go in peace.'--LUKE viii. 43-48.

The story of Jairus's daughter is, as it were, cut in two by that of
the poor invalid woman. What an impression of calm consciousness of
power and of leisurely dignity is made by Christ's having time to
pause, even on His way to a dying sufferer, in order to heal, as if
parenthetically, this other afflicted one! How Jairus must have
chafed at the delay! He had left his child 'at the point of death'
and here was the Healer loitering, as it must have seemed to a
father's agony of impatience.

But Jesus, with His infinite calm and as infinite power, can afford
to let the one wait and even die, while He tends the other. The
child shall receive no harm, and her sister in sorrow has as great a
claim on Him as she. He has leisure of heart to feel for each, and
power for both. We do not rob one another of His gifts. Attending to
one, He does not neglect another.

This miracle illustrates the genuineness and power of feeble and
erroneous faith, and Christ's merciful way of strengthening and
upholding it. The woman, a poor, shrinking creature, has been made
more timid by long illness, disappointed hopes of cure, and by
poverty. She does not venture to stop Jesus, as He goes with an
important official of the synagogue to heal his daughter, but creeps
up in the crowd behind Him, puts out a wasted, trembling hand to
touch the tasselled fringe of His robe--and she is whole.

She would fain have glided away with a stolen cure, but Jesus forced
her to stand out before the throng, and with all their eyes on her,
to conquer diffidence and womanly reticence, and tell all the truth.
Strange contrast, this, to His usual avoidance of notoriety and
regard for shrinking weakness! But it was true kindness, for it was
the discipline by which her imperfect faith was cleared and
confirmed.

It is easy to point out the imperfections in this woman's faith. It
was very ignorant. She was sure that this Rabbi would heal her, but
she expected it to be done by the material contact of her finger
with His robe. She had no idea that Christ's will, much less His
love, had anything to do with His cures. She thinks that she may
carry away the blessing, and He be none the wiser. It is easy to
say, What blank ignorance of Christ's way of working! what grossly
superstitious notions! Yes, and with them all what a hunger of
intense desire to be whole, and what absolute confidence that a
finger-tip on His robe was enough!

Her faith was very imperfect, but the main fact is that she had it.
Let us be thankful for a living proof of the genuineness of ignorant
and even of superstitious faith. There are many now who fall with
less excuse into a like error with this woman's, by attaching undue
importance to externals, and thinking more of the hem of the garment
and its touch by a finger than of the heart of the wearer and the
grasp of faith. But while we avoid such errors, let us not forget
that many a poor worshipper clasping a crucifix may be clinging to
the Saviour, and that Christ does accept faith which is tied to
outward forms, as He did this woman's.

There was no real connection between the touch of her finger and her
healing, but she thought that there  was, and Christ stoops to her
childish thought, and lets her make the path for His gift.
'According to thy faith be it unto thee': His mercy, like water,
takes the shape of the containing vessel.

The last part of the miracle, when the cured woman is made the bold
confessor, is all shaped so as to correct and confirm her imperfect
faith. We note this purpose in every part of it. She had thought of
the healing energy as independent of His knowledge and will.
Therefore she is taught that He was aware of the mute appeal, and of
the going out of power in answer to it. The question, 'Who touched
me?' has been regarded as a proof that Jesus was ignorant of the
person; but if we keep the woman's character and the nature of her
disease in view, we can suppose it asked, not to obtain information,
but to lead to acknowledgment, and that without ascribing to Him in
asking it any feigning of ignorance.

The contrast between the pressure of the crowd and the touch of
faith has often been insisted on, and carries a great lesson. The
unmannerly crowd hustled each other, trod on His skirts, and elbowed
their way to gape at Him, and He took no heed. But His heart
detected the touch, unlike all the rest, and went out with healing
power towards her who touched. We may be sure that, though a
universe waits before Him, and the close-ranked hosts of heaven
stand round His throne, we can reach our hands through them all, and
get the gifts we need.

She had shrunk from publicity, most naturally. But if she had stolen
away, she would have lost the joy of confession and greater
blessings than the cure. So He mercifully obliges her to stand
forth. In a moment she is changed from a timid invalid to a
confessor. A secret faith is like a plant growing in the dark, the
stem of which is blanched and weak, and its few blossoms pale and
never matured. 'With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.'

Christ's last word to her is tender. He calls her 'Daughter'--the
only woman whom He addressed by such a name. He teaches her that her
faith, not her finger, had been the medium through which His healing
power had reached her. He confirms by His authoritative word the
furtive blessing: '_Be_ whole of thy plague.' And she goes,
having found more than she sought, and felt a loving heart where she
had only seen a magic-working robe.



CHRIST TO JAIRUS


    'When Jesus heard it, He answered, saying, Fear not:
    believe only, and she shall be made whole.'
    --LUKE viii. 60.

The calm leisureliness of conscious power shines out very
brilliantly from this story of the raising of Jairus's daughter. The
father had come to Jesus, in an agony of impatience, and besought
Him to heal his child, who lay 'at the point of death.' Not a moment
was to be lost. Our Lord sets out with him, but on the road pauses
to attend to another sufferer, the woman who laid her wasted finger
on the hem of Christ's robe. How Jairus must have chafed at the
delay, and thought every moment an eternity; and perhaps said hard
things In his heart about Christ's apparent indifference! Delay
seemed to be fatal, for before Christ had finished speaking to the
woman, the messenger comes with a word which appears to me to have
in it a touch of bitterness and of blame. 'Trouble not the Master'
sounds as if the speaker hinted that the Master was thinking it a
trouble, and had not put Himself much about to meet the necessity.
But one's gain shall not be another's loss, and Christ does not let
any applicant to Him suffer whilst He attends to any other. Each has
an equal claim on His heart. So He turns to the father with the
words that I have read for my text.

They are the first of three sayings of our Lord round which this
whole narrative is remarkably grouped. I have read the first, but I
mean to speak about all three. There is a word of encouragement
which sustains a feeble faith: there is a word of revelation which
smooths the grimness of death; 'She is not dead but sleepeth'; and
there is a word of power which goes into the darkness, and brings
back the child; 'Maiden, arise!' Now, I think if we take these
three, we get the significance of this whole incident.

I. First, then, the word of cheer which sustains a staggering faith.

'When Jesus heard this, He said unto him, Fear not, believe only,
and she shall be made whole.' How preposterous this rekindling of
hope must have seemed to Jairus when the storm had blown out the
last flickering spark! How irrelevant, if it were not cruel, the
'Fear not!' must have sounded when the last possible blow had
fallen. And yet, because of the word in the middle, embedded between
the obligation to hope and the prohibition to fear, neither the one
nor the other is preposterous, 'Only believe.' That is in the
centre; and on the one side,' Fear not!'--a command ridiculous
without it; and on the other side, 'Hope!' an injunction impossible
apart from faith.

Jesus Christ is saying the very same things to us. His fundamental
commandment is 'Only believe,' and there effloresce from it the two
things, courage that never trembles, and hope that never despairs.
'Only believe'--usually He made the outflow of His miraculous power
contingent upon the faith, either of the sufferer himself or of some
others. There was no necessity for the connection. We have instances
in His life of miracles wrought without faith, without asking, simply
at the bidding of His own irrepressible pity. But the rule in regard
to His miracles is that faith was the condition that drew out the
miraculous energy. The connection between our faith and our experience
of His supernatural, sustaining, cleansing, gladdening, enlightening
power is closer than that. For without our trust in Him, He can do
no mighty works upon us, and there must be confidence, on our part,
before there is in our experience the reception into our lives of His
highest blessings; just because they are greater and deeper, and belong
to a more inward sphere than these outward and inferior miracles of
bodily healing. Therefore the connection between our faith and His
gifts to us is inevitable, and constant, and the commandment 'Only
believe,' assumes a more imperative stringency, in regard to our
spiritual experience, than it ever did in regard to those who felt
the power of His miracle-working hand. So it stands for us, as the
one central appeal and exhortation which Christ, by His life, by the
record of His love, by His Cross and Passion, by His dealings and
pleadings with us through His Spirit, and His providence to-day, is
making to us all. 'Only believe'--the one act that vitally knits the
soul to Christ, and makes it capable of receiving unto itself the
fullness of His loftiest blessings.

But we must note the two clauses which stand on either side of this
central commandment. They deal with two issues of faith. One forbids
fear, the other gives fuel for the fire of hope. On the one hand,
the exhortation, 'Fear not,' which is the most futile that
can be spoken if the speaker does not touch the cause of the fear,
comes from His lips with a gracious power. Faith is the one
counterpoise of fear. There is none other for the deepest dreads
that lie cold and paralysing, though often dormant, in every human
spirit; and that ought to lie there. If a man has not faith in God,
in Christ, he ought to have fear. For there rise before him,
solitary, helpless, inextricably caught into the meshes of this
mysterious and awful system of things--a whole host of possible, or
probable, or certain calamities, and what is he to do? stand there
in the open, with the pelting of the pitiless storm coming down upon
him? The man is an idiot if he is not afraid. And what is to calm
those rational fears, the fear of wrath, of life, of death, of what
lies beyond death? You cannot whistle them away. You cannot ignore
them always. You cannot grapple with them in your own strength.
'Only believe,' says the Comforter and the Courage-bringer. The
attitude of trust banishes dread, and nothing else will effectually
and reasonably do it. 'I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear.' Him
who can slay and who judges. You have, and you cannot break, a
connection with God. He ought to be one of two things--your
ghastliest dread or your absolute trust. 'Only believe then,' 'fear
not.' Believe not, _then_ be afraid; for you have reason to be.

Men say, 'Oh! keep your courage up'; and they contribute no means to
keep it up: Christ says 'Fear not; only believe,' and gives to faith
the courage which He enjoins. Like a child that never dreams of any
mischief being able to reach it when the mother's breast is beneath
its head, and the mother's arms are round its little body, each of
us may rest on Christ's breast, and feel His arm round about us.
Then we may smile at all that men call evils; and whether they are
possible, or probable, or certain, we can look at them all and say,
'Ah! I have circumvented you.' 'All things work together for good to
them that' trust Christ. 'Fear not; only believe.'

But on the other hand, from that simple faith will spring up also
hope that cannot despair. 'She shall be made whole.' Irreversible
disasters have no place in Christian experience. There are no
irrevocable losses to him who trusts. There are no wounds that
cannot be stanched, when we go to Him who has the balm and the
bandage. Although it is true that dead faces do not smile again upon
us until we get beyond earth's darkness, it is also true that bonds
broken may be knit in a finer fashion, if faith instead of sense
weaves them together; and that in the great future we shall find
that the true healing of those that went before was not by
deliverance from, but by passing through, the death that emancipates
from the long disease of earthly life.

Brethren! if we trust Christ we may 'hope perfectly.' If we do not
trust Him our firmest hopes are as spiders' webs that are swept away
by a besom; and our deepest desires remain unfulfilled. 'Only
believe,' then, on the one side, 'Fear not,' and on the other side
'Hope ever.'

II. We have here a word of revelation which softens the grimness of
death.

Our Lord reaches the house of affliction, and finds it a house of
hubbub and noise. The hired mourners, with their shrill shrieks,
were there already, bewailing the child. The tumult jarred upon His
calmness, and He says 'Weep not; she is not dead but sleepeth.' One
wonders how some people have read those words as if they declared
that the apparent physical death was only a swoon or a faint, or
some kind of coma, and that so there was no miracle at all in the
case. 'They laughed Him to scorn; knowing that she was dead.' You
can measure the hollowness of their grief by its change into
scornful laughter when a promise of consolation began to open before
them. And you can measure their worth as witnesses to the child's
resurrection by their absolute certainty of her death.

But notice that our Lord never forbids weeping unless He takes away
its cause. 'Weep not,' is another of the futile forms of words with
which men try to encourage and comfort one another. There is nothing
more cruel than to forbid tears to the sad heart. Jesus Christ never
did that except when He was able to bring that which took away
occasion for weeping. He lets grief have its way. He means us to run
rivers of waters down our cheeks when He sends us sorrows. We shall
never get the blessing of these till we have felt the bitterness of
them. We shall never profit by them if we stoically choke back the
manifestations of our grief, and think that it is submissive to be
dumb. Let sorrow have way. Tears purge the heart from which their
streams come. But Jesus Christ says to us all, 'Weep not,' because
He comes to us all with that which, if I may so say, puts a rainbow
into the tear-drops, and makes it possible that the great paradox
should be fulfilled in our hearts, 'As sorrowful yet always
rejoicing.' Weep not; or if you weep, let the tears have
thankfulness as well as grief in them. It is a difficult
commandment, but it is possible when His lips tell us not to weep,
and we have obeyed the central exhortation, 'Only believe.'

Note, further, in this second of our Lord's words, how He smooths
away the grimness of death. I do not claim for Him anything like a
monopoly of that most obvious and natural symbolism which regards
death as a sleep. It must have occurred to all who ever looked upon
a corpse. But I do claim that when He used the metaphor, and by His
use of it modified the whole conception of death in the thoughts of
His disciples, He put altogether different ideas into it from that
which it contained on the lips of others. He meant to suggest the
idea of repose--

  'Sleep, full of rest from head to foot.'

The calm immobility of the body so lately racked with pain, or
restless in feverish tossings, is but a symbol of the deeper
stillness of truer repose which remaineth for the people of God and
laps the blessed spirits who 'sleep in Jesus.' He meant to suggest
the idea of separation from this material world. He did not mean to
suggest the idea of unconsciousness. A man is not unconscious when
he is asleep, as dreams testify. He meant, above all, if sleep, then
waking.

So the grim fact is smoothed down, not by blinking any of its
aspects, but by looking deeper into them. They who, only believing,
have lived a life of courage and of hope, and have fronted sorrows,
and felt the benediction of tears, pass into the great darkness, and
know that they there are rocked to sleep on a loving breast, and,
sleeping in Jesus, shall wake with the earliest morning light.

This is a revelation for all His servants. And how deeply these
words, and others like them which He spake at the grave of Lazarus
and at other times, were dinted into the consciousness of the
Christian Church, is manifested by the fact, not only that they are
recurrently used by Apostles in their Epistles, but that all through
the New Testament you scarcely ever find the physical fact of
dissolution designated by the name 'death,' but all sorts of
gracious paraphrases, which bring out the attractive and blessed
aspects of the thing, are substituted. It is a 'sleep'; it is a
'putting off the tabernacle'; it is a 'departure'; it is a pulling
up of the tent-pegs, and a change of place. We do not need the ugly
word, and we do not need to dread the thing that men call by it. The
Christian idea of death is not the separation of self from its
house, of the soul from the body, but the separation of self from
God, who is the life.

III. So, lastly, the life-giving word of power.

'Maiden, arise!' All the circumstances of the miracle are marked by
the most lovely consideration, on Christ's part, of the timidity of
the little girl of twelve years of age. It is because of that that
He seeks to raise her in privacy, whereas the son of the widow of
Nain and Lazarus were raised amidst a crowd. It is because of that
that He selects as His companions in the room only the three chief
Apostles as witnesses, and the father and mother of the child. It is
because of that that He puts forth His hand and grasps hers, in
order that the child's eyes when they open should see only the
loving faces of parents, and the not less loving face of the
Master; and that her hand, when it began to move again, should
clasp, first, His own tender hand. It is for the same reason that
the remarkable appendix to the miracle is given--'He commanded that
they should give her food.' Surely that is an inimitable note of
truth. No legend-manufacturer would have dared to drop down to such
a homely word as that, after such a word as 'Maiden, arise!' An
economy of miraculous power is shown here, such as was shown when,
after Lazarus came forth, other hands had to untie the grave-clothes
which tripped him as he stumbled along. Christ will do by miracle
what is needful and not one hairs-breadth more. In His calm majesty
He bethinks Himself of the hungry child, and entrusts to others the
task of giving her food. That homely touch is, to me, indicative of
the simple veracity of the historian.

But the life-giving word itself; what can we say about it? Only this
one thing: here Jesus Christ exercises a manifest divine prerogative.
It was no more the syllables that He spoke than it was the touch of
His hand that raised the child. What was it? The forth-putting of
His will, which went away straight into the darkness; and if the
disembodied spirit was in a locality, went straight there; and somehow
or other, laid hold of the spirit, and somehow or other, reinstated it
in its home. Christ's will, like the king's writ, runs through all the
universe. 'He spake, and it was done';--whose prerogative is that?
God's; and God manifest in the flesh exercised it. The words of the
Incarnate Word have power over physical things.

Here, too, are the prelude and first-fruits of our resurrection. Not
that there are not wide differences between the raising of this
child, and that future resurrection to which Christian hope looks
forward, but that in this one little incident, little, compared with
the majestic scale of the latter, there come out these two things--the
demonstration that conscious life runs on, irrespective of the accident
of its being united with or separated from a bodily organisation; and
the other, that Jesus Christ has power over men's spirits, and can
fit them at His will to bodies appropriate to their condition. Time
is no element in the case. What befalls the particles of the human
frame is no element in the case. 'Thou sowest not the body that shall
be.' But if that Lord had the power which He showed in that one
chamber, with that one child, then, as a little window may show us
great matters, so we see through this single incident the time when
'they that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come
forth.'

Brethren! there is a higher lesson still; He that gives and gives
again, physical life, does so as a symbol of the highest gift which
He can bestow upon us all. If we 'only believe,' then, 'you hath He
quickened which were dead in trespasses and sins ... and for His
great love wherewith He loved us.... He hath raised us up together,
and made us sit together, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.'



BREAD FROM HEAVEN


    'And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him
    all that they had done. And He took them, and went
    aside privately into a desert place belonging to the
    city, called Bethsaida. 11. And the people, when they
    knew it, followed Him; and He received them, and spake
    unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that
    had need of healing. 12. And when the day began to
    wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto Him,
    Send the multitude away, that they may go into the
    towns and country round about, and lodge, and get
    victuals; for we are here in a desert place. 13. But He
    said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We
    have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we
    should go and buy meat for all this people. 14. (For
    they were about five thousand men.) And He said to His
    disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company.
    15. And they did so, and made them all sit down.
    16. Then He took the five loaves, and the two fishes;
    and, looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake,
    and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.
    17. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there
    was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve
    baskets.'--LUKE ix. 10-17.

The Apostles needed rest after their trial trip as evangelists. John
the Baptist's death had just been told to Christ. The Passover was
at hand, and many pilgrims were on the march. Prudence and care for
His followers as well as Himself suggested a brief retirement, and
our Lord sought it at the Eastern Bethsaida, a couple of miles up
the Jordan from its point of entrance to the lake. Matthew and Mark
tell us that He went by boat, which Luke does not seem to have
known. Mark adds that the curious crowd, which followed on foot,
reached the place of landing before Him, and so effectually
destroyed all hope of retirement. It was a short walk round the
north-western part of the head of the lake, and the boat would be in
sight all the way, so that there was no escape for its passengers.

Luke records the self-oblivious cordiality of Christ's reception of
the intrusive crowd. Without a sigh or sign of impatience, He
'welcomed them'--a difficult thing to do, and one which few of us
could have achieved. The motives of most of them can have been
nothing higher than what leads vulgar people of all ranks and
countries to buzz about distinguished men, utterly regardless of
delicacy or considerateness. They want to see the notoriety, no
matter what it costs him. But Jesus received them patiently,
because, as Mark touchingly tells, He was 'moved with pity,' and saw
in their rude crowding round Him the token of their lack of guides
and teachers. They seemed to Him, not merely a mob of intrusive
sight-seers, but like a huddled mass of unshepherded sheep.

Christ's heart felt more lovingly than ours because His eye saw
deeper, and His eye saw deeper because His heart felt more lovingly.
If we would live nearer Him, we should see, as He did, enough in
every man to draw our pity and help, even though he may jostle and
interfere with us.

The short journey to Bethsaida would be in the early morning, and a
long day of toil followed instead of the hoped-for quiet. Note that
singular expression, 'Them that had need of healing He healed.' Why
not simply 'them that were sick'? Probably to bring out the thought
that misery made unfailing appeal to Him, and that for Him to see
need was to supply it. His swift compassion, His all-sufficient
power to heal, and the conditions of receiving His healing, are all
wrapped up in the words. Coming to the miracle itself, we may throw
the narrative into three parts--the preliminaries, the miracle, and
the abundant overplus.

I. Our Lord leads up to the miracle by forcing home on the minds of
the disciples the extent of the need and the utter inadequacy of
their resources to meet it, and by calling on them and the crowd for
an act of obedience which must have seemed to many of them
ludicrous. John shows us that He had begun to prepare them, at the
moment of meeting the multitude, by His question to Philip. That had
been simmering in the disciples' minds all day, while they leisurely
watched Him toiling in word and work, and now they come with their
solution of the difficulty. Their suggestion was a very sensible one
in the circumstances, and they are not to be blamed for not
anticipating a miracle as the way out. However many miracles they
saw, they never seem to have expected another. That has been thought
to be unnatural, but surely it is true to nature. They moved in a
confusing mixture of the miraculous and the natural which baffled
calculation as to which element would rule at any given moment.
Their faith was feeble, and Christ rebuked them for their slowness
to learn the lesson of this very miracle and its twin feeding of the
four thousand. They were our true brothers in their failure to grasp
the full meaning of the past, and to trust His power.

The strange suggestion that the disciples should feed the crowd must
have appeared to them absurd, but it was meant to bring out the
clear recognition of the smallness of their supply. Therein lie
great lessons. Commands are given and apparent duties laid on us, in
order that we may find out how impotent we are to do them. It can
never be our duty to do what we cannot do, but it is often our duty
to attempt tasks to which we are conspicuously inadequate, in the
confidence that He who gives them has laid them on us to drive us to
Himself, and there to find sufficiency. The best preparation of His
servants for their work in the world is the discovery that their own
stores are small. Those who have learned that it is their task to
feed the multitude, and who have said 'We have no more than such and
such scanty resources,' are prepared to be the distributors of His
all-sufficient supply.

What a strange scene that must have been as the hundred groups of
fifty each arranged themselves on the green grass, in the setting
sunlight, waiting for a meal of which there were no signs! It took a
good deal of faith to seat the crowd, and some faith for the crowd
to sit. How expectant they would be! How they would wonder what was
to be done next! How some of them would laugh, and some sneer, and
all watch the event! We, too, have to put ourselves in the attitude
to receive gifts of which sense sees no sign; and if, in obedience
to Christ's word, we sit down expecting Him to find the food, we
shall not be disappointed, though the table be spread in the
wilderness, and neither storehouse nor kitchen be in sight.

II. The miracle itself has some singular features. Like that of the
draught of fishes, it was not called forth by the cry of suffering,
nor was the need which it met one beyond the reach of ordinary
means. It was certainly one of the miracles most plainly meant to
strike the popular mind, and the enthusiasm excited by it, according
to John's account, was foreseen by Christ. Why did He evoke
enthusiasm which He did not mean to gratify? For the very purpose of
bringing the carnal expectations of the crowd to a head, that they
might be the more conclusively disappointed. The miracle and its
sequel sifted and sent away many 'disciples,' and were meant to do
so.

All the accounts tell of Christ's 'blessing.' Matthew and Mark do
not say what He blessed, and perhaps the best supplement is 'God,'
but Luke says that He blessed the food. What He blesses is blessed;
for His words are deeds, and communicate the blessing which they
speak. The point at which the miraculous multiplication of the food
came in is left undetermined, but perhaps the difference in the
tenses of the verbs hints at it. 'Blessed' and 'brake' are in the
tense which describes a single act; 'gave' is in that which
describes a continuous repeated action. The pieces grew under His
touch, and the disciples always found His hands full when they came
back with their own empty. But wherever the miraculous element
appeared, creative power was exercised by Jesus; and none the less
was it creative, because there was the 'substratum' of the loaves
and fishes. Too much stress has been laid on their being used, and
some commentators have spoken as if without them the miracle could
not have been wrought. But surely the distinction between pure
creation and multiplication of a thing already existing vanishes
when a loaf is 'multiplied' so as to feed a thousand men.

The symbolical aspect of the miracle is set forth in the great
discourse which follows it in John's Gospel. Jesus is the 'Bread of
God which came down from heaven.' That Bread is broken for us. Not
in His Incarnation alone, but in His Death, is He the food of the
world; and we have not only to 'eat His flesh,' but to 'drink His
blood,' if we would live. Nor can we lose sight of the symbol of His
servants' task. They are the distributors of the heaven-sent bread.
If they will but take their poor stores to Jesus, with the
acknowledgment of their insufficiency, He will turn them into
inexhaustible supplies, and they will find that 'there is that
scattereth, and yet increaseth.' What Christ blesses is always
enough.

III. The abundance left over is significant. Twelve baskets, such as
poor travellers carried their belongings in, were filled; that is to
say, each Apostle who had helped to feed the hungry had a basketful
to bring off for future wants. The 'broken pieces' were not crumbs
that littered the grass, but the portions that came from Christ's
hands.

His provision is more than enough for a hungry world, and they who
share it out among their fellows have their own possession of it
increased. There is no surer way to receive the full sweetness and
blessing of the Gospel than to carry it to some hungry soul. These
full baskets teach us, too, that In Christ's gift of Himself as the
Bread of Life there is ever more than at any given moment we can
appropriate. The Christian's spiritual experiences have ever an
element of infinity in them; and we feel that if we were able to
take in more, there would be more for us to take. Other food cloys
and does not satisfy, and leaves us starving. Christ satisfies and
does not cloy, and we have always remaining, yet to be enjoyed, the
boundless stores which neither eternity will age nor a universe
feeding on them consume. The Christian's capacity of partaking of
Christ grows with what it feeds on, and he alone is safe in
believing that 'To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more
abundant.'



THE LORD THAT HEALETH THEE'


    'He healed them that had need of healing.'--Luke ix. 11.

Jesus was seeking a little quiet and rest for Himself and His
followers. For that purpose He took one of the fishermen's boats to
cross to the other side of the sea. But the crowd, inconsiderate and
selfish, like all crowds, saw the course of the boat, and hurried,
as they could easily do, on foot round the head of the lake, to be
ready for Him wherever He might land. So when He touched the shore,
there they all were, open-mouthed and mostly moved by mere
curiosity, and the prospect of a brief breathing-space vanished.

But not a word of rebuke or disappointment came from His lips, and
no shade of annoyance crossed His spirit. Perhaps with a sigh, but
yet cheerfully, He braced Himself to work where He had hoped for
leisure. It was a little thing, but it was the same in kind, though
infinitely smaller in magnitude, as that which led Him to lay aside
'the glory that He had with the Father before the world was,' and
come to toil and die amongst men.

But what I especially would note are Luke's remarkable words here.
Why does he use that periphrasis, 'Them that had need of healing,'
instead of contenting himself with straightforwardly saying, 'Them
that were sick,' as do the other Evangelists? Well, I suppose he
wished to hint to us the Lord's discernment of men's necessities,
the swift compassion which moved to supply a need as soon as it was
observed, and the inexhaustible power by which, whatsoever the
varieties of infirmity, He was able to cure and to bring strength.
'He healed them that had need of healing,' because His love could
not look upon a necessity without being moved to supply it, and
because that love wielded the resources of an infinite power.

Now, all our Lord's miracles are parables, illustrating upon a lower
platform spiritual facts; and that is especially true about the
miracles of healing. So I wish to deal with the words before us as
having a direct application to ourselves, and to draw from them two
or three very old, threadbare, neglected lessons, which I pray God
may lead some of us to recognise anew our need of healing, and
Christ's infinite power to bestow it. There are three things that I
want to say, and I name them here that you may know where I am
going. First, we all need healing; second, Christ can heal us all;
third, we are not all healed.

I. We all need healing.

The people in that crowd were not all diseased. Some of them He
taught; some of them He cured; but that crowd where healthy men
mingled with cripples is no type of the condition of humanity.
Rather we are to find it in that Pool of Bethesda, with its five
porches, wherein lay a multitude of impotent folk, tortured with
varieties of sickness, and none of them sound. Blessed be God! we
are in _Bethesda_, which means 'house of mercy,' and the
fountain that can heal is perpetually springing up beside us all.
There is a disease, dear brethren, which affects and infects all
mankind, and it is of that that I wish to speak to you two or three
plain, earnest words now. Sin is universal.

What does the Bible mean by sin? Everything that goes against, or
neglects God's law. And if you will recognise in all the acts of
every life the reference, which really is there, to God and His
will, you will not need anything more to establish the fact that
'all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' Whatever
other differences there are between men, there is this fundamental
similarity. Neglect--which is a breach--of the law of God pertains
to all mankind. Everything that we do ought to have reference to
Him. _Does_ everything that we do have such reference? If not,
there is a quality of evil in it. For the very definition of sin is
living to myself and neglecting Him. He is the centre, and if I
might use a violent figure, every planet that wrenches itself away
from gravitation towards, and revolution round, that centre, and
prefers to whirl on its own axis, has broken the law of the
celestial spheres, and brought discord into the heavenly harmony.
All men stand condemned in this respect.

Now, there is no need to exaggerate. I am not saying that all men
are on the same level. I know that there are great differences in
the nobleness, purity, and goodness of lives, and Christianity has
never been more unfairly represented than when good men have called,
as they have done with St. Augustine, the virtues of godless men,
'splendid vices.' But though the differences are not unimportant,
the similarity is far more important. The pure, clean-living man,
and the loving, gentle woman, though they stand high above the
sensuality of the profligate, the criminal, stand in this respect on
the same footing that they, too, have to put their hands on their
mouths, and their mouths in the dust, and cry 'Unclean!'  I do not
want to exaggerate, and sure I am that if men will be honest with
themselves there is a voice that responds to the indictment when I
say sadly, in the solemn language of Scripture, 'we all have sinned
and come short of the glory of God.' For there is no difference. If
you do not believe in a God, you can laugh at the old wife's notion
of 'sin.' If you do believe in a God, you are shut up to believe
this other thing, 'Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.'

And, brethren, if this universal fact is indeed a fact, it is the
gravest element in human nature. It matters very little, in
comparison, whether you and I are wise or foolish, educated or
illiterate, rich or poor, happy or miserable. All the superficial
distinctions which separate men from one another, and are all right
in their own places, dwindle away into nothing before this solemn
truth that in every frame there is a plague spot, and that the
leprosy has smitten us all.

But, brethren, do not let us lose ourselves in generalities. All
means each, and each means me. We all know how hard it is to bring
general truths to bear, with all their weight, upon ourselves. That
is an old commonplace: 'All men think all men mortal but
themselves'; and we are quite comfortable when this indictment is
kept in the general terms of universality--'All have sinned.'
Suppose I sharpen the point a little. God grant that the point may
get to some indurated conscience here. Suppose, instead of reading
'All have sinned,' I beseech each one of my hearers to strike out
the general word, and put in the individual one, and to say
'_I_ have sinned.' You have to do with this indictment just as
you have to do with the promises and offers of the Gospel--wherever
there is a  'whosoever' put your pen through it, and write your own
name over it. The blank cheque is given to us in regard to these
promises and offers, and we have to fill in our own names. The
charge is handed to us, in regard to this indictment, and if we are
wise we shall write our own names there, too.

Dear brethren, I leave this on your consciences, and I will venture to
ask that, if not here, at any rate when you get quietly home to-night,
and lie down on your beds, you would put to yourselves the question,
'Is it I?' And sure I am that, if you do, you will see a finger
pointing out of the darkness, and hear a voice sterner than that of
Nathan, saying 'Thou art the man.'

II. Christ can heal us all.

I was going to use an inappropriate word, and say, the _superb_ ease
with which He grappled with, and overcame, all types of disease is a
revelation on a lower level of the inexhaustible and all-sufficient
fullness of His healing power. He can cope with all sin-the world's
sin, and the individual's. And, as I believe, He alone can do it.

Just look at the problem that lies before any one who attempts to
stanch these wounds of humanity. What is needed in order to deliver
men from the sickness of sin? Well! that evil thing, like the fabled
dog that sits at the gate of the infernal regions, is three-headed.
And you have to do something with each of these heads if you are to
deliver men from that power.

There is first the awful power that evil once done has over us of
repeating itself on and on. There is nothing more dreadful to a
reflective mind than the damning influence of habit. The man that
has done some wrong thing once is a _rara avis_ indeed. If
once, then twice; if twice, then onward and onward through all the
numbers. And the intervals between will grow less, and what were
isolated points will coalesce into a line; and impulses wax as
motives wane, and the less delight a man has in his habitual form of
evil the more is its dominion over him, and he does it at last not
because the doing of it is any delight, but because the _not_
doing of it is a misery. If you are to get rid of sin, and to eject
the disease from a man, you have to deal with that awful degradation
of character, and the tremendous chains of custom. That is one of
the heads of the monster.

But, as I said, sin has reference to God, and there is another of
the heads, for with sin comes guilt. The relation to God is
perverted, and the man that has transgressed stands before Him as
guilty, with all the dolefulness that that solemn word means; and
that is another of the heads.

The third is this--the consequences that follow in the nature of
penalty. 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' So long
as there is a universal rule by God, in which all things are
concatenated by cause and effect, it is impossible but that 'Evil
shall slay the wicked.' And that is the third head. These three,
habit, guilt, and penalty, have all to be dealt with if you are
going to make a thorough job of the surgery.

And here, brethren, I want not to argue but to preach. Jesus Christ
died on the Cross for you, and your sin was in His heart and mind
when He died, and His atoning sacrifice cancels the guilt, and
suspends all that is dreadful in the penalty of the sin. Nothing
else--nothing else will do that. Who can deal with guilt but the
offended Ruler and Judge? Who can trammel up consequences but the
Lord of the Universe? The blood of Jesus Christ is the sole and
sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole
world.

That disposes of two of the monster's heads. What about the third?
Who will take the venom out of my nature? What will express the
black drop from my heart? How shall the Ethiopian change his skin or
the leopard his spots? How can the man that has become habituated to
evil 'learn to do well'? Superficially there may be much
reformation. God forbid that I should forget that, or seem to
minimise it. But for the thorough ejection from your nature of the
corruption that you have yourselves brought into it, I believe--and
that is why I am here, for I should have nothing to say if I did not
believe it--I believe that there is only one remedy, and that is
that into the sinful heart there should come, rejoicing and
flashing, and bearing on its broad bosom before it all the rubbish
and filth of that dunghill, the great stream of the new life that is
given by Jesus Christ. He was crucified for our offences, and He
lives to bestow upon us the fullness of His own holiness. So the
monster's heads are smitten off. Our disease and the tendency to it,
and the weakness consequent upon it, are all cast out from us, and
He reveals Himself as 'the Lord who healeth thee.'

Now, dear brethren, you may say 'That is all very fine talking.'
Yes! but it is something a great deal more than fine talking. For
nineteen centuries have established the fact that it is so; and with
all their imperfections there have been millions, and there are
millions to-day, who are ready to say, 'Behold! it is not a
delusion; it is not rhetoric, _I_ have trusted in Him and He
has made _me_ whole.'

Now, if these things that I have been saying do fairly represent the
gravity of the problem which has to be dealt with in order to heal
the sicknesses of the world, then there is no need to dwell upon the
thought of how absolutely confined to Jesus Christ is the power of
thus dealing. God forbid that I should not give full weight to all
other methods for partial reformation and bettering of humanity. I
would wish them all God-speed. But, brethren, there is nothing else
that will deal either with my sin in its relation to God, or in its
relation to my character, or in its relation to my future, except
the message of the Gospel. There are plenty of other things, very
helpful and good in their places, but I do want to say, in one word,
that there is nothing else that goes deep enough.

Education? Yes! it will do a great deal, but it will do nothing in
regard to sin. It will alter the type of the disease, because the
cultured man's transgressions will be very different from those of
the illiterate boor. But wise or foolish, professor, student,
thinker, or savage with narrow forehead and all but dead brain, are
alike in this, that they are sinners in God's sight. I would that I
could get through the fence that some of you have reared round you,
on the ground of your superior enlightenment and education and
refinement, and make you feel that there is something deeper than
all that, and that you may be a very clever, and a very well
educated, a very highly cultured, an extremely thoughtful and
philosophical sinner, but you are a sinner all the same.

And again, we hear a great deal at present, and I do not desire that
we should hear less, about social and economic and political
changes, which some eager enthusiasts suppose will bring the
millennium. Well, if the land were nationalised, and all 'the means
of production and distribution' were nationalised, and everybody got
his share, and we were all brought to the communistic condition,
what then? That would not make men better, in the deepest sense of
the word. The fact is, these people are beginning at the wrong end.
You cannot better humanity merely by altering its environment for
the better. Christianity reverses the process. It begins with the
inmost man, and it works outwards to the circumference, and that is
the thorough way. Why! suppose you took a company of people out of
the slums, for instance, and put them into a model lodging-house,
how long will it continue a model? They will take their dirty habits
with them, and pull down the woodwork for firing, and in a very
short time make the place where they are as like as possible to the
hovel whence they came. You must change the men, and then you can
change their circumstances, or rather they will change them for
themselves. Now, all this is not to be taken as casting cold water
on any such efforts to improve matters, but only as a protest
against its being supposed that these _alone_ are sufficient to
rectify the ills and cure the sorrows of humanity. 'Ye have healed
the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.' The patient is
dying of cancer, and you are treating him for a skin disease. It is
Jesus Christ alone who can cure the sins, and therein the sorrows,
of humanity.

III. Lastly, we are not all healed.

That is only too plain. All the sick in the crowd round Christ were
sent away well, but the gifts He bestowed so broadcast had no
relation to their spiritual natures, and gifts that have relation to
our spiritual nature cannot be thus given in entire disregard of our
actions in the matter.

Christ cannot heal you unless you take His healing power. He did on
earth sometimes, though not often, cure physical disease without the
requirement of faith on the part of the healed person or his
friends, but He cannot (He would if He could) do so in regard to the
disease of sin. There, unless a man goes to Him, and trusts Him, and
submits his spirit to the operation of Christ's pardoning and
hallowing grace, there cannot be any remedy applied, nor any cure
effected. That is no limitation of the universal power of the
Gospel. It is only saying that if you do not take the medicine you
cannot expect that it will do you any good, and surely that is plain
common-sense. There are plenty of people who fancy that Christ's
healing and saving power will, somehow or other, reach every man,
apart from the man's act. It is all a delusion, brethren. If it
could it would. But if salvation could be thus given, independent of
the man, it would come down to a mere mechanical thing, and would
not be worth the having. So I say, first, if you will not take the
medicine you cannot get the cure.

I say, second, if you do not feel that you are ill you will not take
the medicine. A man crippled with lameness, or tortured with fever,
or groping in the daylight and blind, or deaf to all the sounds of
this sweet world, could not but know that he was a subject for the
healing. But the awful thing about our disease is that the worse you
are the less you know it; and that when conscience ought to be
speaking loudest it is quieted altogether, and leaves a man often
perfectly at peace, so that after he has done evil things he wipes
his mouth and says, 'I have done no harm.'

So, dear brethren, let me plead with you not to put away these poor
words that I have been saying to you, and not to be contented until
you have recognised what is true, that you--_you_, stand a
sinful man before God.

There is surely no madness comparable to the madness of the man that
prefers to keep his sin and die, rather than go to Christ and live.
We all neglect to take up many good things that we might have if we
would, but no other neglect is a thousandth part so insane as that
of the man who clings to his evil and spurns the Lord. Will you look
into your own hearts? Will you recognise that awful solemn law of
God which ought to regulate all our doings, and, alas! has been so
often neglected, and so often transgressed by each of us? Oh! if
once you saw yourselves as you are, you would turn to Him and say,
'Heal me'; and you would be healed, and He would lay His hand upon
you. If only you will go, sick and broken, to Him, and trust in His
great sacrifice, and open your hearts to the influx of His healing
power, He will give you 'perfect soundness'; and your song will be,
'Bless the Lord, O my soul.... Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;
who healeth thy diseases.'

May it be so with each of us!



CHRIST'S CROSS AND OURS


    'And it came to pass, as He was alone praying, His
    disciples were with Him; and He asked them, saying,
    Whom say the people that I am I 19. They answering,
    said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and
    others say, that one of the old prophets is risen
    again. 20. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I
    am? Peter answering, said, The Christ of God. 21. And
    He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell
    no man that thing; 22. Saying, The Son of man must
    suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders,
    and chief priests, and scribes, and be slain, and be
    raised the third day. 23. And He said to them all, If
    any man will come after Me. let him deny himself, and
    take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24. For
    whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but
    whosoever will  lose his life for My sake, the same
    shall save it. 25. For what is a man advantaged, if he
    gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast
    away? 26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of
    My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when
    He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's,
    and of the holy angels. 27. But I tell you of a truth,
    there be some standing here, which shall not taste of
    death, till they see the kingdom of God.'--Luke ix. 18-27.

This passage falls into three distinct but closely connected parts:
the disciples' confession of Christ by Peters mouth, the revelation
to them of Christ's sufferings as necessarily involved in His
Messiahship, and His extension to them of the law of suffering as
necessarily involved in discipleship. Luke dwells much more lightly
than Matthew on the first of these stages, omitting the eulogium and
benediction on Simon Bar-Jona, and the great words about the rock on
which the Church is built, but he retains the essentials, and
emphasises the connection of the three parts by his very brevity in
regard to the first.

I. Luke has special interest in recording Christ's prayers, and
though he does not tell us where the great confession was made, he
tells what Jesus did before it was made. We may well suppose that
His solitary thoughts had been busied with the sufferings on which
He was soon to enter, and that His resolve to impart the knowledge
of these to His followers was felt by Him to be a sharp trial of
their loyalty. The moment was a fateful one. How should fateful
moments be prepared for but by communion with the Father? No doubt
the feebleness of the disciples was remembered in His petitions.

Jesus' double question was intended, first, to make the disciples
feel the gulf which separated them from the rest of the nation, and
so to make them hold the faster by their unshared faith, and be
ready to suffer for it, if needful, as probably it would be. It
braces true men to know that they are but a little company in the
midst of multitudes who laugh at their belief. That Jesus should
have seen that it was safe to accentuate the disciples' isolation
indicates the reality which He discerned in their faith, imperfect
as it was.

'Whom say ye that I am?' Jesus brings them to articulate utterance
of the thought that had been slowly gathering distinctness in their
minds. We see our beliefs more clearly, and hold them more firmly,
when we put them into definite words. The question acted like a
chemical element dropped into a solution, which precipitates its
solid matter. Nebulous opinions are gathered up into spheres of
light by the process of speaking them. That question is all-important
for us. Our conceptions of Christ's nature and office determine our
relation to Him and our whole cast of life. True, we may say that He
is Lord, and not be His disciples, but we are not His disciples as He
would have us unless His Messiahship stands out clear and axiomatic
in our thoughts of Him. The conviction must pass into feeling, and
thence into life, but it must underlie all real discipleship.
Doctrine is not Christianity, but it is the foundation of
Christianity. The Apostolic confession here is the 'irreducible
minimum' of the Christian creed.

It does not contain more than Nathanael had said at the beginning,
but here it is spoken, not as Peter's private belief, but he is the
mouthpiece of all. 'Whether it were I or they, so we' believe. This
confession summed up the previous development of the disciples, and
so marked the end of one stage and the beginning of another. Christ
would have them, as it were, take stock of their convictions, as
preliminary to opening a new chapter of teaching.

II. That new chapter follows at once. The belief in Him as Messiah
is the first story of the building, and the second is next piled on
it. The new lesson was a hard one for men whose hopes were coloured
by Jewish dreams of a kingdom. They had to see all these vulgar
visions melting away, and to face a stern, sad reality. The very
fact that He was the Messiah necessarily drew after it the fact of
suffering. Whence did the 'must' arise? From the divine purpose,
from the necessities of the case, and the aim of His mission. These
had shaped prophetic utterances, and hence there was yet another
form of the 'must,' namely, the necessity for the Messiah's
fulfilling these predictions.

No doubt our Lord led His saddened listeners to many a prophetic
saying which current expositions had smoothed over, but which had
for many years set before Him His destiny. What a scene that would
be--the victim calmly pointing to the tragic words which flashed
ominous new meanings to the silent hearers, stricken with awe and
grief as the terrible truth entered their minds! What had become of
their dreams? Gone, and in their place shame and death. They had
fancied a throne; the vision melted into a cross.

We note the minute particularity of Jesus' delineation, and the
absolute certainty in His plain declaration of the fact and time of
the Resurrection. It is not wonderful that that declaration should
have produced little effect. The disciples were too much absorbed
and confounded by the dismal thought of His death to have ears for
the assurance of His Resurrection. Comfort coming at the end of the
announcement of calamities so great finds no entrance into, nor room
in, the heart. We all let a black foreground hide from us a brighter
distance.

III. The Master's feet mark the disciples' path. If suffering was
involved in Messiahship, it is no less involved in discipleship. The
cross which is our hope is also our pattern. In a very real sense we
have to be partakers of the sufferings of Christ, and no faith in
these as substitutionary is vital unless it leads to being conformed
to His death. The solemn verses at the close of this lesson draw out
the law of Christian self-denial as being inseparable from true
discipleship.

Verse 23 lays down the condition of following Jesus as being the
daily bearing, by each, of his own cross. Mark that self-denial is
not prescribed for its own sake, but simply as the means of
'following.' False asceticism insists on it, as if it were an end;
Christ treats it as a means. Mark, too, that it is 'self' which is
to be denied--not this or that part of our nature, but the central
'self.' The will is the man, and _it_ is to be brought into
captivity to Jesus, so that the true Christian says, 'I live; yet
not I, but Christ liveth in me.' That is much deeper, harder,
wholesomer teaching than separate austerities or forsakings of this
or that.

Verse 24 grounds this great requirement on the broad principle that
to make self the main object of life is the sure way to ruin
oneself, and that to slay self is the road to true life. Note that
it is he who '_would_ save' his life that loses it, because the
desire is itself fatal, whether carried out or not; while it is he
who _does_ 'lose' his life for Christ that preserves it,
because even if the extreme evil has been suffered, the possession
of our true lives is not imperilled thereby. No doubt the words
refer primarily to literal death, and threaten the cowards who
sacrifice their convictions for the sake of keeping a whole skin
with the failure of their efforts, while they promise the martyr
dying in the arena or at the stake a crown of life. But they go far
beyond that. They carry the great truth that to hug self and to make
its preservation our first aim is ruinous, and the corresponding
one, that to slay self for Christ's sake is to receive a better
self. Self-preservation is suicide; self-immolation is not only
self-preservation, but self-glorification with glory caught from
Jesus. Give yourselves to Him, and He gives you back to yourselves,
ennobled and transfigured.

Verse 25 urges obedience to the precept, by an appeal to reasonable
self-regard and common-sense. The abnegation enjoined does not
require that we should be indifferent to our own well-being. It is
right to consider what will 'profit,' and to act accordingly. The
commercial view of life, if rightly taken, with regard to all a
man's nature through all the duration of it, will coincide
accurately with the most exalted. It 'pays' to follow Christ.
Christian morality has not the hypersensitive fear of appealing to
self-interest which superfine moralists profess nowadays. And the
question in verse 25 admits of only one answer, for what good is the
whole world to a dead man? If our accounts are rightly kept, a world
gained shows poorly on the one side, against the entry on the other
of a soul lost.

Verse 26 tells in what that losing oneself consists, and enforces
the original exhortation by the declaration of a future appearance
of the Son of man. He of whom Christ is then ashamed loses his own
soul. To live without His smile is to die, to be disowned by Him is
to be a wreck. To be ashamed of Jesus is equivalent to that base
self-preservation which has been denounced as fatal. If a man
disavows all connection with Him, He will disavow all connection
with the disavower. A man separated from Jesus is dead while he
lives, and hereafter will live a living death, and possess neither
the world for which he sacrificed his own soul nor the soul for
which he sacrificed it.

We cannot but note the authoritative tone of our Lord in these
verses. He claims the obedience and discipleship of all men. He
demands that all shall yield themselves unreservedly to Him, and
that, even if actual surrender of life is involved, it shall be
gladly given. He puts our relation to Him as determining our whole
present and future. He assumes to be our Judge, whose smile is life,
whose averted face darkens the destiny of a man. Whom say ye that He
who dared to speak thus conceived Himself to be? Whom say ye that He
is?

Verse 27 recalls us from the contemplation of that far-off
appearance to something nearer. Remembering the previous
announcement of our Lord's sufferings, these words seem intended to
cheer the disciples with the hope that the kingdom would still be
revealed within the lifetime of some then present. Remembering the
immediately preceding words, this saying seems to assure the
disciples that the blessed recompense of the life of self-crucifying
discipleship is not to be postponed to that future, but may be
enjoyed on earth. Remembering Christ's word, 'Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,' we doubt whether there is
any reference here to the destruction of Jerusalem, as is commonly
understood. Are not the words rather a declaration that they who are
Christ's true disciples shall even here enter into the possession of
their true selves, and find the Messianic hopes more than fulfilled?
The future indicated will then be no more remote than the completion
of His work by His death and Resurrection, or, at the farthest, the
descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, by which the fuller life of
renewed natures was bestowed on those who were following Jesus in
daily self-surrender.



PRAYER AND TRANSFIGURATION


    'And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was
    altered.'--LUKE ix. 29.

This Evangelist is especially careful to record the instances of our
Lord's prayers. That is in accordance with the emphasis which he
places on Christ's manhood. In this narrative of the Transfiguration
it is to Luke that we owe our knowledge of the connection between
our Lord's prayer and the radiance of His face. It may be a question
how far such transfiguration was the constant accompaniment of our
Lord's devotion. It is to be remembered that this is the only time
at which others were present while He prayed, and perhaps it may be
that whensoever, on the mountain top or in the solitude of the
wilderness, He entered into closer communion with His heavenly
Father, that radiance shone from His face, though no eye beheld and
no tongue has recorded the glory.

But that is a mere supposition. However that may be, it would seem
that the light on Christ's face was not merely a reflection caught
from above, but it was also a rising up from within of what always
abode there, though it did not always shine through the veil of
flesh. And in so far it presents no parallel with anything in our
experience, nor any lesson for us. But to regard our Lord's
Transfiguration as only the result of the indwelling divinity
manifested is to construe only one half of the fact that we have to
deal with, and the other half does afford for us a precious lesson.
'As He prayed the fashion of His countenance was altered'; and as we
pray, and in the measure in which we truly and habitually do hold
communion, shall we, too, partake of His Transfiguration.

The old story of the light that flashed upon the face of the
Lawgiver, caught by reflection from the light of God in which He
walked, is a partial parallel to Christ's Transfiguration, and both
the one and the other incident, amongst their other lessons, do also
point to some mysterious and occult relation between the indwelling
soul and the envious veil of flesh which, under certain
circumstances, might become radiant with the manifestation of that
indwelling power.

I. The one great lesson which I seek now to enforce from this
incident is, that communion with God transfigures.

Prayer is more than petitions. It is not necessarily cast into words
at all. In its widest, which is its truest sense, it is the attitude
and exercise of devout contemplation of God and intercourse in
heart, mind, and will with Him, a communion which unites aspiration
and attainment, longing and fruition, asking and receiving, seeking
and finding, a communion which often finds itself beggared for
words, and sometimes even seems to transcend thought. How different
is such an hour of rapt communion with the living God from the
miserable notions which so many professing Christians have of
prayer, as if it were but spoken requests, more or less fervent and
sincere, for things that they want! The noblest communion of a soul
with God can never be free from the consciousness of need and
dependence. Petition must ever be an element in it, but supplication
is only a corner of prayer. Such conscious converse with God is the
very atmosphere in which the Christian soul should always live, and
if it be an experience altogether strange to us we had better ask
ourselves whether we yet know the realities of the Christian life,
or have any claim to the name. 'Truly, our fellowship is with the
Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,' and if we have no share in
that fellowship we do not belong to the class of whom it is the mark
and possession.

Of course, such communion is not to be attained or maintained without
effort. Sense wars against it. Tasks which are duties interrupt the
enjoyment of it in its more conscious forms. The hard-working man
may well say, 'How can I, with my business cares calling--for my
undivided attention all day long, keep up such communion?' The
toiling mother may well say, 'How can I, in my little house, with my
children round me, and never a quiet minute to myself, get such?'
True, it is hard, and the highest and sweetest forms of communion
cannot be reached by us while so engaged, and therefore we all need
seasons of solitude and repose, in which, being left alone, we may
see the Great Vision, and, the clank of the engines being silenced,
we may hear the Great Voice saying, 'Come up hither.' Such seasons
the busiest have on one day in every week, and such seasons we shall
contrive to secure for ourselves daily, if we really want to be
intimate with our heavenly Friend.

And for the rest it is not impossible to have real communion with
God in the midst of anxious cares and absorbing duties; it is
possible to be like the nightingales, that sing loudest in the trees
by the dusty roadsides, possible to be in the very midst of anxiety
and worldly work, and yet to keep our hearts in heaven and in touch
with God. We do not need many words for communion, but we do need to
make efforts to keep ourselves near Him in desire and aspiration,
and we need jealous and constant watchfulness over our motives for
work, and our temper and aim in it, that neither the work nor our
way of doing it may draw us away. There will be breaches in the
continuity of our conscious communion, but there need not be any in
the reality of our touch with God. For He can be with us, 'like some
sweet, beguiling melody, so sweet we know not we are listening to
it.' There may be a real contact of the spirit with Him, though it
would be hard at the moment to put it into words.

'As He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered.' Such
communion changes and glorifies a man. The very secret of the Gospel
way of making men better is--transfiguration by the vision of God.
Yes! to be much with God is the true way to mend our characters, and
to make them like His. I do not under-value the need of effort in
order to correct faults and acquire virtues. We do not receive
sanctification as we receive justification, by simple faith. For the
latter the condition is 'Only believe,' for the former it is 'Work
out your own salvation.' No man is cured of his evil tendencies
without a great deal of hard work conscientiously directed to
curbing them.

But all the hard work, and all the honest purpose in the world, will
not do it without this other thing, the close communion with God,
and incomparably the surest way to change what in us is wrong, and
to raise what in us is low, and to illumine what in us is dark, is
to live in habitual beholding of Him who is righteousness without
flaw, and holiness supreme, and light without any darkness at all.
That will cure faults. That will pull the poison fangs out of
passions. That will do for the evil in us what the snake-charmers do
by subtle touches, turn the serpent into a rigid rod that does not
move nor sting. That will lift us up high above the trifles of life,
and dwarf all here that imposes upon us with the lie that it is
great, and precious, and permanent; and that will bring us into
loving contact with the living 'Beauty of holiness,' which will
change us into its own fair likeness.

We see illustrations of this transforming power of loving communion
in daily life. People that love each other, and live beside each
other, and are often thinking about one another, get to drop into
each other's ways of looking at things; and even sometimes you will
catch strange imitations and echoes of the face and voice, in two
persons thus knit together. And if you and I are bound to God by a
love which lasts, even when it does not speak, and which is with us
even when our hands are busy with other things, then be sure of
this, we shall get like Him whom we love. We shall be like Him even
here, for even here we shall see Him. Partial assimilation is the
condition of vision; and the vision is the condition of growing
assimilation. The eye would not see the sun unless there were a
little sun imaged on the retina. And a man that sees God gets like
the God he sees; 'for we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a
glass (or, rather, mirroring as a glass does) the glory of God, are
changed into the same image.' The image on the mirror is only on the
surface; but if my heart is mirroring God He sinks in, and abides
there, and changes me from glory to glory. So it is when we keep
near Christ, who is manifest in the flesh, that we get liker Him day
by day, and the fashion of our countenances will be altered.

Now there is a test for our Christianity. Does my religion alter me?
If it does not, what right or reason have I to believe that it is
genuine at all? Is there a process of purifying going on in my
inward nature? Am I getting any more like Jesus Christ than I was
ten years ago? I say I live with Him and by Him. If I do I shall
become like Him. Do not work at the hopeless task of purifying
yourselves without His help, but go and stay in the sun if you want
to get warm. Lo as the bleachers do, spread the foul cloth on the
green grass, below the blazing sunshine, and that will take all the
dirt out. Believing and loving, and holding fast by Jesus Christ in
true communion, we, too, become like Him we love.

II. Another thought is suggested by these words--namely, that this
transfiguring will become very visible in the life if it be really
in our inmost selves.

Even in the most literal sense of the words it will be so. Did you
never see anybody whose face was changed by holier and nobler
purposes coming into their lives? I have seen more than one or two
whose features became as the face of an angel as they grew more and
more unselfish, and more and more full of that which, in the  most
literal sense of the words, was in them the beauty of holiness. The
devil writes his mark upon people's faces. The world and the flesh
do so. Go into the streets and look at the people that you meet.
Care, envy, grasping griping avarice, discontent, unrest, blotches
of animalism, and many other prints of black fingers are plain
enough on many a face. And on the other hand, if a man or a woman
get into their hearts the refining influences of God's grace and
love by living near the Master, very soon the beauty of expression
which is born of consecration and unselfishness, the irradiation of
lofty emotions, the tenderness caught from Him, will not be lacking,
and some eyes that look upon them will recognise the family
likeness.

But that may be said to be mere fancy. Perhaps it is, or perhaps
there is truth in it deeper and more far-reaching than we know.
Perhaps the life fashions the body, and the 'body of our glory' may
be moulded in immortal loveliness by the perfect Christ-derived life
within it. But be that as it may, the main point to be observed here
is rather this. If we have the real, transforming influence of
communion with Jesus Christ in our hearts, it will certainly rise to
the surface, and show itself in our lives. As oil poured into water
will come to the top, so that inward transforming will not continue
hidden within, 'The king's daughter is all-glorious _within_,
but also 'her _clothing_ is of wrought gold.' The inward life,
beautiful because knit to Him, will have corresponding with it and
flowing from it an outward life of manifest holy beauty.

'His name shall be in their foreheads,' stamped there, where
everybody can see it. Is that where you and I carry Christ's name?
It is well that it should be in our hearts, it is hypocrisy that it
should be in our foreheads unless it is in our hearts first. But if
it be in the latter it will surely be in the former.

Now, dear friends, there is a simple and sure touchstone for us all.
Do not talk about communion with Christ being the life of your
religion, unless the people that have to do with you, your brothers
and sisters, or fathers and mothers, your wives and children, your
servants or your masters, would endorse it and say 'Yes! I take
knowledge of him, he has been with Jesus.' Do you think that it is
easier for anybody to believe in, and to love God, 'whom he hath not
seen' because of you, 'his brother whom he hath seen'? The Christ in
the heart will be the Christ in the face and in the life.

Alas! why is it that so little of this radiance caught from heaven
shines from us? There is but one answer. It is because our communion
with God in Christ is so infrequent, hurried, and superficial. We
should be like those luminous boxes which we sometimes see, shining
in the dark with light absorbed from the day; but, like them, we
need to be exposed to the light and to lie in it if we are to be
light. 'Now are ye light in the Lord,' and only as we abide in Him
by continuous communion shall we resemble Him or reflect Him.

III. The perfection of communion will be the perfection of visible
transformation.

Possibly the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ had an element of
prophecy in it, and pointed onwards to the order of things when His
glorified humanity should be enthroned on the throne of the
universe, and have left the limitations of flesh with the folded
grave-clothes in the empty sepulchre. As the two majestic forms of
the Lawgiver and the Prophet shared His glory on Hermon, and held
converse with Him there, so we may see in that mysterious group
wrapped in the bright cloud the hint of a hope which was destined to
grow to clearness and certainty. Christ's glorified bodily humanity
is the type to which all His followers will be conformed. Gazing on
Him they shall be like Him, and will grow liker as they gaze.
Through eternal ages the double process will go on, and they shall
become ever more assimilated, and therefore capable of truer,
completer vision, and ever seeing Him more fully as He is, and
therefore progressively changed into more perfect resemblance. Nor
will that blessed change into advancing glory be shut up in their
hearts nor lack beholders. For in that realm of truth and reality
all that is within will be visible, our life will no longer fall
beneath our aspirations, nor practice be at variance with the
longings and convictions of our best selves. Then the Christlike
spirit will possess a body which is its glad and perfect servant,
and through which its beauty will shine undimmed. 'When Christ, who
is our life, shall be manifested, then shall we also be manifested
with Him in glory.'



'IN THE HOLY MOUNT'


    'And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which
    were Moses and Elias: 31. Who appeared in glory, and
    spake of His decease which He should accomplish at
    Jerusalem.'--LUKE ix. 30, 31.

The mysterious incident which is commonly called the Transfiguration
contained three distinct portions, each having its own special
significance and lesson. The first was that supernatural change in
the face and garments of our Lord from which the whole incident
derives its name. The second was the appearance by His side of these
two mighty dead participating in the strange lustre in which He
walked, and communing with Him of His death. And the last was the
descent of the bright cloud, visible as bright even amidst the
blazing sunshine on the lone hillside, and the mysterious attesting
Voice that spoke from out of its depths.

I leave untouched altogether the first and the last of these three
portions, and desire briefly to fix our attention on this central
one. Now it is to be observed that whilst all the three Synoptic
Evangelists tell us of the Transfiguration, of the appearance of
Moses and Elias, and of the Cloud and the Voice, only Luke  knows,
or at least records, and therefore alone probably knows, what it was
that they spoke of. Peter and James and John, the only human
witnesses, were lying dazed and drunken with sleep, whilst Christ's
countenance was changed; and during all the earlier portion at all
events of His converse with Moses and Elias. And it was only when
these were about to depart that the mortals awoke from their
slumber. So they probably neither heard the voices nor knew their
theme, and it was reserved for this Evangelist to tell us the
precious truth that the thing about which Lawgiver, Prophet, and the
Greater than both spake in that mysterious communion was none other
than the Cross.

I think, then, that if we look at this incident from the point of
view which our Evangelist enables us to take, we shall get large and
important lessons as to the significance of the death of Jesus
Christ, in many aspects, and in reference to very many different
persons. I see at least four of these. This incident teaches us what
Christ's death was to Himself; what it was in reference to previous
revelation; what it was in reference to past generations; and what
it may be in reference to His servants' death. And upon these four
points I desire briefly to touch now.

I. First, then, I see here teaching as to what the death of the Lord
Jesus Christ was in reference to Himself.

What was it that brought these men--the one who had passed in a
whirlwind to heaven, and the other who had been led by a mysterious
death to slumber in an unknown grave--what was it that brought these
men to stand there upon the side of the slopes of Hermon? It was not
to teach Christ of the impending Cross. For, not to touch upon other
points, eight days before this mysterious interview He had foretold
it in the minutest details to His disciples. It was not for the sake
of Peter and James and John, lying coiled in slumber there, that
they broke the bands of death, and came back from 'that bourne from
which no traveller returns,' but it was for Christ, or for
themselves, or perhaps for both, that they stood there.

You remember that in Gethsemane 'there appeared an angel from heaven
strengthening Him.' And one of the old devout painters has
marvellously embraced the deepest meaning of that vision when he has
painted for us the strengthening angel displaying in the heavens the
Cross on which He must die, as if the holding of it up before Him as
the divine will gave the strength that He needed. And I think in
some analogous way we are to regard the mission and message to Jesus
of these two men in our text. We know that clear before Him, all His
life long, there stood the certainty of the Cross. We know that He
came, not merely to teach, to minister, to bless, to guide, but that
He came to give His life a ransom for many. But we know, too, that
from about this point of time in His life the Cross stood more
distinctly, if that may be, before Him; or at all events, that it
pressed more upon His vision and upon His spirit. And doubtless
after that time when He spoke to the disciples so plainly and
clearly of what was coming upon Him, His human nature needed the
retirement of the mountain-side and prayer which preceded and
occasioned this mysterious incident. Christ shrank from His Cross
with sinless, natural, human shrinking of the flesh. That never
altered His purpose nor shook His will, but He needed, and He got,
strength from the Father, ministered once by an angel from heaven,
and ministered, as I suppose, another time by two men who looked at
death from the other side, and 'who spoke to Him of His decease
which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.'

And now it is to be noticed that the words which our Evangelist
employs are remarkable, and one of them, at least, is all but
unique. The expression translated in my text 'decease' is the same
Greek word which, untranslated, names the second book of the Old
Testament--_Exodus_. And it literally means neither more nor
less than a departure or 'going out.' It is only employed in this
one passage and in another one to which I shall have occasion to
refer presently, which is evidently based and moulded upon this one,
to signify _death_. And the employment of it, perhaps upon
these undying tongues of the sainted dead--or, at all events, in
reference to the subject of their colloquy--seems to us to suggest
that part of what they had to say to the Master and what they had to
hear from Him was that His death was His departure in an altogether
unique, solitary, and blessed sense. 'I came forth from the Father,
and I am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the
Father.' Not dragged by any necessity, but of His own sovereign
will, He passes from earth to the state where He was before. And as
He stands there on the mountain with His radiant face and His white
robes, this thought as to His death brings to Him comfort and
strength, even whilst He thinks of the suffering of the Cross.

But, still further, the other word which is here employed helps us
to understand what our Lord's death was to Him; 'He should
_accomplish_' it as a thing to be fulfilled. And that involves
two ideas, the one that Christ in His death was consciously
submitting to a gladly accepted divine _must_, and was accomplishing
the purpose of Love which dwelt in the heavens and sent Him, as well
as His own purpose of love which would redeem and save. The necessity
of the death of Christ if sin is to be put away, if we are ever to have
a hope of immortality, the necessity of the death of Christ if the
mercy of God is to pour out upon a sinful and rebellious world, the
necessity of the death of Christ, if the deep purposes of the divine
heart are ever to be realised, and the yearning compassion of the
Saviour's soul is ever to reach its purpose--all lie in that great
word that 'His decease' was by Him to be 'accomplished.' This is the
fulfilling of the heart of God, this is the fulfilling of the
compassion of the Christ. It is the accomplishment of the divine
purpose from eternity.

Still further, the word, as I think, suggests another kind of
fulfilment. He was to 'accomplish' His death. That is to say, every
drop of that bitter cup, drop by drop, bitterness by bitterness,
pang by pang, desolation by desolation, He was to drink; and He
drank it. Every step of that road sown with ploughshares and live
coals He was to tread, with bleeding, blistered, slow, unshrinking
feet. And He trod it. He _accomplished_ it; hurrying over none
of the sorrow, perfunctorily doing none of the tasks. And after the
weary moments had ticked themselves away, and the six hours of
agony, when the minutes were as drops of blood falling slowly to the
ground, were passed, He inverted the cup, and it was empty, and He
said 'It is finished'; and He gave up the ghost, having
accomplished His decease in Jerusalem.'

II. Further, note in this incident what that death is in regard to
previous revelation.

I need not remind you, I suppose, that we have here the two great
representative figures of the past history of Israel--the Lawgiver,
who, according to the Old Testament, was not only the medium of
declaring the divine will, but the medium of establishing Sacrifice
as well as Law, and the Prophet, who, though no written words of his
have been preserved, and nothing of a predictive and Messianic
character seems to have dropped from His lips, yet stood as the
representative and head of the great prophetic order to which so
much of the earlier revelation was entrusted. And now here they two
stand with Christ on the mountain; and the theme about which they
spake with Him there is the theme of which the former revelation had
spoken in type and shadow, in stammering words, 'at sundry times and
in divers manners,' to the former generations--viz. the coming of
the great Sacrifice and the offering of the great Propitiation. All
the past of Israel pointed onwards to the Cross, and in that Cross
its highest word was transcended, its faintest emblems were
explained and expressed, its unsolved problems which it had raised
in order that they might be felt to be unsolved, were all answered,
and that which had been set forth but in shadow and symbol was given
to the world in reality for evermore. In Moses Law and Sacrifice,
and in Elijah the prophetic function, met by the side of Christ,
'and spake of His decease.'

Now, dear friends, let me say one word here before I pass on. There
is a great deal being said nowadays about the position of the Old
Testament, the origin of its ritual, and other critical, and, to some
extent, historical, questions. I have no doubt that we have much to
learn upon these subjects; but what I would now insist upon is this,
that all these subjects, about which people are getting so excited,
and some of them so angry, stand, and may be dealt with, altogether
apart from this central thought, that the purpose and meaning, the
end and object of the whole preliminary and progressive revelation of
God from the beginning, are to lead straight up to Jesus Christ and
to His Cross. And if we understand that, and feel that 'the testimony
of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,' and that law and sacrifice,
commandments and altar, Sinai and Zion, the fiery words that were
spoken in the wilderness, and the perpetual burnt-offering that went
up in the Temple, had one mission--viz. to 'prepare the way of the
Lord'--we have grasped the essential truth as to the Old Revelation;
and if we do not understand that, we may be as scholarly and erudite
and original as we please, but we miss the one truth which is worth
grasping. The relation between the Old revelation and the New is this,
that Christ was pointed to by it all, and that in Himself He sums up
and surpasses and antiquates, because He fulfils, all the past.

Therefore Moses and Elijah came to witness as well as to encourage.
Their presence proclaimed that Christ was the meaning of all the
past, and the crown of the divine revelation. And they faded away,
and Jesus was found alone standing there, as He stands for ever
before all generations and all lands, the sole, the perfect, the
eternal Revealer of the heart and will of God. 'God, who at sundry
times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets,
hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.'

III. Again, we have here set before us the death of Christ in its
relation to past generations.

I need not dwell upon anything that was mysterious or anomalous in
the last moments upon earth of either Moses or Elijah. I do not
suppose that there is any reference to the undoubted peculiarities
which existed in the case of both. But they came from that dim
region where the dead were waiting for the coming of the Saviour,
and by some means, we know not how, were clothed with something that
was like an immortal body, and capable of entering into this
material universe. There they stood, witnesses that Christ's death
was of interest to all those sleeping generations in the past. We
know not anything, or scarcely anything, of the condition of the
sainted dead who died before Christ came. But this is clear, that
these two came from the land where silent expectancy had ruled, and
came perhaps to carry back to their brethren the tidings that the
hour was ready to strike, and that soon amongst them there would
stand the Eternal Life.

But, be that as it may, does not that group on the mountain-side
teach us this, that the Cross of Jesus Christ had a backward as well
as a forward power, and that for all the generations who had died,
'not having received the promises, but having seen them and saluted
them from afar,' the influence of that Sacrifice had opened the
gates of the Kingdom where they were gathered in hope, even as it
opens for us, and all subsequent generations, the gates of the
paradise of God?

I know not whether there be truth in the ancient idea that when the
Master died He passed into that _Hades_ where were assembled
the disembodied spirits of the righteous dead, and led captivity
captive, taking them with Him into a loftier Paradise. But this I am
sure of, that Christ's Cross has always been the means and channel
whereby forgiveness and hope and heaven have been given to men, and
that the old dream of the devout painter which he has breathed upon
the walls of the convent in Florence is true in spirit whatever it
may be in letter, that the Christ who died went down into the dark
regions, burst the bars and broke the gates of iron, and crushed the
demon porter beneath the shattered portal, and that out of the dark
rock-hewn caverns there came streaming the crowds of the sainted
dead, with Adam at their head, and many another who had seen His day
afar off and been glad, stretching out eager hands to grasp the
life-giving hand of the Redeemer that had come to them too.

Moses and Elias were the 'first-fruits of them that slept,' and
there were others, when the bodies of the saints rose from the grave
and appeared in the Holy City unto many. And their presence, and the
presence of these two there, typified for us the great fact that the
Cross of Christ is the redemption of pre-Christian as well as of
Christian ages; and that He is the Lord both of the dead and of the
living.

IV. And so, lastly, this incident may suggest also what that death
of Jesus Christ may be in reference to the deaths of His servants.

I do not find that thought in the words of our text, but in the
reference to them which is made in the second epistle attributed to
Peter, who was present at the Transfiguration. There is a very
remarkable passage in that Epistle, in the context of which there
are distinct verbal allusions to the narrative of the Transfiguration,
and in it the writer employs the same word to describe his own death
which is employed here. It is the only other instance in Scripture
of its use in that sense. And so I draw this simple lesson; that
mighty death which was accomplished upon Calvary, which is the crown
and summit of all Revelation, beyond which God has nothing that He
can say or do to make men sure of His heart and recipients of
forgiveness, which was the channel of pardon for all past ages, and
the hope of the sainted dead--that death may turn for us our departure
into its own likeness. For us, too, all the grimness, all the darkness,
all the terror, may pass away, and it may become simply a change of
place, and a going home to God. If we believe that Jesus died, we
believe that He has thereby smoothed and softened and lessened our
death into a sleep in Him.

Nor need we forget the special meaning of the word. If we have set
our hopes upon Christ, and, as sinful men and women, have cast the
burden of our sins, and the weight of our salvation, on His strong
arm, then life will be blessed, and death, when it comes, will be a
true Exodus, the going out of the slaves from the land of bondage,
and passing through the divided sea, not into a weary wilderness,
but into the light of the love and the blessedness of the land where
our Brother is King, and where we shall share His reign.

I have been speaking to you of what Christ's death is in many
regions of the universe, in many eras of time. My brother, what is
Christ's death to you? Can you say, 'The life that I live in the
flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave
Himself for me?'



CHRIST HASTENING TO THE CROSS


    'And it came to pass, when the time was come that He
    should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to
    go to Jerusalem.'--LUKE ix. 51.

There are some difficulties, with which I need not trouble you here,
as to bringing the section of this Gospel to which these words are
the introduction, into its proper chronological place in relation to
the narratives; but, putting these on one side for the present,
there seems no doubt that the Evangelist's intention here is to
represent the beginning of our Lord's last journey from Galilee to
Jerusalem--a journey which was protracted and devious, and the
narrative of which in this Gospel, as you will perceive, occupies a
very large portion of its whole contents.

The picture that is given in my text is that of a clear knowledge of
what waited Him, of a steadfast resolve to accomplish the purpose of
the divine love, and that resolve not without such a shrinking of
some part of His nature that He had 'to _set_ His face to go to
Jerusalem.'

The words come into parallelism very strikingly with a great
prophecy of the Messiah in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, where we
read, 'The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be
confounded'--or, as the words have been rendered, 'shall not suffer
myself to be overcome by mockery'--'therefore have I set my face
like a flint.' In the words both of the Prophet and of the
Evangelist there is the same idea of a resolved will, as the result
of a conscious effort directed to prevent circumstances which tended
to draw Him back, from producing their effect. The graphic narrative
of the Evangelist Mark adds one more striking point to that picture
of high resolve. He tells us, speaking of what appears to be the
final epoch in this long journey to the Cross, 'They were in the
way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them; and they
were amazed: and as they followed, they were afraid.' What a picture
that is, Christ striding along the steep mountain path far in
advance--impelled by that same longing which sighs so wonderfully
in His words, 'How am I straitened till it be accomplished,'--with
solemn determination in the gentle face, and His feet making haste to
run in the way of the Father's commandments! And lagging behind, the
little group, awed into almost stupor, and shrinking in
uncomprehending terror from that light of unconquerable resolve and
more than mortal heroism that blazed in His eyes!

If we fix, then, on this picture, and as we are warranted in doing,
regard it as giving us a glimpse of the very heart of Christ, I
think it may well suggest to us considerations that may tend to make
more real to us that sacrifice that He made, more deep to us that
love by which He was impelled, and may perhaps tend to make our love
more true and our resolve more fixed. 'He set His face to go to
Jerusalem.'

I. First, then, we may take, I think, from these words, the thought
of the perfect clearness with which all through Christ's life He
foresaw the inevitable and purposed end.

Here, indeed, the Evangelist leaps over the suffering of the Cross,
and thinks only of the time when He shall be lifted up upon the
throne; but in that calm and certain prevision which, in His
manhood, the Divine Son of God did exercise concerning His own
earthly life, between Him and the glory there ever stood the black
shadow thrown by Calvary. When He spoke of being 'lifted up,' He
ever meant by that pregnant and comprehensive word, at once man's
elevation of Him on the accursed tree, and the Father's elevation of
Him upon the throne at His right hand! The future was, if I may so
say, in His eye so foreshortened that the two things ran into one,
and the ambiguous expression did truly connote the one undivided act
of prescient consciousness in which He at once recognised the Cross
and the throne. And so, when the time was come that He should be
received up, He 'steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.'

Now, there is another thing to be noticed. That vision of the
certain end which here fills His mind and impels His conduct, was by
no means new with Him. Modern unbelieving commentators and critics
upon the Gospels have tried their best to represent Christ's life
as, at a certain point in it, being modified by His recognition of
the fact that His mission was a failure, and that there was nothing
left for Him but martyrdom! I believe that that is as untrue to the
facts of the Gospel story upon any interpretation of them, as it is
repulsive to the instincts of devout hearts; and without troubling
you with thoughts about it I need only refer to two words of His.
When was it that He said, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I
will build it up'? When was it that He said, 'As Moses lifted up the
serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted
up'? The one saying was uttered at the very beginning of His public
work, and the other in His conversation with Nicodemus. On the
testimony of these two sayings, if there were none else, I think
there is no option but to believe that from the first there stood
clear before Him the necessity and the certainty of the Cross, and
that it was no discovery made at a certain point of His course.

And then, remember that we are not to think of Him as, like many an
earthly hero and martyr, regarding a violent and bloody death as
being the very probable result of faithful boldness, but to believe
that He, looking on from the beginning to that end, regarded it
always as being laid upon Him by a certain divine necessity, into
which necessity He entered with the full submission and acquiescence
of His own will, and from the beginning knew that Calvary was the
work for which He had come, and that His love would fail of its
expression, and the divine purpose would fail of its realisation,
and His whole mission would fail of all its meaning, unless He died
for men. The martyr looks to the scaffold and says, 'It stands in my
way, and I must either be untrue to conscience or I must go there,
and so I will go.' Christ said, 'The Cross is in My path, and on it
and from it I shall exercise the influence, to exercise which I have
come into the world, and there I shall _do_ the thing which I
came forth from the Father to do.' He thought of His death not as
the end of His work, but as the centre-point of it; not as the
termination of His activity, but as its climax, to which all the
rest was subordinated, and without which all the rest was nought. He
does not die, and so seal a faithful life by an heroic death,--but
dies, so bearing and bearing away man's sin. He regarded from the
beginning 'the glory that should follow,' and the suffering through
which He had to wade to reach it, in one and the same act of
prescience, and said, 'Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is
written of Me.'

And I think, dear friends, if we carried with us more distinctly
than we do that one simple thought, that in all the human joys, in
all the apparently self-forgetting tenderness, of that Lord who had
a heart for every sorrow and an ear for every complaint, and a hand
open as day and full of melting charity for every need--that in
every moment of that life, in the boyhood, in the dawning manhood,
in the maturity of His growing human powers--there was always
present one black shadow, towards which He ever went straight with
the consent of His will and with the clearest eye, we should
understand something more of how His life as well as His death was a
sacrifice for us sinful men!

We honour and love men who crush down their own sorrows in order to
help their fellows. We wonder with almost reverence when we see some
martyr, in sight of the faggots, pause to do a kindness to some
weeping heart in the crowd, or to speak a cheering word. We admire
the leisure and calm of spirit which he displays. But all these
pale, and the very comparison may become an insult, before that
heart which ever discerned Calvary, and never let the sight hinder
one deed of kindness, nor silence one gracious word, nor check one
throb of sympathy.

II. Still further, the words before us lead to a second
consideration, which I have just suggested in my last sentence--Our
Lord's perfect willingness for the sacrifice which He saw before
Him.

We have here brought into the narrowest compass, and most clearly
set forth, the great standing puzzle of all thought, which can only
be solved by action. On the one side there is the distinctest
knowledge of a divine purpose that _will_ be executed; on the
other side there is the distinctest consciousness that at each step
towards the execution of it He is constrained by no foreign and
imposed necessity, but is going to the Cross by His own will. 'The
Son of Man must be lifted up.' 'It _became_ Him to make the
Captain of salvation perfect through sufferings.' 'It _behoved_
Him to be made in all points like His brethren.' The Eternal Will of
the Father, the purpose purposed before the foundation of the world,
the solemn prophecies from the beginning of time, constituted the
necessity, and involved the certainty, of His death on the Cross.
But are we, therefore, to think that Jesus Christ was led along the
path that ended there, by a force which overbore and paralysed His
human will? Was not His life, and especially His death,
_obedience_? Was there not, therefore, in Him, as in us all,
the human will that could cheerfully submit; and must there not,
then, have been, at each step towards the certain end, a fresh act
of submission and acceptance of the will of the Father that had sent
Him?

'Clear knowledge of the end as divinely appointed and certain'; yes,
one might say, and if so, there could have been no voluntariness in
treading the path that leads to it. 'Voluntariness in treading the
path that leads to it, and if so, there could have been no divine
ordination of the end.' Not so! When human thought comes, if I may
so say, full butt against a stark, staring contradiction like that,
it is no proof that either of the propositions is false. It is only
like the sign-boards that the iceman puts upon the thin ice,
'dangerous!' a warning that that is not a place for us to tread. We
have to keep a firm hold of what is certified to us, on either side,
by its appropriate evidence, and leave the reconciliation, if it can
ever be given to finite beings, to a higher wisdom, and, perchance,
to another world!

But that is a digression from my more immediate purpose, which is
simply to bring before our minds, as clearly as I can, that perfect,
continuous, ever-repeated willingness, expressing itself in a chain
of constant acts that touch one upon the other, which Christ
manifested to embrace the Cross, and to accomplish what was at once
the purpose of the Father's will and the purpose of His own.

And it may be worth while, just for a moment, to touch lightly upon
some of the many points which bring out so clearly in these Gospel
narratives the wholly and purely voluntary character of Christ's
death.

Take, for instance, the very journey which I am speaking of now. Christ
went up to Jerusalem, says my text. What did He go there for? He went,
as you will see, if you look at the previous circumstance,--He went in
order, if I might use such a word, to precipitate the collision, and to
make His Crucifixion certain. He was under the ban of the Sanhedrim;
but perfectly safe as long as He had stopped up among the hills of
Galilee. He was as unsafe when He went up to Jerusalem as John Huss
when he went to the Council of Constance with the Emperor's safe-conduct
in his belt; or as a condemned heretic would have been in the old days,
if he had gone and stood in that little dingy square outside the palace
of the Inquisition at Rome, and there, below the obelisk, preached his
heresies! Christ had been condemned in the council of the nation; but
there were plenty of hiding-places among the Galilean hills, and the
frontier was close at hand, and it needed a long arm to reach from
Jerusalem all the way across Samaria to the far north. Knowing that,
He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and, if I might use
the expression, went straight into the lion's mouth. Why? Because He
chose to die.

And, then, take another circumstance. If you will look carefully at
the Scripture narrative, you will find that from about this point in
His life onwards there comes a distinct change in one very important
respect. Before this He shunned publicity; after this He courted it.
Before this, when He spoke in veiled words of His sufferings, He
said to His disciples, 'Tell no man till the Son of man be risen
from the dead.' Hereafter though there are frequent prophecies of
His sufferings, there is no repetition of that prohibition. He goes
up to Jerusalem, and His triumphal entry adds fuel to the fire. His
language at the last moment appeals to the publicity of His final
visit to that city--'Was I not daily with you in the Temple and ye
laid no hands upon Me?' Everything that He could do He does to draw
attention to Himself--everything, that is to say, within the limits
of the divine decorum, which was ever observed in His life, of whom
it was written long, long ago, 'He shall not strive, nor cry, nor
cause His voice to be heard in the streets.' There is, then, a most
unmistakable change to be felt by any who will carefully read the
narratives in their bearing upon this one point--a resolve to draw
the eyes of the enemy upon Himself.

And to the same purpose, did you ever notice how calmly, with full
self-consciousness, distinctly understanding what He is doing,
distinctly knowing to what it will lead, He makes His words ever
heavier and heavier, and more and more sharply pointed with
denunciations, as the last loving wrestle between Himself and the
scribes and Pharisees draws near to its bloody close? Instead of
softening He hardens His tones--if I dare use the word, where all is
the result of love--at any rate He keeps no terms; but as the danger
increases His words become plainer and sterner, and approach as near
as ever _His_ words could do to bitterness and rebuke. It was
then, whilst passionate hate was raging round Him, and eager eyes
were gleaming revenge, that He poured out His sevenfold woes upon
the 'hypocrites,' the 'blind guides,' the 'fools,' the 'whited
sepulchres,' the 'serpents,' the 'generation of vipers,' whom He
sees filling up the measure of their fathers in shedding His
righteous blood.

And again, the question recurs--Why? And again, besides other
reasons, which I have not time to touch upon here, the answer, as it
seems to me, must unmistakably be, Because He willed to die, and He
willed to die because He loved us.

The same lesson is taught, too, by that remarkable incident
preserved for us by the Gospel of John, of the strange power which
accompanied His avowal of Himself to the rude soldiers who had come
to seize Him, and which struck them to the ground in terror and
impotence. One flash comes forth to tell of the sleeping lightning
that He will not use, and then having revealed the might that could
have delivered Him from their puny arms, He returns to His attitude
of self-surrender for our sakes, with those wonderful words which
tell how He gave up Himself that we might be free, 'If ye seek Me,
let these go their way.' The scene is a parable of the whole work of
Jesus; it reveals His power to have shaken off every hand laid upon
Him, His voluntary submission to His else impotent murderers, and
the love which moved Him to the surrender.

Other illustrations of the same sort I must leave untouched at
present, and only remind you of the remarkable peculiarity of the
language in which all the Evangelists describe the supreme moment
when Christ passed from His sufferings. 'When He had cried with a
loud voice, He yielded up the ghost,'--He sent away the spirit--'He
breathed out' (His spirit), 'He gave up the ghost.' In simple truth,
He 'committed His spirit' into the Father's hand. And I believe that
it is an accurate and fair comment to say, that that is no mere
euphemism for death, but carries with it the thought that He was
_active_ in that moment; that the nails and the spear and the
Cross did not kill Christ, but that Christ _willed_ to die! And
though it is true on the one side, as far as men's hatred and
purpose are concerned. 'Whom with wicked hands ye have crucified and
slain'; on the other side, as far as the deepest verity of the fact
is concerned, it is still more true, 'I have power to lay it down,
and I have power to take it again.'

But at all events, whatever you may think of such an exposition as
that, the great principle which my text illustrates for us at an
earlier stage is, at least, irrefragably established--that our dear
Lord, when He died, died, because He _willed_ to do so. He was
man and therefore He _could_ die; but He was not man in such
fashion as that He _must_ die. In His bodily frame was the
possibility, not the necessity, of death. And that being so, the
very fact of His death is the most signal proof that He is Lord of
death as well as of life. He dies not because He must, He dies not
because of faintness and pain and wounds. These and they who
inflicted them had no power at all over Him. He chooses to die; and
He wills it because He wills to fulfil the eternal purpose of divine
love, which is His purpose, and to bring life to the world. His hour
of weakness was His hour of strength. They lifted Him on a cross,
and it became a throne. In the moment when death seemed to conquer
Him, He was really using it that He might abolish it. When He gave
tip the ghost, He showed Himself Lord of death as marvellously and
as gloriously as when He burst its bands and rose from the grave;
for this grisly shadow, too, was His servant, and He says to him,
'Come, and he cometh; do this, and he doeth it.' 'Thou didst
overcome the sharpness of death' when Thou didst willingly bow Thy
head to it, and didst die not because Thou _must_, but because
Thou _wouldest_.

III. Still further, let me remind you how, in the language of this
verse, there is also taught us that there was in Christ a natural
human shrinking from the Cross.

The steadfast and resolved will held its own, overcoming the natural
human reluctance. 'He _set_ His face.' People are afraid to
talk--and the instinct, the reverent instinct, is right, however we
may differ from the application of it--people are afraid to talk, as
if there was any shrinking in Christ from the Cross. I believe there
was. Was the agony in Gethsemane a reality or a shadow, when He
said, 'O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass?' What did
that prayer mean, if there was not something in His nature that
recoiled from the agony and mysterious horror of these awful hours?
Let us take heed lest in our reverence we destroy the very notion on
which our hope rests--that of Christ as suffering. For that one word
involves all that I say--Did Christ _suffer_ or did He not? If
He suffered, then human nature shrank from it. The two ideas are
correlative, you cannot part them--suffering and reluctance, a
perfectly innocent, natural, inevitable, human instinct, inseparable
from corporeity, that makes men recoil from pain. 'He endured the
Cross,' says the Book--if there was not reluctance what was there to
'endure'? 'Despising the shame'--if there was not something from
which He shrank, what was there to 'despise'? 'He _set_ His
face'--if there was not something in Him that hung back, what need
was there for the hardening of the countenance? If Christ has
suffered, then His flesh and blood quivered beforehand with the
pangs and shrank from these, and He would have been spared the cup.
Such instinctive recoil is not evil, it is not rebellion, it is not
unwillingness to submit to the Father's will. His whole being clave
to that, and never swerved from it for one moment. But still,
because the path was darkened by mysterious blackness, and led to a
Cross, therefore He, even He, who did always the things that pleased
the Father, and ever delighted to do His will, needed to '_set_
His face' to go up to the mountain of sacrifice.

And now, if you will take along with that the other thought that I
suggested at the beginning of these remarks, and remember that this
shrinking must have been as continuous as the vision, and that this
overcoming of it must have been as persistent and permanent as the
resolve, I think we get a point of view from which to regard that
life of Christ's--full of pathos, full of tender appeals to our
hearts and to our thankfulness.

All along that consecrated road He walked, and each step represented
a separate act of will, and each separate act of will represented a
triumph over the reluctance of flesh and blood. As we may say, every
time that He planted His foot on the flinty path the blood flowed.
Every step was a pain like that of a man enduring the ordeal and
walking on burning iron or sharp steel.

The old taunt of His enemies, as they stood beneath His Cross, might
have been yielded to--'If Thou be the Son of God, come down and we
will believe.' I ask why did not He? I know that, to those who think
less loftily of Christ than we who believe Him to be the Son of God,
the words sound absurd--but I for one believe that the only thing
that kept Him there, the only answer to that question is--Because He
loved me with an everlasting love, and died to redeem me. Because of
that love, He came to earth; because of that love, He tabernacled
among us; because of that love, He gazed all His life long on the
Cross of shame; because of that love, He trod unfaltering, with
eager haste and solemn resolve, the rough and painful road; because
of that love, He listened not to the voice that at the beginning
tempted Him to win the world for Himself by an easier path; because
of that love, He listened not--though He could have done so--to the
voices that at the end taunted Him with their proffered allegiance
if He would come down from the Cross; because of that love, He gave
up His spirit. And through all the weariness and contumely and pain,
that love held His will fixed to its purpose, and bore Him over
every hindrance that barred His path. Many waters quench it not.
_That_ love is stronger than death; mightier than all opposing
powers; deep and great beyond all thought or thankfulness. It
silences all praise. It beggars all recompense. To believe it is
life. To feel it is heaven.

But one more remark I would make on this whole subject. We are far
too much accustomed to think of our Saviour as presenting only the
gentle graces of human nature. He presents those that belong to the
strong side of our nature just as much. In Him are all power, manly
energy, resolved consecration; everything which men call heroism is
there. 'He steadfastly set His face.' And everything which men call
tenderest love, most dewy pity, most marvellous and transcendent
patience, is all there too. The type of manhood and the type of
womanhood are both and equally in Jesus Christ; and He is _the_
Man, whole, entire, perfect, with all power breathed forth in all
gentleness, with all gentleness made steadfast and mighty by His
strength. 'And he said unto me, Behold the lion of the tribe of
Judah. And I beheld, and lo, a lamb!'--the blended symbols of kingly
might, and lowly meekness, power in love, and love in power. The
supremest act of resolved consecration and heroic self-immolation
that ever was done upon earth--an act which we degrade by
paralleling it with any other--was done at the bidding of love that
pitied us. As we look up at that Cross we know not whether is more
wonderfully set forth the pitying love of Christ's most tender
heart, or the majestic energy of Christ's resolved will. The blended
rays pour out, dear brethren, and reach to each of us. Do not look
to that great sacrifice with idle wonder. Bend upon it no eye of
mere curiosity. Beware of theorising merely about what it reveals
and what it does. Turn not away from it carelessly as a twice-told
tale. But look, believing that all that divine and human love pours
out its treasure upon you, that all that firmness of resolved
consecration and willing surrender to the death of the Cross was for
you. Look, believing that you had then, and have now, a place in His
heart, and in His sacrifice. Look, remembering that it was because
He would save you, that Himself He could not save,

And as, from afar, we look on that great sight, let His love melt
our hearts to an answering fervour, and His fixed will give us, too,
strength to delight in obedience, to set our faces like a flint. Let
the power of His sacrifice, and the influence of His example which
that sacrifice commends to our loving copy, and the grace of His
Spirit whom He, since that sacrifice, pours upon men, so mould us
that we, too, like Him, may 'quit us like men, be strong,' and all
our strength and 'all our deeds' be wielded and 'done in charity.'



CHRIST'S MESSENGERS: THEIR EQUIPMENT AND WORK


    'After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy
    also, and sent them two and two before His face into
    every city and place whither He Himself would come.
    2. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is
    great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore
    the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth
    labourers into His harvest. 3. Go your ways: behold, I
    send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4. Carry neither
    purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the
    way. 5. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say,
    Peace be to this house. 6. And if the son of peace be
    there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall
    turn to you again. 7. And in the same house remain,
    eating and drinking such things as they give: for the
    labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to
    house. 8. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they
    receive  you, eat such things as are set before you:
    9. And heal the sick that are therein; and say unto
    them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 10. But
    into  whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you
    not, go your ways out into the streets of the same,
    and say, 11. Even the very dust of your city, which
    cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you:
    notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom
    of God is come nigh unto you.... 17. And the seventy
    returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils
    are subject unto us through Thy name. 18. And He said
    unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from
    heaven. 19. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on
    serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the
    enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
    20. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the
    spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice,
    because your names are written in heaven.'
    --LUKE x. 1-11: 17-20.

The mission of the Seventy is clearly distinguished from and
contrasted with that of the Twelve by the word 'others' in verse 1,
which points back to Luke ix.1. The Twelve were prohibited from
going beyond Jews;  the Seventy were under no such restriction, and
were probably sent to the half-Gentile districts on the east of
Jordan. The number of twelve had reference to the number of the
tribes; that of seventy may have referred to the number of the
elders, but it has also been suggested that its reference is to the
supposed number of the nations. The appointment of the Twelve was to
a permanent office; that of the Seventy to a transitory mission.
Much of the charge given to either is given to both, as is most
natural, since they had the same message, and both were sent to
prepare for Christ's personal ministry. But though the Seventy were
sent out but for a short time, permanent principles for the
guidance, not only of Christian workers, but of all Christian lives,
are embodied in the charge which they received.

We note, first, that all personal service should be preceded by
intense realisation of the immense field, and of the inadequacy, of
Christian effort, which vision will culminate in prayer for more
toilers to be 'sent forth.' The word implies a certain measure of
compulsion, for an overmastering impulse is always needed to
overcome human reluctance and laziness. No man has ever done large
service for God who has not felt that, like the prophet, he was laid
hold of by the Spirit, and borne away, whether he would or no. 'I
must speak,' is felt by every true messenger of God. The prayer was
answered by the sending of the pray-ers, as it often is. Note how
Jesus implies that He is Lord of the harvest, in that His sending
them is the answer to the petition. Note, too, the authority which
He claims to exercise supreme sovereignty over the lives of men. He
has the right to fling them into deadly peril for no other purpose
than to proclaim His name. Lambs, ringed round by wolves with white,
gleaming teeth, have little chance of life. Jesus gives His servants
full warning of dangers, and on the very warning builds an
exhortation to quiet confidence; for, if the sentence ends with
'lambs in the midst of wolves,' it begins with 'I send you forth,'
and that is enough, for He will defend them when He seeth the wolf
coming. Not only so, but He will also provide for all their needs,
so they want no baggage nor money, nor even a staff. A traveller
without any of these would be in poor case, but they are not to
carry such things, because they carry Jesus. He who sends them forth
goes with them whom He sends. Now, this precept, in its literal
form, was expressly abolished afterwards (Luke xxii. 36), but the
spirit of it is permanent. If Christ sends us, we may trust Him to
take care of us as long as we are on His errands.

Energetic pursuit of their work, unimpeded by distractions of social
intercourse, is meant by the prohibition of saluting by the way.
That does not mean churlish isolation, but any one who has ever seen
two Easterns 'saluting' knows what a long-drawn-out affair it is.
How far along the road one might have travelled while all that empty
ceremony was being got through! The time for salutations is when the
journey is over. They mean something then. The great effect of the
presence of Christ's servants should be to impart the peace which
they themselves possess. We should put reality into conventional
courtesies. All Christians are to be peacemakers in the deepest
sense, and especially in regard to men's relations with God. The
whole scope of our work may be summed up as being to proclaim and
bring peace with God, with ourselves, with all others, and with
circumstances. The universality of our message is implied in the
fact that the salutation is to be given in every house entered, and
without any inquiry whether a 'son of peace' is there. The reflex
blessedness of Christian effort is taught in the promise that the
peace, vainly wished for those who would not receive it, is not
wasted like spilt water, but comes back like a dove, to the hand of
its sender. If we do no other person good, we bless ourselves by all
work for others.

The injunctions as to conduct in the house or city that receives the
messengers carry two principles of wide application. First, they
demand clear disinterestedness and superiority to vulgar appetites.
Christ's servants are not to be fastidious as to their board and
lodging. They are not to make demands for more refined diet than
their hosts are accustomed to have, and they are not to shift their
quarters, though it were from a hovel to a palace. The suspicion
that a Christian worker is fond of good living and sensuous delights
robs his work of power. But the injunction teaches also that there
is no generosity in those who hear the message giving, and no
obligation laid on those who deliver it by their receiving, enough
to live and work on. The less we obviously look for, the more shall
we probably receive. A high-minded man need not scruple to take the
'hire'; a high-minded giver will not suppose that he has hired the
receiver to be his servant.

The double substance of the work is next briefly stated. The order
in which its two parts stands is remarkable, for the healing of the
sick is put first, and the proclamation of the nearness of the
kingdom second. Possibly the reason is that the power to heal was a
new gift. Its very priority in mention may imply that it was but a
means to an end, a part of the equipment for the true and proper
work of preaching the coming of the kingdom and its King. At all
events, let us learn that Jesus wills the continual combination of
regard to the bodily wants and sicknesses, and regard to the
spiritual needs of men.

The solemn instructions as to what was to be done in the case of
rejection breathe a spirit the reverse of sanguine. Jesus had no
illusions as to the acceptance of the message, and He will send no
man out to work hiding from him the difficulties and opposition
probably to be encountered. Much wisdom lies in deciding when a field
of labour or a method of work should be abandoned as hopeless--for
the present and for the individual worker, at all events. To do it
too soon is cowardice; to delay it too long is not admirable
perseverance, but blindness to plain providences. To shake off the
dust is equivalent to severing all connection. The messenger will
not bring away the least thing belonging to the city. But whatever
men's unbelief, it does not affect the fact, but it does affect
their relation to the fact. The gracious message was at first that
'the kingdom of God is come nigh _unto you_,' but the last
shape of it leaves out 'unto you': for rejection of the word cuts
off from beneficial share in the word, and the kingdom, when it
comes, has no blessing for the unbelieving soul.

The return of the Seventy soon followed their being sent forth. They
came back with a childish, surprised joy, and almost seem to have
thought that Jesus would be as much astonished and excited as they
were with the proof of the power of His name. They had found that
they could not only heal the sick, but cast out demons. Jesus'
answer is meant to quiet down their excitement by teaching them that
He had known what they were doing whilst they were doing it. When
did He behold Satan fall from heaven? The context seems to require
that it should be at the time when the Seventy were casting out
demons. The contest between the personal Source of evil and Jesus
was fought out by the principals, not by their subordinates, and it
is already victoriously decided in Christ's sight. Therefore, as the
sequel of His victory, He enlarges His gifts to His servants,
couching the charter in the words of a psalm (Ps. xci.). Nothing can
harm the servant without the leave of the Master, and if any evil
befall him in his work, the evil in the evil, the poison on the
arrow-head, will be wiped off and taken away. But great as are the
gifts to the faithful servant, they are less to be rejoiced in than
his personal inclusion among the citizens of heaven. Gifts and
powers are good, and may legitimately be rejoiced in; but to possess
eternal life, and to belong to the mother-city of us all, the New
Jerusalem, is better than all gifts and all powers.



NEIGHBOURS FAR OFF


    'And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted
    Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal
    life? 26. He said unto him, What is written in the law?
    how readest thou? 27. And he, answering, said, 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. 28. And He
    said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and
    thou shalt live. 29. But he, willing to justify
    himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
    30. And Jesus, answering, said, A certain man went down
    from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves,
    which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and
    departed, leaving him half dead. 31. And by chance
    there came down a certain priest that way; and when he
    saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32. And
    likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and
    looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33. But
    a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he
    was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
    34. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring
    in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and
    brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35. And on
    the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence,
    and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care
    of him: and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come
    again, I will repay thee. 36. Which now of these three,
    thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among
    the thieves! 37. And he said. He that showed mercy on
    him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.'
    --LUKE x. 25-37.

The lawyer's first question was intended to 'tempt' Jesus, which
here seems to mean, rather, 'to test'; that is, to ascertain His
orthodoxy or His ability. Christ walks calmly through the snare, as
if not seeing it. His answer is unimpeachably orthodox, and withal
just hints in the slightest way that the question was needless,
since one so learned in the law knew well enough what were the
conditions of inheriting life. The lawyer knows the letter too well
to be at a loss what to answer. But it is remarkable that he gives
the same combination of two passages which Jesus gives in His last
duel with the Pharisees (Matt. xxii; Mark xii.). Did Jesus adopt
this lawyer's summary? Or is Luke's narrative condensed, omitting
stages by which Jesus led the man to so wise an answer?

Our Lord's rejoinder has a marked tone of authority, which puts the
lawyer in his right place. His answer is commended, as by one whose
estimate has weight; and his practice is implicitly condemned, as by one
who knows, and has a right to judge. 'This do' is a sharp sword-thrust.
It also unites the two 'loves' as essentially one, by saying 'This'-not
'these'--'do.' The lawyer feels the prick, and it is his defective
practice, not his question, which he seeks to 'justify.' He did not
think that his love to God needed any justification. He had fully done
his duty there, but about the other half he was less sure. So he tried
to ride off, lawyer-like, on a question of the meaning of words. 'Who
is my neighbour?' is the question answered by the lovely story of the
kindly Samaritan.

I. The main purpose, then, is to show how far off men may be, and
yet be neighbours. The lawyer's question, 'Who is my neighbour?' is
turned round the other way in Christ's form of it at the close. It
is better to ask 'Whose neighbour am I?' than 'Who is my neighbour?'
The lawyer meant by the word 'a person whom I am bound to love.' He
wanted to know how far an obligation extended which he had no mind
to recognise an inch farther than he was obliged. Probably he had in
his thought the Rabbinical limitations which made it as much duty to
'hate thine enemy' as to 'love thy neighbour.' Probably, too, he
accepted the national limitations, which refused to see any
neighbours outside the Jewish people.

'Neighbourhood,' in his judgment, implied 'nearness,' and he wished to
know how far off the boundaries of the region included in the command
lay. There are a great many of us like him, who think that the
obligation is a matter of geography, and that love, like force, is
inversely as the square of the distance. A good deal of the so-called
virtue of 'patriotism' is of this spurious sort. But Christ's way of
putting the question sweeps all such limitations aside. 'Who became
neighbour to' the wounded man? 'He who showed mercy on him,' said the
lawyer, unwilling to name the Samaritan, and by his very reluctance
giving the point to his answer which Christ wished to bring out. We
are not to love because we are neighbours in any geographical sense,
but we become neighbours to the man farthest from us when we love and
help him. The relation has nothing to do with proximity. If we prove
ourselves neighbours to any man by exercising love to him, then the
relation intended by the word is as wide as humanity. We recognise
that A. is our neighbour when a throb of pity shoots through our
heart, and thereby we become neighbours to him.

The story is not, properly speaking, a parable, or imaginary
narrative of something in the physical world intended to be
translated into something in the spiritual region, but it is an
illustration (by an imaginary narrative) of the actual virtue in
question. Every detail is beautifully adapted to bring out the
lesson that the obligation of neighbourly affection has nothing to
do with nearness either of race or religion, but is as wide as
humanity. The wounded man was probably a Jew, but it is significant
that his nationality is not mentioned. He is 'a certain man,' that
is all. The Samaritan did not ask where he was born before he helped
him. So Christ teaches us that sorrow and need and sympathy and help
are of no nationality.

That lesson is still more strongly taught by making the helper a
Samaritan. Perhaps, if Jesus had been speaking in America, he would
have made him a negro; or, if in France, a German; or, if in
England, a 'foreigner.' It was a daring stroke to bring the despised
name of 'Samaritan' into the story, and one sees what a hard morsel
to swallow the lawyer found it, by his unwillingness to name him
after all.

The nations have not yet learned the deep, simple truth of this
parable. It absolutely forbids all limitations of mercy and help. It
makes every man the neighbour of every man. It carries in germ the
great truth of the brotherhood of the race. 'Humanity' is a purely
Christian word, and a conception that was never dreamed of before
Christ had showed us the unity of mankind. We slowly approximate to
the realisation of the teaching of this story, which is oftener
admired than imitated, and perhaps oftenest on the lips of people
who obey it least.

II. Another aspect of the parable is its lesson as to the true
manifestations of neighbourliness. The minutely detailed account of
the Samaritan's care for the half-dead man is not only graphic, but
carries large lessons. Compassionate sentiments are very well. They
must come first. The help that is given as a matter of duty, without
the outgoing of heart, will be worth little, and soon cease to flow;
but the emotion that does not drive the wheels of action, and set to
work to stanch the sorrows which cause it to run so easily, is worth
still less. It hardens the heart, as all feeling unexpressed in
action does. If the priest and Levite had gone up to the man, and
said, 'Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow! how sorry we are for you!
somebody ought to come and help you,' and so had trudged on their
way, they would have been worse than they are painted as being.

The various acts are enumerated as showing the genius of true love.
We notice the swift, cool-headed deftness of the man, his having at
hand the appliances needed, the business-like way in which he goes
about his kindness, his readiness to expend his wine and oil, his
willingness to do the surgeon's work, his cheerful giving up of his
'own beast,' while he plodded along on foot, steadying the wounded
man on his ass; his care for him at the inn; his generosity, and
withal his prudence, in not leaving a great sum in the host's hands,
but just enough to tide over a day or two, and his wise hint that he
would audit the accounts when he came back. This man's quick
compassion was blended with plenty of shrewdness, and was as
practical as the hardest, least compassionate man could have been.
There is need for organisation, 'faculty,' and the like, in the work
of loving our neighbour. A thousand pities that sometimes Christian
charity and Christian common-sense dissolve partnership. The
Samaritan was a man of business, and he did his compassion in a
business-like fashion, as we should try to do.

III. Another lesson inwrought into the parable is the divorce
between religion and neighbourliness, as shown in the conduct of the
priest and Levite. Jericho was one of the priestly cities, so that
there would be frequent travellers on ecclesiastical errands. The
priest was 'going down' (that is from Jerusalem), so he could not
plead a 'pressing public engagement' at the Temple. The verbal
repetition of the description of the conduct of both him and the
Levite serves to suggest its commonness. They two did exactly the
same thing, and so would twenty or two hundred ordinary passers by.
They saw the man lying in a pool of blood, and they made a wide
circuit, and, even in the face of such a sight, went on their way.
Probably they said to themselves, 'Robbers again; the sooner we get
past this dangerous bit, the better.' We see that they were
heartless, but they did not see it. We do the same thing ourselves,
and do not see that we do; for who of us has not known of many
miseries which we could have done something to stanch, and have left
untouched because our hearts were unaffected? The world would be a
changed place if every Christian attended to the sorrows that are
plain before him.

Let professing Christians especially lay to heart the solemn lesson
that there does lie in their very religion the possibility of their
being culpably unconcerned about some of the world's wounds, and
that, if their love to God does not find a field for its
manifestation in active love to man, worship in the Temple will be
mockery. Philanthropy is, in our days, often substituted for
religion. The service of man has been put forward as the only real
service of God. But philanthropic unbelievers and unphilanthropic
believers are equally monstrosities. What God hath joined let not
man put asunder. That simple 'and,' which couples the two great
commandments, expresses their indissoluble connection. Well for us
if in our practice they are blended in one!

It is not spiritualising this narrative when we say that Jesus is
Himself the great pattern of the swift compassion and effectual
helpfulness which it sets forth. Many unwise attempts have been made
to tack on spiritual meanings to the story. These are as irreverent
as destructive of its beauty and significance. But to say that
Christ is the perfect example of that love to every man which the
narrative portrays, has nothing in common with these fancies. It is
only when we have found in Him the pity and the healing which we
need, that we shall go forth into the world with love as wide as
His.



HOW TO PRAY


    'And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a
    certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples
    said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also
    taught His disciples. 2. And He said unto them, When
    ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed
    be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in
    heaven, so in earth. 3. Give us day by day our daily
    bread. 4. And  forgive us our sins; for we also forgive
    every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into
    temptation; but deliver us from evil. 5. And He said
    unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall
    go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend
    me three loaves; 6. For a friend of mine in his journey
    is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
    7. And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me
    not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me
    in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. 8. I say unto you,
    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. 9. And I say unto you,
    Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall
    find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10. For
    every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh
    findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
    11. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a
    father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish,
    will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12. Or if he
    shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13. If
    ye then, 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!--LUKE xi. 1-13.

Christ's praying fired the disciples with desire to pray like Him.
There must have been something of absorption and blessedness in His
communion with the Father which struck them with awe and longing,
and which they would fain repeat. Do our prayers move any to taste
the devotion and joy which breathe through them? But low conceptions
mingled with high desires in their request. They think that if He
will give them a form, that will be enough; and they wish to be as
well off as John's disciples, whose relation to their master seems
to them parallel with theirs to Jesus.

Our Lord's answer meets and transcends their wish. He does give them
a model prayer, and He adds encouragements to pray which inculcate
confidence and persistence. The passage, then, falls into two parts--the
pattern prayer (vs. 2-4), and the spirit of prayer as enforced by some
encouragements (vs. 5-13). The material is so rich that we can but
gather the surface wealth. Deep mines must lie unexplored here.

I. The pattern of prayer. We call it the Lord's Prayer, but it is so
only in the sense that He gives it. It is our prayer for our use.
His own prayers remain unrecorded, except those in the upper room
and at Gethsemane. This is the type to which His servants' prayers
are to be conformed. 'After this manner pray ye,' whether in these
words or not. And the repetition of the words is often far enough
away from catching their spirit. To suppose that our Lord simply met
the disciples' wish by giving them a form misconceives the genius of
His work. He gave something much better; namely, a pattern, the
spirit of which we are to diffuse through all our petitions,

Two salient features of the prayer bring out the two great
characteristics of all true Christian prayer. First, we note the
invocation. It is addressed to the Father. Our prayers are, then,
after the pattern only when they are the free, unembarrassed,
confident, and utterly frank whispers of a child to its father.
Confidence and love should wing the darts which are to reach heaven.
That name, thoroughly realised, banishes fear and self-will, and
inspires submission and aspiration. To cry,' Abba, Father,' is the
essence of all prayer. Nothing more is needed.

The broad lesson drawn from the order of requests is the second
point to be noticed. If we have the child's spirit, we shall put the
Father's honour first, and absolutely subordinate our own interests
to it. So the first half of the prayer, like the first half of the
Decalogue, deals with God's name and its glory. Alas! it is hard
even for His child to keep this order. Natural self-regard must be
cast out by love, if we are thus to pray. How few of us have reached
that height, not in mere words, but in unspoken desires!

The order of the several petitions in the first half of the prayer
is significant. God's name (that is, His revealed character) being
hallowed (that is, recognised as what it is), separate from all
limitation and creatural imperfection, and yet near in love as a
Father is, the coming of His kingdom will follow; for where He is
known and honoured for what He is He will reign, and men, if they
rightly knew Him, would fall before Him and serve Him. The hallowing
of His name is the only foundation for His kingdom among us, and all
knowledge of Him which does not lead to submission to His rule is
false or incomplete.

The outward, visible establishment of God's kingdom in human society
follows individual acquaintance with His name. The doing of God's
will is the sign of His kingdom having come. The ocean is blue, like
the sky which it mirrors. Earth will be like heaven.

The second half of the prayer returns to personal interests; but
God's child has many brethren, and so His prayer is, not for 'me'
and 'my,' but for 'us' and 'ours.' Our first need, if we start from
the surface and go inwards, is for the maintenance of bodily life.
So the petition for bread has precedence, not as being most, but
least, important. We are to recognise God's hand in blessing our
daily toil. We are to limit our desires to necessaries, and to leave
the future in His hands. Is this 'the manner' after which Christians
pray for perishable good? Where would anxious care or eager rushing
after wealth be, if it were?

A deeper need, the chief in regard to the inner man, is deliverance
from sin, in its two aspects of guilt and power. So the next
petition is for pardon. Sin incurs debt. Forgiveness is the
remission of penalty, but the penalty is not merely external
punishment. The true penalty is separation from God, and His
forgiveness is His loving on, undisturbed by sin. If we truly call
God Father, the image of His mercifulness will be formed in us; and
unless we are forgiving, we shall certainly lose the consciousness
of being forgiven, and bind our sins on our backs in all their
weight. God's children need always to pray 'after this manner, 'for
sin is not entirely conquered.

Pardon is meant to lead on to holiness. Hence the next clause in
effect prays for sanctification. Knowing our own weakness, we may
well ask not to be placed in circumstances where the inducements to
sin would be strong, even while we know that we may grow thereby, if
we resist. The shortened form of the prayer in Luke, according to
the Revised Version, omits 'deliver us from evil'; but that clause
is necessary to complete the idea. Whether we read 'evil' or 'the
evil one,' the clause refers to us as tempted, and, as it were, in
the grip of an enemy too strong for us. God alone can extricate us
from the mouth of the lion. He will, if we ask Him. The only evil is
to sin away our consciousness of sonship and to cling to the sin
which separates us from God.

II. A type of prayer is not all that we need. The spirit in which we
pray is still more important. So Jesus goes on to enjoin two things
chiefly; namely, persistence and filial confidence. He presents to
us a parable with its application (vs. 5-10), and the germ of a
parable with its (vs. 11-13). Observe that these two parts deal with
encouragements to confidence drawn, first, from our own experience
in asking, and, second, with encouragements drawn from our own
experience in giving. In the former we learn from the man who will
not take 'no,' and so at last gets 'yes'; in the latter, from the
Father who will certainly give His child what he asks.

In the parable two points are to be specially noted--the persistent
suppliant pleads not for himself so much as for the hungry
traveller, and the man addressed gives without any kindliness, from
the mere wish to be left at peace. As to both points, an _a
fortiori_ argument is implied. If a man can so persevere when
pleading for another, how much more should we do so when asking for
ourselves! And if persistence has such power with selfish men, how
much more shall it avail with Him who slumbers not nor sleeps, and
to whom we can never come at an inopportune moment, and who will
give us because we are His friends, and He ours! The very ugliness
of character ascribed to the owner of the loaves, selfish in his
enjoyment of his bed, in his refusal to turn out on an errand of
neighbourliness, and in his final giving, thus serves as a foil to
the character of Him to whom our prayers are addressed.

The application of the parable lies in verses 9 and 10. The efforts
enjoined are in an ascending scale, and 'ask' and 'knock' allude to
the parable. To 'seek' is more than to ask, for it includes active
exertion; and for want of seeking by conduct appropriate to our
prayers, we often ask in vain. If we pray for temporal blessings,
and then fold our hands, and sit with our mouths open for them to
drop into, we shall not get them. If we ask for higher goods, and
rise from our knees to live worldly lives, we shall get them as
little. Knocking is more than either, for it implies a continuous
hammering on the door, like Peter's when he stood in the morning
twilight at Mary's gate. Asking and seeking must be continuous if
they are to be rewarded.

Verse 10 grounds the promise of verse 9 on experience. It is he who
asks that gets. In men's giving it is not universally true that
petitions are answered, nor that gifts are not given unasked. Nor is
it true about God's lower gifts, which are often bestowed on the
unthankful, and not seldom refused to His children. But it is
universally true in regard to His highest gifts, which are never
withheld from the earnest asker who adds to his prayers fitting
conduct, and prays always without fainting, and which are not and
cannot be given unless desire for them opens the heart for their
reception, and faith in God assures him who prays that he cannot ask
in vain.

The germ of a parable with its application (vs. 11-13) draws
encouragement from our own experience in giving. It guards against
misconceptions of God which might arise from the former parable, and
comes back to the first word of the Lord's Prayer as itself the
guarantee of every true desire of His child being heard and met.
Bread, eggs, and fish are staple articles of food. In each case
something similar in appearance, but useless or hurtful, is
contrasted with the thing asked by the child. The round loaves of
the East are not unlike rounded, wave-washed stones, water-serpents
are fishlike, and the oval body of a quiescent scorpion is similar
to an egg. Fathers do not play tricks with their hungry children.
Though we are all sinful, parental love survives, and makes a father
wise enough to know what will nourish and what would poison his
child.

Alas! that is only partially true, for many a parent has not a
father's heart, and is neither impelled by love to give good things
to, nor to withhold evil ones from, his child. But it is true with
sufficient frequency to warrant the great _a fortiori_ argument
which Jesus bases on it. Our heavenly Father's love, the archetype
of all parental affection, is tainted by no evil and darkened by no
ignorance. He loves perfectly and wisely, therefore He cannot but
give what His child needs.

But the child often mistakes, and thinks that stones are bread,
serpents fish, and scorpions eggs. So God often has to deny the
letter of our petitions, in order not to give us poison. Luke's
version of the closing promise, in which 'the Holy Spirit' stands
instead of Matthew's 'good things,' sets the whole matter in the
true light; for that Spirit brings with Him all real good, and,
while many of our desires have, for our own sakes, to be denied, we
shall never hold up empty hands and have to let them fall still
empty, if we desire that great encyclopediacal gift which our loving
Father waits to bestow. It cannot be given without our petition, it
will never be withheld from our petition.



THE PRAYING CHRIST


    '... As He was praying in a certain place, when He
    ceased, one of His disclples said unto Him, Lord,
    teach us to pray.'--LUKE xi. 1.

It is noteworthy that we owe our knowledge of the prayers of Jesus
principally to the Evangelist Luke. There is, indeed, one solemn
hour of supplication under the quivering shadows of the olive-trees
in Gethsemane which is recorded by Matthew and Mark as well; and
though the fourth Gospel passes over that agony of prayer, it gives
us, in accordance with its ruling purpose, the great chapter that
records His priestly intercession. But in addition to these
instances the first Gospel furnishes but one, and the second but
two, references to the subject. All the others are found in Luke.

I need not stay to point out how this fact tallies with the many
other characteristics of the third Gospel, which mark it as
eminently the story of the Son of Man. The record which traces our
Lord's descent to Adam rather than to Abraham; which tells the story
of His birth, and gives us all we know of the 'child Jesus'; which
records His growth in wisdom and stature, and has preserved a
multitude of minute points bearing on His true manhood, as well as
on the tenderness of His sympathy and the universality of His work,
most naturally emphasises that most precious indication of His
humanity--His habitual prayerfulness. The Gospel of the King, which
is the first Gospel, or of the Servant, which is the second, or of
the Son of God, which is the fourth, had less occasion to dwell on
this. Royalty, practical Obedience, Divinity, are their respective
themes. Manhood is Luke's, and he is ever pointing us to the
kneeling Christ.

Consider, then, for a moment, how precious the prayers of Jesus are,
as bringing Him very near to us in His true manhood. There are deep
and mysterious truths involved with which we do not meddle now. But
there are also plain and surface truths which are very helpful and
blessed. We thank God for the story of His weariness when He sat on
the well, and of His slumber when, worn out with a hard day's work,
He slept on the hard wooden pillow in the stern of the fishing-boat
among the nets and the litter. It brings Him near to us when we read
that He thirsted, and nearer still when the immortal words fall on
our wondering ears, 'Jesus wept.' But even more precious than these
indications of His true participation in physical needs and human
emotion, is the great evidence of His prayers, that He too lived a
life of dependence, of communion, and of submission; that in our
religious life, as in all our life, He is our pattern and
forerunner. As the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it, He shows that He
is not ashamed to call us brethren by this, that He too avows that
He lives by faith; and by His life--and surely pre-eminently by His
prayers--declares, I will put my trust in Him.' We cannot think of
Christ too often or too absolutely as the object of faith; and as
the hearer of our cries; but we may, and some of us do, think of Him
too seldom as the pattern of faith, and as the example for our
devotion. We should feel Him a great deal nearer us; and the fact of
His manhood would not only be grasped more clearly by orthodox
believers, but would be felt in more of its true tenderness, if we
gave more prominence in our thoughts to that picture of the praying
Christ.

Another point that may be suggested is, that the highest, holiest
life needs specific acts and times of prayer. A certain fantastical
and overstrained spirituality is not rare, which professes to have
got beyond the need of such beggarly elements. Some tinge of this
colours the habits of many people who are scarcely conscious of its
presence, and makes them somewhat careless as to forms and times of
public or of that of private worship. I do not think that I am wrong
in saying that there is a growing laxity in that matter among people
who are really trying to live Christian lives. We may well take the
lesson which Christ's prayers teach us, for we all need it, that no
life is so high, so holy, so full of habitual communion with God,
that it can afford to do without the hour of prayer, the secret
place, the uttered word. If we are to 'pray without ceasing,' by the
constant attitude of communion and the constant conversion of work
into worship, we must certainly have, and we shall undoubtedly
desire, special moments when the daily sacrifice of doing good
passes into the sacrifice of our lips. The devotion which is to be
diffused through our lives must be first concentrated and evolved in
our prayers. These are the gathering-grounds which feed the river.
The life that was all one long prayer needed the mountain-top and
the nightly converse with God. He who could say, 'The Father hath
not left Me alone, for I do always the things that please Him,' felt
that He must also have the special communion of spoken prayer. What
Christ needed we cannot afford to neglect.

Thus Christ's own prayers do, in a very real sense, 'teach us to
pray.' But it strikes me that, if we will take the instances in
which we find Him praying, and try to classify them in a rough way,
we may gain some hints worth laying to heart. Let me attempt this
briefly now.

First, then, the praying Christ teaches us to pray as a rest after
service.

The Evangelist Mark gives us, in his brief, vivid way, a wonderful
picture in his first chapter of Christ's first Sabbath-day of
ministry in Capernaum. It was crowded with work. The narrative goes
hurrying on through the busy hours, marking the press of rapidly
succeeding calls by its constant reiteration--'straightway,'
'immediately,' 'forthwith,' 'anon,' 'immediately.' He teaches in the
synagogue; without breath or pause He heals a man with an unclean
spirit; then at once passes to Simon's house, and as soon as He
enters has to listen to the story of how the wife's mother lay sick
of a fever. They might have let Him rest for a moment, but they are
too eager, and He is too pitying, for delay. As soon as He hears, He
helps. As soon as He bids it, the fever departs. As soon as she is
healed, the woman is serving them. There can have been but a short
snatch of such rest as such a house could afford. Then when the
shadows of the western hills began to fall upon the blue waters of
the lake, and the sunset ended the restrictions of the Sabbath, He
is besieged by a crowd full of sorrow and sickness, and all about
the door they lie, waiting for its opening. He could not keep it
shut any more than His heart or His hand, and so all through the
short twilight, and deep into the night, He toils amongst the dim,
prostrate forms. What a day it had been of hard toil, as well as of
exhausting sympathy! And what was His refreshment?  An hour or two
of slumber; and then, 'in the morning, rising up a great while
before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and
there prayed' (Mark i. 35).

In the same way we find Him seeking the same repose after another
period of much exertion and strain on body and mind. He had
withdrawn Himself and His disciples from the bustle which Mark
describes so graphically. 'There were many coming and going, and
they had no leisure, so much as to eat.' So, seeking quiet, He takes
them across the lake into the solitudes on the other side. But the
crowds from all the villages near its head catch sight of the boat in
crossing, and hurry round; and there they all are at the landing-place,
eager and exacting as ever. He throws aside the purpose of rest, and
all day long, wearied as He was, 'taught them many things.' The closing
day brings no respite. He thinks of their hunger, before His own
fatigue, and will not send them away fasting. So He ends that day of
labour by the miracle of feeding the five thousand. The crowds gone to
their homes, He can at last think of Himself; and what is His rest? He
loses not a moment in  'constraining' His disciples to go away to the
other side, as if in haste to remove the last hindrance to something
that He had been longing to get to. 'And when He had sent them
away, He departed into a mountain to pray' (Mark vi. 46; Matt. xiv. 23).

That was Christ's refreshment after His toil. So He blended
contemplation and service, the life of inward communion and the life
of practical obedience. How much more do we need to interpose the
soothing and invigorating influences of quiet communion between
the acts of external work, since our work may harm us, as His never
did Him. It may disturb and dissipate our communion with God; it may
weaken the very motive from which it should arise; it may withdraw
our gaze from God and fix it upon ourselves. It may puff us up with
the conceit of our own powers; it may fret us with the annoyances of
resistance; it may depress us with the consciousness of failure; and
in a hundred other ways may waste and wear away our personal
religion. The more we work the more we need to pray. In this day of
activity there is great danger, not of doing too much, but of
praying too little for so much work. These two--work and prayer,
action and contemplation--are twin-sisters. Each pines without the
other. We are ever tempted to cultivate one or the other
disproportionately. Let us imitate Him who sought the mountain-top
as His refreshment after toil, but never left duties undone or
sufferers unrelieved in pain. Let us imitate Him who turned from the
joys of contemplation to the joys of service without a murmur, when
His disciples broke in on His solitude with, 'all men seek Thee,'
but never suffered the outward work to blunt His desire for, nor to
encroach on the hour of, still communion with His Father. Lord,
teach us to work; Lord, teach us to pray.

The praying Christ teaches us to pray as a preparation for important
steps.

Whilst more than one Gospel tells us of the calling of the Apostolic
Twelve, the Gospel of the manhood alone narrates (Luke vi. 12) that
on the eve of that great epoch in the development of Christ's
kingdom, 'He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all
night in prayer to God.' Then, 'when it was day,' He calls to Him
His disciples, and chooses the Twelve.

A similar instance occurs, at a later period, before another great
epoch in His course. The great confession made by Peter, 'Thou art
the Christ, the Son of the living God,' was drawn forth by our Lord
to serve as basis for His bestowment on the Apostles of large
spiritual powers, and for the teaching, with much increased detail
and clearness, of His approaching sufferings. In both aspects it
distinctly marks a new stage. Concerning it, too, we read, and again
in Luke alone (ix. 18), that it was preceded by solitary prayer.

Thus He teaches us where and how we may get the clear insight into
circumstances and men that may guide us aright. Bring your plans, your
purposes to God's throne. Test them by praying about them. Do nothing
large or new--nothing small or old either, for that matter--till you
have asked there, in the silence of the secret place, 'Lord, what
wouldest Thou have me to do?' There is nothing bitterer to parents
than when children begin to take their own way without consulting them.
Do you take counsel of your Father, and have no secrets from Him. It
will save you from many a blunder and many a heartache; it will make
your judgment clear, and your step assured, even in new and difficult
ways, if you will learn from the praying Christ to pray before you
plan, and take counsel of God before you act.

Again, the praying Christ teaches us to pray as the condition of
receiving the Spirit and the brightness of God.

There were two occasions in the life of Christ when visible signs
showed His full possession of the Divine Spirit, and the lustre of
His glorious nature. There are large and perplexing questions
connected with both, on which I have no need to enter. At His
baptism the Spirit of God descended visibly and abode on Jesus. At
His transfiguration His face shone as the light, and His garments
were radiant as sunlit snow. Now on both these occasions our Gospel,
and our Gospel alone, tells us that it was whilst Christ was in the
act of prayer that the sign was given: 'Jesus being baptized, and
praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended' (iii.
21, 22). 'As He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered,
and His raiment was white and glistening' (ix. 29).

Whatever difficulty may surround the first of these narratives
especially, one thing is clear, that in both of them there was a
true communication from the Father to the man Jesus. And another
thing is, I think, clear too, that our Evangelist meant to lay
stress on the preceding act as the human condition of such
communication. So if we would have the heavens opened over our
heads, and the dove of God descending to fold its white wings, and
brood over the chaos of our hearts till order and light come there,
we must do what the Son of Man did--pray. And if we would have the
fashion of our countenances altered, the wrinkles of care wiped out,
the traces of tears dried up, the blotches of unclean living healed,
and all the brands of worldliness and evil exchanged for the name of
God written on our foreheads, and the reflected glory irradiating
our faces, we must do as Christ did--pray. So, and only so, will
God's Spirit fill our hearts, God's brightness flash in our faces,
and the vesture of heaven clothe our nakedness.

Again, the praying Christ teaches us to pray as the preparation for
sorrow. Here all the three Evangelists tell us the same sweet and
solemn story. It is not for us to penetrate further than they carry
us into the sanctities of Gethsemane. Jesus, though hungering for
companionship in that awful hour, would take no man with Him there;
and He still says, 'Tarry ye here, while I go and pray yonder.' But
as we stand afar off, we catch the voice of pleading rising through
the stillness of the night, and the solemn words tell us of a Son's
confidence, of a man's shrinking, of a Saviour's submission. The
very spirit of all prayer is in these broken words. That was truly
'The Lord's Prayer' which He poured out beneath the olives in the
moonlight. It was heard when strength came from heaven, which He
used in 'praying more earnestly.' It was heard when, the agony past
and all the conflict ended in victory, He came forth, with that
strange calm and dignity, to give Himself first to His captors and
then to His executioners, the ransom for the many.

As we look upon that agony and these tearful prayers, let us not
only look with thankfulness, but let that kneeling Saviour teach us
that in prayer alone can we be forearmed against our lesser sorrows;
that strength to bear flows into the heart that is opened in
supplication; and that a sorrow which we are made able to endure is
more truly conquered than a sorrow which we avoid. We have all a
cross to carry and a wreath of thorns to wear. If we want to be fit
for our Calvary--may we use that solemn name?--we must go to our
Gethsemane first.

So the Christ who prayed on earth teaches us to pray; and the Christ
who intercedes in heaven helps us to pray, and presents our poor
cries, acceptable through His sacrifice, and fragrant with the
incense from His own golden censer.

  'O Thou by whom we come to God,
  The Life, the Truth, the Way;
  The path of prayer Thyself hast trod;
  Lord! teach us how to pray.'



THE RICH FOOL


    'And one of the company said unto Him, Master, speak
    to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
    14. And He said unto him, Man, who made Me a judge or
    a divider over you? 15. And He said unto them, Take
    heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life
    consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he
    possesseth. 16. And He spake a parable unto them,
    saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth
    plentifully: 17. And he thought within himself, saying,
    What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow
    my fruits! 18. And he said, This will I do: I will pull
    down my barns, and build greater; and there will I
    bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19. And I will say
    to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many
    years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
    20. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy
    soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those
    things be, which thou hast provided! 21. So is he that
    layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward
    God. 22. And He said unto his disciples, Therefore I
    say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye
    shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
    23. The life is more than meat, and the body is more
    than raiment'--LUKE xii. 13-23.

What a gulf between the thoughts of Jesus and those of this
unmannerly interrupter! Our Lord had been speaking solemnly as to
confessing Him before men, the divine help to be given, and the
blessed reward to follow, and this hearer had all the while been
thinking only of the share in his father's inheritance, out of
which he considered that his brother had cheated him. Such
indifference must have struck a chill into Christ's heart, and how
keenly he felt it is traceable in the curt and stern brushing aside
of the man's request. The very form of addressing him puts him at a
distance. 'Man' is about as frigid as can be. Our Lord knew the
discouragement of seeing that His words never came near some of His
hearers, and had no power to turn their thoughts even for a minute
from low objects. 'What do I care about being confessed before the
angels, or about the Holy Spirit to teach me? What I want is my
share of the paternal acres. A rabbi who will help me to these is
the rabbi for me.' John Bunyan's 'man with the muck-rake' had his
eyes so glued to the ground and the muck that he did not see the
crown hanging above him. How many of us find the sermon time a good
opportunity for thinking about investments and business!

Christ's answer is intentionally abrupt and short. It deals with
part only of the man's error, the rest of which, being an error to
which we are all exposed, and which was the root of the part special
to him, is dealt with in the parable that follows. Because the man
was covetous, he could see in Jesus nothing more than a rabbi who
might influence his brother. Our sense of want largely shapes our
conception of Christ. Many to-day see in Him mainly a social (and
economical) reformer, because our notion of what we and the world
need most is something to set social conditions right, and so to
secure earthly well-being. They who take Jesus to be first and
foremost 'a judge or a divider' fail to see His deepest work or
their own deepest need. He will be all that they wish Him to be, if
they will take Him for something else first. He will 'bid' men
'divide the inheritance' with their brethren after men have gone to
Him for salvation.

But covetousness, or the greedy clutching at more and more of
earthly good, has its roots in us all, and unless there is the most
assiduous weeding, it will overrun our whole nature. So Jesus puts
great emphasis into the command, 'Take heed, and keep yourselves,'
which implies that without much 'heed' and diligent inspection of
ourselves (for the original word is 'see'), there will be no
guarding against the subtle entrance and swift growth of the vice.
We may be enslaved by it, and never suspect that we are. Further,
the correct reading is 'from _all_ covetousness,' for it has
many shapes, besides the grossest one of greed for money. The reason
for the exhortation is somewhat obscure in construction, but plain
in its general meaning, and sufficiently represented by the
Authorised and Revised Versions. The Revised Version margin gives
the literal translation, 'Not in a man's abundance consisteth his
life, from the things which he possesseth,' on which we may note
that the second clause is obviously to be completed from the first,
and that the difference between the two seems to lie mainly in the
difference of prepositions, 'from' or 'out of in the second clause
standing instead of 'in' in the first, while there may be also a
distinction between 'abundance' and 'possessions' the former being a
superfluous amount of the latter. The whole will then mean that life
does not _consist in_ possessions, however abundant, nor does
it _come out of_ anything that simply belongs to us in outward
fashion. Not what we possess, but what we are, is the important
matter.

But what does 'life' mean? The parable shows that we cannot leave
out the notion of physical life. No possessions keep a man alive.
Death knocks at palaces and poor men's hovels. Millionaires and
paupers are huddled together in his net. But we must not leave out
the higher meaning of life, for it is eminently true that the real
life of a man has little relation to what he possesses. Neither
nobleness nor peace nor satisfaction, nor anything in which man
lives a nobler life than a dog, has much dependence on property of
any sort. Wealth often chokes the channels by which true life would
flow into us. 'We live by admiration, hope, and love,' and these may
be ours abundantly, whatever our portion of earth's riches.
Covetousness is folly, because it grasps at worldly good, under the
false belief that thereby it will secure the true good of life, but
when it has made its pile, it finds that it is no nearer peace of
heart, rest, nobleness, or joy than before, and has probably lost
much of both in the process of making it. The mad race after wealth,
which is the sin of this luxurious, greedy, commercial age, is the
consequence of a lie--that life does consist in the abundance of
possessions. It consists in knowing 'Thee the only true God, and
Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.' Is there any saying of Jesus
Christ's more revolutionary, or less believed by His professed
followers, than this?

The story of the rich fool is not a parable in the narrower meaning
of that word--that is, a description of some event or thing in the
natural sphere, transferred by analogy to the spiritual--but an
imaginary narrative exemplifying in a concrete instance the
characteristics of the class of covetous men. The first point noted
is that accumulated wealth breeds anxiety rather than satisfaction.
The man is embarrassed by his abundance. The trouble of knowing how
to keep it is as great as the labour of acquiring it, and the
enjoyment of it is still in the future. Many a rich man is more
worried about his securities than he was in making his money. There
are so many 'bags with holes' that he is at his wits' end for
investments, and the first thing he looks at in his morning's paper
is the share list, the sight of which often spoils his breakfast.

The next point is the selfish and arrogant sense of possession, as
betrayed by the repetition of 'my'--my fruits, my barns, my corn,
and my goods. He has no thought of God, nor of his own stewardship.
He recognises no claim on his wealth. If he had looked a little
beyond himself, he would have seen many places where he could have
bestowed his fruits. Were there no poor at his gates? He had better
have poured some riches into the laps of these than have built a new
barn. Corn laid up would breed weevils; dispersed, it would bring
blessings.

Again, this type of covetous men is a fool because he reckons on
'many years.' The goods may last, but will he? He can make sure that
they will suffice for a long time, but he cannot make sure of the
long time. Again, he blunders tragically in his estimate of the
power of worldly goods to satisfy. 'Eat, drink,' might be said to
his body, but to say it to his soul, and to fancy that these
pleasures of sense would put it at ease, is the fatal error which
gnaws like a worm at the root of every worldly life. The word here
rendered 'take thine ease' is cognate with Christ's in His great
promise, 'Ye shall find rest unto your souls.' Not in abundance of
worldly goods, but in union with Him, is that rest to be found which
the covetous man vainly promises himself in filled barns and
luxurious idleness.

There is a grim contrast between what the rich man said and what God
said. The man's words were empty breath; God's are powers, and what
He says is a deed. The divine decree comes crashing into the
abortive human plans like a thunder-clap into a wood full of singing
birds, and they are all stricken silent. So little does life consist
in possessions that all the abundance cannot keep the breath in a
man for one moment. His life is 'required of him,' not only in the
sense that he has to give it up, but also inasmuch as he has to
answer for it. In that requirement the selfishly used wealth will be
'a swift witness against' him, and  instead of ministering to life
or ease, will 'eat his flesh as fire.' Molten gold dropping on flesh
burns badly. Wealth, trusted in and selfishly clutched, without
recognition of God the giver or of others' claims to share it, will
burn still worse.

The 'parable' is declared to be of universal application. Examples
of it are found wherever there are men who selfishly lay up
treasures for their own delectation, and 'are not rich toward God.'
That expression is best understood in this connection to mean, not
rich in spiritual wealth, but in worldly goods used with reference
to God, or for His glory and service. So understood, the two
phrases, laying up treasure for oneself and being rich towards God,
are in full antithesis.



ANXIOUS ABOUT EARTH, OR EARNEST ABOUT THE KINGDOM


    'And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto
    you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat;
    neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23. The
    life is more than meat, and the body is more than
    raiment. 24. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow
    nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and
    God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the
    fowls? 25. And which of you with taking thought can
    add to his stature one cubit? 26. If ye then be not
    able to do that thing which is least, why take ye
    thought for the rest? 27. Consider the lilies how they
    grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto
    you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed
    like one of these. 28. If then God so clothe the grass,
    which is to-day in the field, and to-morrow is cast
    into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye
    of little faith! 29. And seek not ye what ye shall eat,
    or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
    30. For all these things do the nations of the world
    seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need
    of these things. 31. But rather seek ye the kingdom of
    God; and all these things shall he added unto you.'
    --LUKE xii. 22-31.

The parable of the rich fool was spoken to the multitude, but our
Lord now addresses the disciples. 'Therefore' connects the following
with the foregoing teachings. The warnings against anxiety are
another application of the prohibition of laying up treasure for
self. Torturing care is the poor man's form of worldliness, as
luxurious self-indulgence is the rich man's. There are two kinds of
gout, as doctors tell us--one from high living, and one from poverty
of blood. This passage falls into two parts--the prohibition against
anxious care (vs. 22-31), and the exhortation to set the affections
on the true treasure (vs. 31-34).

I. The first part gives the condemnation of anxiety about earthly
necessities. The precept is first stated generally, and then
followed by a series of reasons enforcing it. As to the precept, we
may remark that the disciples were mostly poor men, who might think
that they were in no danger of the folly branded in the parable.
They had no barns bursting with plenty, and their concern was how to
find food and clothing, not what to do with superfluities. Christ
would have them see that the same temper may be in them, though it
takes a different shape. Dives and Lazarus may be precisely alike.

The temper condemned here is 'self-consuming care,' the opposite of
trust. Its misery is forcibly expressed by the original meaning of
the Greek word, which implies being torn in pieces, and thus paints
the distraction and self-inflicted harrassment which are the lot of
the anxious mind. Prudent foresight and strenuous work are equally
outside this prohibition. Anxiety is so little akin to foresight
that it disables from exercising it, and both hinders from seeing
what to do to provide daily bread, and from doing it.

The disciples' danger of being thus anxious may be measured by the
number and variety of reasons against it given by Jesus. The first
of these is that such anxiety does not go deep enough, and forgets
how we come to have lives to be fed and bodies to be clothed. We
have received the greater, life and body, without our anxiety. The
rich fool could keep his goods, but not his 'soul' or 'life.' How
superficial, then, after all, our anxieties are, when God may end
life at any moment! Further, since the greater is given, the less
which it needs will also be given. The thought of God as 'a faithful
creator' is implied. We must trust Him for the 'more'; we may trust
Him for the less.

The second reason bids us look with attention at examples of
unanxious lives abundantly fed. Perhaps Elijah's feathered
providers, or the words of the Psalmist (Ps. cxlvii. 9), were in
Christ's mind. The raven was one of the 'unclean' birds, and of ill
omen,  from Noah's days, and yet had its meat in due season, though
that meat was corpses. Notice the allusions to the preceding parable
in 'sow not, neither reap,' and in 'neither have storehouse nor
barn.' In these particulars the birds are inferior to us, and, so to
speak, the harder to care for. If they who neither work nor store
still get their living, shall not we, who can do both? Our superior
value is in part expressed by the capacity to sow and reap; and
these are more wholesome occupations for a man than worrying.

How lovingly Jesus looked on all creatures, and how clearly He saw
everywhere God's hand at work! As Luther said, 'God spends every
year in feeding sparrows more than the revenues of the King of
France.'

The third reason is the impotence of anxiety (ver. 25). It is
difficult to decide between the two possible renderings here. That
of 'a cubit' to the 'stature' corresponds best with the growth of
the lilies, while 'age' preserves an allusion to the rich fool, and
avoids treating the addition of a foot and a half to an ordinary
man's height as a small thing. But age is not measured by cubits,
and it is best to keep to 'stature.'

At first sight, the argument of verse 23 seems to be now inverted,
and what was 'more' to be now 'least.' But the supposed addition, if
possible, would be of the smallest importance as regards ensuring
food or clothing, and measured by the divine power required to
effect it, is less than the continual providing which God does. That
smaller work of His, no anxiety will enable us to do. How much less
can we effect the complicated and wide-reaching arrangements needed
to feed and clothe ourselves! Anxiety is impotent. It only works on
our own minds, racking them in vain, but has no effect on the
material world, not even on our own bodies, still less on the
universe.

The fourth reason bids us look with attention at examples of
unanxious existence clothed with beauty. Christ here teaches the
highest use of nature, and the noblest way of looking at it. The
scientific botanist considers how the lilies grow, and can tell all
about cells and chlorophyll and the like. The poet is in raptures
with their beauty. Both teach us much, but the religious way of
looking at nature includes and transcends both the others. Nature is
a parable. It is a visible manifestation of God, and His ways there
shadow His ways with us, and are lessons in trust.

The glorious colours of the lily come from no dyer's vats, nor the
marvellous texture of their petals from any loom. They are inferior
to us in that they do not toil or spin, and in their short
blossoming time. Man's 'days are as grass; as a flower of the field
so he flourisheth'; but his date is longer, and therefore he has a
larger claim on God. 'God clothes the grass of the field' is a truth
quite independent of scientific truths or hypotheses about how He
does it. If the colours of flowers depend on the visits of insects,
God established the dependence, and is the real cause of the
resulting loveliness.

The most modern theories of the evolutionist do not in the least
diminish the force of Christ's appeal to creation's witness to a
loving Care in the heavens. But that appeal teaches us that we miss
the best and plainest lesson of nature, unless we see God present
and working in it all, and are thereby heartened to trust quietly in
His care for us, who are better than the ravens because we have to
sow and reap, or than the lilies because we must toil and spin.

Verse 29 adds to the reference to clothing a repeated prohibition as
to the other half of our anxieties, and thus rounds off the whole
with the same double warning as in verse 22. But it gives a striking
metaphor in the new command against 'being of doubtful mind.' The
word so rendered means to be lifted on high, and thence to be tossed
from height to depth, as a ship in a storm. So it paints the
wretchedness of anxiety as ever shuttlecocked about between hopes
and fears, sometimes up on the crest of a vain dream of good,
sometimes down in the trough of an imaginary evil. We are sure to be
thus the sport of our own fancies, unless we have our minds fixed on
God in quiet trust, and therefore stable and restful.

Verse 30 gives yet another reason against not only anxiety, but
against that eager desire after outward things which is the parent
of anxiety. If we 'seek after' them, we shall not be able to avoid
being anxious and of doubtful mind. Such seeking, says Christ, is
pure heathenism. The nations of the world who know not God make
these their chief good, and securing them the aim of their lives. If
we do the like, we drop to their level. What is the difference
between a heathen and a Christian, if the Christian has the same
objects and treasures as the heathen? That is a question which a
good many so-called Christians at present would find it hard to
answer.

But the crowning reason of all is kept for the last. Much of what
precedes might be spoken by a man who had but the coldest belief in
Providence. But the great and blessed faith in our Father, God,
scatters all anxious care. How should we be anxious if we know that
we have a Father in heaven, and that He knows our needs? He
recognises our claims on Him. He made the needs, and will send the
supply. That is a wide truth, stretching far beyond the mere earthly
wants of food and raiment. My wants, so far as God has made me to
feel them, are prophecies of God's gifts. He has made them as doors
by which He will come in and bless me. How, then, can anxious care
fret the heart which feels the Father's presence, and knows that its
emptiness is the occasion for the gift of a divine fullness? Trust
is the only reasonable temper for a child of such a father. Anxious
care is a denial of His love or knowledge or power.

II. Verses 31-34 point out the true direction of effort and
affection, and the true way of using outward good so as to secure
the higher riches. It is useless to tell men not to set their
longings or efforts on worldly things unless you tell them of
something better. Life must have some aim, and the mind must turn to
something as supremely good. The only way to drive out heathenish
seeking after perishable good is to fill the heart with the love and
longing for eternal and spiritual good. The ejected demon comes back
with a troop at his heels unless his house be filled. To seek 'the
kingdom,' to count it our highest good to have our wills and whole
being bowed in submission to the loving will of God, to labour after
entire conformity to it, to postpone all earthly delights to that,
and to count them all but loss if we may win it--this is the true
way to conquer worldly anxieties, and is the only course of life
which will not at last earn the stern judgment, 'Thou fool.'

That direction of all our desires and energies to the attainment of
the kingdom which is the state of being ruled by the will of God, is
to be accompanied with joyous, brave confidence. How should they
fear whose desires and efforts run parallel with the 'Father's good
pleasure'? They are seeking as their chief good what He desires, as
His chief delight, to give them. Then they may be sure that, if He
gives that, He will not withhold less gifts than may be needed. He
will not 'spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar,' nor allow His
children, whom He has made heirs of a kingdom, to starve on their
road to their crown. If they can trust Him to give them the kingdom,
they may surely trust Him for bread and clothes.

Mark, too, the tenderness of that 'little flock.' They might fear
when they contrasted their numbers with the crowds of worldly men;
but, being a flock, they have a shepherd, and that is enough to
quiet anxiety.

Seeking and courage are to be crowned by surrender of outward good
and the use of earthly wealth in such manner as that it will secure
an unfailing treasure in heaven. The manner of obeying this command
varies with circumstances. For some the literal fulfilment is best;
and there are more Christian men to-day whose souls would be
delivered from the snares if they would part with their possessions
than we are willing to believe.

Sometimes the surrender is rather to be effected by the conscientious
consecration and prayerful use of wealth. That is for each man to
settle for himself. But what is not variable is the obligation to set
the kingdom high above all else, and to use all outward wealth, as
Christ's servants, not for luxury and self-gratification, but as in
His sight and for His glory. Let us not be afraid of believing what
Jesus and His Apostles plainly teach, that wealth so spent here is
treasured in heaven, and that a Christian's place in the future life
depends upon this among other conditions--how he used his money here.



STILLNESS IN STORM

    '... Neither be ye of doubtful mind.'--LUKE xii. 29.

I think that these words convey no very definite idea to most
readers. The thing forbidden is not very sharply defined by the
expression which our translators have employed, but the original
term is very picturesque and precise.

The word originally means 'to be elevated, to be raised as a
meteor,' and comes by degrees to mean to be raised in one special
way--namely, as a boat is tossed by a tough sea. So there is a
picture in this prohibition which the fishermen and folk dwelling by
the Sea of Galilee with its sudden squalls would understand: 'Be
not pitched about'; now on the crest, now in the trough of the wave.

The meaning, then, is substantially identical with that of the
previous words, 'Take no thought for your life,' with this
difference, that the figures by which the thing prohibited is
expressed are different, and that the latter saying is wider than
the former.

The former prohibits 'taking thought,' by which our Lord of course
means not reasonable foresight, but anxious foreboding. And the word
which He uses, meaning at bottom as it does, 'to be distracted or
rent asunder,' conveys a striking picture of the wretched state to
which such anxiety brings a man. Nothing tears us to pieces like
foreboding care. Then our text forbids the same anxiety, as well as
other fluctuations of feeling that come from setting our hopes and
hearts on aught which can change; and its figurative representation
of the misery that follows on fastening ourselves to the perishable,
is that of the poor little skiff, at one moment high on the crest of
the billow, at the next down in the trough of the sea.

So both images point to the unrest of worldliness, and while the
unrest of care is uppermost in the one, the other includes more than
simply care, and warns us that all occupation with simply creatural
things, all eager seeking after 'what ye shall eat or what ye shall
drink' or after more refined forms of earthly good, brings with it
the penalty and misery of 'for ever tossing  on the tossing wave.'
Whosoever launches out on to that sea is sure to be buffeted about.
Whoso sets his heart on the uncertainty of anything below the
changeless God will without doubt be driven from hope to fear, from
joy to sorrow, and his soul will be agitated as his idols change,
and his heart will be desolate when his idols perish.

Our Lord, we say, forbids our being thus tossed about. He seems to
believe that it is in our own power to settle whether we shall be or
no. That sounds strange; one can fancy the answer: 'What is the use
of telling a man not to be buffeted about by storm? Why, he cannot
help it. If the sea is running high the little boat cannot lie quiet
as if in smooth water. Do not talk to me about not being moved,
unless you can say to the tumbling sea of life, "Peace, be still!"
and make it

  "quite forget to rave,
   While birds of peace sit brooding on the charmed wave."'

The objection is sound after a fashion. Change there must be, and
fluctuation of feeling. But there is such a thing as 'peace
subsisting at the heart of endless agitation.' You may remember the
attempt that was made some years ago to build a steamer in which
the central saloon was to hang perfectly still while the outer hull
of the ship pitched and rolled with the moving sea. It was a
failure, but the theory was sound and looked practicable. At any
rate, it is a parable of what may be in our lives. If I might
venture, without seeming irreverence, to modernise and so to
illustrate this command of our Lord's, I would say, that He here
bids us do for our life's voyage across a stormy sea, exactly what
the 'Bessemer' ship was an attempt to do in its region--so to poise
and control the oscillations of the central soul that however the
outward life may be buffeted about, there may be moveless rest
within. He knows full well that we must have rough weather, but He
would have us counteract the motion of the sea, and keep our hearts
in stillness. 'In the world ye shall have tribulation,' but in Him
ye may have peace.

He does not wish us to be blind to the facts of life, but to take
_all_ the facts into our vision. A partial view of the so-called
facts certainly will lead to tumultuous alternations of hope and
fear, of joy and sorrow. But if you will take them all into account,
you can be quiet and at rest. For here is a fact as real as the
troubles and changes of life: 'Your Father knoweth that ye have
need of these things.' Ah! the recognition of that will keep our
inmost hearts full of sweet peace, whatever may befall the outward
life. Only take all the facts of your condition, and accept Christ's
word for that greatest and surest of all--the loving Father's
knowledge of your needs, and it will not be hard to obey Christ's
command, and keep yourself still, because fixed on Him.

But now consider the teachings here as to the true source of the
agitation which our Lord forbids. The precept itself affords no
light on that subject, but the context shows us the true origin of
the evil.

The first point to observe is how remarkably our Lord identifies
this anxiety and restlessness which He forbids with what at first
sight seems its exact opposite, namely a calmness and peace which he
also condemns as wholly bad. The whole series of warnings of which
our text is part begins with the story of the rich man whose ground
brought forth plentifully. His fault was not that he was tossed
about with care and a doubtful mind, but the very opposite. His sin
was in saying, 'Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years;
take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.'

Notice, then, that our Lord begins by pointing out the great madness
and the great sin of being thus at rest, and trusting in earthly
possessions: and then with a 'Therefore, I say unto you,' He turns
to the opposite pole of worldly feeling, and shows us how, although
opposite, it is yet related. The warning, 'Take no thought for your
life' follows as an inference from the picture of the folly of the
man that lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.

That is to say, the two faults are kindred and in some sense the
same. The rich fool stretching himself out to rest on the pile of
his possessions, and the poor fool tossing about on the billows of
unquiet thought, are at bottom under the influence of the same
folly, though their circumstances are opposite, and their moods seem
to be so too.

The one man is just the other turned inside out. When he is rich and
has got plenty of outward goods, he has no anxiety, because he
thinks that they are supreme and all-sufficient. When he is poor and
has not got enough of them, he has no rest, because he thinks that
they are supreme and all-sufficient. Anxious care and satisfied
possession are at bottom the very same thing. The man who says, 'My
mountain stands strong,' because he has got a quantity of money or
the like; and the man who says, 'Oh, dear me, what is going to
become of me?' because he thinks he has not got enough, only need to
exchange circumstances and they will exchange cries.

The same figure is concave or convex according to the side from
which you look at it. From one it swells out into rounded fullness;
from the other it gapes as in empty hungriness. So the rich fool of
the preceding parable and the anxious, troubled man of my text are
the same man looked at from opposite sides or set in opposite
circumstances. The root of both the rest of the one and of the
anxiety of the other is the over-estimate of outward good.

Then, still further, notice how our Lord here brands this forbidden
fluctuation of feeling as being at bottom pure heathenism. Most
significant double reasons for our text follow it, introduced by a
double 'for.' The first reason is, 'For all these things do the
nations of the world seek after'; the second is, 'For your Father
knoweth that ye have need of these things.' The former points the
lesson of the contradiction between such trouble of mind and the
position of disciples. For pure heathens it is all natural; for men
who do not know that they have a Father in heaven, there is nothing
strange or anomalous in care and anxiety, nor in the race after
riches. But for you, it is in diametrical contradiction to all your
professions, in flagrant inconsistency with all your belief, in flat
denial of that mighty truth that you have a Father who cares for
you, and that His love is enough. Every time you yield to such cares
or thoughts you are going down to the level of pure heathenism. That
is a sharp saying. Our Lord's steady hand wields the keen
dissecting-knife here, and lays bare with unsparing cuts the ugly
growth. We give the thing condemned a great many honourable names,
such as 'laying up for a rainy day,' or 'taking care for the future
of my children,' or 'providing things honest in the sight of all
men,' and a host of others, with which we gloss and gild over
unchristian worldly-mindedness.

There are actions and feelings which are rightly described by such
phrases, that are perfectly right, and against them Jesus Christ
never said a word.

But much of what we deceive ourselves by calling reasonable
foresight is rooted distrust of God, and much practical heathenism
creeps into our lives under the guise of 'proper prudence.' The
ordinary maxims of the world christen many things by names of
virtues and yet they remain vices notwithstanding.

I do not know that there is any region in which Christian men have
more to be on their guard, lest they be betrayed into deadening
inconsistencies, than this of the true limits of care for material
wealth, and of provision for the future outward life.

Those of us, especially, who are engaged in business, and who live
in our great commercial cities, have hard work to keep from dropping
down to the heathen level which is adopted on all sides. It is not
easy for such a man to resist the practical belief that money is the
one thing needful, and he the happy man who has made a fortune. The
false estimate of worldly good is in the air about us, and we have
to be on our guard, or else, before we know where we are, we shall
have breathed the stupefying poison and feel its narcotic influence
slackening the pulses and dimming the eye of our spirits. We need
special watchfulness and prayer, or we shall not escape this subtle
danger, which is truly for many of us 'the pestilence that walketh
in darkness.'

So be not tossed about by these secularities, for the root of them
all is heathenish distrust of your Father in heaven.

Then, finally, we have the cure for all agitation. Christ here puts in
our own hands, in that thought, 'Your Father knoweth that ye have need
of these things,' the one weapon with which we can conquer. There is
the true anchorage for tempest-tossed spirits, the land-locked haven
where they can ride, whatever winds blow and waves break outside the bar.

I remarked that our Lord here seemed to give an injunction which the
facts of life would prevent our obeying, and so it would be, had He
not pointed us to that firm truth, which, if we believe it, will
keep us unmoved. There is no more profitless expenditure of breath
than the ordinary moralist's exhortations to, or warnings against,
states of feeling and modes of mind. Our emotions are very partially
under our direct control. Life cannot be calm by willing to be so.
But what we can do is to think of a truth which will sway our moods.
If you can substitute some other thought for the one which breeds
the emotion you condemn, it will fall silent of itself, just as the
spindles will stop if you shut off steam, or the mill-wheel if you
turn the stream in another direction. So Christ gives us a great
thought to cherish, knowing that if we let it have fair play in our
minds, we shall be at rest: 'Your Father knoweth that ye have need
of these things.' Surely that is enough for calmness. Why should, or
how can we be, troubled if we believe that?

'He knows.' What a wonderful confidence in His heart and resources
is silently implied in that word! If He knows that you need, you may
be quite sure that you will not want. 'He knows'; and His fatherly
heart is our guarantee that to know and to supply our need, are one
and the same thing with Him; and His deep treasure of exhaustless
good is our guarantee that our need can never go beyond His
fullness, nor He ever, like us, see a sorrow He cannot comfort, a
want that He cannot meet.

Enough that He knows; 'the rest goes without saying.' The whole
burden of solicitude is shifted off our shoulders, if once we get
into the light of that great truth. A man is made restful in the
midst of all the changes and storms of life, not by trying to work
himself into tranquillity, not by mere dint of coercing his feelings
through sheer force of will, not by ignoring any facts, but simply
by letting this truth stand before his mind. It scatters cares, as
the silent moon has power, by her mild white light, to clear away a
whole skyful of piled blacknesses.

One other word of practical advice, as to how to carry out this
injunction, is suggested by the context, which goes on, 'Seek ye
first the kingdom of God.'

A boat will roll most when, from lack of a strong hand at the helm,
she has got broadside to the run of the sea. There she lies rocking
about just as the blow of the wave may fall, and drifting wherever
the wind may take her. There are two directions in which she will be
comparatively steady; one, when her head is kept as near the wind as
may be, and the other when she runs before it. Either will be
quieter than washing about anyhow. May we make a parable out of
that? If you want to have as little pitching and tossing as possible
on your voyage, keep a good strong hand on the tiller. Do not let
the boat lie in the trough of the sea, but drive her right against
the wind, or as near it as she will sail. That is to say, have a
definite aim to which you steer, and keep a straight course for
that. So Christ says to us here. Be not filled with agitations, but
seek the Kingdom. The definite pursuit of the higher good will
deaden the lower anxieties. The active energies called out in the
daily efforts to bring my whole being under the dominion of the
sovereign will of God, will deliver me from a crowd of tumultuous
desires and forebodings. I shall have neither leisure nor
inclination to be anxious about outward things, when I am engaged
and absorbed in seeking the kingdom. So 'bear up and steer right
onward,' and it will be smooth sailing.

Sometimes, too, we shall have to try the other tack, and run
_before_ the storm, which again will give us the minimum of
commotion. That, being translated, is, 'Let the winds and the waves
sometimes have their way.' Yield to them in the sweetness of
submission and the strength of resignation. Even when all the stormy
winds strive on the surface sea, recognise them as God's messengers
'fulfilling His word.' Submission is not rudderless yielding to the
gale, that tosses us on high and sinks us again, as the waves list.
This frees us from their power, even while they roll mountains high.

Then keep firm trust in your Father's knowledge; strenuously seek
the kingdom. In quietness accept the changeful methods of his
unchanging providence. Thus shall your hearts be kept in peace
amidst the storm of life, with the happy thought, '_So_ He
bringeth them unto their desired haven.'



THE EQUIPMENT OF THE SERVANTS


    'Let your loins be girded about, and your lights
    burning; 36. And ye yourselves like unto men that wait
    for their Lord.'--Luke xii. 35, 36.

These words ought to stir us like the sound of a trumpet. But, by long
familiarity, they drop upon dull ears, and scarcely produce any effect.
The picture that they suggest, as an emblem of the Christian state, is
a striking one. It is midnight, a great house is without its master,
the lord of the palace is absent, but expected back, the servants are
busy in preparation, each man with his robe tucked about his middle,
in order that it may not interfere with his work, his lamp in his hand
that he may see to go about his business and his eye ever turned to
the entrance to catch the first sign of the coming of his master. Is
that like your Christian life? If we are His servants that is what we
ought to be, having three things--girded loins, lighted lamps, waiting
hearts. These are sharp tests, solemn commandments, but great
privileges, for blessedness as well as strength, and calm peace whatever
happens, belong to those who obey these injunctions and have these
things.

I. The girded loins.

Every child knows the long Eastern dress; and that the first sign
that a man is in earnest about any work would be that he should
gather his skirts around him and brace himself together.

The Christian service demands concentration. It needs the fixing of
all a man's powers upon the one thing, the gathering together of all
the strength of one's nature, and binding it with cords until its
softest and loosest particles are knit together, and become strong.
Why! you can take a handful of cotton-down, and if you will squeeze
it tight enough, it will be as hard and as heavy as a bullet and
will go as far, and have as much penetrating power and force of
impact. The reason why some men hit and make no dint is because they
are not gathered together and braced up by a vigorous concentration.

The difference between men that succeed and men that fail in
ordinary pursuits is by no means so much intellectual as moral; and
there is nothing which more certainly commands any kind of success
than giving yourselves with your whole concentrated power to the
task in hand. If we succeed in anything we must focus all our power
on it. Only by so doing, as a burning-glass does the sun's rays,
shall we set anything on fire.

And can a vigorous Christian life be grown upon other conditions
than those which a vigorous life of an ordinary sort demands? Why
should it be easier to be a prosperous Christian than to be a
prosperous tradesman? Why should there not be the very same law in
operation in the realm of the higher riches and possessions that
rules in the realm of the lower? 'Gird up the loins _of your
mind_,' says the Apostle, echoing the Master's word here. The
first condition of true service is that you shall do it with
concentrated power.

There is another requirement, or perhaps rather another side of the
same, expressed in the figure. One reason why a man tucked up his
robe around his waist, when he had anything to do that needed all
his might, was that it might not catch upon the things that
protruded, and so keep him back. Concentration, and  what I may call
detachment, go together. In order that there shall be the one, there
must be the other. They require each other, and are, in effect, but
the two sides of the same thing contemplated in regard to hindrances
without, or contemplated in regard to the relation of the several
parts of a man's nature to each other.

Observe that Luke immediately precedes the text with:--'Sell that ye
have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a
treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief
approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded about.' That
is to say, do not let your affections go straggling anywhere and
everywhere, but gather them together, and that you may gather them
together tear away the robe from the briars and thorns which catch
you as you pass, and gird the long flowing skirts close to
yourselves in order that they may not be caught by these hindrances.
There is no Christian life worth living except upon condition of
wrenching oneself away from dependence upon idolatry of, or longing
for, perishable things. The lesson of my text is the same as the
solemn lesson which the beloved Apostle sharpened his gentle lips to
pronounce when he said, 'If any man love the world, the love of the
Father is not in him.' 'Gird up your loins,' detach heart, desire,
effort from perishable things, and lift them above the fleeting
treasures and hollow delusive sparkles of earth's preciousness, and
set them on the realities and eternities at God's right hand. 'For
where the treasure is, there will the heart be also,' and only that
heart can never be stabbed by disappointment, nor bled to death by
losses, whose treasure is as sure as God and eternal as Himself.
'Let your loins be girded about.'

And then there is another thing suggested, which is the consequence
of these two. The girding up of the loins is not only the symbol of
concentration and detachment, but of that for which the
concentration and the detachment are needful--viz. alert readiness
for service. The servant who stands before his lord with his belt
buckled tight indicates thereby that he is ready to run whenever and
wherever he is bid. Our girded loins are not merely in order to give
strength to our frame, but in order that, having strength given to
our frame, we may be ready for all work. That which is needful for
any faithful discharge of any servant's duty is most of all needful
for the discharge of the highest duty and the noblest service to the
Master who has the right to command all our service.

There are three emblems in Scripture to all of which this metaphor
applies. The soldier, before he flings himself into the fight, takes
in another hole in his leather belt in order that there may be
strength given to his spine, and he may feel himself all gathered
together for the deadly struggle, and the Christian soldier has to
do the same thing. 'Stand therefore, having your loins girt about
with truth.'

The traveller, before he starts upon his long road, girds himself,
and gathers his robes round him; and we have to 'run with
perseverance the race set before us'; and shall never do it if our
garments, however delicately embroidered, are flapping about our
feet and getting in our way when we try to run.

The servant has to be _succinct_, girded together for his work,
even as the Master, when He took upon Him the form of a servant,
'took a towel and girded Himself.' His servants have to follow His
example, to put aside the needless vesture and brace themselves with
the symbol of service. So as soldiers, pilgrims, servants, the
condition of doing our work is, girding up the loins.

II. Further, there are to be the burning lamps.

If we follow the analogy of Scripture symbolism, significance
belongs to that emblem, making it quite worthy to stand by the side
of the former one. You remember Christ's first exhortation in the
Sermon on the Mount immediately following the Beatitudes: 'Ye are
the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world. Men do not
light a candle, and put it under a bushel. _Let your light so
shine before men_, that they may see your good deeds.' If we
apply that key to decipher the hieroglyphics, the burning lamps
which the girded servants are to bear in the darkness are the whole
sum of the visible acts of Christian people, from which there may
flash the radiance of purity and kindness, 'So shines a good deed in
a naughty world.' The lamp which the Christian servant is to bear is
a character illuminated from above (for it is a kindled lamp, and
the light is derived), and streaming out a brilliance into the
encircling murky midnight which speaks of hospitable welcome and of
good cheer in the lighted hall within.

Now, what is the connection between that exhibition of a lustrous
and pure Christian character and the former exhortation? Why this,
if you do not gird your loins your lamp will go out. Without the
concentrated effort and the continually repeated detachment and the
daily renewed 'Lord! here am I, send me,' of the alert and ready
servant, there will be no shining of the life, no beauty of the
character, but dimness will steal over the exhibition of Christian
graces. Just as, often, in the wintry nights, a star becomes
suddenly obscured, and we know not why, but some thin vaporous cloud
has come between us and it, invisible in itself but enough to blur
its brightness, so obscuration will befall the Christian character
unless there be continual concentration and detachment. Do you want
your lights to blaze? You trim them--though it is a strange mixture
of metaphor--you trim them when you gird your loins.

III. Lastly, the waiting hearts.

An attitude of expectancy does not depend upon theories about the
chronology of prophecy. It is Christ's will that, till He comes, we
know 'neither the day nor the hour.' We may, as I suppose most of us
do, believe that we shall die before He comes. Be it so. That need
not affect the attitude of expectance, for it comes to substantially
the same thing whether Christ comes to us or we go to Him. And the
certain uncertainty of the end of our individual connection with
this fleeting world stands in the same relation to our hopes as the
coming of the Master does, and should have an analogous effect on
our lives. Whatever may be our expectation as to the literal coming
of the Lord, that future should be very solid, very real, very near
us in our thoughts, a habitual subject of contemplation, and ever
operative upon our hearts and  conduct.

Ah! if we never, or seldom, and then sorrowfully, look forward to
the future, and contemplate our meeting with our Master, I do not
think there is much chance of our having either our loins girt, or
our lamps burning.

One great motive for concentration, detachment, and alertness of
service, as well as for exhibiting the bright graces of the
Christian character, is to be found in the contemplation of the two
comings of the Lord. We should be ever looking back to the Cross,
forward to the Throne, and upwards to the Christ, the same on them
both. If we have our gathering together with Him ever in view, then
we shall be willing to yield all for Him, to withdraw ourselves from
everything besides for the excellency of His knowledge; and
whatsoever He commands, joyfully and cheerfully to do.

The reason why such an immense and miserable proportion of
professing Christians are all unbraced and loose-girt, and their
lamps giving such smoky and foul-smelling and coarse radiance, is
because they look little back to the Cross, and less forward to the
Great White Throne. But these two solemn and sister sights are far
more real than the vulgar and intrusive illusions of what we call
the present. That is a shadow, they are the realities; that is but a
transitory scenic display, like the flashing of the Aurora Borealis
for a night in the wintry sky, these are the fixed, unsetting stars
that guide our course. Therefore let us turn away from the lying
present, with its smallnesses and its falsities, and look backwards
to Him that died, forward to Him that is coming. And, as we nourish
our faith on the twofold fact, a history and a hope, that Christ has
come, and that Christ shall come, we shall find that all devotion
will be quickened, and all earnestness stirred to zeal, and the dim
light will flame into radiance and glory.

He comes in one of two characters which lie side by side here, as
they do in fact. To the waiting servants He comes as the Master who
shall gird Himself and go forth and serve them; to those who wait
not, He comes as a thief, not only in the suddenness nor the
unwelcomeness of His coming, but as robbing them of what they would
fain keep, and dragging from them much that they ought never to have
had. And it depends upon ourselves whether, we waiting and watching
and serving and witnessing for Him, He shall come to us as our Joy,
or as our Terror and our Judge.



THE SERVANT-LORD


    Verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and
    make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth,
    and serve them.--LUKE xii. 37.

No one would have dared to say that except Jesus Christ. For surely,
manifold and wonderful as are the glimpses that we get in the New
Testament of the relation of perfect souls in heaven to Him, none of
them pierces deeper, rises higher, and speaks more boundless
blessing, than such words as these. Well might Christ think it
necessary to preface them with the solemn affirmation which always,
upon His lips, points, as it were, an emphatic finger to, or
underlines that which He is about to proclaim. 'Verily I say unto
you,' if we had not His own word for it, we might hesitate to
believe. And while we have His own word for it, and do not hesitate
to believe, it is not for us to fathom or exhaust, but lovingly and
reverently and humbly, because we know it but partially, to try to
plumb the unfathomable depth of such words. 'He shall gird Himself,
and cause them to sit down to meat; and come forth and serve them.'

I. Then we have, first of all, the wonderful revelation of the
Servant-Lord.

For the name of dignity is employed over and over again in the
immediate context, and so makes more wonderful the assumption here
of the promise of service.

And the words are not only remarkable because they couple so closely
together the two antagonistic ideas, as we fancy them, of rule and
service, authority and subordination, but because they dwell with
such singular particularity of detail upon all the stages of the
menial office which the Monarch takes upon Himself. First, the
girding, assuming the servant's attire; then the leading of the
guests, wondering and silent, to the couches where they can recline;
then the coming to them as they thus repose at the table, and the
waiting upon their wants and supplying all their need. It reminds us
of the wonderful scene, in John's Gospel, where we have coupled
together in the same intimate and interdependent fashion the two
thoughts of dignity and of service--'Jesus, knowing that the Father
had given all things into His hand, and that He came from God and
went to God,' made this use of His consciousness and of His
unlimited and universal dominion, that 'He laid aside His garments,
and took a towel, and girded Himself, and washed the disciples'
feet'; thus teaching what our text teaches in still another form,
that the highest authority means the lowliest service, that the
purpose of power is blessing, that the very sign and mark of dignity
is to stoop, and that the crown of the Universe is worn by Him who
is the Servant of all.

But beyond that general idea which applies to the whole of the
divine dealings and especially to the earthly life of Him who came,
not to be ministered unto, but to minister, the text sets forth
special manifestations of Christ's ministering love and power, which
are reserved for heaven, and are a contrast with earth. The Lord who
is the Servant girds Himself. That corresponds with the commandment
that went before, 'Let your loins be girded,' and to some extent
covers the same ground and suggests the same idea. With all
reverence, and following humbly in the thoughts that Christ has
given us by the words, one may venture to say that He gathers all
His powers together in strenuous work for the blessing of His
glorified servants, and that not only does the metaphor express for
us His taking upon Himself the lowly office, but also the employment
of all that He is and has there in the heavens for the blessing of
the blessed ones that sit at His table.

Here upon earth, when He assumed the form of a Servant in His
entrance into humanity, it was accompanied with the emptying Himself
of His glory. In the symbolical incident in John's Gospel, to which
I have already referred, He laid aside His garments before He
wrapped around Him the badge of service. But in that wondrous
service by the glorified Lord there is no need for divesting ere He
serves, but the divine glories that irradiate His humanity, and by
which He, our Brother, is the King of kings and the Lord of the
Universe, are all used by Him for this great, blessed purpose of
gladdening and filling up the needs of the perfected spirits that
wait, expectant of their food, upon Him. His girding Himself for
service expresses not only the lowliness of His majesty and the
beneficence of His power, but His use of all which He has and is for
the blessing of those whom He keeps and blesses.

I need not remind you, I suppose, how in this same wonderful picture
of the Servant-Lord there is taught the perpetual--if we may so say,
the increased--lowliness of the crowned Christ. When He was here on
earth, He was meek and holy; exalted in the heavens, He is, were it
possible, meeker and more lowly still, because He stoops from a
loftier elevation. The same loving, gentle, gracious heart, holding
all its treasures for its brethren, is the heart that now is girded
with the golden girdle of sovereignty, and which once was girt with
the coarse towel of the slave. Christ is for ever the Servant,
because He is for ever the Lord of them that trust in Him. Let us
learn that service is dominion; that 'he that is chiefest among us'
is thereby bound to be 'the servant' and the helper 'of all.'

II. Notice, the servants who are served and serve.

There are two or three very plain ideas, suggested by the great
words of my text, in regard to the condition of those whom the Lord
thus ministers to, and waits upon. I need not expand them, because
they are familiar to us all, but let me just touch them. 'He shall
make them to sit down to meat.' The word, as many of you know,
really implies a more restful attitude--'He shall make them recline
at meat.' What a contrast to the picture of toil and effort, which
has just been drawn, in the command,' Let your loins be girded
about, and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves as men that wait
for their Lord!' Here, there must be the bracing up of every power,
and the careful tending of the light amid the darkness and the gusts
that threaten to blow it out, and every ear is to be listening and
every eye strained, for the coming of the Lord, that there may be no
unpreparedness or delay in flinging open the gates. But then the
tension is taken off and the loins ungirded, for there is no need
for painful effort, and the lamps that burn dimly and require
tending in the mephitic air are laid aside, and 'they need no
candle, for the Lord is the light thereof'; and there is no more
intense listening for the first foot-fall of One who is coming, for
He has come, and expectation is turned into fellowship and fruition.
The strained muscles can relax, and instead of effort and weariness,
there is repose upon the restful couches prepared by Him. Threadbare
and old as the hills as the thought is, it comes to us toilers with
ever new refreshment, like a whiff of fresh air or the gleam of the
far-off daylight at the top of the shaft to the miner, cramped at
his work in the dark. What a witness the preciousness of that
representation of future blessedness as rest to us all bears to the
pressure of toil and the aching, weary hearts which we all
carry! The robes may flow loose then, for there is neither pollution
to be feared from the golden pavement, nor detention from briars or
thorns, nor work that is so hard as to be toil or so unwelcome as to
be pain. There is rest from labour, care, change, and fear of loss,
from travel and travail, from tired limbs and hearts more tired
still, from struggle and sin, from all which makes the unrest of
life.

Further, this great promise assures us of the supply of all wants
that are only permitted to last long enough to make a capacity for
receiving the eternal and all-satisfying food which Christ gives the
restful servants. Though 'they hunger no more,' they shall always
have appetite. Though they 'thirst no more,' they shall ever desire
deeper draughts of the fountain of life. Desire is one thing,
longing is another. Longing is pain, desire is blessedness; and that
we shall want and know ourselves to want, with a want which lives
but for a moment ere the supply pours in upon it and drowns it, is
one of the blessednesses to which we dare to look forward. Here we
live, tortured by wishes, longings, needs, a whole menagerie of
hungry mouths yelping within us for their food. There we wait upon
the Lord, and He gives a portion in due season.

The picture in the text brings with it all festal ideas of light,
society, gladness, and the like, on which I need not dwell. But let
me just remind you of one contrast. The ministry of Christ, when He
was a servant here upon earth, was symbolised by His washing His
disciples' feet, an act which was part of the preparation of the
guests for a feast. The ministry of Christ in heaven consists, not
in washing, for 'he that is washed is clean every whit' there, and
for ever more--but in ministering to His guests that abundant feast
for which the service and the lustration of earth were but the
preparation. The servant Christ serves us here by washing us from
our sins in His own blood, both in the one initial act of
forgiveness and by the continual application of that blood to the
stains contracted in the miry ways of life. The Lord and Servant
serves His servants in the heavens by leading them, cleansed to His
table, and filling up every soul with love and with Himself.

But all that, remember, is only half the story. Our Lord here is not
giving us a complete view of the retributions of the heavens, He is
only telling us one aspect of them. Repose, society, gladness,
satisfaction, these things are all true. But heaven is not lying
upon couches and eating of a feast. There is another use of this
metaphor in this same Gospel, which, at first sight, strikes one as
being contradictory to this. Our Lord said: 'Which of you, having a
servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by,
when he is come from the field, go and sit down to meat, and will
not rather say unto him, make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird
thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward
thou shalt eat and drink.' These two representations are not
contradictory. Put the two halves together like the two pictures in
a stereoscope and, as you look, they will go together into one solid
image, of which the one part is the resting at the table of the
feast, and the other part is that entrance into heaven is not
cessation, but variation, of service. It was dirty, cold, muddy work
out there in the field ploughing, and when the man comes back with
his soiled, wet raiment and his weary limbs a change of occupation
is rest. It is better for him to be set to 'make ready wherewith I
may eat and drink,' than to be told to sit down and do nothing.

So the servants are served, and the servants serve. And these two
representations are not contradictory, but they fill up the
conception of perfect blessedness. For remember, if we may venture
to say so, that the very same reason which makes Christ the Lord
serve His servants makes the servants serve Christ the Lord. For love,
which underlies their relationship, has for its very life-breath doing
kindnesses and good to its objects, and we know not whether it is more
blessed to the loving heart to minister to, or to be ministered to by,
the heart which it loves. So the Servant-Lord and the servants,
serving and served, are swayed in both by the same motive and rejoice
in the interchange of offices and tokens of love.

III. Mark the earthly service which leads to the heavenly rest.

I have already spoken about Christ's earthly service, and reminded
you that there is needed, first of all, that we should partake in
His purifying work through His blood and His Spirit that dwells in
us, ere we can share in His highest ministrations to His servants in
the heavens. But there is also service of ours here on earth, which
must precede our receiving our share in the wonderful things
promised here. And the nature of that service is clearly stated in
the preceding words, 'Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when
He cometh shall find'--doing what? Trying to make themselves better?
Seeking after conformity to His commandments? No! 'Whom the Lord
when He cometh shall find _watching_.' It is character rather
than conduct, and conduct only as an index of character--disposition
rather than deeds--that makes it possible for Christ to be hereafter
our Servant-Lord. And the character is more definitely described in
the former words. Loins girded, lights burning, and a waiting which
is born of love. The concentration and detachment from earth, which
are expressed by the girded loins, the purity and holiness of
character and life, which are symbolised by the burning lights, and
the expectation which desires, and does not shrink from, His coming
in His Kingdom to be the Judge of all the earth--these things, being
built upon the acceptance of Christ's ministry of washing, fit us
for participation in Christ's ministry of the feast, and make it
possible that even we shall be of those to whom the Lord, in that
day, will come with gladness and with gifts. 'Blessed are the
servants whom the Lord shall find so watching.'



SERVANTS AND STEWARDS HERE AND HEREAFTER


    'Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when He
    cometh, shall find watching: Verily I shall say unto
    you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit
    down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

    Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh,
    shall find so doing. 44. Of a truth I say unto you,
    that He will make him ruler over all that he hath.
    --LUKE xii. 37, 43, and 44.

You will, of course, observe that these two passages are strictly
parallel in form. Our Lord evidently intends them to run side by
side, and to be taken together. The divergences are as significant
and instructive as the similarities, and the force of these will be
best brought out by just recalling, in a sentence or two, the
occasion for the utterance of the second of the two passages which I
have taken for my text. When our Lord had finished His previous
address and exhortations, Peter characteristically pushed his oar in
with the question, 'Do these commandments refer to us, the Apostles,
or to all,' the whole body of disciples? Our Lord admits the
distinction, recognises in His answer that the 'us,' the Twelve,
were nearer Christ than the general mass of His followers, and
answers Peter's question by reiterating what He has been saying in a
slightly different form. He had spoken before about servants. Now He
speaks about 'stewards,' because the Apostles did stand in that
relation to the other disciples, as being slaves indeed, like the
rest of the household, but slaves in a certain position of
authority, by the Master's appointment, and charged with providing
the nourishment which, of course, means the religious instruction,
of their fellow-servants.

So, notice that the first benediction is upon the 'servants,' the
second is upon the servants who are 'stewards.' The first
exhortation requires that when the Master comes He shall find the
servants watching; the second demands that when He comes He shall
find the stewards doing their work. The first promise of reward
gives the assurance that the watching servants shall be welcomed
into the house, and be waited on by the Master himself; the second
gives the assurance that the faithful steward shall be promoted to
higher work. We are all servants, and we are all, if we are
Christian men, stewards of the manifold grace of God.

So, then, out of these two passages thus brought together, as our
Lord intended that they should be, we gather two things: the twofold
aspect of life on earth--watchfulness and work; and the twofold hope
of life in heaven--rest and rule. 'Blessed is that servant whom his
Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching.' 'Blessed is that steward
whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find'--not merely watching,
but--'so doing.'

I. The twofold attitude here enjoined.

The first idea in watchfulness is keeping awake; and the second is
looking out for something that is coming. Both these conceptions are
intertwined in both our Lord's use of the metaphor of the watching
servant, and in the echoes of it which we find abundantly in the
Apostolic letters. The first thing is to keep ourselves awake all
through the soporific night, when everything tempts to slumber. Even
the wise virgins, with trimmed lamps and girt loins, do in some degree
succumb to the drowsy influences around them, and like the foolish
ones, slumber, though the slumbers of the two classes be unlike.
Christian people live in the midst of an order of things which tempts
them to close the eyes of their hearts and minds to all the real and
unseen glories above and around them, and that might be within them,
and to live for the comparatively contemptible and trivial things of
this present. Just as when a man sleeps, he loses his consciousness
of solid external realities, and passes into a fantastic world of his
own imaginations, which have no correspondence in external facts, and
will vanish like

  'The baseless fabric of a dream,
  If but a cock shall crow,'

so the men who are conscious only of this present life and of the
things that are seen, though they pride themselves on being wide
awake, are, in the deepest of their being, fast asleep, and are
dealing with illusions which will pass and leave nought behind, as
really as are men who lie dreaming upon couches, and fancy
themselves hard at work. Keep awake; that is the first thing; which,
being translated into plain English, points just to this, that
unless we make a dead lift of continuous effort to keep firm grasp
of God and Christ, and of all the unseen magnificences that are
included in these two names, as surely as we live we shall lose our
hold upon them, and fall into the drugged and diseased sleep in
which so many men around us are plunged. It sometimes seems to one
as if the sky above us were raining down narcotics upon us, so
profoundly are the bulk of men unconscious of realities, and
befooled by the illusions of a dream.

Keep yourselves awake first, and then let the waking, wide-opened
eye, be looking forward. It is the very _differentia_, so to
speak, the characteristic mark and distinction of the Christian
notion of life, that it shifts the centre of gravity from the
present into the future, and makes that which is to come of far more
importance than that which is, or which has been. No man is living
up to the height of his Christian responsibilities or privileges
unless there stands out before him, as the very goal and aim of his
whole life, what can never be realised until he has passed within
the veil, and is at rest in the 'secret place of the Most High.' To
live for the future is, in one aspect, the very definition of a
Christian.

But the text reminds us of the specific form which that future
anticipation is to take. It is not for us, as it is for men in the
world, to fix our hopes for the future on abstract laws of the
progress of humanity, or the evolution of the species, or the
gradual betterment of the world, and the like. All these may be
true: I say nothing about them. But what we have to fill our future
with is that 'that same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye
have seen Him go.' It is much to be lamented that curious
chronological speculations have so often discredited that great
central hope of the Church, which is properly altogether independent
of them; and that, because people have got befogged in interpreting
such symbols as beasts, and horses, and trumpets, and seals, and the
like, the Christian Church as a whole should so feebly be holding by
that great truth, without which, as it seems to me, the truth which
many of us are tempted to make the exclusive one, loses half its
significance. No man can rightly understand the whole contents of
the blessed proclamation, 'Christ has come,' unless he ends the
sentence with 'and Christ will come.' Blessed is 'that servant whom
the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching.'

Of course I need not remind you that much for which that second
coming of the Lord is precious, and an object of hope to the world
and the Church, is realised by the individual in the article of
death. Whether Christ comes to the world or I go to Christ, the
important thing is that there result union and communion, the reign
of righteousness and peace, the felicities of the heavenly state.
And so, dear brethren, just because of the uncertainty that drapes
the future, and which we are often tempted to make a reason for
dismissing the anticipation of it from our minds, we ought the more
earnestly to give heed that we keep that end ever before us, and
whether it is reached by His coming to us, or our going to Him,
anticipate, by the power of realising faith grasping the firm words
of Revelation, the unimaginable, and--until it is experienced--the
incommunicable blessedness revealed in these great, simple words,
'So shall we ever be with the Lord.'

But, then, look at the second of the aspects of Christian duty which
is presented here, that watchfulness is to lead on to diligent work.

The temptation for any one who is much occupied with the hope of
some great change and betterment in the near future is to be
restless and unable to settle down to his work, and to yield to
distaste of the humdrum duties of every day. If some man that kept a
little chandler's shop in a back street was expecting to be made a
king to-morrow, he would not be likely to look after his poor trade
with great diligence. So we find in the Apostle Paul's second
letter--that to the Thessalonians--that he had to encounter, as well
as he could, the tendency of hope to make men restless, and to
insist upon the thought--which is the same lesson as is taught us by
the second of our texts--that if a man hoped, then he had with
quietness to work and eat his own bread, and not be shaken in mind.

'Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find
so doing.' It may seem humble work to serve out hunches of bread and
pots of black broth to the family of slaves, when the steward is
expecting the coming of the master of the house, and his every nerve
is tingling with anticipation. But it is steadying work, and it is
blessed work. It is better that a man should be found doing the
homeliest duty as the outcome of his great expectations of the
coming of his Master, than that he should be fidgeting and restless
and looking only at that thought till it unfits him for his common
tasks. Who was it who, sitting playing a game of chess, and being
addressed by some scandalised disciple with the question, 'What
would you do if Jesus Christ came, and you were playing your game?'
answered, 'I would finish it'? The best way for a steward to be
ready for the Master, and to show that he is watching, is that he
should be 'found so doing' the humble task of his stewardship. The
two women that were squatting on either side of the millstone, and
helping each other to whirl the handle round in that night were in
the right place, and the one that was taken had no cause to regret
that she was not more religiously employed. The watchful servant
should be a working servant.

II. And now I have spent too much time on this first part of my
discourse; so I must condense the second. Here are two aspects of
the heavenly state, rest and rule.

'Verily I say unto you, He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit
down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.' I do not know
that there is a more wonderful promise, with more light lying in its
darkness, in all Scripture than that. Jesus Christ continues in the
heavens to be found in 'the form of a servant.' As here He girded
Himself with the towel of humiliation in the upper room, so there He
girds Himself with the robes of His imperial majesty, and uses all
His powers for the nourishment and blessedness of His servants. His
everlasting motto is, 'I am among you as one that serveth.' On earth
His service was to wash His disciples' feet; in heaven the pure foot
contracts no stain, and needs no basin: but in heaven He still
serves, and serves by spreading a table, and, as a King might do at
some ceremonial feasts, waiting on the astonished guests.

I say nothing about all the wonderful ideas that gather round that
familiar but never-to-be-worn-into-commonplace emblem of the feast.
Repose, in contrast with the girded loins and the weary waiting of
the midnight watch; nourishment, and the satisfaction of all
desires; joy, society--all these things, and who knows how much
more, that we shall have to get there to understand, lie in that
metaphor, 'Blessed is that servant' who is served by the Master, and
nourished by His presence?

But modern popular presentations of the future life have far too
predominantly dwelt upon that side of it. It is a wonderful
confession of 'the weariness, the fever, and the fret,' the hunger
and loneliness of earthly experience, that the thought of heaven as
the opposite of all these things should have almost swallowed up the
other thought with which our Lord associates it here. He would not
have us think only of repose. He unites with that representation, so
fascinating to us weary and heavy-laden, the other of administrative
authority. He will set him 'over all that he hath.'

The steward gets promotion. 'On twelve thrones judging the twelve
tribes of Israel'--these are to be the seats, and that is to be the
occupation of the Twelve. 'Thou hast been faithful over a few
things; I will make thee ruler over many things.' The relation
between earthly faithfulness and heavenly service is the same in
essence as that between the various stages of our work here. The
reward for work here is more work; a wider field, greater
capacities. And what depths of authority, of new dignity, of royal
supremacy, lie in those solemn and mysterious words, I know not--'He
will set him over all that he hath.' My union with Christ is to be
so close as that all His is mine and I am master of it. But at all
events this we can say, that faithfulness here leads to larger
service yonder; and that none of the aptitudes and capacities which
have been developed in us here on earth will want a sphere when we
pass yonder.

So let watchfulness lead to faithfulness, and watchful faithfulness
and faithful watchfulness will lead to repose which is activity, and
rule which is rest.



FIRE ON EARTH


    'I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I,
    if it be already kindled!'--LUKE xii. 49.

We have here one of the rare glimpses which our Lord gives us into
His inmost heart, His thought of His mission, and His feelings about
it. If familiarity had not weakened the impression, and dulled the
edge, of these words, how startling they would seem to us! 'I am
come'--then, He was, before He came, and He came by His own
voluntary act. A Jewish peasant says that He is going to set the
world on fire-and He did it. But the triumphant certitude and
consciousness of a large world-wide mission is all shadowed in the
next clause. I need not trouble you with questions as to the precise
translation of the words that follow. There may be differences of
opinion about that, but I content myself with simply suggesting that
a fair representation of the meaning would be, 'How I wish that it
was already kindled!' There is a longing to fulfil the purpose of
His coming and a sense that something has to be done first, and what
that something if, our Lord goes on to say in the next verse. This
desirable end can only be reached through a preliminary painful
ordeal, 'but I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I
straitened till it be accomplished.' If I might use such an
incongruous figure, the fire that is to flash and flame through the
world emerges from the dark waters of that baptism. Our Lord goes on
still further to dwell upon the consequence of His mission and of
His sufferings. And that, too, shadows the first triumphant thought
of the fire that He was to send on earth. For, the baptism being
accomplished, and the fire therefore being set at liberty to flame
through the world, what follows? Glad reception? Yes, and angry
rejection.  Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell
you, nay! but rather division.' The fire, the baptism, and the
sword; these three may sum up our Lord's vision of the purpose,
means, and mingled result of His mission. But it is only with regard
to the first of these that I wish to speak now.

I. The fire which Christ longed to cast upon the earth.

Now, opinions differ as to what is meant by this fire Some would
have, it to mean the glow of love kindled in believing hearts, and
others explain it by other human emotions or by the transformation
effected in the world by Christ's coming. But while these things are
the results of the fire kindled on earth, that fire itself means not
these effects, but the cause of them. It is _brought_ before it
kindles a flame on earth.

He does not kindle it simply in humanity, but He launches it into
the midst of humanity. It is something from above that He flings
down upon the earth. So it is not merely a quickened intelligence, a
higher moral life, or any other of the spiritual and religious
transformations which are effected in the world by the mission of
Christ that is primarily to be kept in view here, but it is the
Heaven-sent cause of these transformations and that flame. If we
catch the celestial fire, we shall flash and blaze, but the fire
which we catch is not originated on earth. In a word it is God's
Divine Spirit which Christ came to communicate to the world.

I need not remind you, I suppose, how such an interpretation of the
words before us is in entire correspondence with the symbolism both
of the Old and New Testament. I do not dwell upon the former at all,
and with regard to the latter I need only remind you of the great
words by which the Forerunner of the Lord set forth His mighty work,
in contrast with the superficial cleansing which John himself had to
proclaim. 'I indeed baptize you with water, but He shall baptize you
with the Holy Ghost and with fire.'  I need only point to the
Pentecost, and the symbol there, of which the central point was the
cloven tongues, which symbolised not only the speech which follows
from all deep conviction, but the descent from above of the Spirit
of God, who is the Spirit of burning, on each bowed and willing
head. With these analogies to guide us, I think we shall not go far
wrong if we see in the words of my text our Lord's great symbolical
promise that the issue of His mission shall be to bring into the
heart of the world, so to speak, and to lodge in the midst of
humanity which is one great whole, a new divine influence that shall
flame and burn through the world.

So, then, my text opens out into thoughts of the many-sided
applications of this symbol. What hopes for the world and ourselves
are suggested by that fire? Let us stick to the symbol closely, and
we shall then best understand the many-sided blessings that flash
and coruscate in the gift of the Spirit.

It is the gift of life. No doubt, here and there in Scripture, fire
stands for a symbol of destroying power. But that is a less frequent
use than that in which it stands as a symbol of life. In a very real
sense life is warmth and death is cold. Is not respiration a kind of
combustion? Do not physiologists tell us that? Is not the centre of
the system and the father of all physical life that great blazing
sun which radiates heat? And is not this promise, 'I will send fire
on the earth,' the assurance that into the midst of our death there
shall come the quick energy of a living Spirit which shall give us
to possess some shadow of the immortal Being from which itself
flows?

But, beyond that, there is another great promise here, of a
quickening energy. I use the word 'quickening,' not in the sense of
life-giving, but in the sense of stimulating. We talk about 'the
flame of genius,' the 'fervour of conviction,' about 'fiery zeal,'
about 'burning earnestness,' and the like; and, conversely, we speak
of 'cold caution,' and 'chill indifference,' and so on. Fire means
love, zeal, swift energy. This, then, is another side of this great
promise, that into the torpor of our sluggish lives He is waiting to
infuse a swift Spirit that shall make us glow and flame with
earnestness, burn with love, aspire with desire, cleave to Him with
the fervour of conviction, and be, in some measure, like those
mighty spirits that stand before the Throne, the seraphim that burn
with adoration and glow with rapture. A fire that shall destroy all
our sluggishness, and change it into swift energy of glad obedience,
may be kindled in our spirits by the Holy Spirit whom Christ gives.

Still farther, the promise of my text sets forth, not only life-giving
and stimulating energy, but purifying power. Fire cleanses, as many
an ancient ritual recognised. For instance, the thought that underlay
even that savage 'passing the children through the fire to Moloch' was,
that thus passed, humanity was cleansed from its stains. And that is
true. Every man must be cleansed, if he is cleansed at all, by the
touch of fire. If you take a piece of foul clay, and push it into a
furnace, as it warms it whitens, and you can see the stains melting
off it as the fire exercises its beneficent and purifying mastery. So
the promise to us is of a great Spirit that will come, and by
communicating His warmth will dissipate our foulness, and the sins
that are enwrought into the substance of our natures will exhale from
the heated surface, and disappear. The ore is flung into the blast
furnace, and the scum rises to the surface, and may be ladled off,
and the pure stream, cleansed because it is heated, flows out
without scoriae or ash. All that was 'fuel for the fire' is burned;
and what remains is more truly itself and more precious. And so,
brother, you and I have, for our hope of cleansing, that we shall be
passed through the fire, and dwell in the everlasting burnings of a
Divine Spirit and a changeless love.

The last thought suggested by the metaphor is that it promises not
only life-giving, stimulating, purifying, but also transforming and
assimilating energy. For every lump of coal in your scuttles may be
a parable; black and heavy, it is cast into the fire, and there it
is turned into the likeness of the flame which it catches and itself
begins to glow, and redden, and crackle, and break into a blaze.
That is like what you and I may experience if we will. The incense
rises in smoke to the heavens when it is heated: and our souls
aspire and ascend, an odour of a sweet smell, acceptable to God,
when the fire of that Divine Spirit has loosed them from the bonds
that bind them to earth, and changed them into His own likeness, We
all are 'changed from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the
Lord.'

So I think if you take these plain teachings of this symbol you
learn something of the operations of that Divine Spirit to which our
Lord pointed in the great words of my text.

II. And now I have a second thought to suggest--viz., what Christ
had to do before His longing could be satisfied.

He longed, but the longing wish was not able to bring that on which
it was fixed. He had come to send this divine fire upon the earth;
but there was something that stood in the way; and something needed
to be done as a preliminary before the ultimate purpose of His
coming could be accomplished. What that was, as I have already tried
to point out, the subsequent verse tells us. I do not need, nor
would it be congruous with my present purpose, to comment upon it at
any length. We all know what He meant by the 'baptism,' that He had
to be baptized with, and what were the dark waters into which He had
to pass, and beneath which His sacred head had to be plunged. We all
know that by the 'baptism' He meant His passion and His Cross. I do
not dwell, either, upon the words of pathetic human shrinking with
which His vision of the Cross is here accompanied, but I simply wish
to signalise one thing, that in the estimation of Jesus Christ
Himself it was not in His power to kindle this holy fire in humanity
until He had died for men's sins. That must come first; the Cross
must precede Pentecost. There can be no Divine Spirit in His full
and loftiest powers poured out upon humanity until the Sacrifice has
been offered on the Cross for the sins of the world. We cannot read
all the deep reasons in the divine nature, and in human receptivity,
which make that sequence absolutely necessary, and that preliminary
indispensable. But this, at least, we know, that the Divine Spirit
whom Christ gives uses as His instrument and sword the completed
revelation which Christ completed in His Cross, Resurrection, and
Ascension, and that, until His weapon was fashioned, He could not
come.

That thought is distinctly laid down in many places in Scripture, to
which I need not refer in more than a word. For instance, the
Apostle John tells us that, when our Lord spoke in a cognate figure
about the rivers of water which should flow from them who believed
on Him, He spake of that Holy Spirit who 'was not given because that
Jesus was not yet glorified.' We remember the words in the upper
chamber, 'If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you,
but if I depart I will send Him unto you.' But enough for us that He
recognised the necessity, and that here His baptism of suffering
comes into view, not so much for what it was itself, the sacrifice
for the world's sin, as for that to which it was the necessary
preliminary and introduction, the bestowment on humanity of the gift
of the Divine Spirit. The old Greek legend of the Titan that stole
fire from heaven tells us that he brought it to earth in a reed. Our
Christ brings the heavenly fire in the fragile, hollow reed of His
humanity, and the reed has to be broken in order that the fire may
blaze out. 'How I wish that it were kindled! but I have a baptism to
be baptized with.'

III. Lastly, what the world has to do to receive the fire.

Take these triumphant words of our Lord about what He was to do
after His Cross, and contrast with them the world as it is to-day,
ay! and the Church as it is to-day. What has become of the fire? Has
it died down into grey ashes, choked with the cold results of its
own former flaming power? Was Jesus Christ deceiving Himself? was He
cherishing an illusion as to the significance and permanence of the
results of His work in the world? No! There is a difference between
B.C. and A.D. which can only be accounted for by the fulfilment of
the promise in my text, that He did bring fire and set the world
aflame. But the condition on which that fire will burn either
through communities, society, humanity, or in an individual life, is
trust in Him that gives it, and cleaving to Him, and the appropriate
discipline. 'This spake He of the Holy Spirit which they that
believe on Him should receive.'

And they that do _not_ believe upon Him--what of them? The fire
is of no advantage to them. Some of you do as people in Swiss
villages do where there is a conflagration--you cover over your
houses with incombustible felts or other materials, and deluge them
with water, in the hope that no spark may light on you. There is no
way by which the fire can do its work on us except our opening our
hearts for the Firebringer. When He comes He brings the vital spark
with Him, and He plants it on the hearth of our hearts. Trust in
Him, believe far more intensely than the most of Christian people of
this day do in the reality of the gift of supernatural divine life
from Jesus Christ. I do believe that hosts of professing Christians
have no firm grip of this truth, and, alas! very little verification
of it in their lives. Your heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to
them that ask Him. 'Covet earnestly the best gifts'; and take care
that you do not put the fire out--'quench not the Holy Spirit,' as
you will do if you 'fulfil the lusts of the flesh.' I remember once
being down in the engine-room of an ocean-going steamer. There were
the furnaces, large enough to drive an engine of five or six
thousand horsepower. A few yards off there were the refrigerators,
with ice hanging round the spigots that were put in to test the
temperature. Ah! that is like many a Christian community, and many
an individual Christian. Here is the fire; there is the frost.
Brethren, let us seek to be baptized with fire, lest we should be
cast into it, and be consumed by it.


END OP VOL. I.



VOLUME II: ST. LUKE _Chaps. XIII to XXIV_



CONTENTS


TRUE SABBATH OBSERVANCE (Luke xiii. 10-17)

THE STRAIT GATE (Luke xiii. 22-30).

CHRIST'S MESSAGE TO HEROD (Luke xiii. 32, 33)

THE LESSONS OF A FEAST (Luke xiv. 1-14)

EXCUSES NOT REASONS (Luke xiv. 18)

THE RASH BUILDER (Luke xiv. 28)

THAT WHICH WAS LOST (Luke xv. 4, 8, 11)

THE PRODIGAL AND HIS FATHER (Luke xv. 11-24)

GIFTS TO THE PRODIGAL (Luke xv. 22, 23)

THE FOLLIES OF THE WISE (Luke xvi. 8)

TWO KINDS OF RICHES (Luke xvi. 10-12)

THE GAINS OF THE FAITHFUL STEWARD (Luke xvi. 12)

DIVES AND LAZARUS (Luke xvi. 19-31)

MEMORY IN ANOTHER WORLD (Luke xvi 25)

GOD'S SLAVES (Luke xvii. 9-10)

WHERE ABE THE NINE? (Luke xvii. 11-19)

THREE KINDS OF PRAYING (Luke xviii. 1-14)

ENTERING THE KINGDOM (Luke xviii. 15-30)

THE MAN THAT STOPPED JESUS (Luke xviii. 40-41)

MELTED BY KINDNESS (Luke xix. 5)

THE TRADING SERVANTS (Luke xix. 16, 18)

THE REWARDS OF THE TRADING SERVANTS (Luke xix. 17,19)

A NEW KIND OP KING (Luke xix. 37-48)

TENANTS WHO WANTED TO BE OWNERS (Luke xx. 9-19)

WHOSE IMAGE AND SUPERSCRIPTION? (Luke xx. 24)

WHEN SHALL THESE THINGS BE? (Luke xxi. 20-36)

THE LORD'S SUPPER (Luke xxii. 7-20)

PARTING PROMISES AND WARNINGS (Luke xxii. 24-37)

CHRIST'S IDEAL OF A MONARCH (Luke xxii. 25, 26)

THE LONELY CHRIST (Luke xxii. 28)

A GREAT FALL AND A GREAT RECOVERY (Luke xxii. 32)

GETHSEMANY (Luke xxii. 39-58)

THE CROSS THE VICTORY AND DEFEAT OF DARKNESS (Luke xxii. 53)

IN THE HIGH PRIEST'S PALACE (Luke xxii. 54-71)

CHRIST'S LOOK (Luke xxii. 61)

'THE RULERS TAKE COUNSEL TOGETHER' (Luke xxiii. 1-12)

A SOUL'S TRAGEDY (Luke xxiii. 9)

JESUS AND PILATE (Luke xxiii. 13-26)

WORDS FROM THE CROSS (Luke xxiii. 33-46)

THE DYING THIEF (Luke xxiii. 42)

THE FIRST EASTER SUNRISE (Luke xxiv. 1-12)

THE LIVING DEAD (Luke xxiv. 5-6)

THE RISEN LORD'S SELF-REVELATION TO WAVERING DISCIPLES (Luke xxiv.
13-32)

DETAINING CHRIST (Luke xxiv. 28, 29)

THE MEAL AT EMMAUS (Luke xxiv, 30, 31)

PETER ALONE WITH JESUS (Luke xxiv. 34)

THE TRIUMPHANT END (Luke xxiv. 36-53)

CHRIST'S WITNESSES (Luke xxiv. 48,49)

THE ASCENSION (Luke xxiv. 50, 51; Acts i. 9)



TRUE SABBATH OBSERVANCE


    'And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the
    Sabbath. 11. And, behold, there was a woman which had
    a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed
    together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
    12. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and
    said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine
    infirmity. 13. And He laid His hands on her: and
    immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
    14. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with
    indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the
    Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six
    days in which men ought to work: in them therefore
    come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.
    15. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou
    hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath
    loose his ox or his ass from the stall and lead him
    away to watering! 16. And ought not this woman, being
    a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo,
    these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the
    Sabbath day? 17. And when He had said these things, all
    His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people
    rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by
    Him.'--LUKE xiii. 10-17.

This miracle was wrought, unasked, on a woman, in a synagogue, and
by all these characteristics was specially interesting to Luke. He
alone records it. The narrative falls into two parts--the miracle,
and the covert attack of the ruler of the synagogue, with our Lord's
defence.

What better place than the synagogue could there be for a miracle of
mercy? The service of man is best built on the service of God, and
the service of God is as truly accomplished in deeds of human
kindness done for His sake as in oral worship. The religious basis
of beneficence and the beneficent manifestation of religion are
commonplaces of Christian practice and thought from the beginning,
and are both set forth in our Lord's life. He did not substitute
doing good to men for worshipping God, as a once much-belauded
but now all-but-forgotten anti-Christian writer has done; but He
showed us both in their true relations. We have Christ's authority
for regarding the woman's infirmity as the result of demoniacal
possession, but the case presents some singular features. There
seems to have been no other consequence than her incapacity to stand
straight. Apparently the evil power had not touched her moral
nature, for she had somehow managed to drag herself to the synagogue
to pray; she 'glorified God' for her cure, and Christ called her 'a
daughter of Abraham,' which surely means more than simply that she
was a Jewess. It would seem to have been a case of physical
infirmity only, and perhaps rather of evil inflicted eighteen years
before than of continuous demoniacal possession.

But be that as it may, there is surely no getting over our Lord's
express testimony here, that purely physical ills, not distinguishable
from natural infirmity, were then, in some instances, the work of a
malignant, personal power. Jesus knew the duration of the woman's
'bond' and the cause of it, by the same supernatural knowledge. That
sad, bowed figure, with eyes fixed on the ground, and unable to look
into His face, which yet had crawled to the synagogue, may teach us
lessons of patience and of devout submission. She might have found
good excuses for staying at home, but she, no doubt, found solace in
worship; and she would not have so swiftly 'glorified God' for her
cure, if she had not often sought Him in her infirmity. They who wait
on Him often find more than they expect in His house.

Note the flow of Christ's unasked sympathy and help. We have already
seen several instances of the same thing in this Gospel. The sight
of misery ever set the chords of that gentle, unselfish heart
vibrating, as surely as the wind draws music from the Aeolian harp
strings. So it should be with us, and so would it be, if we had in
us 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ' making us 'free from
the law of' self. But His spontaneous sympathy is not merely the
perfection of manhood; it is the revelation of God. Unasked, the
divine love pours itself on men, and gives all that it can give to
those who do not seek, that they may be drawn to seek the better
gifts which cannot be given unasked. God 'tarrieth not for man, nor
waiteth for the sons of men,' in giving His greatest gift. No
prayers besought Heaven for a Saviour. God's love is its own motive,
and wells up by its inherent diffusiveness. Before we call, He
answers.

Note the manner of the cure. It is twofold--a word and a touch. The
former is remarkable, as not being, like most of the cures of
demoniacs, a command to the evil spirit to go forth, but an
assurance to the sufferer, fitted to inspire her with hope, and to
encourage her to throw off the alien tyranny. The touch was the
symbol to her of communicated power--not that Jesus needed a vehicle
for His delivering strength, but that the poor victim, crushed in
spirit, needed the outward sign to help her in realising the new
energy that ran in her veins, and strengthened her muscles.
Unquestionably the cure was miraculous, and its cause was Christ's
will.

But apparently the manner of cure gave more place to the faith of
the sufferer, and to the effort which her faith in Christ's word and
touch heartened her to put forth, than we find in other miracles.
She 'could in no wise lift herself up,' not because of any
malformation or deficiency in physical power, but because that
malign influence laid a heavy hand on her will and body, and crushed
her down. Only supernatural power could deliver from supernatural
evil, but that power wrought through as well us OB her; and when she
believed that she was loosed from her infirmity, and had received
strength from Jesus, she was loosed.

This makes the miracle no less, but it makes it a mirror in which
the manner of our deliverance from a worse dominion of Satan is
shadowed. Christ is come to loose us all from the yoke of bondage,
which bows our faces to the ground, and makes us unfit to look up.
He only can loose us, and His way of doing it is to assure us that
we are free, and to give us power to fling off the oppression in the
strength of faith in Him.

Note the immediate cure and its immediate result. The 'back bowed
down always' for eighteen weary years is not too stiff to be made
straight at once. The Christ-given power obliterates all traces of
the past evil. Where He is the physician, there is no period of
gradual convalescence, but 'the thing is done suddenly'; and, though
in the spiritual realm, there still hang about pardoned men remains
of forgiven sin, they are 'sanctified' in their inward selves, and
have but to see to it that they work out in character and conduct
that 'righteousness and holiness of truth' which they have received
in the new nature given them through faith.

How rapturous was the gratitude from the woman's lips, which broke
in upon the formal, proper, and heartless worship of the synagogue!
The immediate hallowing of her joy into praise surely augurs a
previously devout heart. Thanksgiving generally comes thus swiftly
after mercies, when prayer has habitually preceded them. The
sweetest sweetness of all our blessings is only enjoyed when we
glorify God for them. Incense must be kindled, to be fragrant, and
our joys must be fired by devotion, to give their rarest perfume.

The cavils of the ruler and Christ's defence are the second part of
this incident. Note the blindness and cold-heartedness born of
religious formalism. This synagogue official has no eye for the
beauty of Christ's pity, no heart to rejoice in the woman's
deliverance, no ear for the music of her praise. All that he sees is
a violation of ecclesiastical order. That is the sin of sins in his
eyes. He admits the reality of Christ's healing power, but that does
not lead him to recognition of His mission. What a strange state of
mind it was that acknowledged the miracle, and then took offence at
its being done on the Sabbath!

Note, too, his disingenuous cowardice in attacking the people when
he meant Christ. He blunders, too, in his scolding; for nobody had
come to be healed. They had come to worship; and even if they had
come for healing, the coming was no breach of Sabbath regulations,
whatever the healing might be. There are plenty of people like this
stickler for propriety and form, and if you want to find men blind
as bats to the manifest tokens of a divine hand, and hard as
millstones towards misery, and utterly incapable of glowing with
enthusiasm or of recognising it, you will find them among
ecclesiastical martinets, who are all for having 'things done
decently and in order,' and would rather that a hundred poor
sufferers should continue bowed down than that one of their
regulations should be broken in lifting them up. The more men are
filled with the spirit of worship, the less importance will they
attach to the pedantic adherence to its forms, which is the most
part of some people's religion.

Mark the severity, which is loving severity, of Christ's answer. He
speaks to all who shared the ruler's thoughts, of whom there were
several present (v. 17, 'adversaries'). Piercing words which
disclose hidden and probably unconscious sins, are quite in place on
the lips into which grace was poured. Well for those who let Him
tell them their faults now, and do not wait for the light of
judgment to show themselves to themselves for the first time.

Wherein lay these men's hypocrisy? They were pretending zeal for the
Sabbath, while they were really moved by anger at the miracle, which
would have been equally unwelcome on any day of the week. They were
pretending that their zeal for the Sabbath was the result of their
zeal for God, while it was only zeal for their Rabbinical niceties,
and had no religious element in it at all. They wished to make the
Sabbath law tight enough to restrain Jesus from miracles, while they
made it loose enough to allow them to look after their own
interests.

Men may be unconscious hypocrites, and these are the most hopeless.
We are all in danger of fancying that we are displaying our zeal for
the Lord, when we are only contending for our own additions to, or
interpretations of, His will. There is no religion necessarily
implied in enforcing forms of belief or conduct.

Our Lord's defence is, first of all, a conclusive _argumentum ad
hominem_, which shuts the mouths of the objectors; but it is much
more. The Talmud has minute rules for leading out animals on the
Sabbath: An ass may go out with his pack saddle if it was tied on
before the Sabbath, but not with a bell or a yoke; a camel may go
out with a halter, but not with a rag tied to his tail; a string of
camels may be led if the driver takes all the halters in his hand,
and does not twist them, but they must not be tied to one another--and
so on for pages. If, then, these sticklers for rigid observance of the
Sabbath admitted that a beast's thirst was reason enough for work to
relieve it, it did not lie in their mouths to find fault with the
relief of a far greater human need.

But the words hold a wider truth, applicable to our conduct. The
relief of human sorrow is always in season. It is a sacred duty
which hallows any hour. 'Is not this the fast [and the feast too]
that I have chosen ... to let the oppressed go free, and that ye
break every yoke?' The spirit of the words is to put the exercise of
beneficence high above the formalities of worship.

Note, too, the implied assertion of the dignity of humanity, the
pitying tone of the 'lo, these eighteen years,' the sympathy of the
Lord with the poor woman, and the implication of the terrible
tragedy of Satan's bondage. If we have His Spirit in us, and look at
the solemn facts of life as He did, all these pathetic
considerations will be present to our minds as we behold the misery
of men, and, moved by the thoughts of their lofty place in God's
scheme of things, of their long and dreary bondage, of the evil
power that holds them fast, and of what they may become, even sons
and daughters of the Highest, we shall be fired with the same
longing to help which filled Christ's heart, and shall count that
hour consecrated, and not profaned, in which we are able to bring
liberty to the captives, and an upward gaze of hope to them that
have been bowed down.



THE STRAIT GATE


    'And He went through the cities and villages, teaching,
    and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23. Then said one unto
    Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said
    unto them, 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate:
    for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and
    shall not he able. 25. When once the Master of the
    house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye
    begin to stand without, and to knock at the door,
    saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer
    and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
    26. Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk
    in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.
    27. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence
    ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.
    28. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when
    ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the
    prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves
    thrust out. 29. And they shall come from the east, and
    from the west, and from the north, and from the south,
    and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30. And,
    behold, there are last which shall be first and there
    are first which shall be last.'--LUKE xiii. 22-30

'Are there few that be saved?' The questioner's temper and motives
may be inferred from the tone of Christ's answer, which turns
attention from a mere piece of speculative curiosity to the grave
personal aspect of the condition of 'salvation,' and the possibility
of missing it. Whether few or many went in, there would be many left
out, and among these some of the listeners. Jesus speaks to 'them,'
the multitude, not to the questioner. The men who approach solemn
subjects lightly, and use them as material for raising profitless
questions for the sake of getting religious teachers in a corner,
exist still, and are best answered after Christ's manner.

Of course, the speaker meant by being 'saved' participation in
Messiah's kingdom, regarded in the carnal Jewish fashion; and our
Lord's reply is primarily directed to setting forth the condition of
entrance into that kingdom, as the Jew expected it to be manifested
on earth. But behind that immediate reference lies a solemn
unveiling of the conditions of salvation in its deepest meaning, and
of the danger of exclusion from it.

I. We note, first, the all-important exhortation with which Christ
seeks to sober a frivolous curiosity. In its primary application, the
'strait gate' may be taken to be the lowliness of the Messiah, and the
consequent sharp contrast of His kingdom with Jewish high-flown and
fleshly hopes. The passage to the promised royalty was not through a
great portal worthy of a palace, but by a narrow, low-browed wicket,
through which it took a man trouble to squeeze. For us, the narrow
gate is the self-abandonment and self-accusation which are
indispensable for entrance into salvation.

'The door of faith' is a narrow one; for it lets no self-righteousness,
no worldly glories, no dignities, through. Like the Emperor at Canossa,
we are kept outside till we strip ourselves of crowns and royal robes,
and stand clothed only in the hair-shirt of penitence. Like Milton's
rebel angels entering their council chamber, we must make ourselves
small to get in. We must creep on our knees, so low is the vault; we
must leave everything outside, so narrow is it. We must go in one by
one, as in the turnstiles at a place of entertainment. The door opens
into a palace, but it is too strait for any one who trusts to himself.

There must be effort in order to enter by it. For everything in our
old self-confident, self-centred nature is up in arms against the
conditions of entrance. We are not saved by effort, but we shall not
believe without effort. The main struggle of our whole lives should
be to cultivate self-humbling trust in Jesus Christ, and to 'fight
the good fight of faith.'

II. We note the reason for the exhortation. It is briefly given in
verse 24 (last clause), and both parts of the reason there are
expanded in the following verses. Effort is needed for entrance,
because many are shut out. The questioner would be no better for
knowing whether few would enter, but he and all need to burn in on
their minds that many will _not_.

Very solemnly significant is the difference between _striving_
and _seeking_. It is like the difference between wishing and
willing. There may be a seeking which has no real earnestness in it,
and is not sufficiently determined, to do what is needful in order
to find. Plenty of people would like to possess earthly good, but
cannot brace themselves to needful work and sacrifice. Plenty would
like to 'go to heaven,' as they understand the phrase, but cannot
screw themselves to the surrender of self and the world. Vagrant,
halfhearted seeking, such as one sees many examples of, will never
win anything, either in this world or in the other. We must strive,
and not only seek.

That is true, even if we do not look beyond time; but Jesus carries
our awed vision onwards to the end of the days, in the expansion of
his warning, which follows in verses 25-27. No doubt, the words had
a meaning for His hearers in reference to the Messianic kingdom, and
a fulfilment in the rejection of the nation. But we have to discern
in them a further and future significance.

Observe that the scene suggested differs from the similar parable of
the virgins waiting for their Lord, in that it does not describe a
wedding feast. Here it is a householder already in his house, and,
at the close of the day, locking up for the night. Some of his
servants have not returned in time, have not come in through the
narrow gate, which is now not only narrow, but closed by the
master's own hand. The translation of that is that, by a decisive
act of Christ's in the future, the time for entrance will he ended.
As in reference to each stage of life, specific opportunities are
given in it for securing specific results, and these can never be
recovered if the stage is past; so mortal life, as a whole, is the
time for entrance, and if it is not used for that purpose, entrance
is impossible. If the youth will not learn, the man will be
ignorant. If the sluggard will not plough because the weather is
cold, he will 'beg in harvest.' If we do not strive to enter at the
gate, it is vain to seek entrance when the Master's own hand has
barred it.

The language of our Lord here seems to shut us up to the conclusion
that life is the time in which we can gain our entrance. It is no
kindness to suggest that perhaps He does not shut the door quite
fast. We know, at all events, that it is wide open now.

The words put into the mouths of the excluded sufficiently define
their characters, and the reasons why they sought in vain. Why did
they want to be in? Because they wished to get out of the cold
darkness into the warm light of the bountiful house. But they
neither knew the conditions of entrance nor had they any desire
after the true blessings within. Their deficiencies are plainly
marked in their pleas for admission. At first, they simply ask for
entrance, as if thinking that to wish was to have. Then, when the
Householder says that He knows nothing about them, and cannot let
strangers in, they plead as their qualification that they had eaten
and drunk in His presence, and that He had taught in their streets.
In these words, the relations of Christ's contemporaries are
described, and their immediate application to them is plain.

Outward connection with Jesus gave no claim to share in His kingdom.
We have to learn the lesson which we who live amidst a widely
diffused, professing Christianity sadly need. No outward connection
with Christ, in Christian ordinances or profession, will avail to
establish a claim to have the door opened for us. A man may be a
most respectable and respected church-member, and have listened to
Christian teaching all his days, and have in life a vague wish to be
'saved,' and yet be hopelessly unfit to enter, and therefore
irremediably shut out.

The Householder's answer, in its severity and calmness, indicates
the inflexible impossibility of opening to such seekers. It puts
stress on two things--the absence of any vital relationship between
Him and them, and their moral character. He knows nothing about
them, and not to be known by the Master of the house is necessarily
to be shut out from His household. They are known of the Shepherd
who know Him and hear His voice. They who are not must stay in the
desert. Such mutual knowledge is the basis of all righteousness, and
righteousness is the essential condition of entrance.

These seekers are represented as still working iniquity. They had
not changed their moral nature. They wished to enter heaven, but
they still loved evil. How could they come in, even if the door had
been open? Let us learn that, while faith is the door, without
holiness no man shall see the Lord. The worker of iniquity has only
an outward relation to Jesus. Inwardly he is separated from Him,
and, at last, the outward relation will be adjusted to the inward,
and departure from Him will be inevitable, and that is ruin.

III. Boldly and searchingly personal as the preceding words had
been, the final turn of Christ's answer must have had a still
sharper and more distasteful edge. He had struck a blow at Jewish
trust in outward connection with Messiah as ensuring participation
in His kingdom. He now says that the Gentiles shall fill the vacant
places. Many Jews will be unable to enter, for all their seeking,
but still there will be many saved; for troops of hated Gentiles
shall come from every corner of the earth, and the sight of them
sitting beside the fathers of the nation, while Israel after the
flesh is shut out, will move the excluded to weeping--the token of
sorrow, which yet has in it no softening nor entrance-securing
effect, because it passes into 'gnashing of teeth,' the sign of
anger. Such sorrow worketh death.

Such fierce hatred, joined with stiff-necked obstinacy, has
characterised the Jew ever since Jerusalem fell. 'If God spared not
the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.' Israel
was first, and has become last. The same causes which sent it from
the van to the rear have worked like effects in 'Christendom,' as
witness Asia Minor and the mosques into which Christian churches
have been turned.

These causes will produce like effects wherever they become
dominant. Any church and any individual Christian who trusts in
outward connection with Christ, and works iniquity, will sooner or
later fall into the rear, and if repentance and faith do not lead it
or him through the strait gate, will be among those 'last' who are
so far behind that they are shut out altogether. Let us 'be not
high-minded, but fear.'



CHRIST'S MESSAGE TO HEROD


    'And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox,
    Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and
    to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
    33. Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow,
    and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet
    perish out of Jerusalem.'--LUKE xiii. 32, 33.

Even a lamb might be suspicious if wolves were to show themselves
tenderly careful of its safety. Pharisees taking Christ's life under
their protection were enough to suggest a trick. These men came to
Christ desirous of posing as counterworking Herod's intention to
slay Him. Our Lord's answer, bidding them go and tell Herod what He
immediately communicates to them, shows that He regarded them as in
a plot with that crafty, capricious kinglet. And evidently there was
an understanding between them. For some reason or other, best known
to his own changeable and whimsical nature, the man who at one
moment was eagerly desirous to see Jesus, was at the next as eagerly
desirous to get Him out of his territories; just as he admired and
murdered John the Baptist. The Pharisees, on the other hand, desired
to draw Him to Jerusalem, where they would have Him in their power
more completely than in the northern district. If they had spoken
all their minds they would have said, 'Go hence, or else we cannot
kill Thee.' So Christ answers the hidden schemes, and not the
apparent solicitude, in the words that I have taken for my text.
They unmask the plot, they calmly put aside the threats of danger.
They declare that His course was influenced by far other
considerations. They show that He clearly saw what it was towards
which He was journeying. And then, with sad irony, they declare that
it, as it were, contrary to prophetic decorum and established usage
that a prophet should be slain anywhere but in the streets of the
bloody and sacred city.

There are many deep things in the words, which I cannot touch in the
course of a single sermon; but I wish now, at all events, to skim
their surface, and try to gather some of their obvious lessons.

I. First, then, note Christ's clear vision of His death.

There is some difficulty about the chronology of this period with
which I need not trouble you. It is enough to note that the incident
with which we are concerned occurred during that last journey of our
Lord's towards Jerusalem and Calvary, which occupies so much of this
Gospel of Luke. At what point in that fateful journey it occurred
may be left undetermined. Nor need I enter upon the question as to
whether the specification of time in our text, 'to-day, and to-morrow,
and the third day,' is intended to be taken literally, as some
commentators suppose, in which case it would be brought extremely
near the goal of the journey; or whether, as seems more probable from
the context, it is to be taken as a kind of proverbial expression for
a definite but short period. That the latter is the proper
interpretation seems to be largely confirmed by the fact that there
is a slight variation in the application of the designation of time
in the two verses of our text, 'the third day' in the former verse
being regarded as the period of the perfecting, whilst in the latter
verse it is regarded as part of the period of the progress towards
the perfecting. Such variation in the application is more congruous
with the idea that we have here to deal with a kind of proverbial
expression for a limited and short period. Our Lord is saying in
effect, 'My time is not to be settled by Herod. It is definite, and
it is short. It is needless for him to trouble himself; for in three
days it will be all over. It is useless for him to trouble himself,
or for you Pharisees to plot, for until the appointed days are past
it will not be over, whatever you and he may do.' The course He had
yet to run was plain before Him in this last journey, every step of
which was taken with the Cross full in view.

Now the worst part of death is the anticipation of death; and it
became Him who bore death for every man to drink to its dregs that
cup of trembling which the fear of it puts to all human lips. We
rightly regard it as a cruel aggravation of a criminal's doom if he
is carried along a level, straight road with his gibbet in view at
the end of the march. But so it was that Jesus Christ travelled
through life.

My text comes at a comparatively late period of His history. A few
months or weeks at the most intervened between Him and the end. But
the consciousness which is here so calmly expressed was not of
recent origin. We know that from the period of His transfiguration
He began to give His death a very prominent place in His teaching,
but it had been present with Him long before He thus laid emphasis
upon it in His communications with His disciples. For, if we accept
John's Gospel as historical, we shall have to throw back His first
public references to the end to the very beginning of His career.
The cleansing of the Temple, at the very outset of His course, was
vindicated by Him by the profound words, 'Destroy this Temple, and
in three days I will raise it up.' During the same early visit to
the capital city He said to Nicodemus, 'As Moses lifted up the
serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted
up.' So Christ's career was not like that of many a man who has
begun, full of sanguine hope as a possible reformer and benefactor
of his fellows, and by slow degrees has awakened to the
consciousness that reformers and benefactors need to be martyrs ere
their ideals can be realised. There was no disillusioning in
Christ's experience. From the commencement He knew that He came, not
only to minister, but also 'to give His life a ransom for the many.'
And it was _not_ a mother's eye, as a reverent modern painter
has profoundly, and yet erroneously, shown us in his great work in
our own city gallery--it was not a mother's eye that first saw the
shadow of the Cross fall on her unconscious Son, but it was Himself
that all through His earthly pilgrimage knew Himself to be the Lamb
appointed for the sacrifice. This Isaac toiled up the hill, bearing
the wood and the knife, and knew where and who was the Offering.

Brethren, I do not think that we sufficiently realise the importance
of that element in our conceptions of the life of Jesus Christ. What
a pathos it gives to it all! What a beauty it gives to His
gentleness, to His ready interest in others, to His sympathy for all
sorrow, and tenderness with all sin! How wonderfully it deepens the
significance, the loveliness, and the pathos of the fact that 'the
Son of Man came eating and drinking,' remembering everybody but
Himself, and ready to enter into all the cares and the sorrows of
other hearts, if we think that all the while there stood, grim and
certain, before Him that Calvary with its Cross! Thus, through all
His path, He knew to what He was journeying.

II. Then again, secondly, let me ask you to note here our Lord's own
estimate of the place which His death holds in relation to His whole
work.

Notice that remarkable variation in the expression in our text. 'The
third day I shall be _perfected_.... It cannot be that a
prophet _perish_ out of Jerusalem.' Then, somehow or other, the
'perishing' is 'perfecting.' There may be a doubt as to the precise
rendering of the word translated by 'perfecting'; but it seems to me
that the only meaning congruous with the context is that which is
suggested by the translation of our Authorised Version, and that our
Lord does not mean to say 'on the third day I shall complete My work
of casting out devils and curing diseases,' but that He masses the
whole of His work into two great portions--the one of which
includes all His works and ministrations of miracles and of mercy;
and the other of which contains one unique and transcendent fact,
which outweighs and towers above all these others, and is the
perfecting of His work, and the culmination of His obedience,
service, and sacrifice.

Now, of course, I need not remind you that the 'perfecting' thus
spoken of is not a perfecting of moral character or of individual
nature, but that it is the same perfecting which the Epistle to the
Hebrews speaks about when it says, 'Being made perfect, He became
the Author of eternal salvation to all them which obey Him.' That is
to say, it is His perfecting in regard to office, function, work for
the world, and not the completion or elevation of His individual
character. And this 'perfecting' is effected in His 'perishing.'

Now I want to know in what conceivable sense the death of Jesus Christ
can be the culmination and crown of His work, without which it would
be a torso, an incomplete fragment, a partial fulfilment of the
Father's design, and of His own mission, unless it be that that death
was, as I take it the New Testament with one voice in all its parts
declares it to be, a sacrifice for the sins of the world. I know of
no construing of the fact of the death on the Cross which can do
justice to the plain words of my text, except the old-fashioned
belief that therein He made atonement for sin, and thereby, as the
Lamb of God, bore away the sins of the world.

Other great lives may be crowned by fair deaths, which henceforward
become seals of faithful witness, and appeals to the sentiments of
the heart, but there is no sense that I know of in which from
Christ's death there can flow a mightier energy than from such a
life, unless in the sense that the death is a sacrifice.

Now I know there has been harm done by the very desire to exalt
Christ's great sacrifice on the Cross; when it has been so separated
from His life as that the life has not been regarded as a sacrifice,
nor the death as obedience. Rather the sacrificial element runs
through His whole career, and began when He became flesh and
tabernacled amongst us; but yet as being the apex of it all, without
which it were all-imperfect, and in a special sense redeeming men
from the power of death, that Cross is set forth by His own word.
For Him to 'perish' was to 'be perfected.' As the ancient prophet
long before had said, 'When His soul shall make an offering for
sin,' then, paradoxical as it may seem, the dead Man shall 'see,'
and 'shall see His seed.' Or, as He Himself said, 'If a corn of
wheat fall into the ground it abideth alone, but if it die it
bringeth forth much fruit.'

I do not want to insist upon any theories of Atonement. I do want to
insist that Christ's own estimate of the significance and purpose
and issue of His death shall not be slurred over, but that,
recognising that He Himself regarded it as the perfecting of His
work, we ask ourselves very earnestly how such a conception can be
explained if we strike out of our Christianity the thought of the
sacrifice for the sins of the world. Unless we take Paul's gospel,
'How that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures,' I for
one do not believe that we shall ever get Paul's results, 'Old
things are passed away; all things are become new.' If you strike
the Cross off the dome of the temple, the fires on its altars will
soon go out. A Christianity which has to say much about the life of
Jesus, and knows not what to say about the death of Christ, will be
a Christianity that will neither have much constraining power in our
lives, nor be able to breathe a benediction of peace over our
deaths. If we desire to be perfected in character, we must have
faith in that sacrificial death which was the perfecting of Christ's
work.

III. And so, lastly, notice our Lord's resolved surrender to the
discerned Cross.

There is much in this aspect in the words of my text which I cannot
touch upon now; but two or three points I may briefly notice.

Note then, I was going to say, the superb heroism of His calm
indifference to threats and dangers. He will go hence, and relieve
the tyrant's dominions of His presence; but He is careful to make it
plain that His going has no connection with the futile threatenings
by which they have sought to terrify Him. 'Nevertheless'--although I
do not care at all for them or for him--'nevertheless I must journey
to-day and tomorrow! But that is not because I fear death, but
because I am going to My death; for the prophet must die in
Jerusalem.' We are so accustomed to think of the 'gentle Jesus, meek
and mild' that we forget the 'strong Son of God.' If we were talking
about a man merely, we should point to this calm, dignified answer
as being an instance of heroism, but we do not feel that that word
fits Him. There are too many vulgar associations connected with it,
to be adapted to the gentleness of His fixed purpose that blenched
not, nor faltered, whatsoever came in the way.

Light is far more powerful than lightning. Meekness may be, and in
Him was, wedded to a will like a bar of iron, and a heart that knew
not how to fear. If ever there was an iron hand in a velvet glove it
was the hand of Christ. And although the perspective of virtues
which Christianity has introduced, and which Christ exhibited in His
life, gives prominence to the meek and the gentle, let us not forget
that it also enjoins the cultivation of the 'wrestling thews that
throw the world.' 'Quit you like men; be strong; let all your deeds
be done in charity.'

Then note, too, the solemn law that ruled His life. 'I _must_
walk.' That is a very familiar expression upon His lips. From that
early day when He said, 'Wist ye not that I _must_ be about My
Father's business,' to that last when He said, 'The Son of Man
_must_ be lifted up,' there crops out, ever and anon, in the
occasional glimpses that He allows us to have of His inmost spirit,
this reference of all His actions to a necessity that was laid upon
Him, and to which He ever consciously conformed. That necessity
determined what He calls so frequently 'My time; My hour'; and
influenced the trifles, as they are called, as well as the great
crises, of His career. It was the Father's will which made the Son's
_must_. Hence His unbroken communion and untroubled calm.

If we want to live near God, and if we want to have lives of peace
amidst convulsions, we, too, must yield ourselves to that all
encompassing sovereign necessity, which, like the great laws of the
universe, shapes the planets and the suns in their courses and their
stations; and holds together two grains of dust, or two motes that
dance in the sunshine. To gravitation there is nothing great and
nothing small. God's _must_ covers all the ground of our lives,
and should ever be responded to by our 'I will.'

And that brings me to the last point, and that is, our Lord's glad
acceptance of the necessity and surrender of the Cross. What was it
that made Him willing to take that 'must' as the law of His life?
First, a Son's obedience; second, a Brother's love. There was no
point in Christ's career, from the moment when in the desert He put
away the temptation to win the kingdoms of the world by other than
the God-appointed means, down to the last moment when on His dying
ears there fell another form of the same temptation in the taunt,
'Let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him'; when
He could not, if He had chosen to abandon His mission, have saved
Himself. No compulsion, no outward hand impelling Him, drove Him
along that course which ended on Calvary; but only that He would
save others, and therefore 'Himself He cannot save.'

True, there were natural human shrinkings, just as the weight and
impetus of some tremendous billow buffeting the bows of the ship
makes it quiver; but this never affected the firm hand on the
rudder, and never deflected the vessel from its course. Christ's
'soul was troubled,' but His will was fixed, and it was fixed by His
love to us. Like one of the men who in after ages died for His dear
sake, He may be conceived as refusing to be bound to the stake by
any bands, willing to stand there and be destroyed because He wills.
Nothing fastened Him to the Cross but His resolve to save the world,
in which world was included each of us sitting listening and
standing speaking, now. Oh, brethren! shall not we, moved by such
love, with like cheerfulness of surrender, give ourselves to Him who
gave Himself for us?



THE LESSONS OF A FEAST


    'And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one
    of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day,
    that they watched Him. 2. And, behold, there was a
    certain man before Him which had the dropsy. 3. And
    Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees,
    saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? 4. And
    they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him,
    and let him go; 5. And answered them, saying, Which of
    you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and
    will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?
    6. And they could not answer Him again to these things.
    7. And He put forth a parable to those which were
    bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief
    rooms; saying unto them, 8. When thou art bidden of any
    man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room,
    lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
    9. And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee,
    Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take
    the lowest room. 10. But when thou art bidden, go and
    sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade
    thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up
    higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence
    of them that sit at meat with thee. 11. For whosoever
    exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth
    himself shall be exalted. 12. Then said He also to him
    that bade Him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper,
    call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy
    kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid
    thee again, and a recompense be made thee. 13. But when
    thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the
    lame, the blind: 14. And thou shalt be blessed; for
    they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be
    recompensed at the resurrection of the just.'
    --LUKE xiv. 1-14.

Jesus never refused an invitation, whether the inviter were a
Pharisee or a publican, a friend or a foe. He never mistook the
disposition of His host. He accepted 'greetings where no kindness
is,' and on this occasion there was none. The entertainer was a spy,
and the feast was a trap. What a contrast between the malicious
watchers at the table, ready to note and to interpret in the worst
sense every action of His, and Him loving and wishing to bless even
them! The chill atmosphere of suspicion did not freeze the flow of
His gentle beneficence and wise teaching. His meek goodness remained
itself in the face of hostile observers. The miracle and the two
parables are aimed straight at their errors.

I. How came the dropsical man there? Possibly he had simply strayed
in to look on at the feast, as the freedom of manners then would
permit him to do. The absence of any hint that he came hoping for a
cure, and of any trace of faith on his part, or of speech to him on
Christ's, joined with his immediate dismissal after his cure, rather
favours the supposition that he had been put as the bait of the
trap, on the calculation that the sight of him would move Jesus to
heal him. The setters of the snare were 'watching' whether it would
work, and Jesus 'answered' their thoughts, which were, doubtless,
visible in their eyes. His answer has three stages--a question which
is an assertion, the cure, and another affirming question. All three
are met with sulky silence, which speaks more than words would have
done. The first question takes the 'lawyers' on their own ground,
and in effect asserts that to heal did not break the Sabbath. Jesus
challenges denial of the lawfulness of it, and the silence of the
Pharisees confesses that they dare not deny. 'The bare fact of
healing is not prohibited,' they might have said, 'but the acts
necessary for healing are.' But no acts were necessary for this
Healer's power to operate. The outgoing of His will had power. Their
finespun distinctions of deeds lawful and unlawful were spiders'
webs, and His act of mercy flew high above the webs, like some fair
winged creature glancing in the sunshine, while the spider sits in
his crevice balked. The broad principle involved in Jesus' first
question is that no Sabbath law, no so-called religious restriction,
can ever forbid helping the miserable. The repose of the Sabbath is
deepened, not disturbed, by activity for man's good.

The cure is told without detail, probably because there were no
details to tell. There is no sign of request or of faith on the
sufferer's part; there seems to have been no outward act on Christ's
beyond 'taking' him, which appears simply to mean that He called him
nearer, and then, by a simple exercise of His will, healed him.
There is no trace of thanks or of wonder in the heart of the
sufferer, who probably never had anything more to do with his
benefactor. Silently he comes on the stage, silently he gets his
blessing, silently he disappears. A strange, sad instance of how
possible it is to have a momentary connection with Jesus, and even
to receive gifts from His hand, and yet to have no real, permanent
relation to Him!

The second question turns from the legal to a broader consideration.
The spontaneous workings of the heart are not to be dammed back by
ceremonial laws. Need calls for immediate succour. You do not wait
for the Sabbath's sun to set when your ox or your ass is in a pit.
(The reading 'son' instead of 'ox,' as in the Revised Version
margin, is incongruous.) Jesus is appealing to the instinctive wish
to give immediate help even to a beast in trouble, and implies that
much more should the same instinct be allowed immediate play when
its object is a man. The listeners were self-condemned, and their
obstinate silence proves that the arrow had struck deep.

II. The cure seems to have taken place before the guests seated
themselves. Then came a scramble for the most honourable places, on
which He looked with perhaps a sad smile. Again the silence of the
guests is noticeable, as well as the calm assumption of authority
by Jesus, even among such hostile company. Where He comes a guest,
He becomes teacher, and by divine right He rebukes. The lesson is
given, says Luke, as 'a parable,' by which we are to understand that
our Lord is not here giving, as might appear if His words are
superficially interpreted, a mere lesson of proper behaviour at a
feast, but is taking that behaviour as an illustration of a far
deeper thing. Possibly some too ambitious guest had contrived to
seat himself in the place of honour, and had had to turn out, and,
with an embarrassed mien, had to go down to the very lowest place,
as all the intermediate ones were full. His eagerness to be at the
top had ended in his being at the bottom. That is a 'parable,' says
Jesus, an illustration in the region of daily life, of large truths
in morals and religion. It is a poor motive for outward humility and
self-abasement that it may end in higher honour. And if Jesus was
here only giving directions for conduct in regard to men, He was
inculcating a doubtful kind of morality. The devil's

  darling sin
  Is the pride that apes humility.'

Jesus was not recommending that, but what is crafty ambition,
veiling itself in lowliness for its own purposes, when exercised in
outward life, becomes a noble, pure, and altogether worthy, thing in
the spiritual sphere. For to desire to be exalted in the kingdom is
wholly right, and to humble one's self with a direct view to that
exaltation is to tread the path which He has hallowed by His own
footsteps. The true aim for ambition is the honour that cometh from
God only, and the true path to it is through the valley; for 'God
resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.'

III. Unbroken silence still prevailed among the guests, but again
Jesus speaks as teacher, and now to the host. A guest does not
usually make remarks on the composition of the company, Jesus could
make no 'recompense' to His entertainer, but to give him this
counsel. Again, He inculcated a wide general lesson under the guise
of a particular exhortation appropriate to the occasion. Probably
the bulk of the guests were well-to-do people of the host's own
social rank, and, as probably, there were onlookers of a lower
degree, like the dropsical man. The prohibition is not directed
against the natural custom of inviting one's associates and equals,
but against inviting them only, and against doing so with a sharp
eye to the advantages to be derived from it. That weary round of
giving a self-regarding hospitality, and then getting a return
dinner or evening entertainment from each guest, which makes up so
much of the social life among us, is a pitiful affair, hollow and
selfish. What would Jesus say--what does Jesus say--about it all?
The sacred name of hospitality is profaned, and the very springs of
it dried up by much of our social customs, and the most literal
application of our Lord's teaching here is sorely needed.

But the words are meant as a 'parable,' and are to be widened out to
include all sorts of kindnesses and helps given in the sacred name
of charity to those whose only claim is their need. 'They cannot
recompense thee'--so much the better, for, if an eye to their doing
so could have influenced thee, thy beneficence would have lost its
grace and savour, and would have been simple selfishness, and, as
such, incapable of future reward. It is only love that is lavished
on those who can make no return which is so free from the taint of
secret regard to self that it is fit to be recognised as love in the
revealing light of that great day, and therefore is fit to be
'recompensed in the resurrection of the just.'



EXCUSES NOT REASONS


    'They all with one consent began to make excuse.
    --LUKE xiv. 18.

Jesus Christ was at a feast in a Pharisee's house. It was a strange
place for Him--and His words at the table were also strange. For He
first rebuked the guests, and then the host; telling the former to
take the lower rooms, and bidding the latter widen his hospitality
to those that could not recompense him. It was a sharp saying; and
one of the other guests turned the edge of it by laying hold of our
Lord's final words: 'Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection
of the just,' and saying, no doubt in a pious tone and with a devout
shake of the head, 'Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the
Kingdom of God.' It was a very proper thing to say, but there was a
ring of conventional, commonplace piety about it, which struck
unpleasantly on Christ's ear. He answers the speaker with that
strange story of the great feast that nobody would come to, as if He
had said, 'You pretend to think that it is a blessed thing to eat
bread in the Kingdom of God, Why! You will not eat bread when it is
offered to you.'

I dare say you all know enough of the parable to make it unnecessary
for me to go over it. A great feast is prepared; invitations, more
or less general, are sent out at first, everything is ready; and,
behold, there is a table, and nobody to sit at it. A strange
experience for a hospitable man! And so he sends his servants to
beat up the unwilling guests, and, one after another, with more or
less politeness, refuses to come.

I need not follow the story further. In the latter part of the
parable our Lord shadows the transference of the blessings of the
Kingdom to the Gentiles, outcasts as the Jews thought them, skulking
in the hedges and tramping on the highways. In the first part He
foreshadows the failure of His own preaching amongst His own people.
But Jews and Englishmen are very much alike. The way in which these
invited guests treated the invitation to this feast is being
repeated, day by day, by thousands of men round us; and by some of
ourselves. 'They all, with one consent, began to make excuse.'

I. The first thing that I would desire you to notice is the
strangely unanimous refusal.

The guests' conduct in the story is such as life and reality would
afford no example of. No set of people, asked to a great banquet,
would behave as these people in the parable do. Then, is the
introduction of such an unnatural trait as this a fault in the
construction of narrative? No! Rather it is a beauty, for the very
point of the story is the utter unnaturalness of the conduct
described, and the contrast that is presented between the way in
which men regard the lower blessings from which these people are
represented as turning, and in which they regard the loftier
blessings that are offered. Nobody would turn his hack upon such a
banquet if he had the chance of going to it. What, then, shall we
say of those who, by platoons and regiments, turn their backs upon
this higher offer? The very preposterous unnaturalness of the
conduct, if the parable were a true story, points to the deep
meaning that lies behind it: that in that higher region the
unnatural is the universal, or all but universal.

And, indeed, it is so. One would almost venture to say that there is
a kind of law according to which the more valuable a thing is the
less men care to have it; or, if you like to put it into more
scientific language, the attraction of an object is in the inverse
ratio to its worth. Small things, transitory things, material
things, everybody grasps at; and the number of graspers steadily
decreases as you go up the scale in preciousness, until, when you
reach the highest of all, there are the fewest that want them. Is
there anything lower than good that merely gratifies the body? Is
there anything that the most of men want more? Are there many things
lower in the scale than money? Are there many things that pull more
strongly? Is not truth better than wealth? Are there more pursuers
of it than there are of the former? For one man who is eager to
know, and counts his life well spent, in following knowledge

  'Like a sinking star,
  Beyond the furthest bounds of human thought,'

there are a hundred who think it rightly expended in the pursuit
after the wealth that perishes. Is not goodness higher than truth,
and are not the men that are content to devote themselves to
becoming wise more numerous than those that are content to devote
themselves to becoming pure? And, topmost of all, is there anything
to be compared with the gifts that are held out to us in that great
Saviour and in His message? And is there anything that the mass of
men pass by with more unanimous refusal than the offered feast which
the great King of humanity has provided for His subjects? What is
offered for each of us, pressed upon us, in the gift of Jesus
Christ? Help, guidance, companionship, restfulness of heart, power
of obedience, victory over self, control of passions, supremacy over
circumstances, tranquillity deep and genuine, death abolished,
Heaven opened, measureless hopes following upon perfect fruition,
here and hereafter. These things are all gathered into, and their
various sparkles absorbed in, the one steady light of that one great
encyclopaediacal word--Salvation. These gifts are going begging,
lying at our doors, offered to every one of us, pressed upon all on
the simple condition of taking Christ for Saviour and King. And what
do we do with them? 'They all, with one consent, began to make
excuse.'

One hears of barbarous people that have no use for the gold that
abounds in their country, and do not think it half as valuable as
glass beads. That is how men estimate the true and the trumpery
treasures which Christ and the world offer. I declare it seems to me
that, calmly looking at men's nature, and their duration, and then
thinking of the aims of the most of them, we should not be very far
wrong if we said an epidemic of insanity sits upon the world. For
surely to turn away from the gold and to hug the glass beads is very
little short of madness. 'This their way is their folly, and their
posterity approve their sayings.'

And now notice that this refusal may be, and often in fact is,
accompanied with lip recognition of the preciousness of the
neglected things. That Pharisee who put up the pillow of his pious
sentiment--a piece of cant, because he did not feel what he was
saying--to deaden the cannon-ball of Christ's word, is only a
pattern of a good many of us who think that to say, 'Blessed is he
that eateth bread in the Kingdom of God,' with the proper unctuous
roll of the voice, is pretty nearly as good as to take the bread
that is offered to us. There are no more difficult people to get at
than the people, of whom I am sure I have some specimens before me
now, who bow their heads in assent to the word of the Gospel, and by
bowing them escape its impact, and let it whistle harmlessly over.
You that believe every word that I or my brethren preach, and never
dream of letting it affect your conduct--if there be degrees in that
lunatic asylum of the world, surely you are candidates for the
highest place.

II. Now, secondly, notice the flimsy excuses.

'They all, with one consent, began.' I do not suppose that they had
laid their heads together, or that our Lord intends us to suppose
that there was a conspiracy and concert of refusal, but only that
without any previous consultation, all had the same sentiments, and
offered substantially the same answer. All the reasons that are
given come to one and the same thing--viz. occupation with present
interests, duties, possessions, or affections. There are differences
in the excuses which are not only helps to the vividness of the
narrative, but also express differences in the speakers. One man is
a shade politer than the others. He puts his refusal on the ground
of necessity. He 'must,' and so he courteously prays that he may be
held excused. The second one is not quite so polite; but still there
is a touch of courtesy about him too. He does not pretend necessity
as his friend had done, but he simply says, 'I _am_ going'; and
that is not quite so courteous as the former answer, but still he
begs to be excused. The last man thinks that he has such an
undeniable reason that he may be as brusque as he likes, and so he
says, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come' and I do
not make any apologies. So with varying degrees of apparent
recognition of the claims of host and feast, the ground of refusal
is set forth as possessions in two cases, and as affections in the
third; and these so fill the men's hearts and minds that they have
no time to attend to the call that summons them to the feast.

Now it is obvious to note that the alleged necessity in one of these
excuses was no necessity at all. Who made the 'must'? The man himself.
The field would not run away though he waited till to-morrow. The
bargain was finished, for he had bought it. There was no necessity
for his going, and the next day would have done quite as well as
to-day; so the 'must' was entirely in his own mind. That is to say,
a great many of us mask inclinations under the garb of imperative
duties and say, 'We are so pressed by necessary obligations and
engagements that we really have not got any time to attend to these
higher questions which you are trying to press upon us.' You remember
the old story. 'I must live,' said the thief. 'I do not see the
necessity,' said the judge. A man says, 'I _must_ be at business
to-morrow morning at half-past eight. How can I think about religion?'
Well, if you really _must_, you _can_ think about it. But if you
are only juggling and deceiving yourself with inclinations that pose as
necessities, the sooner the veil is off the better, and you understand
whereabouts you are, and what is your true position in reference to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But then let me, only in a word, remind you that the other side of
the excuse is a very operative one. 'I have married a wife, and
therefore I cannot come.' There are some of us around whom the
strong grasp of earthly affections is flung so embracingly and
sweetly that we cannot, as we think, turn our loves upward and fix
them upon God. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, parents and
children, remember Christ's deep words, 'A man's foes shall be they
of his own household'; and be sure that the prediction is fulfilled
many a time by the hindrances of their love even more than by the
opposition of their hatred.

All these excuses refer to legitimate things. It is perfectly right
that the man should go and see after his field, perfectly right that
the ten bullocks should be harnessed and tried, perfectly right that
the sweetness of wedded love should be tasted and drunk, perfectly
wrong that any of them should be put as a reason for not accepting
Christ's offer. Let us take the lesson that legitimate business and
lawful and pure affections may ruin a soul, and may constitute the
hindrance that blocks its road to God.

Brethren, I said that these were flimsy excuses. I shall have to
explain what I mean by that in a moment. As excuses they are flimsy;
but as reasons which actually operate with hundreds of people,
preventing them from being Christians, they are not flimsy; they are
most solid and real. Our Lord does not mean them as exhaustive.
There are a great many other grounds upon which different types of
character turn away from the offered blessings of the Gospel, which
do not come within view of the parable. But although not exhaustive
they are widely operative. I wonder how many men and women there are
listening to me now of whom it is true that they are so busy with
their daily occupations that they have not time to be religious, and
of how many men, and perhaps more especially women, among us at this
moment it is true that their hearts are so ensnared with loves that
belong to earth--beautiful and potentially sacred and elevating as
these are--that they have not time to turn themselves to the one
eternal Lover of their souls. Let me beseech you, dear friends--and
you especially who are strangers to this place and to my voice--to
do what I cannot, and would not if I could, lay these thoughts on
your own hearts, and ask yourselves, 'Is it I?'

And then before I pass from this point of my discourse, remember
that the contrariety between these duties and the acceptance of the
offered feast existed only in the imagination of the men that made
them. There is no reason why you should not go to the feast and see
after your field. There is no reason why you should not love your
wife and go to the feast. God's summons comes into collision with
many wishes, but with no duties or legitimate occupations. The more
a man accepts and lives upon the good that Jesus Christ spreads
before him, the more fit will he be for all his work, and for all
his enjoyments. The field will be better tilled, the bullocks will
be better driven, the wife will be more wisely, tenderly, and
sacredly loved if in your hearts Christ is enthroned, and whatsoever
you do you do as for Him. It is only the excessive and abusive
possession of His gifts and absorption in our duties and relations
that turns them into impediments in the path of our Christian life.
And the flimsiness of the excuse is manifest by the fact that the
contrarity is self-created.

III. Lastly, note the real reason.

I have said that as pretexts the three explanations were
unsatisfactory. When a man pleads a previous engagement as a reason
for not accepting an invitation, nine times out of ten it is a
polite way of saying, 'I do not want to go.' It was so in this case.
How all these absolute impossibilities, which made it perfectly out
of the question that the three recreants should sit down at the
table, would have melted into thin air if, by any chance, there had
come into their minds a wish to be there! They would have found
means to look after the field and the cattle and the home, and to be
in their places notwithstanding, if they had wanted. The real reason
that underlies men's turning away from Christ's offer is, as I said
in the beginning of my remarks, that they do not care to have it.
They have no inclinations and no tastes for the higher and purer
blessings.

Brother, do not let us lose ourselves in generalities. I am talking
about you, and about the set of your inclinations and tastes. And I
want you to ask yourself whether it is not a fact that some of you
like oxen better than God; whether it is not a fact that if the two
were there before you, you would rather have a good big field made
over to you than have the food that is spread upon that table.

Well then what is the cause of the perverted inclination? Why is it
that when Christ says, 'Child, come to Me, and I will give thee
pardon, peace, purity, power, hope, Heaven, Myself,' there is no
responsive desire kindled in the heart? Why do I not want God? Why
do I not care for Jesus Christ? Why do the blessings about which
preachers are perpetually talking seem to me so shadowy, so remote
from anything that I need, so ill-fitting to anything that I desire?
There must be something very deeply wrong. This is what is wrong,
your heart has shaken itself loose from dependence upon God; and you
have no love as you ought to have for Him. You prefer to stand
alone. The prodigal son, having gone away into the far country,
likes the swine's husks better than the bread in his father's house,
and it is only when the supply of the latter coarse dainty gives out
that the purer taste becomes strong. Strange, is it not? but yet it
is true.

Now there are one or two things that I want to say about this
indifference, resulting from preoccupation and from alienation, and
which hides its ugliness behind all manner of flimsy excuses. One is
that the reason itself is utterly unreasonable. I have said the true
reason is indifference. Can anybody put into words which do not
betray the absurdity of the position, the conduct of the man who
says, 'I do not want God; give me five yoke of oxen. That is the
real good, and I will stick by that.' There is one mystery in the
world, and if it were solved everything would be solved; and that
mystery is that men turn away from God and cleave to earth. No
account can be given of sin. No account can be given of man's
preference for the lesser and the lower; and neglect of the greater
and the higher, except to say it is utterly inexplicable and
unreasonable.

I need not say such indifference is shameful ingratitude to the
yearning love which provides, and the infinite sacrifice by which
was provided, this great feast to which we are asked. It cost Christ
pains, and tears, and blood, to prepare that feast, and He looks to
us, and says to us, 'Come and drink of the wine which I have
mingled, and eat of the bread which I have provided at such a cost.'
There are monsters of ingratitude, but there are none more
miraculously monstrous than the men who look, as some of us are
doing, untouched on Christ's sacrifice, and listen unmoved to
Christ's pleadings.

The excuses will disappear one day. We can trick our consciences; we
can put off the messengers; we cannot deceive the Host. All the thin
curtains that we weave to veil the naked ugliness of our
unwillingness to accept Christ will be burnt up one day. And I pray
you to ask yourselves, 'What shall I say when He comes and asks me,
"Why was thy place empty at My table"?' 'And he was speechless.' Do
not, dear brethren, refuse that gift, lest you bring upon yourselves
the terrible and righteous wrath of the Host whose invitation you
are slighting, and at whose table you are refusing to sit.



THE RASH BUILDER


    'Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not
    down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have
    sufficient to finish it?'--LUKE xiv. 28.

Christ sought for no recruits under false pretences, but rather
discouraged than stimulated light-hearted adhesion. His constant
effort was to sift the crowds that gathered round Him. So here great
multitudes are following Him, and how does He welcome them? Does He
lay Himself out to attract them? Luke tells us that He _turned_
and faced the following multitude; and then, with a steady hand,
drenched with cold water the too easily kindled flame. Was that
because He did not wish them to follow Him? He desired every soul in
that crowd for His own, and He knew that the best way to attract is
sometimes to repel; and that a plain statement of the painful
consequences of a course will quench no genuine enthusiasm, but may
turn a mere flash in the pan into a purpose that will flame through
a life.

So our Lord lays down in stringent words the law of discipleship as
being self-sacrifice; the abandonment of the dearest, and the
acceptance of the most painful. And then He illustrates the law by
these two expanded similes or condensed parables, of the rash
builder and the rash soldier. Each contains a side of the Christian
life, and represents one phase of what a true disciple ought to be.
I wish to look with you now at the first of these two comparisons.

I. Consider then, first, the building, or the true aim of
discipleship.

The building of the tower represents what every human life ought to
aim at, the rearing up of a strong, solid structure in which the
builder may dwell and be at rest.

But then remember we are always building, consciously or
unconsciously. By our transitory actions we are all rearing up a
house for our souls in which we have to dwell; building character
from out of the fleeting acts of conduct, which character we have to
carry with us for ever. Soft invertebrate animals secrete their own
shells. That is what we are doing-making character, which is the
shield of self, as it were; and in which we have to abide.

My friend, what are you building? A prison; a mere garden-house of
lustful delights; or a temple fortress in which God may dwell
reverenced, and you may abide restful? Observe that whilst all men
are thus unconsciously and habitually rearing up a permanent abode
by their transient actions, every life that is better than a brute's
ought to have for its aim the building up of ourselves into firm
strength. The development of character is what we ought to ask from,
and to secure by, this fleeting life of ours. Not enjoyment; that is
a miserable aim. Not the satisfaction of earthly desires; not the
prosperity of our business or other ordinary avocations. The demand
that we should make upon life, and the aim which we should have
clearly before us in all that we do, is that it may contribute to
the formation of a pure and noble self, to the development of
character into that likeness to Jesus Christ, which is perfection
and peace and blessedness.

And while that is true about all life, it is eminently true in
regard to the highest form of life, which is the Christian life.
There are dreadful mistakes and imperfections in the ordinary vulgar
conception of what a Christian is, and what he is a Christian for.
What do you think men and women are meant to be Christians for? That
they may get away from some material and outward hell? Possibly.
That they may get celestial happiness? Certainly. But are these the
main things? By no means. What people are meant to be Christians for
is that they may be shaped into the likeness of Jesus Christ; or to
go back to the metaphor of my text, the meaning and aim of Christian
discipleship is not happiness, but the building up of the tower in
which the man may dwell.

Ah, friend; is that your notion of what a Christian is; and of what
he is a Christian for, to be like the Master? Alas! alas! how few of
us, honestly and continually and practically, lay to heart the
stringent and grand conception which underlies this metaphor of our
Lord's, who identifies the man that was thinking of being His
disciple with the man that sits down intending to build a tower.

II. So, secondly, note the cost of the building, or the conditions
of discipleship.

Building is an expensive amusement, as many a man who has gone
rashly in for bricks and mortar has found out to his cost. And the
most expensive of all sorts of building is the building up of
Christian character. That costs more than anything else, but there
are a number of other things less noble and desirable, which share
with it, to some extent, in the expenditure which it involves.

Discipleship demands constant reference to the plan. A man that
lives as he likes, by impulse, by inclination, or ignobly yielding
to the pressure of circumstances and saying, 'I could not help
myself, I was carried away by the flood,' or 'Everybody round about
me is doing it, and I could not be singular'--will never build
anything worth living in. It will be a born ruin--if I may so say.
There must be continual reference to the plan. That is to say, if a
man is to do anything worth doing, there must be a very clear marking
out to himself of what he means to secure by life, and a keeping of
the aim continually before him as his guide and his pole-star. Did
you ever see the pretty architect's plans, that were all so white and
neat when they came out of his office, after the masons have done with
them-all thumb-marked and dirty? I wonder if your Bibles are like
that? Do we refer to the standard of conduct with  anything like the
continual checking of our work by the architect's intention, which
every man who builds anything that will stand is obliged to practise?
Consult your plan, the pattern of your Master, the words of your
Redeemer, the gospel of your God, the voice of judgment and conscience,
and get into the habit of living, not like a vegetable, upon what
happens to be nearest its roots, nor like a brute, by the impulses of
the unreasoning nature, but clear above these put the understanding,
and high above that put the conscience, and above them all put the
will of the Lord. Consult your plan if you want to build your tower.

Then, further, another condition is continuous effort. You cannot
'rush' the building of a great edifice. You have to wait till the
foundations get consolidated, and then by a separate effort every
stone has to be laid in its bed and out of the builder's hands. So
by slow degrees, with continuity of effort, the building rises.

Now there has been a great deal of what I humbly venture to call
one-sidedness talked about the way by which Christian character is
to be developed and perfected. And one set of the New Testament
metaphors upon that subject has been pressed to the exclusion of the
others, and the effortless growth of the plant has been presented as
if it were the complete example of Christian progress. I know that
Jesus Christ has said: 'First the blade, then the ear; after that
the full corn in the ear.' But I know that He has also said, 'Which
of you, intending to build a tower'--and that involves the idea of
effort; and that He has further said, 'Or what king, going to make
war against another king'--and that involves the idea of antagonism
and conflict. And so, on the whole, I lay it down that this is one
of the conditions of building the tower, that the energy of the
builder should never slacken, but, with continual renewal of effort,
he should rear his life's building.

And then, still further, there is the fundamental condition of all;
and that is, self-surrender. Our Lord lays this down in the most
stringent terms in the words before my text, where He points to two
directions in which that spirit is required to manifest itself. One
is detachment from persons that are dearest, and even from one's own
selfish life; the other is the acceptance of things that are most
contrary to one's inclinations, against the grain, painful and hard
to bear. And so we may combine these two in this statement: If any
man is going to build a Christlike life he will have to detach
himself from surrounding things and dear ones, and to crucify self
by suppression of the lower nature and the endurance of evils. The
preceding parable which is connected in subject with the text, the
story of the great supper, and the excuses made for not coming to
it, represents two-thirds of the refusals as arising from the undue
love for, and regard to, earthly possessions, and the remaining
third as arising from the undue love to, and regard for, the
legitimate objects of affection. And these are the two chords that
hold most of us most tightly. It is not Christianity alone, dear
brethren, that says that if you want to do anything worth doing, you
must detach yourself from outward wealth. It is not Christianity
alone that says that, if you want to build up a noble life, you must
not let earthly love dominate and absorb your energy; but it is
Christianity that says so most emphatically, and that has best
reason to say so.

Concentration is the secret of all excellence. If the river is to
have any scour in it that will sweep away pollution and corruption,
it must not go winding and lingering in many curves, howsoever
flowery may be the banks, nor spreading over a broad bed, but you
must straighten it up and make it deep that it may run strong. And
if you will diffuse yourself all over these poor, wretched worldly
goods, or even let the rush of your heart's outflow go in the
direction of father and mother, wife and children, brethren and
sisters, forgetting Him, then you will never come to any good nor be
of use in this world. But if you want to be Christians after
Christ's pattern, remember that the price of the building is rigidly
to sacrifice self, 'to scorn delights and live laborious days,' and
to keep all vagrant desires and purposes within rigid limits, and
absolutely subordinated to Himself.

On the other hand, there is to be the acceptance of what is painful
to the lower nature. Unpleasant consequences of duty have to be
borne, and the lower self, with its appetites and desires, has to be
crucified. The vine must be mercilessly pruned in tendrils, leaves,
and branches even, though the rich sap may seem to bleed away to
waste, if we are to grow precious grapes out of which may be
expressed the wine of the Kingdom. We must be dead to much if we are
to be alive to anything worth living for.

Now remember that Christ's demand of self-surrender, self-sacrifice,
continuous effort, rigid limitation, does not come from any mere
false asceticism, but is inevitable in the very nature of the case,
and is made also by all worthy work. How much every one of us has
had to shear off our lives, how many tastes we have had to allow to
go ungratified, how many capacities undeveloped, in how many
directions we have had to hedge up our way, and not do, or be this,
that, or the other; if we have ever done anything in any direction
worthy the doing! Concentration and voluntary limitation, in order
to fix all powers on the supreme aim which judgment and conscience
have enjoined is the condition of all excellence, of all sanity of
living, and eminently of all Christian discipleship.

III. Further, note the failures.

The tower of the rash builder stands a gaunt, staring ruin.

Whosoever throws himself upon great undertakings or high aims,
without a deliberate forecast of the difficulties and sacrifices
they involve, is sure to stop almost before he has begun. Many a man
and woman leaves the starting-point with a rush, as if they were
going to be at the goal presently, and before they have run fifty
yards turn aside and quietly walk out of the course. I wonder how
many of you began, when you were lads or girls, to study some
language, and stuck before you had got through twenty pages of the
grammar, or to learn some art, and have still got the tools lying
unused in a dusty corner. And how many of you who call yourselves
Christians began in the same fashion long ago to run the race? 'Ye
did run well.' What did hinder you? What hindered Atalanta?  The
golden apples that were flung down on the path. Oh, the Church is
full of these abortive Christians; ruins from their beginning,
standing gaunt and windowless, the ground-plan a great palace, the
reality a hovel that has not risen a foot for the last ten years. I
wonder if there are any stunted Christians of that sort in this
congregation before me, who began under the influence of some
impulse or emotion, genuine enough, no doubt, but who had taken no
account of how much it would cost to finish the building. And so the
building is not finished, and never will be.

But I should remark here that what I am speaking about as failure is
not incomplete attainment of the aim. For all our lives have to
confess that they incompletely attain their aim; and lofty aims,
imperfectly realised, and still maintained, are the very salt of
life, and beautiful 'as the new moon with a ragged edge, e'en in its
imperfection beautiful.' Paul was an old man and an advanced
Christian when he said, 'Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect, but I follow after.' And the highest
completeness to which the Christian builder can reach in this life
is the partial accomplishment of his aim and the persistent
adherence to and aspiration after the unaccomplished aim. It is not
these incomplete but progressive and aspiring lives that are
failures, but it is the lives of men who have abandoned high aims,
and have almost forgotten that they ever cherished them.

And what does our Lord say about such? That everybody laughs at
them. It is not more than they deserve. An out-and-out Christian
will often be disliked, but if he is made a mock of there will be a
_soupçon_ of awe and respect even in the mockery. Half-and-half
Christians get, and richly deserve, the curled lip and sarcasm of a
world that knows when a man is in earnest, and knows when he is an
incarnate sham.

IV. Lastly, I would have you observe the inviting encouragement
hidden in the apparent repelling warning.

If we read my text isolated, it may seem as if the only lesson that
our Lord meant to be drawn from it was a counsel of despair. 'Unless
you feel quite sure that you can finish, you had better not begin.'
Is that what He meant to say? I think not. He did mean to say, 'Do
not begin without opening your eyes to what is involved in the
beginning.' But suppose a man had taken His advice, had listened to
the terms, and had said, 'I cannot keep them, and I am going to
fling all up, and not try any more'--is that what Jesus Christ
wanted to bring him to? Surely not. And that it is not so arises
plainly enough from the observation that this parable and the
succeeding one are both sealed up, as it were, with 'So likewise,
whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he
cannot be My disciple.'

Now, if I may so say, there are two kinds of 'forsaking all that we
have.' One is the forsaking by which we become disciples; and the
other the forsaking by which we continue true disciples. The
conviction that they had not sufficient to finish is the very
conviction that Christ wished to root in the minds of the crowds.
He exhibits the difficulties in order that they may feel they cannot
cope with them. What then? That they may 'forsake' all their own
power to cope with them.

That is the first kind of 'forsaking all that we have.' That makes a
disciple. The recognition of my own utter impotence to do the things
which yet I see must be done, is the underside of trust in Him. And
that trust in Him brings the power that makes it possible for us to
do the things which we cannot of ourselves do, and the consciousness
of the impotence to do which is the first step toward doing them. It
is the self-sufficient man who is sure to be bankrupt before he has
finished his building; but he who has no confidence in himself, and
recognises the fact that he cannot build, will go to Jesus Christ
and say, 'Lord, I am poor and needy. Come Thou Thyself and be my
strength.' Such a forsaking of all that we have in the recognition
of our own poverty and powerlessness brings into the field an Ally
for our reinforcement that has more than the twenty thousand that
are coming against us, and will make us strong.

And then, if, knowing our weakness, our misery, our poverty, and
cleaving to Jesus Christ in simple confidence in His divine power
breathed into our weakness, and His abundant riches lavished upon
our poverty, we cast ourselves into the work to which He calls us by
His grace, then we shall find that the sweet and certain assurance
that we have Him for the possession and the treasure of our lives
will make parting with everything else, not painful, but natural and
necessary and a joy, as the expression of our supreme love to Him.
It should not, and would not be difficult to fling away paste gems
and false riches if our hands were filled with the jewels that
Christ bestows. And it will not be difficult to slay the old man
when the new Christ lives in us, by our faith and submission.

So, dear brethren, it all comes to this. We are all builders; what
kind of a work is your life's work going to turn out? Are you
building on the foundation, taking Jesus Christ for the anchor of
your hope, for the basis of your belief, for the crown of your aims,
for your all and in all? Are you building upon Him? If so, then the
building will stand when the storm comes and the 'hail sweeps away
the refuges' that other men have built elsewhere. But are you
building on that foundation the gold of self-denial, the silver of
white purity, the precious stones of variously-coloured and
Christlike virtues? Then your work will indeed be incomplete, but
its very incompleteness will be a prophecy of the time when 'the
headstone shall be brought forth with shoutings'; and you may humbly
trust that the day which 'declares every man's work of what sort it
is' will not destroy yours, but that it will gleam and flash in the
light of the revealing and reflecting fires. See to it that you are
building _for_ eternity, _on_ the foundation, _with_ the fair stones
which Jesus Christ gives to all those who let Him shape their lives. He
is at once, Architect, Material, Foundation; and in Him 'every several
building fitly framed together groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.'



'THAT WHICH WAS LOST'


    'An hundred sheep ... ten pieces of silver,... two
    sons.'--LUKE XV. 4,8,11.

The immediate occasion of these three inimitable parables, which have
found their way to the heart of the world, needs to be remembered in
order to grasp their import and importance. They are intended to
vindicate Christ's conduct in associating with outcasts and
disreputable persons whom His Pharisaical critics thought a great
deal too foul to be touched by clean hands. They were not meant to
set forth with anything like completeness either what wanderers had
to do to go back to God, or what God had done to bring wanderers back
to Himself. If this had been remembered, many misconceptions,
widespread and mischievous, especially affecting the meaning of the
last of the three parables--that of the Prodigal Son--would have been
avoided. The purpose of the parables accounts for Christ's accepting
the division which His antagonists made of men, into 'righteous,' like
themselves, and 'unclean,' like the publicans and sinners. There was a
far deeper truth to be spoken about the condition of humanity than
that. But for the purposes of His argument Christ passes it by. The
remembrance of the intention of the parables explains their
incompleteness as a statement of what people call 'the way of
salvation.' They were not meant to teach us that, but they were meant
to show us that a human instinct which prizes lost things because they
are lost has something corresponding to it in the divine nature, and
so to vindicate the conduct of  Christ.

I venture to isolate these three statements of the subjects of the
parables, because I think that looking at the threefold aspect in
which the one general thought is presented may help us to some
useful considerations.

I. I ask you, then, to look with me, first, at the varying causes of
loss.

The sheep was lost, the _drachma_ was lost, the son was lost.
But in each case the reason for the loss was different. Whilst I
would avoid all fanciful inserting into our Lord's words of more
than they can fairly bear, I would also avoid superficial evacuating
them of any of their depth of significance. So I think it is not
unintentional nor unimportant that in these three metaphors there
are set forth three obviously distinct operative causes for man's
departure from God.

The sheep did not intend to go anywhere, either to keep with or to
leave the shepherd. It simply knew that grass was sweet, and that
there, ahead of it, was another tuft, and it went after that. So it
nibbled itself away out of the path, out of the shepherd's care, out
of the flock's companionship. It was heedless; and therefore it was
lost.

Now that is a fair statement of facts in regard to thousands of men,
of whom I have no doubt there are some listening to me now. They do
not intend any mischief, they have no purpose of rebellion or
transgression, but they live what we call animal lives. The sheep
knows only where the herbage is abundant and fresh: and it goes
there. An animal has no foresight, and is the happier because it
cannot look before and after. It has only a rudimentary conscience,
if it has that. Its inclinations are restrained by no sense of
obligation. Many men live just so, without restraint upon appetite,
without checking of inclination, without foresight except of the
material good which a certain course of conduct may get. So, all
unwitting, meaning no mischief, they wander further and further from
the right road, and find themselves at last in a waterless desert.

Dear friends, am I speaking to any now who have too much yielded to
inclinations, who have been unwilling to look forward to the end,
and ask themselves what all will come to at the last, and who
scarcely know what it is to take heed unto their ways, except in so
far as worldly prudence may dictate certain courses of conduct for
the purpose of securing certain worldly and perishable ends? I would
plead, especially with the younger portion of my congregation, to
take the touching picture of this first parable as a solemn prophecy
of what certainly befalls every man who sets out upon his path
without careful consideration  of whither it leads to at the last;
and who lives for the present, in any of its forms, and who lets
himself be led by inclinations or appetites. The animal does so,
and, as a rule, its instincts are its sufficient guide. But you and
I are blessed or cursed, as the case may be, with higher powers,
which, if we do not use, we shall certainly land in the desert. If a
man who is meant to guide himself by intelligence, reason, will,
foresight, conscience, chooses to go down to the level of the beast,
the faculties that serve the beast will not serve the man. And even
the sheep is lost from the flock if it yields only to these.

But how it speaks of the Lord's tender sympathy for the wanderers
that He should put in the forefront of the parables this explanation
of the condition of men, and should not at first charge it upon them
as sin, but only as heedlessness and folly! There is much that in
itself is wrong and undesirable, the criminality of which is
diminished by the fact that it was heedlessly done, though the
heedlessness itself is a crime.

Now turn to the second parable. The coin was heavy, so it fell; it
was round, so it rolled; it was dead, so it lay. And there are
people who are things rather than persons, so entirely have they
given up their wills, and so absolutely do they let themselves be
determined by circumstances. It was not the _drachma_ that lost
itself, but it was the law of gravitation that lost it, and it had
no power of resistance. This also is an explanation--partial, as I
shall have to show you in a moment, but still real,--of a great deal
of human wandering. There are masses of men who have no more power
to resist the pressure of circumstances and temptations than the
piece of silver had when it dropped from the woman's open palm and
trundled away into some dark corner. That lightens the darkness of
much of the world's sin.

But for you to abnegate the right and power of resisting
circumstances is to abdicate the sovereignty with which God has
crowned you. All men are shaped by externals, but the shape which
the externals impose upon us is settled by ourselves. Here are two
men, for instance, exposed to precisely the same conditions: but one
of them yields, and is ruined; the other resists, and is raised and
strengthened. As Jesus Christ, so all things have a double
operation. They are 'either a savour of life unto life or a savour
of death unto death.' There is the stone. You may build upon it, or
you may stumble over it: you take your choice. Here is the adverse
circumstance. You may rule it, or you may let it rule you.
Circumstances and outward temptations are the fool's masters, and
the wise man's servants. It all depends on the set of the sail and
the firmness of the hand that grasps the tiller, which way the wind
shall carry the ship. The same breeze speeds vessels on directly
opposite courses, and so the same circumstances may drive men in two
contrary directions, sending the one further and further away from,
and drawing the other nearer and nearer to, the haven of their
hearts.

Dear friends, as we have to guard against the animal life of
yielding to inclinations and inward impulse, of forgetting the
future, and of taking no heed to our paths, so, unless we wish to
ruin ourselves altogether, we have to fight against the mechanical
life which, with a minimum of volition, lets the world do with us
what it will. And sure I am that there are men and women in this
audience at this time who have let their lives be determined by
forces that have swept them away from God.

In the third parable the foolish boy had no love to his father to
keep him from emigrating. He wanted to be his own master, and to get
away into a place where he thought he could sow his wild oats and no
news of it ever reach the father's house. He wanted to have the
fingering of the money, and to enjoy the sense of possession. And so
he went off on his unblessed road to the harlots and the swine's
trough.

And _that_ is no parable; that is a picture. The other two were
parabolical representations; this is the thing itself. For
carelessness of the bonds that knit a heart to God; hardness of an
unresponsive heart unmelted by benefits; indifference to the
blessedness of living by a Father's side and beneath His eye; the
uprising of a desire of independence and the impatience of control;
the exercise of self will--these are causes of loss that underlie
the others of which I have been speaking, and which make for every
one of us the essential sinfulness of our sin. It is rebellion, and
it is rebellion against a Father's love.

Now, notice, that whilst the other two that we have been speaking
about do partially explain the terrible fact that we go away from
God, their explanation is only partial, and this grimmer truth
underlies them. There are modern theories, as there were ancient
ones, that say: 'Oh! sin is a theological bugbear. There is not any
such thing. It is only indifference, ignorance, error.' And then
there are other theorists that say: 'Sin! There is no sin in
following natural laws and impulses. Circumstances shape men;
heredity shapes them. The notion that their actions are criminal is
a mere figment of an exploded superstition.'

Yes! and down below the ignorance, and inadvertence, and error, and
heredity, and domination of externals, there lies the individual
choice in each case. The man knows--however he sophisticates
himself, or uses other people to provide him with sophistries--that
he need not have done that thing unless he had chosen to do it. You
cannot get beyond or argue away that consciousness. And so I say
that all these immoral teachings, which are very common to-day, omit
from the thing that they profess to analyse the very characteristic
element of it, which is, as our Lord taught us, not the following
inclination like a silly sheep; not the rolling away, in obedience
to natural law, like the drachma; but the rising up of a rebellious
will that desires a separation, and kicks against control, as in the
case of the son.

So, dear friends, whilst I thankfully admit that much of the
darkness of human conduct may be lightened by the representations of
our two first parables, I cannot but feel that we have to leave to
God the determination in each case of how far these have diminished
individual criminality; and that we have to remember for ourselves
that our departure from God is not explicable unless we recognise
the fact that we have chosen rather to be away from Him than to be
with Him; and that we like better to have our goods at our own
disposal, and to live as it pleases ourselves.

II. So note, secondly, the varying proportions of loss and
possession.

A hundred sheep; ten drachmas; two sons. The loss in one case is 1
per cent., a trifle; in the other case 10 per cent., more serious;
in the last case 50 per cent., heartbreaking. Now, I do not suppose
that our Lord intended any special significance to be attached to
these varying numbers. Rather they were simply suggested by the cast
of the parable in which they respectively occurred. A hundred sheep
is a fair average flock; ten pieces of silver are the modest hoard
of a poor woman; two sons are a family large enough to represent the
contrast which is necessary to the parable. But still we may
permissibly look at this varying proportion in order to see whether
it, too, cannot teach us something.

It throws light upon the owner's care and pains in seeking. In one
aspect, these are set forth most strikingly by the parable in which
the thing lost bears the smallest proportion to the thing still
retained. The shepherd might well have said: 'One in a hundred does
not matter much. I have got the ninety and nine.' But he went to
look for it. But, in another aspect, the woman, of course, has a
more serious loss to face, and possibly seeks with more anxiety. And
when you come up to the last case, where half the household is
blotted out, as it were, then we can see the depth of anxiety and
pains and care which must necessarily follow.

But beyond the consideration that the ascending proportion suggests
increasing pains and anxiety, there is another lesson, which seems
to me even more precious, and it is this, that it matters very
little to the loser how much he keeps, or what the worth of the lost
thing is. There is something in human nature which makes anything
that is lost precious by reason of its loss. Nobody can tell how
large a space a tree fills until it is felled. If you lose one tiny
stone out of a ring, or a bracelet, it makes a gap, and causes
annoyance altogether disproportionate to the lustre that it had when
it was there. A man loses a small portion of his fortune in some
unlucky speculation, and the loss annoys him a great deal more than
the possession solaced him, and he thinks more about the hundreds
that have vanished than about the thousands that remain. Men are
made so. It is a human instinct, that apart altogether from the
consideration of its intrinsic worth, and the proportion it bears to
that which is still possessed, the lost thing draws, and the loser
will take any pains to find it.

So Christ says, When a woman will light a candle and sweep the house
and search diligently till she finds her lost sixpence (for the
drachma was worth little more), and will bring in all her neighbours
to rejoice with her, that is like God; and the human instinct which
prizes lost things, not because of their value, but because they are
lost, has something corresponding to it in the heart of the Majesty
of the heavens. It is Christ's vindication, of course, as I need not
remind you, of His own conduct. He says in effect, to these
Pharisees, 'You are finding fault with Me for doing what we all do.
I am only acting in accordance with a natural human instinct; and
when I thus act God Himself is acting in and through Me.'

If I had time, I think I could show that this principle, brought out
in my texts, really sweeps away one of the difficulties which modern
science has to suggest against Evangelical Christianity. We hear it
said, 'How can you suppose that a speck of a world like this, amidst
all these flaming orbs that stud the infinite depths of the heavens,
is of so much importance in God's sight that His Son came down to
die for it?' The magnitude of the world, as compared with others,
has nothing to do with the question. God's action is determined by
its moral condition. If it be true that here is sin, which rends men
away from Him, and that so they are lost, then it is supremely
natural that all the miracles of the Christian revelation should
follow. The _rationale_ of the Incarnation lies in this, 'A
certain man had a hundred sheep.... One of them went astray ... and
He went into the wilderness and found it.'

III. Now I meant to have said a word about the varying glimpses that
we have here, into God's claims upon us, and His heart.

Ownership is the word that describes His relation to us in the first
two parables; love is the word that describes it in the third. But
the ownership melts into love, because God does not reckon that He
possesses men by natural right of creation or the like, unless they
yield their hearts to Him, and give themselves, by their own joyful
self-surrender, into His hands. But I must not be tempted to speak
upon that matter; only, before I close, let me point you to that
most blessed and heart-melting thought, that God accounts Himself to
have lost something when a man goes away from Him.

That word 'the lost' has another, and in some senses a more
tragical, significance in Scripture. The lost are lost to themselves
and to blessedness. The word implies destruction; but it also
carries with it this, that God prizes us, is glad to have us, and, I
was going to say, feels an incompleteness in His possessions when
men depart from Him.

Oh, brethren, surely such a thought as that should melt us; and if,
as is certainly the case, we have strayed away from Him into green
pastures, which have ended in a wilderness, without a blade of
grass; or if we have rolled away from Him in passive submission to
circumstances; or if we have risen up in rebellion against Him, and
claimed our separate right of possession and use of the goods that
fall to us, if we would only think that He considers that He has
lost us, and prizes us because we are lost to Him, and wants to get
us back again, surely, surely it would draw us to Himself. Think of
the greatness of the love into which the ownership is merged, as
measured by the infinite price which He has paid to bring us back,
and let us all say, 'I will arise and go to my Father.'



THE PRODIGAL AND HIS FATHER


    'And He said, A certain man had two sons: 12. And the
    younger of them said to his father, Father, give me
    the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he
    divided unto them his living. 13. And not many days
    after the younger son gathered all together, and took
    his journey into a far country, and there wasted his
    substance with riotous living. 14. And when he had
    spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land;
    and he began to be in want. 15. And he went and joined
    himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him
    into his fields to feed swine. 16. And he would fain
    have filled his belly with the husks that the swine
    did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17. And when he
    came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of
    my father's have bread enough, and to spare, and I
    perish with hunger! 18. I will arise and go to my
    father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned
    against Heaven, and before thee, 19. And am no more
    worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy
    hired servants. 20. And he arose, and came to his
    father. But when he was yet a great way off, his
    father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell
    on his neck, and kissed him. 21. And the son said unto
    him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy
    sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
    22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth
    the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on
    his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23. And bring hither
    the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be
    merry: 24. For this my son was dead, and is alive
    again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to
    be merry.'--LUKE xv. 11-24.

The purpose of the three parables in this chapter has to be kept in
mind. Christ is vindicating His action in receiving sinners, which
had evoked the murmurings of the Pharisees. The first two parables,
those of the lost sheep and the lost drachma, appeal to the common
feeling which attaches more importance to lost property just because
it is lost than to that which is possessed safely. This parable
rises to a higher level. It appeals to the universal emotion of
fatherhood, which yearns over a wandering child just because he has
wandered.

We note a further advance, in the proportion of one stray sheep to
the ninety-nine, and of one lost coin to the nine, contrasted with
the sad equality of obedience and disobedience in the two sons. One
per cent., ten per cent., are bearable losses, but fifty per cent.
is tragic.

I. The first part (vs. 11-16) tells of the son's wish to be his own
master, and what came of it. The desire to be independent is good,
but when it can only be attained by being dependent on him whose
authority is irksome, it takes another colour. This foolish boy
wished to be able to use his father's property as his own, but he
had to get the father's consent first. It is a poor beginning of
independence when it has to be set up in business by a gift.

That is the essential absurdity in our attempts to do without God
and to shake off His control. We can only get power to seem to do it
by misusing His gifts. When we say, 'Who is Lord over us?' the
tongues which say it were given us by Him. The next step soon
followed. 'Not many days after,' of course, for the sense of
ownership could not be kept up while near the father. A man who
wishes to enjoy worldly good without reference to God is obliged, in
self-defence, to hustle God out of his thoughts as soon and as
completely as possible.

The 'far country' is easily reached; and it is far, though a step
can land us in it. A narrow bay may compel a long journey round its
head before those on its opposite shores can meet. Sin takes us far
away from God, and the root of all sin is that desire of living to
one's self which began the prodigal's evil course.

The third step in his downward career, wasting his substance in riotous
living, comes naturally after the two others; for all self-centred life
is in deepest truth waste, and the special forms of gross dissipation
to which youth is tempted are only too apt to follow the first sense
of being their own masters, and removed from the safeguards of their
earthly father's home. Many a lad in our great cities goes through the
very stages of the parable, and, when a mother's eye is no longer on
him, plunges into filthy debauchery. But living which does not outrage
the proprieties may be riotous all the same; for all conduct which
ignores God and asserts self as supreme is flagrantly against the
very nature of man, and is  reckless waste.

Such a 'merry' life is sure to be 'short.' There is always famine in
the land of forgetfulness of God, and when the first gloss is off
its enjoyments, and one's substance is spent, its pinch is felt. The
unsatisfied hunger of heart, which dogs godless living, too often
leads but to deeper degradation and closer entanglement with low
satisfactions. Men madly plunge deeper into the mud in hope of
finding the pearl which has thus far eluded their search.

A miserable thing this young fool had made of his venture, having
spent his capital, and now being forced to become a slave, and being
set to nothing better than to feed swine. The godless world is a
hard master, and has very odious tasks for its bondsmen. The unclean
animals are fit companions for one who made himself lower than they,
since filth is natural to them and shameful for him. They are better
off than he is, for husks do nourish them, and they get their fill,
but he who has sunk to longing for swine's food cannot get even
that. The dark picture is only too often verified in the experience
of godless men.

II. The wastrel's returning sanity is described in verses 17-20_a_.
'He came to himself.' Then he had been beside himself before. It is
insanity to try to shake off God, to aim at independence, to wander
from Him, to fling away our 'substance,' that is, our true selves,
and to starve among the swine-troughs. He remembers the bountiful
housekeeping at home, as starving men dream of feasts, and he thinks
of himself with a kind of pity and amazement.

There is no sign that his conscience smote him, or that his heart
woke in love to his father. His stomach, and it only, urged him to
go home. He did, indeed, feel that he had been wrong, and had
forfeited the right to be called a son, but he did not care much for
losing that name, or even for losing the love to which it had the
right, if only he could get as much to eat as one of the hired
servants, whose relation to the master was less close, and, in
patriarchal times, less happy, than that of slaves born in the
house.

One good thing about the lad was that he did not let the grass grow
under his feet, but, as soon as he had made the resolution, began to
carry it into effect. The bane of many a resolve to go back to God
is that it is 'sicklied o'er' by procrastination. The ragged
prodigal has not much to leave which need hold him, but many such a
one says, 'I will arise and go to my father to-morrow,' and lets all
the to-morrows become yesterdays, and is sitting among the swine
still.

Low as the prodigal's motive for return was, the fact of his return
was enough. So is it in regard to our attitude to the gospel. Men
may be drawn to give heed to its invitations from the instinct of
self-preservation, or from their sense of hungry need, and the
belief that in it they will find the food they crave for, while
there may be little consciousness of longing for more from the
Father than the satisfaction of felt wants. The longing for a place
in the Father's heart will spring up later, but the beginning of
most men's taking refuge in God as revealed in Christ is the gnawing
of a hungry heart. The call to all is, 'Ho, every one that
thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come
ye, buy, and eat.'

III. The climax of the parable, for which all the rest is but as
scaffolding, is the father's welcome (vs. 20_b_-24). Filial
love may die in the son's heart, but paternal yearning lives in the
father's. The wanderer's heart would be likely to sink as he came
nearer the father's tent. It had seemed easy to go back when he
acted the scene in imagination, but every step homewards made the
reality more difficult.

No doubt he hesitated when the old home came in sight, and perhaps
his resolution would have oozed out at his finger ends if he had had
to march up alone in his rags, and run the gauntlet of servants
before he came to speech with his father. So his father's seeing him
far off and running to meet him is exquisitely in keeping, as well
as movingly setting forth how God's love goes out to meet His
returning prodigals. That divine insight which discerns the first
motions towards return, that divine pity which we dare venture to
associate with His infinite love, that eager meeting the shamefaced
and slow-stepping boy half-way, and that kiss of welcome before one
word of penitence or request had been spoken, are all revelations of
the heart of God, and its outgoings to every wanderer who sets his
face to return.

Beautifully does the father's welcome make the son's completion of
his rehearsed speech impossible. It does not prevent his expression
of penitence, for the more God's love is poured over us, the more we
feel our sin. But he had already been treated as a son, and could
not ask to be taken as a servant. Beautifully, too, the father gives
no verbal answer to the lad's confession, for his kiss had answered
it already; but he issues instructions to the servants which show
that the pair have now reached the home and entered it together.

The gifts to the prodigal are probably significant. They not only
express in general the cordiality of the welcome, but seem to be
capable of specific interpretations, as representing various aspects
of the blessed results of return to God. The robe is the familiar
emblem of character. The prodigal son is treated like the high-priest
in Zechariah's vision; his rags are stripped off, and he is clothed
anew in a dress of honour. 'Them he also justified: and whom he
justified, them he also sanctified.' The ring is a token of wealth,
position, and honour. It is also a sign of delegated authority, and
is an ornament to the hand. So God gives His prodigals, when they
come back, an elevation which unforgiven beings do not reach, and
sets them to represent Him, and arrays them in strange beauty. No
doubt the lad had come back footsore and bleeding, and the shoes
may simply serve to keep up the naturalness of the story. But probably
they suggest equipment for the journey of life. That is one of the
gifts that accompany forgiveness. Our feet are shod with the
preparedness of the gospel of peace.

Last of all comes the feast. Heaven keeps holiday when some poor
waif comes shrinking back to the Father. The prodigal had been
content to sink his sonship for the sake of a loaf, but he could not
get bread on such terms. He had to be forgiven and bathed in the
outflow of his father's love before he could be fed; and, being thus
received, he could not but be fed. The feast is for those who come
back penitently, and are received forgivingly, and endowed richly by
the Father in heaven.



GIFTS TO THE PRODIGAL


    '... Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and
    put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23. And
    bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it....'
    --LUKE XV. 22, 23.

God's giving always follows His forgiving. It is not so with us. We
think ourselves very magnanimous when we pardon; and we seldom go on
to lavish favours where we have overlooked faults. Perhaps it is right
that men who have offended against men should earn restoration by acts,
and should have to ride quarantine, as it were, for a time. But I
question whether forgiveness is ever true which is not, like God's,
attended by large-hearted gifts. If pardon is only the non-infliction
of penalty, then it is natural enough that it should be considered
sufficient by itself, and that the evildoer should not be rewarded
for having been bad. But if pardon is the outflow of the love of the
offended to the offender, then it can scarcely be content with simply
giving the debtor his discharge, and turning him into the world
penniless.

However that may be with regard to men, God's forgiveness is
essentially the communication of God's love to us sinners, as if we
had never sinned at all. And, that being so, that love cannot stay
its working until it has given all that it can bestow or we can
receive. God does not do things by halves; and He always gives when
He forgives.

Now that is the great truth of the last part of this immortal
parable. And it is one of the points in which it differs from, and
towers high above, the two preceding ones. The lost sheep was
carried back to the pastures, turned loose there, needed no further
special care, and began to nibble as if nothing had happened. The
lost drachma was simply put back in the woman's purse. But the lost
son was pardoned, and, being pardoned, was capable of receiving, and
received, greater gifts than he had before. These gifts are very
remarkably detailed in the words of our text.

Now, of course, it is always risky to seek for a spiritual
interpretation of every point in a parable, many of which points are
mere drapery. But, on the other hand, we may very easily fall into the
error of treating as insignificant details which really are meant to
be full of instruction. And I cannot help thinking--although many
would differ from me,--that this detailed enumeration of the gifts
to the prodigal is meant to be translated into the terms of spiritual
experience. So I desire to look at them as suggesting for us the
gifts of God which accompany forgiveness. I take the catalogue as
it stands--the Robe, the Ring, the Shoes, the Feast.

I. First, the Robe.

'Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him.' That was the
command. This detail, of course, like all the others, refers back
to, and casts light upon, the supposed condition of the spendthrift
when he came back. There he stood, ragged, with the stain of travel
and the stench of the pig-sty upon his garments, some of them, no
doubt, remains of the tawdry finery that he had worn in the world;
wine-spots, and stains, and filth of all sorts on the rags. The
father says, 'Take them all off him, and put the best robe upon
him.' What does that mean?

Well, we all know the very familiar metaphor by which qualities of
mind, traits of character, and the like are described as being the
dress of the spirit. We talk about being 'arrayed in purity,' 'clad
in zeal,' 'clothed with humility,' 'vested with power,' and so on.
If we turn to Scripture, we find running through it a whole series
of instances of this metaphor, which guide us at once to its true
meaning. Zechariah saw in vision the high priest standing at the
heavenly tribunal, clad in filthy garments. A voice said, 'Take away
the filthy garments from him,' and the interpretation is added:
'Behold! I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will
clothe thee with a change of raiment.' You remember our Lord's
parable of the man with a wedding garment. You remember the Apostle
Paul's frequent use of the metaphor of 'putting off the old man,
putting on the new.' You remember, finally, the visions of the last
days, in which the Seer in Patmos saw the armies in heaven that
followed their victorious Commander, 'clothed in fine linen, white and
pure, which is the righteousness of the saints.' If we put all these
together, surely I am not forcing a meaning on a non-significant
detail, when I say that here we have shadowed for us the great thought,
that the result of the divine forgiveness coming upon a man is that he
is clothed with a character which fits him to sit down at his Father's
table. They tell us that forgiveness is impossible, because things
done must have their consequences, and that character is the slow
formation of actions, precipitated, as it were, from our deeds. That
is all true. But it does not conflict with this other truth that there
may and does come into men's hearts, when they set their faith on
Jesus Christ, a new power which transforms the nature and causes
old things to pass away.

God's forgiveness revolutionises a life. Similar effects follow even
human pardons for small offences. Brute natures are held in by
penalties, and to them pardon means impunity, and impunity means
licence, and licence means lust. But wherever there is a heart with
love to the offended in it, there is nothing that will so fill it
with loathing of its past self as the assurance that the offended,
though loved, One loves, and is not offended, and that free
forgiveness has come. Whether is it the rod or the mother's kiss
that makes a child hate its sin most? And if we lift our thoughts to
Him, and think how He, up there in the heavens,

 'Who mightest vengeance best have took,'

bends over us in frank, free forgiveness, then surely that, more
than all punishments or threatenings or terrors, will cause us to
turn away from our evil, and to loathe the sins which are thus
forgiven. The prophet went very deep when he said, 'Thou shalt be
ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of
thine iniquity, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou
hast done, saith the Lord.'

But not only so, there is given along with forgiveness, and wrapped
up in it, a new power, which makes all things new, and changes a
man. It would be a poor Gospel for me to stand up and preach if I
had only to proclaim to men the divine forgiveness; and if that only
meant that hell's door was barred and some outward heaven was flung
open. But the true Gospel offers forgiveness as preliminary to the
bestowal of the highest gifts of God. The pardoned man is stripped
of his rags and clothed with a new nature which God Himself bestows.

That is what we all need. We have not all been in the pig-sty; we
have not all fallen into gross sin. We _have_ all turned our
backs on our Father; we _have_ all wanted to be independent; we
_have_ all preferred the far-off land to being near home. And,
dear brethren, the character that you have made for yourselves
clings to you like the poisoned Nessus' shirt to Hercules. You
cannot strip it off. You may get part of it away, but you cannot
entirely cast it from your limbs, nor free yourselves from the
entanglements of its tatters. Go to God, and He will smile away your
sin, and His forgiving love will melt the stains and the evil, as
the sun this morning drank up the mists; and they who come knowing
themselves to be foul, and needing forgiveness, will surely receive
from Him 'the fine linen white and pure, the righteousness of
saints.'

II. The Ring.

This prodigal lad only wanted to be placed in the position of a
slave, but his father said, 'Put a ring on his finger.' The ring is
an emblem of wealth, position, honour; that is one signification of
this gift to the penitent. Still further, it is an ornament to the
hand on which it glistens; that is another. It is a sign of
delegated authority and of representative character; as when Joseph
was exalted to be the second man in Egypt, and Pharaoh's signet ring
was plucked off and placed upon his finger. All these thoughts are,
as it seems to me, clustered in, and fairly deducible from, this one
detail.

Freedom, exaltation, dignity of position are expressed. And that
opens up a thought which needs to be set forth with many
reservations, and much guarding, but still is true--viz., that, by
the mercy and miraculous loving-kindness and quickening power of God
in the Gospel, it is possible that the lower a man falls the higher
he may rise. I know, of course, that it is better to be innocent
than to be cleansed. I know, and every man that looks into his own
heart knows, that forgiven sins may leave scars; that the memory may
be loaded with many a foul and many a painful remembrance; that the
fetters may be stricken off the limbs, but the marks of them, and
the way of walking that they compelled, may persist long after
deliverance. But I know, too, that redeemed men are higher in final
position than angels that never fell; and that, though it is too
much to say that the greater the sinner the greater the saint, it
still remains true that sin repented and forgiven may be, as it
were, an elevation upon which a man may stand to reach higher than,
apparently, he otherwise would in the divine life.

And so, though I do not say to any man, Make the experiment; for,
indeed, the poorest of us has sins enough to get all the benefit out
of repentance and forgiveness which is included in them, yet, if
there is any man here--and I hope there is--saying to himself,
'I have got too low down ever to master this, that, or the other
evil; I have stained myself so foully that I cannot hope to have the
black marks erased,' I say to such; 'Remember that the man who ended
with a ring on his finger, honoured and dignified, was the man that
had herded with pigs, and stank, and all but rotted, with his
fleshly crimes.' And so nobody need doubt but that for him, however
low he has gone, and however far he has gone, there is restoration
possible to a higher dignity than the pure spirits that never
transgressed at any time God's commandment will ever attain; for he
who has within himself the experience of repentance, of pardon, and
who has come into living contact with Jesus Christ as Redeemer, can
teach angels how blessed it is to be a child of God.

Nor less distinctly are the other two things which I have referred
to brought out in this metaphor. Not only is the ring the sign of
dignity, but it is also the sign of delegated authority and
representative character. God sets poor penitents to be His
witnesses in His world, and to do His work here. And a ring is an
ornament to the hand that wears it; which being translated is this:
where God gives pardon, He gives a strange beauty of character, to
which, if a man is true to himself, and to his Redeemer, he will
assuredly attain. There should be no lives so lovely, none that
flash with so many jewelled colours, as the lives of the men and
women who have learned what it is to be miserable, what it is to
repent, what it is to be forgiven. So, though our 'hands have been
full of blood,' as the prophet says, though they have dabbled in all
manner of pollution, though they have been the ready instruments of
many evil things, we may all hope that, cleansed and whitened, even
our hands will not want the lustre of that adornment which the
loving father clasped upon the fingers of his penitent boy.

III. Further, 'Shoes on his feet.'

No doubt he had come back barefooted and filthy and bleeding, and it
was needful for the 'keeping' of the narrative that this detail
should appear. But I think it is something more than drapery.

Does it not speak to us of equipment for the walk of life? God
_does_ prepare men for future service, and for every step that
they have to take, by giving to them  His forgiveness for all that
is past. The sense of the divine pardon will in itself fit a man, as
nothing else will, for running with patience the race that is set
before him. God does communicate, along with His forgiveness, to
every one who seeks it, actual power to 'travel on life's common way
in cheerful godliness'; and his feet are 'shod with the preparedness
of the gospel of peace.'

Ah, brethren, life is a rough road for us all, and for those whose
faces are set towards duty, and God, and self-denial, it is
especially so, though there are many compensating circumstances.
There are places where sharp flints stick up in the path and cut the
feet. There are places where rocks jut out for us to stumble over.
There are all the trials and sorrows that necessarily attend upon
our daily lives, and which sometimes make us feel as if our path
were across heated ploughshares, and every step was a separate
agony. God will give us, if we go to Him for pardon, that which will
defend us against the pains and the sorrows of life. The bare foot
is cut by that which the shod foot tramples upon unconscious.

There are foul places on all our paths, over which, when we pass, if
we have not something else than our own naked selves, we shall
certainly contract defilement. God will give to the penitent man, if
he will have it, that which will keep his feet from soil, even when
they walk amidst filth. And if, at any time, notwithstanding the
defence, some mud should stain the foot, and he that is washed needs
again to wash his feet, the Master, with the towel and the basin,
will not be far away.

There are enemies and dangers in life. A very important part of the
equipment of the soldier in antiquity was the heavy boot, which
enabled him to stand fast, and resist the rush of the enemy. God
will give to the penitent man, if he will have it, that which will
set his foot upon a rock, 'and establish his goings,' and which
'will make him able to withstand in the evil day, and having done
all, to stand.'

Brethren, defence, stability, shielding from pains, and protection
against evil are all included in this great promise, which each of
us may realise, if we will, for ourselves.

IV. Lastly, the Feast.

Now that comes into view in the parable, mainly as teaching us the
great truth that Heaven keeps holiday, when some poor waif comes
shrinking back to his Father. But I do not touch upon that truth
now, though it is the main significance of this last part of the
story.

The prodigal was half starving, and the fatted calf was killed 'for
him,' as his ill-conditioned brother grumbled. Remember what it was
that drove him back--not his heart, nor his conscience, but his
stomach. He did not bethink himself to go back, because dormant
filial affection woke up, or because a sense that he had been wrong
stirred in him, but because he was hungry; and well he might be,
when 'the husks that the swine did eat' were luxuries beyond his
reach. Thank God for the teaching that even so low a motive as that
is accepted by God; and that, if a man goes back, even for no better
reason--as long as he does go back, he will be welcomed by the
Father. This poor boy was quite content to sink his sonship for the
sake of a loaf; and all that he wanted was to stay his hunger. So he
had to learn that he could not get bread on the terms that he
desired, and that what he wished most was not what he needed first.
He had to be forgiven and bathed in the outflow of his father's love
before he could be fed. And, being thus received, he could not fail
to be fed. So the message for us is, first, forgiveness, and then
every hunger of the heart satisfied; all desires met; every needful
nourishment communicated, and the true bread ours for ever, if we
choose to eat. 'The meek shall eat and be satisfied.'

I need not draw the picture--that picture of which there are many
originals sitting in these pews before me--of the men that go for
ever roaming with a hungry heart, through all the regions of life
separate from God; and whether they seek their nourishment in the
garbage of the sty, or whether fastidiously they look for it in the
higher nutriment of mind and intellect and heart, still are
condemned to be unfilled.

Brethren, 'Why do you spend your money for that ... which satisfies
not?' Here is the true way for all desires to be appeased. Go to God
in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and then everything that you need
shall be yours. 'I counsel thee to buy of Me ... white raiment that
thou mayest be clothed.' 'He that eateth of this bread shall live
for ever.'



THE FOLLIES OF THE WISE


    'The children of this world are in their generation
    wiser than the children of light.'--LUKE xvi. 8.

The parable of which these words are the close is remarkable in that
it proposes a piece of deliberate roguery as, in some sort, a
pattern for Christian people. The steward's conduct was neither more
nor less than rascality, and yet, says Christ, 'Do like that!'

The explanation is to be found mainly in the consideration that what
was faithless sacrifice of his master's interests, on the part of the
steward, is, in regard to the Christian man's use of earthly gifts,
the right employment of the possessions which have been entrusted to
him. But there is another vindication of the singular selection of
such conduct as an example, in the consideration that what is praised
is not the dishonesty, but the foresight, realisation of the facts of
the case, promptitude, wisdom of various kinds exhibited by the
steward. And so says our Lord--shutting out the consideration of ends,
and looking only for a moment at means,--the world can teach the
Church a great many lessons; and it would be well for the Church if
its members lived in the fashion in which the men of the world do.
There is eulogium here, a recognition of splendid qualities,
prostituted to low purposes; a recognition of wisdom in the adaptation
of means to an end; and a limitation of the recognition, because it is
only _in their generation_ that 'the children of this world are
wiser than the children of light.'

I. So we may look, first, at these two classes, which our Lord
opposes here to one another.

'The children of this world' would have, for their natural
antithesis, the children of another world. The 'children of light'
would have, for their natural antithesis, 'the children of
darkness.' But our Lord so orders His words as to suggest a double
antithesis, one member of which has to be supplied in each case, and
He would teach us that whoever the children of this world may be,
they are 'children of darkness'; and that the 'children of light'
are so, just because they are the children of another world than
this. Thus He limits His praise, because it is the sons of darkness
that, in a certain sense, are wiser than the enlightened ones. And
that is what makes the wonder and the inconsistency to which our
Lord is pointing. We can understand a man being a consistent,
thorough-paced fool all through. But men whose folly is so dashed
and streaked with wisdom, and others whose wisdom is so spotted and
blurred with folly, are the extraordinary paradoxes which experience
of life presents to us.

The children of this world are of darkness; the children of light
are the children of another world. Now I need not spend more than a
sentence or two in further explaining these two antitheses. I do not
intend to vindicate them, or to vindicate our Lord's distinct
classification of men into these two halves. What does He mean by
the children of this world? The old Hebrew idiom, the children of
so-and-so, simply suggests persons who are so fully possessed and
saturated with a given quality, or who belong so entirely to a given
person, as that they are spoken of as if they stood to it, or to
him, in the relation of children to their parents. And a child of
this world is a man whose whole thoughts, aims, and objects of life
are limited and conditioned by this material present. But the word
which is employed here, translated rightly enough 'world,' is not
the same as that which is often used, especially in John's writings,
for the same idea. Although it conveys a similar idea, still it is
different. The characteristic quality of the visible and material
world which is set forth by the expression here employed is its
transiency. 'The children of this epoch' rather than 'of this world'
is the meaning of the phrase. And it suggests, not so much the
inadequacy of the material to satisfy the spiritual, as the absurdity
of a man fixing his hopes and limiting his aims and life-purpose
within the bounds of what is destined to fade and perish. Fleeting
wealth, fleeting honours, mortal loves, wisdom, and studies that pass
away with the passing away of the material; these, however elevating
some of them may be, however sweet some of them may be, however
needful all of them are in their places, are not the things to which
a man can safely lash his being, or entrust his happiness, or wisely
devote his life. And therefore the men who, ignoring the fact that
they live and the world passes, make themselves its slaves, and
itself their object, are convicted by the very fact of the
disproportion between the duration of themselves and of that which
is their aim, of being children of the darkness.

Then we come to the other antithesis. The children of light are so
in the measure in which their lives are not dependent exclusively
upon, nor directed solely towards, the present order and condition
of things. If there be a _this,_ then there is a _that_. If there be an
age which is qualified as being present, then that implies that there
is an age or epoch which is yet to come. And that coming 'age' should
regulate the whole of our relations to that age which at present is. For
life is continuous, and the coming epoch is the outcome of the present.
As truly as 'the child is father of the man,' so truly is Eternity the
offspring of Time, and that which we are to-day determines that which
we shall be through the ages. He that recognises the relations of the
present and the future, who sees the small, limited things of the
moment running out into the dim eternity beyond, and the track
unbroken across the gulfs of death and the broad expanse of countless
years, and who therefore orders the little things here so as to secure
the great things yonder, he, and only he, who has made time the
'lackey to eternity,' and in his pursuit of the things seen and
temporal, regards them always in the light of things unseen and eternal,
is a child of light.

II. The second consideration suggested here is the limited and
relative wisdom of the fools.

The children of this world, who are the children of darkness, and
who at bottom are thoroughly unwise, considered relatively, 'are
wiser than the children of light.' The steward is the example. 'A
rogue is always'--as one of our thinkers puts it--'a roundabout
fool.' He would have been a much wiser man if he had been an
honester one; and, instead of tampering with his lord's goods, had
faithfully administered them.

But, shutting out the consideration of the moral quality of his
action, look how much there was in it that was wise, prudent, and
worthy of praise. There were courage, fertility of resource, a clear
insight into what was the right thing to do. There was a wise
adaptation of means to an end. There was promptitude in carrying out
the wise means that suggested themselves to him. The design was bad.
Granted. We are not talking about goodness, but about cleverness.
So, very significantly, in the parable the person cheated cannot
help saying that the cheat was a clever one. The 'lord,' although he
had suffered by it, 'commended the unjust steward, because he had
done wisely.'

Did you never know in Manchester some piece of sharp practice, about
which people said, 'Ah, well, he is a clever fellow,' and all but
condoned the immorality for the sake of the smartness? The lord and
the steward belong to the same level of character; and vulpine
sagacity, astuteness, and qualities which ensure success in material
things seem to both of them to be of the highest value. 'The children
of this world, _in their generation'_--but only in it--are wiser
than the children of light.'

Now I draw a very simple, practical lesson, and it is just this,
that if Christian men, in their Christian lives, would practise the
virtues that the world practises, in pursuit of its shabby aims and
ends, their whole Christian character would be revolutionised. Why,
a boy will spend more pains in learning to whistle than half of you
do in trying to cultivate your Christian character. The secret of
success religiously is precisely the same as the secret of success
in ordinary things. Look at the splendid qualities that go to the
making of a successful housebreaker. Audacity, resource, secrecy,
promptitude, persistence, skill of hand, and a hundred others, are
put into play before a man can break into your back kitchen and
steal your goods. Look at the qualities that go to the making of a
successful amuser of people. Men will spend endless time and pains,
and devote concentration, persistence, self-denial, diligence, to
learning how to play upon some instrument, how to swing upon a
trapeze, how to twist themselves into abnormal contortions. Jugglers
and fiddlers, and circus-riders and dancers, and people of that sort
spend far more time upon efforts to perfect themselves in their
profession, than ninety-nine out of every hundred professing
Christians do to make themselves true followers of Jesus Christ.
They know that nothing is to be got without working for it, and
there is nothing to be got in the Christian life without working for
it any more than in any other.

Shut out the end for a moment, and look at the means. From the ranks
of criminals, of amusers, and of the purely worldly men of business
that we come in contact with every day, we may get lessons that
ought to bring a blush to all our cheeks, when we think to ourselves
how a wealth of intellectual and moral qualities and virtues, such
as we do not bring to bear on our Christian lives, are by these men
employed in regard of their infinitely smaller pursuits.

Oh, brethren! we ought to be our own rebukes, for it is not only
other people who show forth in other fields of life the virtues that
would make so much better Christians of us, if we used them in ours,
but that we ourselves carry within ourselves the condemning
contrast. Look at your daily life! Do you give anything like the
effort to grow in the knowledge of your Lord and Saviour, Jesus
Christ, that you do to make or maintain your position in the world?
When you are working side by side with the children of this world
for the same objects, you keep step with them, and are known to be
diligent in business as they are. When you pass into the church,
what do you do there? Are we not ice in one half of our lives, and
fire in the other? We may well lay to heart these solemn words of
our Lord, and take shame when we think that not only do the unwise,
who choose the world as their portion, put us to shame in their
self-denial, their earnestness, their absorption, their clear
insight into facts, their swiftness in availing themselves of every
opportunity, their persistence and their perseverance, but that we
rebuke ourselves because of the difference between the earnestness
with which we follow the things that are of this world, and the
languor of our pursuit after the things that are unseen and eternal.

Of course the reasons for the contrast are easy enough to apprehend,
and I do not need to spend time upon them. The objects that so have
power to stimulate and to lash men into energy, continuously through
their lives, lie at hand, and a candle near will dim the sunshine
beyond. These objects appeal to sense, and such make a deeper
impression than things that are shown to the mind, as every picture-book
may prove to us. And we, in regard to the aims of our Christian life,
have to make a continual effort to bring and keep them before us, or
they are crowded out by the intrusive vulgarities and dazzling
brilliances of the present. And so it comes to pass that the men who
hunt after trifles that are to perish set examples to the men who say
that they are pursuing eternal realities. 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard,
consider her ways and be wise.' Go to the men of the world, thou
Christian, and do not let it be said that the devil's scholars are more
studious and earnest than Christ's disciples.

III. Lastly, note the conclusive folly of the partially wise.

'In their generation,' says Christ; and that is all that can be said,
The circle runs round its 360 degrees, and these people take a segment
of it, say forty-five degrees, and all the rest is as non-existent. If
I am to call a man a wise man out and out, there are two things that I
shall have to be satisfied about concerning him. The one is, what is
he aiming at? and the other, how does he aim at it? In regard to the
means, the men of the world bear the bell, and carry away the supremacy.
Let in the thought of the end, and things change. Two questions reduce
all the world's wisdom to stark, staring insanity. The first question
is, 'What are you doing it for?' And the second question is, 'And
suppose you get it, what then?' Nothing that cannot pass the barrier
of these two questions satisfactorily is other than madness, if taken
to be the aim of a man's life. You have to look at the end, and the
whole circumference of the circle of the human being, before you serve
out the epithets of 'wise' and  'foolish.'

I need not dwell on the manifest folly of men who give their lives
to aims and ends of which I have already said that they are
disproportioned to the capacity of the pursuer. Look at yourselves,
brothers; these hearts of yours that need an infinite love for their
satisfaction, these active spirits of yours that can never be at
rest in creatural perfection; these troubled consciences of yours
that stir and moan inarticulately over unperceived wounds until they
are healed by Christ. How can any man with a heart and a will, and a
progressive spirit and intellect, find what he needs in anything
beneath the stars? 'Whose image and superscription hath it? They say
unto Him, Caesar's'; we say 'God's.' 'Render unto God the things
that are God's.' The man who makes anything but God his end and aim
is relatively wise and absolutely foolish.

Let me remind you too, that the same sentence of folly passes, if we
consider the disproportion between the duration of the objects and
of him who makes them his aim. You live, and if you are a wise man,
your treasures will be of the kind that last as long as you. 'They
call their lands after their own name; they think that their houses
shall continue for ever. They go down into the dust. Their glory
shall not descend after them,' and, therefore, 'this, their way, is
their folly.'

Brethren, all that I would say may be gathered into two words. Let
there be a proportion between your aims and your capacity. That
signifies, let God be your end. And let there be a correspondence
between your end and your means. That signifies, '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.' Or else, when everything
comes to be squared up and settled, the epitaph on your gravestone
will deservedly be; 'Thou fool !'



TWO KINDS OF RICHES


    'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful
    also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is
    unjust also in much. 11. If therefore ye have not been
    faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to
    your trust the true riches? 12. And if ye have not been
    faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give
    you that which is your own?'--LUKE xvi. 10-12.

That is a very strange parable which precedes my text, in which our
Lord takes a piece of crafty dishonesty on the part of a steward who
had been embezzling his lord's money as in some sense an example for
us Christian people, There are other instances in which He does the
same thing, finding a soul of goodness in things evil, as, for
instance, in the parable of the Unjust Judge. Similar is the New
Testament treatment of war or slavery, both of which diabolical
things are taken as illustrations of what in the highest sphere are
noble and heavenly things.

But having delivered the parable, our Lord seems, in the verses that
I have read, to anticipate the objection that the unfaithfulness of
the steward can never be an example for God's stewards; and in the
words before us, amongst other things, He says substantially this,
that whilst the steward's using his lord's wealth in order to help
his lord's debtors was a piece of knavery and unfaithfulness, in us
it is not unfaithfulness, but the very acme of faithfulness. In the
text we have the thought that there are two kinds of valuable things
in the world, a lower and a higher; that men may be very rich in
regard to the one, and very poor in regard to the other. In respect
to these, 'There is that maketh himself rich, and yet hath nothing;
there is that maketh himself poor, and yet hath great riches.' More
than that, the noblest use of the lower kind of possessions is to
secure the possession of the highest. And so He teaches us the
meaning of life, and of all that we have.

Now, there are three things in these words to which I would turn
your attention--the two classes of treasure, the contrast of
qualities between these two, and the noblest use of the lower.

I. The Two Classes of Treasure.

Now, we shall make a great mistake if we narrow down the
interpretation of that word 'mammon' in the context (which is 'that
which is least,' etc., here) to be merely money. It covers the whole
ground of all possible external and material possessions, whatsoever
things a man can only have in outward seeming, whatsoever things
belong only to the region of sense and the present. All that is in
the world, in fact, is included in the one name. And you must widen
out your thoughts of what is referred to here in this prolonged
contrast which our Lord runs between the two sets of treasures, so
as to include, not only money, but all sorts of things that belong
to this sensuous and temporal scene. And, on the other hand, there
stands opposite to it, as included in, and meant by, that which is
'most,' 'that which is the true riches,' 'that which is your own';
everything that holds of the unseen and spiritual, whether it be
treasures of intellect and lofty thought, or whether it be pure and
noble aims, or whether it be ideals of any kind, the ideals of art,
the aspirations of science, the lofty aims of the scholar and the
student--all these are included. And the very same standard of
excellence which declares that the treasures of a cultivated
intellect, of a pure mind, of a lofty purpose, are higher than the
utmost of material good, and that 'wisdom is better than rubies,'
the very same standard, when applied in another direction, declares
that above the treasures of the intellect and the taste are to be
ranked all the mystical and great blessings which are summoned up in
that mighty word salvation. And we must take a step further, for
neither the treasures of the intellect, the mind, and the heart, nor
the treasures of the spiritual life which salvation implies, can be
realised and reached unless a man possesses God. So in the deepest
analysis, and in the truest understanding of these two contrasted
classes of wealth you have but the old antithesis: the world--and
God. He that has God is rich, however poor he may be in reference to
the other category; and he that has Him not is poor, however rich he
may be. 'The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places,' says the
Psalmist; and 'I have a goodly heritage,' because he could also say,
'God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.' So there
is the antithesis, the things of time and sense, the whole mass of
them knit together on the one hand; the single God alone by Himself
on the other. Of these two classes of valuable things our Lord goes
on next to tell us the relative worth. For we have here

II. The Contrast between the Two.

That contrast is threefold, as you observe, 'that which is least.'
or, perhaps better, 'that which is very little.' and 'that which is
much.' That is a contrast in reference to degree. But degree is a
shallow word, which does not cover the whole ground, nor go down
to the depths. So our Lord comes next to a contrast in regard to
essential nature, 'the unrighteous mammon' and 'the true riches.'
But even these contrasts in degree and in kind do not exhaust all
the contrasts possible, for there is another, the contrast in
reference to the reality of our possession: 'that which is
another's'; 'that which is your own.' Let us, then, take these three
things, the contrast in degree, the contrast in kind, the contrast
in regard to real possession.

First, then, and briefly, mental and spiritual and inward blessings,
salvation, God, are more than all externals. Our Lord gathers all
the conceivable treasures of earth, jewels and gold and dignities,
and scenes of sensuous delights, and everything that holds to the
visible and the temporal, and piles them into one scale, and then He
puts into the other the one name, God; and the pompous nothings fly
up and are nought, and have no weight at all. Is that not true? Does
it need any demonstration, any more talk about it? No!

But then comes in sense and appeals to us, and says, 'You cannot get
beyond my judgment. These things are good.' Jesus Christ does not
say that they are not, but sense regards them as far better than
they are. They are near us, and a very small object near us, by the
laws of perspective, shuts out a mightier one beyond us. We in
Manchester live in a community which is largely based on, and
actuated and motived in its diligence by the lie that material good
is better than spiritual good, that it is better to be a rich man
and a successful merchant than to be a poor and humble and honest
student; that it is better to have a balance at your bankers than to
have great and pure and virginal thoughts in a clean heart; that a
man has done better for himself when he has made a fortune than when
he has God in his heart. And so we need, and God knows it was never
more needed in Manchester than to-day, that we should preach and
preach and preach, over and over again, this old-fashioned
threadbare truth, which is so threadbare and certain that it has
lost its power over the lives of many of us, that all that, at its
mightiest, is very little, and that this, at its least, is very
much. Dear brethren, you and I know how hard it is always,
especially how hard it is in business lives, to keep this as our
practical working faith. We say we believe, and then we go away and
live as if we believed the opposite. I beseech you listen to the
scale laid down by Him who knew all things in their measure and
degree, and let us settle it in our souls, and live as if we had
settled it, that it is better to be wise and good than to be rich
and prosperous, and that God is more than a universe of worlds, if
we have Him for our own.

But to talk about a contrast in degree degrades the reality, for it
is no matter of difference of measurement, but it is a matter of
difference of kind. And so our Lord goes on to a deeper phase of the
contrast, when He pits against one another 'the unrighteous mammon'
and 'the true riches.' Now, there is some difficulty in that
contrast. The two significant terms do not seem to be precise
opposites, and possibly they are not intended to be logically
accurate counterparts of each other. But what is meant by 'the
unrighteous mammon'? I do not suppose that the ordinary explanation
of that verse is quite adequate. We usually suppose that by so
stigmatising the material good, He means to suggest how hard it is
to get it--and you all know that--and how hard it is to keep it, and
how hard it is to administer it, without in some measure falling
into the sin of unrighteousness. But whilst I dare say that may be
the signification intended, if we were to require that the word here
should be a full and correct antithesis to the other phrase, 'the
true riches,' we should need to suppose that 'unrighteous' here
meant that which falsely pretended to be what it was not. And so we
come to the contrast between the deceitfulness of earthly good and
the substantial reality of the heavenly. Will any fortune, even
though it goes into seven figures, save a man from the miseries, the
sorrows, the ills that flesh is heir to? Does a great estate make a
man feel less desolate when he stands by his wife's coffin? Will any
wealth 'minister to a mind diseased'? Will a mountain of material
good calm and satisfy a man's soul? You see faces just as
discontented, looking out of carriage windows, as you meet in the
street. 'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.' There is no
proportion between abundance of external good of any kind and happy
hearts. We all know that the man who is rich is not happier than the
poor man. And I, for my part, believe that the raw material of
happiness is very equally distributed through the world, and that it
is altogether a hallucination by which a poor man thinks, 'If I were
wealthy like that other man, how different my life would be.' No, it
would not; you would be the same man. The rich man that fancies that
because he is rich he is 'better off,' as they say, than his poor
brother, and the poor man who thinks that he would be 'better off'
if he were richer than he is now, are the same man turned inside
out, so to speak; and common to both of them is that fallacy, that
wealth and material good contribute much to the real blessedness and
nobleness of the man who happens to own it.

But then, perhaps, we have rather to regard this unrighteous mammon
as so designated from another point of view. You will remember that
all through the context our Lord has been insisting on the notion of
stewardship. And I take it that what He means here is to remind us
that whenever we claim any of our possessions, especially our
external ones, as our own, we thereby are guilty of defrauding both
God and man, and are unrighteous, and it is unrighteous thereby.
Stewardship is a word which describes our relation to all that we
have. Forget that, and then whatever you have becomes 'the
unrighteous mammon.' There is the point in which Christ's teaching
joins hands with a great deal of unchristian teaching in this
present day which is called Socialism and Communism. Christianity is
not communistic. It asserts as against other men your right of
property, but it limits that right by this, that if you interpret
your right of property to mean the right to 'do what you like with
your own,' ignoring your stewardship to God, and the right of your
fellows to share in what you have, then you are an unfaithful
steward, and your mammon is unrighteous. And that principle, the
true communism of Christianity, has to be worked into modern society
in a way that some of us do not dream of, before modern society will
be organised on Christian principles. These words of my text are no
toothless words which are merely intended to urge Christian people
on to a sentimental charity, and to a niggardly distribution of part
of their possessions: but they underlie the whole conception of
ownership, as the New Testament sets it forth. Wherever the
stewardship that we owe to God, and the participation that we owe to
men, are neglected in regard to anything that we have, there God's
good gifts are perverted and have become 'unrighteous mammon.'

And, then, on the other hand, our Lord sets forth here the contrast
in regard to 'the true riches', which are such, inasmuch as they
really correspond to the idea of wealth being a true good to a man,
and making him rich to all the intents of bliss. He that has the
treasures of a pure mind, of a lofty aim, of a quiet conscience, of
a filled and satisfied and therefore calmed heart; he that has the
treasure of salvation; he that has the boundless wealth of God---he
has the bullion, while the poor rich people that have the material
good have the scrip of an insolvent company, which is worth no more
than the paper on which it is written. There are two currencies--one
solid metal, the other worthless paper. The one is 'true riches,'
and the other the 'unrighteous mammon.'

Then there is a last contrast, and that is with regard to the
reality of our possession. On the one hand, that which I fondly call
my own is by our Lord stamped with the proprietor's mark, of
somebody else, 'that which is Another's.' It was His before He gave
it, it was His when He gave it, it is His after He has given it. My
name is never to be written on my property so as to erase the name
of the Owner. I am a steward; I am a trustee; it all belongs to Him.
That is one rendering of this word. But the phrase may perhaps point
in another direction. It may suggest how shadowy and unreal, as
being merely external, and how transitory is our ownership of wealth
and outward possessions. A man says, 'It is mine.' What does he mean
by that? It is not his own in any real sense. I get more good out of
a rich man's pictures, or estate, if I look at them with an eye that
loves them, than he does. The world belongs to the man that can
enjoy it and rightly use it. And the man that enjoys it and uses it
aright is the man who lives in God. Nothing is really yours except
that which has entered into the substance of your soul, and become
incorporated with your very being, so that, as in wool dyed in the
grain, the colour will never come out. What I am, that I have; what
I only have, that, in the deepest sense, I have not. 'Shrouds have
no pockets,' says the Spanish proverb. 'His glory will not descend
after him,' says the psalm. That is a poor possession which only is
outward whilst it lasts, and which ends so soon. But there is wealth
that comes into me. There are riches that cannot be parted from me.
I can make my own a great inheritance, which is wrought into the
very substance of my being, and will continue so inwrought, into
whatsoever worlds or states of existence any future may carry me.
So, and only so, is anything my own. Let these contrasts dominate
our lives.

I see our space is gone; I must make this sermon a fragment, and
leave what I intended to have made the last part of it for possible
future consideration. Only let me press upon you in one closing word
this, that the durable riches are only found in God, and the riches
that can be found in God are brought to every one of us by Him 'in
whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' of goodness
and grace. If we will make ourselves poor, by consciousness of our
need, and turn with faith to Jesus, then we shall receive from Him
those riches which are greatest, which are true, which are our own
in that they pass into our very being, in that they were destined
for us from all eternity by the love of God; and in having them we
shall be rich indeed, and for ever.



THE GAINS OF THE FAITHFUL STEWARD


    'If ye have not been faithful in that which is another
    man's, who shall give you that which is your own?'
    --LUKE xvi. 12.

In a recent sermon on this context I dealt mainly with the threefold
comparison which our Lord runs between the higher and the lower kind
of riches. The one is stigmatised as 'that which is least,' the
unrighteous mammon,' 'that which is another's'; whilst the higher is
magnified as being 'that which is most,' 'the true riches,' 'your
own.' What are these two classes? On the one hand stand all
possessions which, in and after possession, remain outside of a man,
which may survive whilst he perishes, or perish while he survives.
On the other hand are the riches which pass into him, and become
inseparable from him. Noble aims, high aspirations, pure thoughts,
treasures of wisdom, treasures of goodness--these are the real
wealth corresponding to man's nature, destined for his enrichment,
and to last with him for ever. But we may gather the whole contrast
into two words: the small, the 'unrighteous,' the wealth which being
mine is not mine but remains another's, and foreign to me, is the
world. The great riches, the 'true riches,' the good destined for
me, and for which I am destined, is God. In these two words you have
the antithesis, the real antithesis, God _versus_ the world.

Now let us turn rather to the principle which our Lord here lays
down, in reference to these two classes of good, or of possessions.
He tells us that the faithful use of the world helps us to the
possession of God; or, to put it into other words, that how we
handle money and what money can buy, has a great deal to do with our
religious enjoyment and our religious life, and that that is true,
both in regard to our partial possession of God here and now, and to
our perfect possession of Him in the world to come.

Now I wish to say one or two very plain things about this matter,
and I hope that you will not turn away from them because they are
familiar and trite. Considering how much of your lives, especially
as regards men of business, is taken up with money, its acquisition,
its retention, its distribution, there are few things that have more
to do with the vigour or feebleness of your Christian life than the
way in which you handle these perishable things.

I wish to say a word or two, first, about

I. What our Lord means by this faithfulness to which He attaches
such tremendous issues.

Now, you will remember, that the starting point of my text is that
parable of the unjust steward, whose conduct, knavish as it was, is
in some sense presented by our Lord to His disciples, and to us, as
a pattern. But my text, and the other two verses which are parallel
with it, seem to have amongst their other purposes this: to put in a
caveat against supposing that it is the unfaithfulness of the
steward which is recommended for our imitation. And so the first
point that is suggested in regard to this matter of faithfulness
about the handling of outward good is that we have to take care that
it is rightly acquired, for though the unjust steward was commended
for the prudent use that he made of dishonestly acquired gain, it is
the prudent use, and not the manner of the acquisition which we are
to take as our examples. Initial unfaithfulness in acquisition is
not condoned or covered over by any pious and benevolent use
hereafter. Mediaeval barons left money for masses. Plenty of
Protestants do exactly the same thing. Brewers will build
cathedrals, and found picture galleries, and men that have made
their money foully will fancy that they atone for that by leaving it
for some charitable purpose. The caustic but true wit of a Scottish
judge said about a great bequest which was supposed to be--whether
rightly or wrongly, I know not--of that sort, that it was 'the
heaviest fire insurance premium that had been paid in the memory of
man.' 'The money does not stink,' said the Roman Emperor, about the
proceeds of an unsavoury tax. But the money unfaithfully won does
stink when it is thrown into God's treasury. 'The price of a dog
shall not come into the sanctuary of the Lord.' Do not think that
money doubtfully won is consecrated by being piously spent.

But there are more things than that here, for our Lord sums up the
whole of a Christian man's duties in regard to the use of this
external world and all its good, in that one word 'faithful,' which
implies discharge of responsibility, recognition of obligation, the
continual consciousness that we are not proprietors but stewards.
Unless we carry that consciousness with us into all the phases of
our connection with perishable goods they become--as I shall have to
show you in a moment,--hindrances instead of helps to our possession
of God.

I am not going to talk revolutionary socialism, or anything of that
sort, but I am bound to reiterate my own solemn conviction that
until, practically as well as theoretically, the Christian Church in
all its branches brings into its creed, and brings out in its
practice, the great thought of stewardship, especially in regard to
material and external good, but also in regard to the durable riches
of salvation, the nations will be full of unrest, and thunder-clouds
heavily boding storm and destruction will lower on the horizon. What
we have, we have that we may impart; what we have in all forms of
having, we have because we have received. We are distributing
centres, that is all--I was going to say like a nozzle, perforated
with many holes, at the end of the spout of a watering-can. That is
a Christian man's relation to his possessions. We are stewards.
'It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful'

Now let me ask you to notice--

II. The bearing of this faithfulness in regard to the lower wealth
on our possession of the higher.

Jesus says in this context, twice over, that faithfulness with
regard to the former is the condition of our being entrusted with
the latter. Now, remember, by way of illustration of this thought,
what all this outward world of goodness and beauty is mainly meant
for. What? It is all but scaffolding by which, and within the area
of which, the building may arise. The meaning of the world is to
make character. All that we have, aye! and all that we do, and the
whole of the events and circumstances with which we come in contact
here on earth, are then lifted to their noblest function, and are
then understood in their deepest meaning when we look upon them as
we do upon the leaping-poles and bars and swings of a gymnasium,--as
meant to develop thews and muscles, and make men of us. That is what
they are here for, and that is what we are here for. Not enjoyment,
and not sorrow, except in so far as these two are powers in
developing character, not plunging ourselves in the enjoyments of
sense. Wealth and poverty, gain and loss, love gratified and love
marred, possessions sweet, when preserved, and possessions that
become sweeter by being removed; all these are simply meant as
whetstones on which the keen blade may be sharpened, as forces
against which, trying ourselves, our deftness and strength may be
increased. They are all meant to make us men, and if we faithfully
use these externals with a recognition of their source, with a wise
estimate of their subordination so as that our desires shall not
cleave to them solely, and with a fixed determination to use them as
ministers to make ourselves nobler, wiser, stronger, liker to God
and His Christ, then the world will minister to our possession of
God, and being 'faithful in that which is least,' we shall thereby
be more capable of receiving that which is greatest. But if, on the
other hand, we so forget our true wealth, and become so besotted and
absorbed in our adhesion to, and our desires after, fleeting good,
then the capacities that were noble will fade and shrivel, being
unused; aims and purposes that were elevated and pure will die out
unsatisfied; windows in our souls which commanded a wide, glorious
prospect will gradually be bricked up; burdens which hinder our
running will be piled upon our backs, and the world will have
conquered us, whilst we are dreaming that we have conquered the
world. You look at a sea anemone in a pool on the rocks when the
tide is out, all its tendrils outstretched, and its cavity wide
open. Some little bit of seaweed, or some morsel of half-putrefying
matter, comes in contact with it, and instantly every tentacle is
retracted, and the lips are tightly closed, so that you could not
push a bristle in. And when your tentacles draw themselves in to
clutch the little portion of worldly good, of whatever sort it is,
that has come into your hold, there is no room to get God in there,
and being 'unfaithful in that which is least' you have made it
impossible that you should possess 'that which is most.' Ah! there
are some of us that were far better Christians long ago, when we
were poorer men, than we are to-day, and there are some of us that
know what it is to have the heart so filled with baser liquors that
there is no room for the ethereal nectar. If the world has filled my
soul, where is God to dwell?

There is another way in which we may look at this matter. I have
said that the main use of these perishable and fragmentary good
things around us is to develop character, by our administration of
them. Another way of putting the same thought is that their main use
is to show us God. If we faithfully use the lesser good it will
become transparent, and reveal to us the greater. We hear a great
deal about deepening the spiritual life by prayers, and conventions,
and Bible readings and the like. I have no word to say except in
full sympathy with all such. But I do believe that the best means,
the most powerful means, by which the great bulk of Christian men
could deepen their spiritual lives would be a more honest and
thoroughgoing attempt to 'be faithful in that which is least.' We
have so much to do with it necessarily, that few, if any, things
have more power in shaping our whole characters than our manner of
administering the wealth, the material good, that comes to our
hands.

And so, dear brethren, I beseech you remember that the laws of
perspective are such as that a minute thing near at hand shuts out
the vision of a mighty thing far off, and a hillock by my side will
hide the Himalayas at a distance, and a sovereign may block out God;
and 'that which is least' has the diabolical power of seeming
greater to us than, and of obscuring our vision of, 'that which is
most.'

May I remind you that all these thoughts about the bearing of
faithfulness in administering the lower of our possessions, on the
attainment of higher, apply to us whatever be the amount of these
outward goods that we have? I suppose there were not twelve poorer
men in all Palestine that day than the twelve to whom my text was
originally addressed. Three of them had left their nets and their
fishing-boats, one of them we know had left his counting-house, as a
publican, and all his receipts and taxes behind him. What they had
we know not, but at all events they were the poor of this world. Do
not any of you that happen to be modestly or poorly off think that
my sermon is a sermon for rich men. It is not what we have, but how
we handle it, that is in question. 'The cares of this world, and the
deceitfulness of riches,' were bracketed together by Jesus Christ as
the things that 'choke the word,' and make it unfruitful. The poor
man who wants, and the rich man who uses unfaithfully, are alike hit
by the words of my text.

Now, further, let me ask you to look at

III. The bearing of faithfulness in this life on the fuller
possession of our true riches in the life hereafter.

There lies under this whole context a striking conception of life
here in its relation to the life hereafter, A father sets his son,
or a master sets his apprentice, to some small task, an experiment
made upon a comparatively worthless body, supplies him with material
which it does not much matter whether he spoils or not, and then if
by practice the hand becomes deft, he is set to better work. God
sets us to try our 'prentice hands here in the world, and if we
administer that rightly, not necessarily perfectly, but so as to
show that there are the makings of a good workman in us by His
gracious help, then the next life comes, with its ampler margin,
with its wider possibilities, with its nobler powers, and there we
are set to use in loftier fashion the powers which we made our own
being here. 'Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make
thee ruler over many things.'

I have said that the great use of the world and all its wealth is to
make character. I have said that that character determines our
capacity for the possession of God. I have said that our
administration of worldly wealth is one chief factor in determining
our character. Now I say that that character persists. There are
great changes, changes the significance and the scope and the
consequences of which we can never know here. But the man remains,
in the main direction of his being, in the character which he has
made for himself by his use of God's world and of Christ's Spirit.
And so the way in which we handle the trivialities and temporalities
here has eternal consequences. We sit in a low room with the
telegraph instrument in front of us, and we click off our messages,
and they are recorded away yonder, and we shall have to read them
one day. Transient causes produce permanent effects. The seas which
laid down the great sandstone deposits that make so large a portion
of the framework of this world have long since evaporated. But the
footprints of the seabird that stalked across the moist sand, and
the little pits made by the raindrops that fell countless
millenniums ago on the red ooze, are there yet, and you may see them
in our museums. And so our faithfulness, or our unfaithfulness, here
has made the character which is eternal, and on which will depend
whether we shall, in the joys of that future life, possess God in
fullness, or whether we shall lose Him, as our portion and our
Friend.

Now, dear brethren, do not forget that all this that I have been
saying is the second page in Christ's teaching; and the first page
is an entirely different one. I have been saying that we make
character, and that character determines our possession of God and
His grace. But there is another thing to be said. The central
thought of Christ's gospel is that God, in His sweetness, in His
pardoning mercy, in His cleansing Spirit, is given to the very men
whose characters do not deserve it. And the same Lord who said, 'If
ye have not been faithful in that which is least, who shall give you
that which is greatest?' says also from the heavens,' I counsel thee
to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.' My
text, and the principle that is involved in it, do not contradict
the great truth that we are saved by simple faith, however unworthy
we are. That is the message to begin with. And unless you have
received it you are not standing in the place where the message that
I have been insisting upon has a personal bearing on you. But if you
have taken Christ for your salvation, remember, Christian brother
and sister, that it is not the same thing in regard either to your
Christian life on earth, or to your heavenly glory, whether you have
been living faithfully as stewards in your handling of earth's
perishable good, or whether you have clung to it as your real
portion, have used it selfishly, and by it have hidden God from your
hearts. To Christian men is addressed the charge that we trust not
in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God, and that we be
'rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate,
that we lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the
time to come'; and so 'lay hold on the life that is life indeed.'



DIVES AND LAZARUS


    'There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in
    purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every
    day: 20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus,
    which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21. And
    desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the
    rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked
    his sores. 22. And it came to pass, that the beggar
    died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's
    bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23. And
    in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and
    seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
    24. And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy
    on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of
    his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am
    tormented in this flame. 25, But Abraham said, Son,
    remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good
    things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is
    comforted, and thou art tormented. 26. And besides all
    this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed:
    so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot;
    neither can they pass to us, that would come from
    thence. 27. Then he said, I pray thee therefore,
    father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's
    house: 28. For I have five brethren; that he may
    testify unto them lest they also come into this place
    of torment. 29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses
    and the prophets; let them hear them. 30. And he said,
    Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the
    dead, they will repent. 31. And he said unto him, If
    they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they
    be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.'
    --Luke xvi. 19-31.

This, the sternest of Christ's parables, must be closely connected
with verses 13 and 14. Keeping them in view, its true purpose is
plain. It is meant to rebuke, not the possession of wealth, but its
heartless, selfish use. Christ never treats outward conditions as
having the power of determining either character or destiny. What a
man does with his conditions settles what he is and what becomes of
him. Nor does the parable teach that the use of wealth is the only
determining factor, but, as every parable must do, it has to isolate
the lesson it teaches in order to burn it into the hearers.

There are three parts in the story--the conduct of the rich man, his
fate, and the sufficiency of existing warnings to keep us from his
sin and his end.

I. Properly speaking, we have here, not a parable--that is, a
representation of physical facts which have to be translated into
moral or religious truths--but an imaginary narrative, embodying a
normal fact in a single case. The rich man does not stand for
something else, but is one of the class of which Jesus wishes to set
forth the sin and fate. It is very striking that neither he nor the
beggar is represented as acting, but each is simply described. The
juxtaposition of the two figures carries the whole lesson.

It has sometimes been felt as a difficulty that the one is not said
to have done anything bad, nor the other to have been devout or
good; and some hasty readers have thought that Jesus was here
teaching the communistic doctrine that wealth is sin, and that
poverty is virtue. No such crude trash came from His lips. But He
does teach that heartless wallowing in luxury, with naked, starving
beggars at the gate, is sin which brings bitter retribution. The
fact that the rich man does nothing is His condemnation. He was not
damned because he had a purple robe and fine linen undergarments,
nor because he had lived in abundance, and every meal had been a
festival, but because, while so living, he utterly ignored Lazarus,
and used his wealth only for his own gratification. Nothing more
needs to be said about his character; the facts sufficiently show
it.

Still less needs to be said about that of Lazarus. In this part of
the narrative he comes into view simply as the means of bringing out
the rich man's heartlessness and self-indulgence. For the purposes
of the narrative his disposition was immaterial; for it is not our
duty to help only deserving or good people. Manhood and misery are
enough to establish the right to sympathy and succour. There may be
a hint of character in the name 'Lazarus,' which probably means 'God
is help.' Since this is the only name in the parables, it is natural
to give it significance, and it most likely suggests that the beggar
clung to God as his stay. It may glance, too, at the riddle of life,
which often seems to mock trust by continued trouble. Little outward
sign had Lazarus of divine help, yet he did not cast away his
confidence. No doubt, he sometimes got some crumbs from Dives'
table, but not from Dives. That the dogs licked his sores does not
seem meant as either alleviation or aggravation, but simply as
vividly describing his passive helplessness and utterly neglected
condition. Neither he nor any one drove them off.

But the main point about him is that he was at Dives' gate, and
therefore thrust before Dives' notice, and that he got no help. The
rich man was not bound to go and hunt for poor people, but here was
one pushed under his nose, as it were. Translate that into general
expressions, and it means that we all have opportunities of
beneficence laid in our paths, and that our guilt is heavy if we
neglect these. 'The poor ye have always with you.' The guilt of
selfish use of worldly possessions is equally great whatever is the
amount of possessions. Doing nothing when Lazarus lies at our gate
is doing great wickedness. These truths have a sharp edge for us as
well as for the 'Pharisees who were covetous'; and they are wofully
forgotten by professing Christians.

II. In the second part of the narrative, our Lord follows the two,
who had been so near each other and yet so separated, into the land
beyond the grave. It is to be especially noticed that, in doing so,
He adopts the familiar Rabbinical teaching as to Hades. He does not
thereby stamp these conceptions of the state of the dead with His
assent; for the purpose of the narrative is not to reveal the
secrets of that land, but to impress the truth of retribution for
the sin in question. It would not be to a group of Pharisaic
listeners that He would have unveiled that world.

He takes their own notions of it--angel bearers, Abraham's bosom,
the two divisions in Hades, the separation, and yet communication,
between them. These are Rabbis' fancies, not Christ's revelations.
The truths which He wished to force home lie in the highly
imaginative conversation between the rich man and Abraham, which
also has its likeness in many a Rabbinical legend.

The difference between the ends of the two men has been often
noticed, and lessons, perhaps not altogether warranted, drawn from
it. But it seems right to suppose that the omission of any notice of
the beggar's burial is meant to bring out that the neglect and
pitilessness, which had let him die, left his corpse unburied.
Perhaps the dogs that had licked his sores tore his flesh. A fine
sight that would be from the rich man's door! The latter had to die
too, for all his purple, and to be swathed in less gorgeous robes.
His funeral is mentioned, not only because pomp and ostentation went
as far as they could with him, but to suggest that he had to leave
them all behind. 'His glory shall not descend after him.'

The terrible picture of the rich man's torments solemnly warns us of
the necessary end of a selfish life such as his. The soul that lives
to itself does not find satisfaction even here; but, when all
externals are left behind, it cannot but be in torture. That is not
drapery. Character makes destiny, and to live to self is death.
Observe, too, that the relative positions of Dives and Lazarus are
reversed--the beggar being now the possessor of abundance and
delights, while the rich man is the sufferer and the needy.

Further note that the latter now desires to have from the former the
very help which in life he had not given him, and that the
retribution for refusing succour here is its denial hereafter. There
had been no sharing of 'good things' in the past life, but the rich
man had asserted his exclusive rights to them. They had been 'thy
good things' in a very sinful sense, and Lazarus had bean left to
carry his evil things alone. There shall be no communication of good
now. Earth was the place for mutual help and impartation. That world
affords no scope for it; for there men reap what they have sown, and
each character has to bear its own burden.

Finally, the ineffaceableness of distinctions of character, and
therefore of destiny, is set forth by the solemn image of the great
gulf which cannot be crossed. It is indeed to be remembered that our
Lord is speaking of 'the intermediate state,' before resurrection
and final judgment, and that, as already remarked, the intention of
the narrative is not to reveal the mysteries of the final state. But
still the impression left by the whole is that life here determines
life hereafter, and that character, once set and hardened here,
cannot be cast into the melting-pot and remoulded there.

III. The last part of the narrative teaches that the fatal sin of
heartless selfishness is inexcusable. The rich man's thought for his
brethren was quite as much an excuse for himself. He thought that,
if he had only known, things would have been different. He shifts
blame from himself on to the insufficiency of the warnings given
him. And the two answers put into Abraham's mouth teach the
sufficiency of 'Moses and the prophets,' little as these say about
the future, and the impossibility of compelling men to listen to a
divine message to which they do not wish to listen.

The fault lies, not in the deficiency of the warnings, but in the
aversion of the will. No matter whether it is Moses or a spirit from
Hades who speaks, if men do not wish to hear, they will not hear.
They will not be persuaded--for persuasion has as much, or more, to
do with the heart and inclination than with the head. We have as
much witness from heaven as we need. The worst man knows more of
duty than the best man does. Dives is in torments because he lived
for self; and he lived for self, not because he did not know that it
was wrong, but because he did not choose to do what he knew to be
right.



MEMORY IN ANOTHER WORLD


    'Abraham said, Son, remember!'--LUKE xvi. 25.

It is a very striking thought that Christ, if He be what we suppose
Him to be, knew all about the unseen present which we call the
future, and yet was all but silent in reference to it. Seldom is it
on His lips at all. Of arguments drawn from another world He has
very few. Sometimes He speaks about it, but rather by allusion than
in anything like an explicit revelation. This parable out of which
my text is taken, is perhaps the most definite and continuous of His
words about the invisible world; and yet all the while it lay there
before Him; and standing on the very verge of it, with it spread out
clear before His gaze, He reads off but a word or two of what He
sees, and then shuts it in in darkness, and says to us, in the spirit
of a part of this parable, 'You have Moses and the prophets--hear
them: if these are not enough, it will not be enough for you if all
the glories of heaven and all the ghastliness of hell are flashed and
flamed before you.' We, too, if we are to 'prophesy according to the
proportion of faith,' must not leave out altogether references to a
future life in its two departments, and such motives as may be based
upon them; only, I think, we ought always to keep them in the same
relative amount to the whole of our teaching in which Christ kept them.

This parable, seeing that it _is_ a parable, of course cannot
be trusted as if it were a piece of simple dogmatic revelation, to
give us information, facts, so as to construct out of it a theory of
the other world. We are always in the double danger in parables, of
taking that for drapery which was meant to be essence, and taking
that for essence which was meant to be drapery. And so I do not
profess to read from this narrative any very definite and clear
knowledge of the future; but I think that in the two words which I
have ventured to take as a text, we get the basis of very impressive
thoughts with regard to the functions of memory in another world.

'Son, remember!' It is the voice, the first voice, the perpetual
voice, which meets every man when he steps across the threshold of
earth into the presence chamber of eternity. All the future is so
built upon and interwoven with the past, that for the saved and for
the lost alike this word might almost be taken as the motto of their
whole situation, as the explanation of their whole condition. Memory
in another world is indispensable to the gladness of the glad, and
strikes the deepest note in the sadness of the lost. There can be no
need to dwell at any length on the simple introductory thought, that
there must be memory in a future state. Unless there were
remembrance, there could be no sense of individuality. A man cannot
have any conviction that he is himself, but by constant, though
often unconscious, operation of this subtle act of remembrance.
There can be no sense of personal identity except in proportion
as there is clearness of recollection. Then again, if that future
state be a state of retribution, there must be memory. Otherwise,
there might be joy, and there might be sorrow, but the why and the
wherefore of either would be entirely struck out of a man's
consciousness, and the one could not be felt as reward, nor the
other as punishment. If, then, we are to rise from the grave the
same men that we are laid in it, and if the future life has this for
its characteristic, that it is a state either of recompense and
reward, or of retribution and suffering, then, for both, the
clearness and constant action, of memory are certainly needed. But
it is not to the simple fact of its existence that I desire to
direct your attention now. I wish, rather, to suggest to you one or
two modifications under which it must apparently work in another
world. When men remember _there_, they will remember very
differently from the way in which they remember _here_. Let us
look at these changes-constituting it, on the one hand, an
instrument of torture; and, on the other, a foundation of all our
gladness.

I. First, in another state, memory will be so widened as to take in
the whole life.

We believe that what a man is in this life, he is more in another,
that tendencies here become results yonder, that his sin, that his
falsehood, that his whole moral nature, be it good or bad, becomes
there what it is only striving to be here. We believe that in this
present life our capacities of all sorts are hedged in, thwarted,
damped down, diluted, by the necessity which there is for their
working through this material body of ours. We believe that death is
the heightening of a man's stature--if he be bad, the intensifying
of his badness; if he be good, the strengthening of his goodness. We
believe that the contents of the intellectual nature, the capacities
of that nature also, are all increased by the fact of having done
with earth and having left the body behind. It is, I think, the
teaching of common-sense, and it is the teaching of the Bible. True,
that for some, that growth will only be a growth into greater power
of feeling greater sorrow. Such an one grows up into a Hercules; but
it is only that the Nessus shirt may wrap round him more tightly,
and may gnaw him with a fiercer agony. But whether saved or lost--he
that dies is greater than when yet living; and all his powers are
intensified and strengthened by that awful experience of death and
by what it brings with it.

Memory partakes in the common quickening. There are not wanting
analogies and experiences in our present life to let us see that, in
fact, when we talk about forgetting we ought to mean nothing more
than the temporary cessation of conscious remembrance. Everything
which you do leaves its effect with you for ever, just as long-forgotten
meals are in your blood and bones to-day. Every act that a man performs
is there. It has printed itself upon his soul, it has become a part of
himself: and though, like a newly painted picture, after a little while
the colours sink in, why is that? Only because they have entered into
the very fibre of the canvas, and have left the surface because they
are incorporated with the substance, and they want but a touch of
varnish to flash out again! We forget _nothing_, in the sense of not
being able, some time or another, to recall it; we forget much in the
sense of ceasing for a time to have it in our thoughts.

For we know, in our own case, how strangely there come swimming up
before us, out of the depths of the dim waters of oblivion--as one
has seen some bright shell drawn from the sunless sea-caves, and
gleaming white and shapeless far down before we had it on the
surface--past thoughts, we know not whence or how. Some one of the
million of hooks, with which all our life is furnished, has laid
hold of some subtle suggestion which has been enough to bring them
up into consciousness. We said we had forgotten them. What does it
mean? Only that they had sunk into the deep, beneath our
consciousness, and lay there to be brought up when needful. There is
nothing more strange than the way in which some period of my life,
that I supposed to be an entire blank--if I will think about it for
a little while, begins to glimmer into form. As the developing
solution brings out the image on the photographic plate, so the mind
has the strange power, by fixing the attention, as we say (a short
word which means a long, mysterious thing) upon that past that is
half-remembered and half-forgotten, of bringing it into clear
consciousness and perfect recollection. And, there are instances,
too, of a still more striking kind, familiar to some of us how in
what people call morbid states, men remember their childhood, which
they had forgotten for long years. You may remember that old story
of the dying woman beginning to speak in a tongue unknown to all
that stood around her bed. When a child she had learned some
northern language, in a far-off land. Long before she had learned to
shape any definite remembrances of the place, she had been taken
away, and not having used, had forgotten the speech. But at last
there rushed up again all the old memories, and the tongue of the
dumb was loosed, and she spake! People would say, 'the action of
disease.' It may be, but that explains nothing. Perhaps in such
states the spirit is working in a manner less limited by the body
than in health, and so showing some slight prelude of its powers
when it has shuffled off this mortal coil. But be that as it may,
these morbid phenomena, and the other more familiar facts already
referred to, unite to show us that the sphere of recollection is
much wider than that occupied at any given moment by memory.
Recollection is the servant of Memory, as our great poet tells us in
his wise allegory, and

  'does on him still attend,
  To reach whenever he for ought does send.'

We cannot lay aside anything that we have ever done or been so
utterly but that that servant can find it and bring it to his lord.
We forget nothing so completely but that we shall be able to recall
it. Of that awful power we may say, without irreverence, 'Thou hast
set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy
countenance.'

The fragmentary remembrances which we have now, lift themselves
above the ocean of forgetfulness like islands in some Archipelago,
the summits of sister hills, though separated by the estranging sea
that covers their converging sides and the valleys where their roots
unite. The solid land is there, though hidden. Drain off the sea,
and there will be no more isolated peaks, but continuous land. In
this life we have but the island memories heaving themselves into
sight, but in the next the Lord shall 'cause the sea to go back by
the breath of His mouth,' and the channels of the great deep of a
human heart's experiences and actions shall be laid bare. 'There
shall be no more sea'; but the solid land of a whole life will
appear when God says, 'Son, remember!'

So much, then, for my first consideration--namely, that memory in a
future state will comprehend the whole of life. Another thing is,
that memory in a future state will probably be so rapid as to
embrace all the past life at once. We do not know, we have no
conception of, the extent to which our thinking, and feeling, and
remembrance, are made tardy by the slow vehicle of this bodily
organisation in which the soul rides. But we have in our own lives
instances enough to make us feel that there lie in us dormant,
mysterious powers by which the rapidity of all our operations of
thought and feeling will be enhanced marvellously, like the
difference between a broad-wheeled waggon and an express train! At
some turning point of your life, when some great joy flashed, or
some great shadow darkened upon you all at once; when some crisis
that wanted an instantaneous decision appeared--why, what regions of
thought, purpose, plan, resolution; what wilderness of desolate
sorrow, and what paradises of blooming gladness, your soul has gone
through in a moment. Well, then, take another illustration: A
sleeper, feeling a light finger laid upon his shoulder, does not
know what it is; in an instant he awakes and says, 'Is it you?' but
between that touch and that word there may be a whole life run
through, a whole series of long events dreamt and felt. As on the
little retina of an eye there can be painted on a scale
inconceivably minute, every tree and mountain-top in the whole wide
panorama--so, in an instant, one may run through almost a whole
lifetime of mental acts. Then, again, you remember that
illustration, often used on this subject, about the experience of
those who have been brought face to face with sudden death, and
escaped it. The drowning man, when he comes to himself, tells us,
that in the interval betwixt the instant when he felt he was going
and the passing away of consciousness, all his life stood before
him; as if some flash in a dark midnight had lighted up a whole
mountain country--there it all was! Ah, brethren! we know nothing
yet about the rapidity with which we may gather before us a whole
series of events; so that although we have to pass from one to
another, the succession may be so swift, as to produce in our own
minds the effect of all being co-existent and simultaneous. As the
child flashing about him a bit of burning stick, may seem to make a
circle of flame, because the flame-point moves so quickly--so
memory, though it does go from point to point, and dwells for some
inconceivably minute instant on each part of the remembrance, may
yet be gifted with such lightning speed, with such rapidity and
awful quickness of glance, as that to the man himself the effect
shall be that his whole life is spread out there before him in one
instant, and that he, Godlike, sees the end and the beginning side
by side. Yes; from the mountain of eternity we shall look down, and
behold the whole plain spread before us. Down here we get lost and
confused in the devious valleys that run off from the roots of the
hills everywhere, and we cannot make out which way the streams are
going, and what there is behind that low shoulder of hill yonder:
but when we get to the summit peak, and look down, it will all shape
itself into one consistent whole, and we shall see it all at once.
The memory shall be perfect--perfect in the range of its grasp, and
perfect in the rapidity with which it brings up all its objects
before us at every instant.

Once more: it seems as if, in another world, memory would not only
contain the whole life, and the whole life simultaneously; but would
perpetually attend or haunt us. A constant remembrance! It does not
lie in our power even in this world, to decide very much whether we
shall remember or forget. It does not come within a man's will to
forget or to remember. He cannot say, 'I will remember'; for if he
could, he would have remembered already. He cannot say, 'I will
forget'; for the very effort fixes his attention on the obnoxious
thing. All that we can do, when we seek to remember, is to wander
back to somewhere about that point in our life where the shy thing
lurks, and hope to catch some sight of it in the leafy coverts: and
all we can do, when we want to forget, is to try and fill our mind
with other subjects, and in the distractions of them to lose the
oppressive and burdensome thoughts. But we know that that is but a
partial remedy, that we cannot succeed in doing it. There are
presences that will not be put by. There are memories that
_will_ start up before us, whether we are willing or not. Like
the leprosy in the Israelite's house, the foul spot works its way
out through all the plaster and the paint; and the house is foul
because it is there. Oh, my friend! you are a happy and a singular
man if there is nothing in your life that you have tried to bury,
and the obstinate thing _will_ not be buried, but meets you
again when you come away from its fancied grave. I remember an old
castle where they tell us of a foul murder committed in a vaulted
chamber with a narrow window, by torchlight one night; and there,
they say, there are the streaks and stains of blood on the black
oak floor; and they have planed, and scrubbed, and planed again, and
thought they were gone--but there they always are, and continually
up comes the dull reddish-black stain, as if oozing itself out
through the boards to witness to the bloody crime again! The
superstitious fable is a type of the way in which a foul thing, a
sinful and bitter memory--gets ingrained into a man's heart. He
tries to banish it, and gets rid of it for a while. He goes back
again, and the spots are there, and will be there for ever; and the
only way to get rid of them is to destroy the soul in which they
are.

Memory is not all within the power of the will on earth: and
probably, memory in another world is still more involuntary and
still more constant. Why? Because I read in the Bible that there is
work in another world for God's servants to do; but I do not read
that there is work for anybody else but God's servants to do. The
work of an unforgiven sinner is done when he dies, and that not only
because he is going into the state of retribution, but because no
rebel's work is going to be suffered in that world. The time for
that is past. And so, if you will look, all the teachings of the
Bible about the future state of those who are not in blessedness,
give us this idea--a monotonous continuance of idleness, shutting
them up to their own contemplations, the memories of the past and
the agonies of the future. There are no distractions for such a man
in another world. He has thought, he has conscience, he has
remembrance. He has a sense of pain, of sin, of wrong, of loss. He
has one 'passive fixed endurance, all eternal and the same'; but I
do not read that his pain is anodyned and his sorrow soothed by any
activity that his hand finds to do. And, in a most tragic sense, we
may say, 'there is neither work, nor labour, nor device,' in that
dark world where the fruits of sin are reaped in monotonous
suffering and ever-present pain. A memory, brethren, that
i>will_ have its own way--what a field for sorrow and lamentation
that is, when God says at last, 'Now go--go apart; take thy life
with thee; read it over; see what thou hast done with it!' One old
Roman tyrant had a punishment in which he bound the dead body of the
murdered to the living body of the murderer, and left them there
scaffolded. And when that voice comes, 'Son, remember!' to the
living soul of the godless, unbelieving, impenitent man, there is
bound to him the murdered past, the dead past, his own life; and, in
Milton's awful and profound words,

  'Which way I fly is hell--myself am hell!'

There is only one other modification of this awful faculty that I
would remind you of; and that is, that in a future life memory will
be associated with a perfectly accurate knowledge of the consequences
and a perfectly sensitive conscience as to the criminality of the
past. You will have cause and consequence put down before you, meeting
each other at last. There will be no room then to say, 'I wonder how
such and such a thing will work out,' 'I wonder how such a thing can
have come upon me'; but every one will have his whole life to look
back upon, and will see the childish sin that was the parent of the
full-grown vice, and the everlasting sorrow that came out of that
little and apparently transitory root. The conscience, which here
becomes hardened by contact with sin, and enfeebled because unheeded,
will then be restored to its early sensitiveness and power, as if the
labourer's horny palm were to be endowed again with the softness of
the infant's little hand. If you will take and think about that,
brother, _there_ is enough--without any more talk, without any
more ghastly, sensual external figures--_there_ is enough to make
the boldest tremble; a memory embracing all the past, a memory rapidly
grasping and constantly bringing its burden, a judgment which admits
of no mistakes, and a conscience which has done with palliations and
excuses!

It is not difficult to see how that is an instrument of torture. It
is more difficult to see how such a memory can be a source of
gladness; and yet it can. The old Greeks were pressed with that
difficulty: they said to themselves, If a man remembers, there can
be no Elysium for him. And so they put the river of forgetfulness,
the waters of Lethe, betwixt life and the happy plains. Ah,
_we_ do not want any river of oblivion betwixt us and everlasting
blessedness. Calvary is on this side, and that is enough! Certainly
it is one of the most blessed things about 'the faith that is in Christ
Jesus,' that it makes a man remember his own sinfulness with penitence,
not with pain--that it makes the memory of past transgressions full
of solemn joy, because the memory of _past_ transgressions but brings
to mind the depth and rushing fullness of that river of love which has
swept them all away as far as the east is from the west. Oh, brother,
brother! you cannot forget your sins; but it lies within your own
decision whether the remembrance shall be thankfulness and blessedness,
or whether it shall be pain and loss for ever. Like some black rock that
heaves itself above the surface of a sunlit sea, and the wave runs
dashing over it, and the spray, as it falls down its sides, is all
rainbowed and lightened, and there comes beauty into the mighty
grimness of the black thing;--so a man's transgressions rear themselves
up, and God's great love, coming sweeping itself against them and over
them, makes out of the sin an occasion for the flashing more brightly
of the beauty of His mercy, and turns the life of the pardoned penitent
into a life of which even the sin is not pain to remember. So, then,
lay your hand upon Christ Jesus. Put your heart into His keeping. Go
to Him with your transgressions, He will forget them, and make it
possible for you to remember them in such a way that the memory will
become to you the very foundation of all your joy, and will make
heaven's anthem deeper and more harmonious when you say, 'Now unto
Him that hath washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath
made us kings and priests unto God, unto Him be glory for ever and
ever!' And, on the other hand, _if not_, then, 'Son, remember!'
will be the word that begins the future retribution, and shuts you
up with a wasted past, with a gnawing conscience, and an upbraiding
heart: to say,

  'I backward cast my ee
  On prospects drear!
  And forward, though I canna see,
  I guess and fear!'



GOD'S SLAVES


    'Doth He thank that servant because he did the things
    that were commanded him! I trow not. 10. So likewise
    ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are
    commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we
    have done that which was our duty to do.'
    --LUKE xvii. 9-10.

There are two difficulties about these words. One is their apparent
entire want of connection with what precedes--viz., the disciples'
prayer, 'Lord, increase our faith,' and the other is the harshness
and severity of tone which marks them, and the view of the less
attractive side of man's relation to God which is thrown into
prominence in them. He must be a very churlish master who never says
'Thank you,' however faithful his servant's obedience may be. And he
must be a very inconsiderate master, who has only another kind of
duty to lay upon the shoulders of the servant that has come in after
a long day's ploughing and feeding of cattle. Perhaps, however, the
one difficulty clears away the other, and if we keep firm hold of
the thought that the words of my text, and those which are
associated with them, are an answer to the prayer, 'Lord, increase
our faith,' the stern and somewhat repelling characteristics of the
words may somewhat change.

I. So I look, first, at the husk of apparent harshness and severity.
The relation between master and hired servant is not the one that is
in view, but the relation between a master and the slave who is his
property, who has no rights, who has no possessions, whose life and
death and everything connected with him are at the absolute disposal
of his master. It is a foul and wicked relation when existing
between men, and it has been full of cruelty and atrocities. But
Jesus Christ lays His hand upon it, and says, 'That is the relation
between men and God; that is the relation between men and Me.'

And what is involved therein? Absolute authority; so that the slave
is but, as it were, an animated instrument in the hand of the
master, with no will of his own, and no rights and no possessions.
That is not all of our relation to God, blessed be His Name! But
that is _in_ our relation to Him, and the highest title that a
man can have is the title which the Apostles in after days bound
upon their foreheads as a crown of honour--'A slave of Jesus
Christ.'

Then, if that relation is laid as being the basis of all our
connection with God, whatever else there may be also involved, these
two things which in the human relation are ugly and inconsiderate,
and argue a very churlish and selfish nature on the part of the
human master, belong essentially to our relation to God. 'Which of
you, having a servant, ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto
him ... when he has come from the field, Go (immediately) and sit
down to meat, and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith
I may sup, and gird thyself and serve me, till I have eaten and
drunken: and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?' You will get your
supper by-and-by, but you are here to work, says the master, and
when you have finished one task, that does not involve that you are
to rest; it involves only that you are to take up another. And
however wearisome has been the ploughing amongst the heavy clods all
day long, and tramping up and down the furrows, when you come in you
are to clean yourself up, and get my supper ready, 'and afterward
thou shalt eat and drink.'

As I have said, such a speech would argue a harsh human master, but is
there not a truth which is not harsh in it in reference to us and God?
Duty never ends. The eternal persistence through life of the obligation
to service is what is taught us here, as being inherent in the very
relation between the Lord and Owner of us all and us His slaves.
Moralists and irreligious teachers say grand things about the eternal
sweep of the great law of duty. The Christian thought is the higher
one, 'Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon
me,' and wherever I am I am under obligation to serve Thee, and no past
record of work absolves me from the work of the present. From the
cradle to the grave I walk beneath an all-encompassing, overarching
firmament of duty. As long as we draw breath we are bound to the
service of Him whose slaves we are, and whose service is perfect freedom.

Such is the bearing of this apparently repulsive representation of
our text, which is not so repulsive if you come to think about it.
It does not in the least set aside the natural craving for
recreation and relaxation and repose. It does not overlook God's
obligation to keep His slave alive, and in good condition for doing
His work, by bestowing upon him the things that are needful for him,
but it does meet that temptation which comes to us all to take that
rest which circumstances may make manifestly not God's will, and it
says to us, 'Forget the things that are behind, and reach forth unto
the things that are before.' You have done a long day's work with
plough or sheep-crook. The reward for work is more work. Come away
indoors now, and nearer the Master, prepare His table. 'Which of
you, having a servant, will not do so with him?' And that is how He
does with us.

Then, the next thought here, which, as I say, has a harsh exterior,
and a bitter rind, is that one of the slave doing his work, and
never getting so much as 'thank you' for it. But if you lift this
interpretation too, into the higher region of the relation between
God and His slaves down here, a great deal of the harshness drops
away. For what does it come to? Just to this, that no man among us,
by any amount or completeness of obedience to the will of God
establishes claims on God for a reward. You have done your duty--so
much the better for you, but is that any reason why you should be
decorated and honoured for doing it? You have done no more than your
duty. 'So, likewise, ye, when ye have done all things that are
commanded you'--even if that impossible condition were to be
realised--'say we are unprofitable servants'; not in the bad sense
in which the word is sometimes used, but in the accurate sense of
not having brought any profit or advantage, more than was His
before, to the Master whom we have thus served. It is a blessed
thing for a man to call _himself_ an unprofitable servant; it
is an awful thing for the Master to call him one. If _we_ say
'we are unprofitable servants,' we shall be likely to escape the
solemn words from the Lord's lips: 'Take ye away the unprofitable
servant, and cast him into outer darkness.' There are two that may
use the word, Christ the Judge, and man the judged, and if the man
will use it, Christ will not. 'If we judge ourselves we shall not be
judged.'

Now, although, as I have said about the other part of this text,
it is not meant to exhaust our relations to God, or to say the
all-comprehensive word about the relation of obedience to blessedness;
it is meant to say

  'Merit lives from man to man,
  And not from man, O Lord! to Thee.'

No one can reasonably build upon his own obedience, or his own work,
nor claim as by right, for reward, heaven or other good. So my text
is the anticipation of Paul's teaching about the impossibility of a
man's being saved by his works, and it cuts up by the root, not only
the teaching as to a treasure of 'merits of the saints,' and 'works
of supererogation,' and the like; but it tells us, too, that we must
beware of the germs of that self-complacent way of looking at
ourselves and our own obedience, as if they had anything at all to
do with our buying either the favour of God, or the rewards of the
faithful servant.

II. Now, all that I have been saying may sound very harsh. Let us
take a second step, and try if we can find out the kernel of grace
in the harsh husk.

I hold fast by the one clue that Jesus Christ is here replying to
the Apostle's prayer, 'Lord, increase our faith.' He had been laying
down some very hard regulations for their conduct, and, naturally,
when they felt how difficult it would be to come within a thousand
miles of what He had been bidding them, they turned to Him with that
prayer. It suggests that faith is there, in living operation, or
they would not have prayed to Him for its increase. And how does He
go about the work of increasing it? In two ways, one of which does
not enter into my present subject. First, by showing the disciples
the power of faith, in order to stimulate them to greater effort for
its possession. He promised that they might say to the fig tree, 'Be
thou plucked up and planted in the sea,' and it should obey them.
The second way was by this context of which I am speaking now. How
does it bear upon the Apostles' prayer? What is there in this
teaching about the slave and his master, and the slave's work, and
the incompatibility of the notion of reward with the slave's
service, to help to strengthen faith? There is this that this
teaching beats down every trace of self-confidence, and if we take
it in and live by it, makes us all feel that we stand before God,
whatever have been our deeds of service, with no claims arising
from any virtue or righteousness of our own. We come empty-handed.
If the servant who has done all that is commanded has yet to say, 'I
can ask nothing from Thee, because I have done it, for it was all in
the line of my duty,' what are we to say, who have done so little
that was commanded, and so much that was forbidden?

So, you see, the way to increased faith is not by any magical
communication from Christ, as the Apostles thought, but by taking
into our hearts, and making operative in our lives, the great truth
that in us there is nothing that can make a claim upon God, and that
we must cast ourselves, as deserving nothing, wholly into His
merciful hands, and find ourselves held up by His great unmerited
love. Get the bitter poison root of self-trust out of you, and then
there is some chance of getting the wholesome emotion of absolute
reliance on Him into you. Jesus Christ, if I might use a homely
metaphor, in these words pricks the bladder of self-confidence which
we are apt to use to keep our heads above water. And it is only when
it is pricked, and we, like the Apostle, feel ourselves beginning to
sink, that we fling out a hand to Him, and clutch at His
outstretched hand, and cry, 'Lord, save me, I perish!' One way to
increase our faith is to be rooted and grounded in the assurance
that duty is perennial, and that our own righteousness establishes
no claim whatever upon God.

III. Finally, we note the higher view into which, by faith, we come.

I have been saying, with perhaps vain repetition, that the words of
our text and context do not exhaust the whole truth of man's
relation to God. They do exhaust the truth of the relation of God to
any man that has not faith in his heart, because such a man is a
slave in the worst sense, and any obedience that he renders to God's
will externally is the obedience of a reluctant will, and is hard
and harsh, and there is no end _to_ it, and no good _from_
it. But if we accept the position, and recognise our own impotence,
and non-desert, and humbly say, 'Not by works of righteousness which
we have done, but by His mercy He saves us,' then we come into a
large place. The relation of master and slave does not cover all the
ground _then_. 'Henceforth, I call you not slaves, but  friends,' And
when the wearied slave comes into the house, the new task is not
a new burden, for he is a son as well as a slave; but  the work is
a delight, and it is a joy to have something more to do for his Father.
If our service is the service of sons, sweetened by love, then there
will be abundant thanks from the Father, who is not only our owner,
but our lover.

For Christian service--that is to say, service based upon faith and
rendered in love--_does_ minister delight to our Father in
heaven, and He Himself has called it an 'odour of a sweet smell,
acceptable unto God.' And if our service on earth has been thus
elevated and transformed from the compulsory obedience of a slave
to the joyful service of a son, then our reception when at sundown
the plough is left in the furrow and we come into the house will be
all changed too. 'Which of you, having a servant, will say to him,
Go and sit down to meat, and will not rather say to him, Make ready
whilst I eat and drink?' That is the law for earth, but for heaven
it is this, 'Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He
cometh, shall find watching. Verily, I say unto you, that He shall
gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth
and serve them.' The husk is gone now, I think, and the kernel is
left. Loving service is beloved by God, and rewarded by the
ministering, as a servant of servants, to us by Him who is King of
kings and Lord of lords.

'Lord, increase our faith,' that we may so serve Thee on earth, and
so be served by Thee in heaven.



WHERE ARE THE NINE?


    'And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He
    passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
    12. And as He entered into a certain village, there met
    Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
    13. And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus,
    Master, have mercy on us. 14. And when He saw them, He
    said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests.
    And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were
    cleansed. 15. And one of them, when he saw that he was
    healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified
    God. 16. And fell down on his face at His feet, giving
    Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17. And Jesus
    answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where
    are the nine? 18. There are not found that returned to
    give glory to God, save this stranger. 19. And He said
    unto him, Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee
    whole.'--LUKE xvii. 11-19.

The melancholy group of lepers, met with in one of the villages on
the borders of Samaria and Galilee, was made up of Samaritans and
Jews, in what proportion we do not know. The common misery drove
them together, in spite of racial hatred, as, in a flood, wolves
and sheep will huddle close on a bit of high ground. Perhaps they
had met in order to appeal to Jesus, thinking to move Him by their
aggregated wretchedness; or possibly they were permanently
segregated from others, and united in a hideous fellowship.

I. We note the lepers' cry and the Lord's strange reply. Of course
they had to stand afar off, and the distance prescribed by law
obliged them to cry aloud, though it must have been an effort, for
one symptom of leprosy is a hoarse whisper. Sore need can
momentarily give strange physical power. Their cry indicates some
knowledge. They knew the Lord's name, and had dim notions of His
authority, for He is addressed as Jesus and as Master. They knew
that He had power to heal, and they hoped that He had 'mercy,' which
they might win for themselves by entreaty. There was the germ of
trust in the cry forced from them by desperate need. But their
conceptions of Him, and their consciousness of their own
necessities, did not rise above the purely physical region, and He
was nothing to them but a healer.

Still, low and rude as their notions were, they did present a point
of contact for Christ's 'mercy,' which is ever ready to flow into
every heart that is lowly, as water will into all low levels. Jesus
seems to have gone near to the lepers, for it was 'when He saw,' not
when He heard, them that He spoke. It did not become Him to 'cry,
nor cause His voice to be heard in the street,' nor would He cure as
from afar, but He approaches those whom He heals, that they may see
His face, and learn by it His compassion and love. His command
recognised and honoured the law, but its main purpose, no doubt, was
to test, and thereby to strengthen, the leper's trust. To set out to
the priest while they felt themselves full of leprosy would seem
absurd, unless they believed that Jesus could and would heal them.
He gives no promise to heal, but asks for reliance on an implied
promise. He has not a syllable of sympathy; His tender compassion is
carefully covered up. He shuts down, as it were, the lantern-slide,
and not a ray gets through. But the light was behind the screen all
the while. We, too, have sometimes to act on the assumption that
Jesus has granted our desires, even while we are not conscious that
it is so. We, too, have sometimes to set out, as it were, for the
priests, while we still feel the leprosy.

II. We note the healing granted to obedient faith. The whole ten set
off at once. They had got all they wanted from the Lord, and had no
more thought about Him. So they turned their backs on Him. How
strange it must have been to feel, as they went along, the gradual
creeping of soundness into their bones! How much more confidently
they must have stepped out, as the glow of returning health asserted
itself more and more! The cure is a transcendent, though veiled,
manifestation of Christ's power; for it is wrought at a distance,
without even a word, and with no vehicle. It is simply the silent
forth-putting of His power. 'He spake, and it was done' is much, for
only a word which is divine can affect matter. But 'He willed, and
it was done,' is even more.

III. We note the solitary instance of thankfulness. The nine might
have said, 'We are doing what the Healer bade us do; to go back to
Him would be disobedience.' But a grateful heart knows that to
express its gratitude is the highest duty, and is necessary for its
own relief. How like us all it is to hurry away clutching our
blessings, and never cast back a thought to the giver! This leper's
voice had returned to Him, and his 'loud' acknowledgments were very
different from the strained croak of his petition for healing. He
knew that he had two to thank--God and Jesus; he did not know that
these two were one. His healing has brought him much nearer Jesus
than before, and now he can fall at His feet. Thankfulness knits us
to Jesus with a blessed bond. Nothing is so sweet to a loving heart
as to pour itself out in thanks to Him.

'And he was a Samaritan.' That may be Luke's main reason for telling
the story, for it corresponds to the universalistic tendency of his
Gospel. But may we not learn the lesson that the common human
virtues are often found abundantly in nations and individuals
against whom we are apt to be deeply prejudiced? And may we not
learn another lesson--that heretics and heathen may often teach
orthodox believers lessons, not only of courtesy and gratitude, but
of higher things? A heathen is not seldom more sensitive to the
beauty of Christ, and more touched by the story of His sacrifice,
than we who have heard of Him all our days.

IV. We note Christ's sad wonder at man's ingratitude and joyful
recognition of 'this stranger's' thankfulness. A tone of surprise as
well as of sadness can be detected in the pathetic double questions.
'Were not _the_ ten'--all of them, the ten who stood there but
a minute since--'cleansed? but where are the nine?' Gone off with
their gift, and with no spark of thankfulness in their selfish
hearts. 'Were there none found that returned to give glory to God,
save this stranger?' The numbers of the thankless far surpass those
of the thankful. The fewness of the latter surprises and saddens
Jesus still. Even a dog knows and will lick the hand that feeds it,
but 'Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.' We increase
the sweetness of our gifts by thankfulness for them. We taste them
twice when we ruminate on them in gratitude. They live after their
death when we bless God and thank Jesus for them all. We impoverish
ourselves still more than we dishonour Him by the ingratitude which
is so crying a fault. One sorrow hides many joys. A single crumpled
rose-leaf made the fairy princess's bed uncomfortable. Some of us
can see no blue in our sky if one small cloud is there. Both in
regard to earthly and spiritual blessings we are all sinners by
unthankfulness, and we all lose much thereby.

Jesus rejoiced over 'this stranger,' and gave him a greater gift at
last than he had received when the leprosy was cleared from his
flesh. Christ's raising of him up, and sending him on his way to
resume his interrupted journey to the priest, was but a prelude to
'Thy faith hath made thee whole,' or, as the Revised Version margin
reads, 'saved thee.' Surely we may take that word in its deepest
meaning, and believe that a more fatal leprosy melted out of this
man's spirit, and that the faith which had begun in a confidence
that Jesus could heal, and had been increased by obedience to the
command which tried it, and had become more awed and enlightened
by experience of bodily healing, and been deepened by finding a
tongue to express itself in thankfulness, rose at last to such
apprehension of Jesus, and such clinging to Him in grateful love,
as availed to save 'this stranger' with a salvation that healed
his spirit, and was perfected when the once leprous body was left
behind, to crumble into dust.



THREE KINDS OP PRAYING


    'And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that
    men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2. Saying,
    There was in a city a judge, which feared not God,
    neither regarded man: 3. And there was a widow in that
    city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine
    adversary. 4. And he would not for a while: but
    afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not
    God, nor regard man; 5. Yet because this widow
    troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual
    coming she weary me. 6. And the Lord said, Hear what
    the unjust judge saith. 7. And shall not God avenge
    His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him,
    though He bear long with them! 8. I tell you that He
    will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son
    of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?
    9. And He spake this parable unto certain which
    trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and
    despised others: 10. Two men went up into the temple
    to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
    11. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
    God, I thank thee, that I am not as Other men are,
    extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this
    publican. 11. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes
    of all that I possess. 13. And the publican, standing
    afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto
    heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be
    merciful to me a sinner. 14. I tell you, this man went
    down to his house justified rather than the other: for
    every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and
    he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.'
    --LUKE xviii. 1-14.

The two parables in this passage are each prefaced by Luke's
explanation of their purpose. They are also connected by being both
concerned with aspects of prayer. But the second was apparently not
spoken at the same time as the first, but is put here by Luke as in
an appropriate place.

I. The wearisome widow and the unrighteous judge. The similarities
and dissimilarities between this parable and that in chapter xi. 5-8
are equally instructive. Both take a very unlovely character as open
to the influence of persistent entreaty; both strongly underscore
the unworthiness and selfishness of the motive for yielding. Both
expect the hearers to use common-sense enough to take the sleepy
friend and the worried judge as contrasts to, not parables, of Him
to whom Christians pray. But the judge is a much worse man than the
owner of the loaves, and his denial of the justice which it was his
office to dispense is a crime; the widow's need is greater than the
man's, and the judge's cynical soliloquy, in its unabashed avowal of
caring for neither God nor man, and being guided only by regard to
comfort, touches a deep depth of selfishness. The worse he was, the
more emphatic is the exhortation to persistence. If the continual
dropping of the widow's plea could wear away such a stone as that,
its like could wear away anything. Yes, and suppose that the judge
were as righteous and as full of love and wish to help as this judge
was of their opposites; suppose that instead of the cry being a
weariness it was a delight; suppose, in short, that, to go back to
chapter xi., we 'call on Him as Father who, without respect of
persons, judgeth': then our 'continual coming' will surely not be
less effectual than hers was.

But we must note the spiritual experience supposed by the parable to
belong to the Christian life. That forlorn figure of the widow, with
all its suggestions of helplessness and oppression, is Christ's
picture of His Church left on earth without Him. And though of
course it is a very incomplete representation, it is a true
presentation of one side and aspect of the devout life on earth. 'In
the world ye shall have tribulation,' and the truer His servants are
to Him, and the more their hearts are with Christ in God, the more
they will feel out of touch with the world, and the more it will
instinctively be their 'adversary.' If the widow does not feel the
world's enmity, it will generally be because she is not a 'widow
indeed.'

And another notable fact of Christian experience underlies the
parable; namely that the Church's cry for protection from the
adversary is often apparently unheard. In chapter xi. the prayer was
for supply of necessities, here it is for the specific blessing of
protection from the adversary. Whether that is referred to the needs
of the Church or of the individual, it is true that usually the help
sought is long delayed. It is not only 'souls under the altar' that
have to cry 'How long, O Lord, dost Thou not avenge?' One thinks of
years of persecution for whole communities, or of long, weary days
of harassment and suffering for individuals, of multitudes of
prayers and groans sent up into a heaven that, for all the answers
sent down, might as well be empty, and one feels it hard to hold by
the faith that 'verily, there is a God that' heareth.

We have all had times when our faith has staggered, and we have
found no answer to our heart's question: 'Why tarry the wheels of
His chariot?' Many of us have felt what Mary and Martha felt when
'Jesus abode still two days in the place where He was' after He had
received their message, in which they had been so sure of His coming
at once when He heard that 'he whom Thou lovest is sick,' that they
did not ask Him to come. The delays of God's help are a constant
feature in His providence, and, as Jesus says here, they are but too
likely to take the life out of faith.

But over against these we have to place Jesus' triumphant assurance
here: 'He will avenge them speedily.' Yes, the longest delay may yet
be 'right early,' for heaven's clock does not beat at the same rate
as our little chronometers. God is 'the God of patience,' and He has
waited for millenniums for the establishment of His kingdom on
earth; His 'own elect' may learn long-suffering from Him, and need
to take to heart the old exhortation, 'If the vision tarry, wait for
it, for it will surely come, and will not tarry.' Yes, God's delays
are not delays, but are for our profit that we may always pray and
not faint, and may keep alight the flame of the sure hope that the
Son of man cometh, and that in His coming all adversaries shall be
destroyed, and the widow, no longer a widow, but the bride, go in to
the feast and forget her foes, and 'the days of her mourning be
ended.'

II. The Pharisee and the publican.

Luke's label on this parable tells us that it was spoken to a group
of the very people who were personated in it by the Pharisee. One
can fancy their faces as they listened, and how they would love the
speaker! Their two characteristics are self-righteousness and
depreciation of every one else, which is the natural result of such
trust in self. The self-adulation was absolute, the contempt was
all-embracing, for the Revised Version rightly renders 'set
_all_ others at nought.' That may sound exaggerated, but the
way to judge of moral characteristics is to take them in their
fullest development and to see what they lead to then. The two
pictures heighten each other. The one needs many strokes to bring
out the features, the other needs but one. Self-righteousness takes
many shapes, penitence has but one emotion to express, one cry to
utter.

Every word in the Pharisee's prayer is reeking with self-complacency.
Even the expression 'prayed with himself' is significant, for it
suggests that the prayer was less addressed to God than to himself,
and also that his words could scarcely be spoken in the hearing of
others, both because of their arrogant self-praise and of their
insolent calumnies of 'all the rest.' It was not prayer to God, but
soliloquy in his own praise, and it was in equal parts adulation of
himself and slander of other men. So it never went higher than the
inner roof of the temple court, and was, in a very fatal sense, 'to
himself.'

God is complimented with being named formally at first, and in the
first two words, 'I thank thee,' but that is only formal
introduction, and in all the rest of his prayer there is not a trace
of praying. Such a self-satisfied gentleman had no need to ask for
anything, so he brought no petitions. He uses the conventional
language of thanksgiving, but his real meaning is to praise himself
to God, not to thank God for himself. God is named once. All the
rest is I, I, I. He had no longing for communion, no aspiration, no
emotion.

His conception of righteousness was mean and shallow. And as St.
Bernard notes, he was not so much thankful for being righteous as
for being alone in his goodness. No doubt he was warranted in
disclaiming gross sins, but he was glad to be free from them, not
because they were sins, but because they were vulgar. He had no
right to fling mud either on 'all the rest' or on 'this publican,'
and if he had been really praying or giving thanks he would have had
enough to think of in God and himself without casting sidelong and
depreciatory glances at his neighbours. He who truly prays 'sees no
man any more,' or if he does, sees men only as subjects for
intercession, not for contempt. The Pharisee's notion of
righteousness was primarily negative, as consisting in abstinence
from flagrant sins, and, in so far as it was positive, it dealt
entirely with ceremonial acts. Such a starved and surface conception
of righteousness is essential to self-righteousness, for no man who
sees the law of duty in its depth and inwardness can flatter himself
that he has kept it. To fast twice a week and to give tithes of all
that one acquired were acts of supererogation, and are proudly
recounted as if God should feel much indebted to the doer for paying
Him more than was required. The Pharisee makes no petitions. He
states his claims, and tacitly expects that God will meet them.

Few words are needed to paint the publican; for his estimate of
himself is simple and one, and what he wants from God is one thing,
and one only. His attitude expresses his emotions, for he does not
venture to go near the shining example of all respectability and
righteousness, nor to lift his eyes to heaven. Like the penitent
psalmist, his iniquities have taken hold on him, so that he is 'not
able to look up.' Keen consciousness of sin, true sorrow for sin,
earnest desire to shake off the burden of sin, lowly trust in God's
pardoning mercy, are all crowded into his brief petition. The arrow
thus feathered goes straight up to the throne; the Pharisee's prayer
cannot rise above his own lips.

Jesus does not leave His hearers to apply the 'parable,' but drives
its application home to them, since He knew how keen a thrust was
needed to pierce the triple breastplate of self-righteousness. The
publican was 'justified'; that is, accounted as righteous. In the
judgment of heaven, which is the judgment of truth, sin forsaken is
sin passed away. The Pharisee condensed his contempt into
'_this_ publican'; Jesus takes up the 'this' and turns it into
a distinction, when He says, '_this man_ went down to his house
justified.' God's condemnation of the Pharisee and acceptance of the
publican are no anomalous aberration of divine justice, for it is a
universal law, which has abundant exemplifications, that he that
exalteth himself is likely to be humbled, and he that humbles
himself to be exalted. Daily life does not always yield examples
thereof, but in the inner life and as concerns our relations to God,
that law is absolutely and always true.



ENTERING THE KINGDOM


    'And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would
    touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked
    them. 16. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said,
    Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid
    them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
    17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive
    the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise
    enter therein. 18. And a certain ruler asked Him,
    saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit
    eternal life? 19. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest
    thou Me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
    20. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit
    adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false
    witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21. And he
    said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22. Now
    when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet
    lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and
    distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure
    in heaven: and come, follow Me. 23. And when he heard
    this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
    24. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful He
    said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter
    into the kingdom of God? 25. For it is easier for a
    camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich
    man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26. And they
    that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27. And He
    said, The things which are impossible with men are
    possible with God. 28. Then Peter said, Lo, we have
    left all, and followed Thee. 29. And He said unto
    them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath
    left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or
    children, for the kingdom of God's sake, 30. Who shall
    not receive manifold more in this present time, and in
    world to come life everlasting.'--LUKE xviii. 15-30.

In this section Luke rejoins the other two Evangelists, from whom
his narrative has diverged since Luke ix. 51. All three bring
together these two incidents of the children in Christ's arms and
the young ruler. Probably they were connected in time as well as in
subject. Both set forth the conditions of entering the kingdom,
which the one declares to be lowliness and trust, and the other to
be self-renunciation.

I. We have the child-likeness of the subjects of the kingdom. No
doubt there was a dash of superstition in the impulse that moved the
parents to bring their children to Jesus, but it was an eminently
natural desire to win a good man's blessing, and one to which every
parent's heart will respond. It was not the superstition, but the
intrusive familiarity, that provoked the disciples' rebuke. A great
man's hangers-on are always more careful of his dignity than he is,
for it increases their own importance.

The tender age of the children is to be noted. They were 'babes,'
and had to be brought, being too young to walk, and so having
scarcely yet arrived at conscious, voluntary life. It is 'of such'
that the subjects of the kingdom are composed. What, then, are the
qualities which, by this comparison, Jesus requires? Certainly not
innocence, which would be to contradict all his teaching and to shut
out the prodigals and publicans, and clean contrary to the whole
spirit of Luke's Gospel. Besides, these scarcely conscious infants
were not 'innocent,' for they had not come to the age of which
either innocence or guilt can be predicated. What, then, had they
which the children of the kingdom must have?

Perhaps the sweet and meek little 131st Psalm puts us best on the
track of the answer. It may have been in our Lord's mind; it
certainly corresponds to His thought. 'My heart is not haughty, nor
mine eyes lofty.... I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a
weaned child with his mother.' The infant's lowliness is not yet
humility; for it is instinct rather than virtue. It makes no claims,
thinks no lofty thoughts of self; in fact, has scarcely begun to
know that there is a self at all. On the other hand, clinging trust
is the infant's life. It, too, is rudimentary and instinctive, but
the impulse which makes the babe nestle in its mother's bosom may
well stand for a picture of the conscious trust which the children
of the kingdom must have. The child's instinct is the man's virtue.
We have

  'To travel back
  And tread again that ancient track,'

regaining as the conscious temper of our spirits those excellences
of humility and trust of which the first faint types may be seen in
the infant in arms. The entrance gate is very low, and, if we hold
our heads high, we shall not get through it. It must be on our hands
and knees that we go in. There is no place in the kingdom for those
who trust in themselves. We must rely wholly on God manifest in His
Son.

So intent is Luke in pointing the lesson that he passes by in
silence the infinitely beautiful and touching incident which the
world perhaps knows better than any other in our Lord's life--that
of His taking the infants in His arms and blessing them. In many
ways that incident would have been peculiarly suitable for this
Gospel, which delights to bring out the manhood and universal
beneficence of Jesus. But if Luke knew of it, he did not care to
bring in anything which would weaken the lesson of the conditions of
entering the kingdom.

II. We have self-renunciation as the condition of entering the
kingdom. The conversation with the ruler (vs. 18-23) sets forth its
necessity; the sad exclamation to the bystanders (vs. 24-27) teaches
its difficulty; and the dialogue with Peter as representing the
twelve (vs. 28-30), its reward.

(1) The necessity of self-renunciation. The ruler's question has
much blended good and evil. It expresses a true earnestness, a
dissatisfaction with self, a consciousness of unattained bliss and a
longing for it, a felt readiness to take any pains to secure it, a
confidence in Christ's guidance--in short, much of the child spirit.
But it has also a too light estimate of what good is, a mistaken
notion that 'eternal life' can be won by external deeds, which
implies fatal error as to its nature and his own power to do these.
This superficial estimate of goodness, and this over confidence in
his ability to do good acts, are the twin mistakes against which
Christ's treatment of him is directed.

Adopting Luke's version of our Lord's answer, the counter-question,
which begins it, lays hold of the polite address, which had slipped
from the ruler's lips as mere form, and bids him widen out his
conceptions of 'good.' Jesus does not deny that He has a right to
the title, but questions this man's right to give it Him. The ruler
thought of Jesus only as a man, and, so thinking, was too ready with
his adjective. Conventional phrases of compliment may indicate much
of the low notions from which they spring. He who is so liberal with
his ascriptions of goodness needs to have his notions of what it is
elevated. Jesus lays down the great truth which this man, in his
confidence that he by his own power could do any good needed for
eternal life, was perilously forgetting. God is the only good, and
therefore all human goodness must come from Him; and if the ruler is
to do 'good,' he must first be good, by receiving goodness from God.

But the saying has an important bearing on Christ's character. The
world calls Him good. Why? There is none good but God. So we are
face to face with this dilemma--Either Jesus Christ is God manifest
in the flesh, or He is not good.

Having thus tried to deepen his conceptions, and awaken his
consciousness of imperfection, our Lord meets the man on his own
ground by referring him to the Law, which abundantly answered his
inquiry. The second half of the commandments are alone quoted
by Him; for they have especially to do with conduct, and the
infractions of them are more easily recognised than those of the
first. The ruler expected that some exceptional and brilliant deeds
would be pointed out and he is relegated to the old homely duties,
which it is gross crime not to do.

A shade of disappointment and impatience is in his protestation that
he had done all these ever since he was a lad. No doubt he had, and
his coming to Jesus confessed that though he had, the doing had not
brought him 'eternal life.' Are there not many youthful hearts which
would have to say the same, if they would be frank with themselves?
They have some longings after a bliss and calm which they feel is
not theirs. They have kept within the lines of that second half of
the Decalogue, but that amount and sort of 'good thing' has not
brought peace. Jesus looks on all such as He did on this young man,
'loves' them, and speaks further to them as He did to him. What
was lacking? The soul of goodness, without which these other things
were 'dead works.' And what is that soul? Absolute self-renunciation
and following Christ. For this man the former took the shape of
parting with his wealth, but that external renunciation in itself
was as 'dead' and impotent to bring eternal life as all his other
good acts had been. It was precious as a means to an end--the
entrance into the number of Christ's disciples; and as an expression
of that inward self-surrender which is essential for discipleship.

The real stress of the condition is in its second half, 'Follow me.'
He who enters the company of Christ's followers enters the kingdom,
and has eternal life. If he does not do that, he may give his goods
to feed the poor, and it profiteth him nothing. Eternal life is not
the external wages for external acts, but the outcome and consequence
of yielding self to Jesus, through whom goodness, which keeps the
law, flows into the soul.

The requirement pierced to the quick. The man loved the world more
than eternal life, after all. But though he went away, he went
sorrowful; and that was perhaps the presage that he would come back.

(2) Jesus follows him with sad yearning, and, we may be sure, still
sought to draw him back. His exclamation is full of the charity
which makes allowance for temptation. It speaks a universal truth,
never more needed than in our days, when wealth has flung its golden
chains round so many professing Christians. How few of us believe
that it gets harder for us to be disciples as we grow richer! There
are multitudes in our churches who would be far nearer Christ than
they are ever likely to be, if they would literally obey the
injunction to get rid of their wealth.

We are too apt to take such commands as applicable only to the
individuals who received them, whereas, though, no doubt, the
spirit, and not the letter, is the universal element in them, there
are far more of us than we are willing to confess, who need to obey
the letter in order to keep the spirit. What a depth of vulgar
adoration of the power of money is in the disciples' exclamation,
'If rich men cannot get into the kingdom, who can get in!' Or
perhaps it rather means, If self-renunciation is the condition, who
can fulfil it? The answer points us all to the only power by which
we can do good, and overcome self; namely by God's help. God is
'good,' and we can be good too, if we look to Him. God will fill our
souls with such sweetness that earth will not be hard to part with.

(3) The last paragraph of this passage teaches the reward of
self-renunciation. Peter shoves his oar in, after his fashion. It
would have been better if he had not boasted of their surrender,
but yet it was true that they had given up all. Only a fishing-boat
and a parcel of old nets, indeed, but these were all they had to
give; and God's store, which holds His children's surrendered
valuables, has many things of small value in it--cups of cold water
and widows' mites lying side by side with crowns and jewels.

So Jesus does not rebuke the almost innocent self-congratulation,
but recognises in it an appeal to his faithfulness. It was really a
prayer, though it sounded like a vaunt, and it is answered by
renewed assurances. To part with outward things for Christ's sake or
for the kingdom's sake--which is the same thing--is to win them
again with all their sweetness a hundred-fold sweeter. Gifts given
to Him come back to the giver mended by His touch and hallowed by
lying on His altar. The present world yields its full riches only to
the man who surrenders all to Jesus. And the 'eternal life,' which
the ruler thought was to be found by outward deeds, flows
necessarily into the heart which is emptied of self, that it may be
filled with Him who is the life, and will be perfected yonder.



THE MAN THAT STOPPED JESUS


    'And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought
    unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him,
    41. Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto
    thee?'--LUKE xviii. 40-41.

This story of the man that stopped Christ is told by the three
'Synoptic' Evangelists, and it derives a special value from having
occurred within a week of the Crucifixion. You remember how
graphically Mark tells how the blind man hears who is passing and
immediately begins to cry with a loud voice to Christ to have mercy
upon him; how the officious disciples--a great deal more concerned
for the Master's dignity than He was Himself--tried to silence him;
and how, with a sturdy persistence and independence of externals
which often goes along with blindness, 'he cried the more a great
deal' because they did try, and then how he won the distinction of
being the man that stopped Christ. When Jesus stood still, and
commanded him to be called, the crowd wheeled right round at once, and
instead of hindering, encumbered him with help, and bade him to 'rise,
and be of good cheer.' Then he flings away some poor rag that he had
had to cover himself sitting there, and wearing his under-garment
only, comes to Christ, and Jesus asks, 'What do you want?' A promise
in the shape of a question. Bartimaeus knows what he wants, and
answers without hesitation, and so he gets his request.

Now, I think in all this incident, and especially in its centre
part, which I have read, there are great lessons for us. And the
first of them is, I see here a wonderful revelation of Christ's
quick sympathy at a moment when He was most absorbed.

I said that all this occurred within a week of our Lord's
Crucifixion. If you will recall the way in which that last journey
to Jerusalem is described in the Evangelists, you will see that
there was something very extraordinary about the determination and
tension of spirit which impelled Jesus along the road, all the
way from Galilee. Mark says that the disciples followed and were
amazed. There was something quite unlike what they had been
accustomed to, in His face and bearing, and it was so strange to
them that they were puzzled and frightened. We read, too, that their
amazement and fright prevented them from going very near Him on the
road; 'as they _followed_ they were afraid.' Then the story
goes on to tell how James and John, with their arrogant wish, did
draw closer to Him, the rest of them lagging behind, conscious of a
certain unaccustomed distance between Him and them, which only the
ambitious two dared to diminish. Further, one of the Evangelists
speaks of His face being 'set' to go to Jerusalem, the gentle
lineaments fixed in a new expression of resolution and absorption.
The Cross was flinging its shadow over Him. He was bracing Himself
up for the last struggle. If ever there was a moment of His life
when we might have supposed that He would be oblivious of externals,
and especially of the individual sorrows of one poor blind beggar
sitting by the roadside, it was that moment. But however plunged in
great thoughts about the agonising suffering that He was going to
front, and the grand work that He was going to do, and the great
victory that He was going to win so soon, He had

  'A heart at leisure from itself
  To soothe and sympathise.'

Even at that supreme hour He stood still and commanded him to be
called. I wonder if it is saying too much to say that in the
exercise of that power of healing and helping Bartimaeus, Jesus
found some relief from the pressure of impending sorrow.

Brethren, is not that a lesson for us all? It is not spiritualising,
allegorising, cramming meanings into an incident that are not in it,
when we say--Think of Jesus Christ as one of ourselves, knowing that
He was going to His death within a week, and then think of Him
turning to this poor man. Is not that a pattern for us? We are often
more selfish in our sorrows than in our joys. Many of us are inclined,
when we are weighed down by personal sorrows, to say, 'As long as I
have this heavy weight lying on my heart, how can you expect me to
take an interest in the affairs of others, or to do Christian work,
or to rise to the calls of benevolence and the cries of need?' We do
not expect _you_ to do it; but Jesus Christ did it, 'leaving us
an example that we should follow in His steps.' Next to the blessed
influences of God's own Spirit, and the peace-bringing act of submission,
there is no such comfort for sorrow, as to fling ourselves into others'
griefs, and to bear others' burdens. Our Lord, with His face set like
a flint, on the road to the Cross, but yet sufficiently free of heart
to turn to Bartimaeus, reads a lesson that rebukes us all, and should
teach us all.

Further, do we not see here a beautiful concrete instance, on the
lower plane, of the power of earnest desire.

No enemy could have stopped Christ on that road; no opposition could
have stopped Him, no beseeching on the part of loving and ignorant
friends, repeating the temptation in the wilderness--or the foolish
words of Peter, 'This shall not be unto Thee,' could have stopped
Him. He would have trodden down all such flimsy obstacles, as a lion
'from the thickets of Jordan' crashes through the bulrushes, but
this cry stopped Him, 'Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me,
and the Cross and all else that He was hastening to, great as it was
for the world, had to wait its turn, for something else had to be
done first. There was noise enough on the road, the tramp of many
feet, the clatter of many eager tongues, but the voice of one poor
man sitting in the dust there by the roadside, found its way through
all the noise to Christ's ears. 'Which things are an allegory.'
There is an ocean of praise always, as I might so say breaking upon
Christ's Throne, but the little stream of my petitions flows
distinguishable through all that sea. As one of our poets says, we
may even think of Him as 'missing my little human praise' when the
voice of one poor boy was not heard. Surely amidst all the
encouragements that we have to believe that our cry is not sent up
into an empty heaven, nor into deaf ears, and that all the multitude
of creatures that wait before that Throne do not prevent the
individualising knowledge and the individualising love of Jesus
Christ from coming straight to every one of us, this little incident
is not the least instructive and precious. He that heard Bartimaeus
will hear us.

In like manner, may I not say that here we have an illustration of
how Christ, who has so much besides to do, would suspend other work,
if it were needful, in order to do what we need? As I have said, the
rest had to wait. Bartimaeus stopped Christ. And our hand, if it be
the hand of faith, put out to the hem of the garment as Jesus of
Nazareth passeth by, will so far stop Him as that He will do what we
wish, if what we wish is in accordance with our highest good. There
was another man in Jericho who stopped Christ, on that same journey;
for not only the petition of Bartimaeus, but the curiosity--which
was more than curiosity--of Zacchaeus, stopped Him, and He who stood
still, though He had His face set like a flint to go to Jerusalem,
because Bartimaeus cried, stood still and looked up into the
sycamore tree where the publican was--the best fruit that ever it
bore--and said, 'Zacchaeus; come down, I must abide at thy house.'
Why _must_ He abide? Because He discerned there a soul that He
could help and save, and that arrested Him on His road to the Cross.

So, dear friends, amidst all the work of administering the universe
which He does, and of guiding and governing and inspiring His
Church, which He does, if you ask for the supply of your need He
would put that work aside for a moment, if necessary, to attend to
you. That is no exaggeration; it is only a strong way of putting the
plain truth that Christ's love individualises each of its objects;
and lavishes itself upon each one of us; as if there were no other
beings in the universe but only our two selves.

And then, remember too, that what Bartimaeus got was not taken from
anyone else. Nobody suffered because Jesus paused to help him. They
sat down in ranks, five thousand of them, and as they began to eat,
those that were first served would be looked upon with envious eye
by the last 'ranks,' who would be wondering if the bits of bread and
the two small fishes were enough to go round. But the first group
was fed full and the last group had as much, and they took up 'of
the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full.'

  'Enough for all, enough for each,
  Enough for evermore.'

There is one more thought rising out of this story. It teaches a
wonderful lesson as to the power which Christ puts into the hand of
believing prayer.

'What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?' He had asked the same
question a little while before, under very different circumstances.
When James and John came and tried to beguile Him into a blind
promise, because they knew that It was not likely that they would
get what they asked if they said it out at first. He avoided the
snare with that same question, To them the question was a refusal;
they had said: 'Master, we will that Thou wouldst do whatever we
should desire'; and He said: 'What is it that ye desire? Let Me know
that first.' But when blind Bartimaeus cried, Jesus smiled down upon
him--though his sightless eyeballs could not see the smile, there
would be a smile in the cadence of His words--and He said: 'What
wouldst thou that I should do for thee?' To this suppliant that
question was a promise--'I will do what you want.' He puts the key
of the royal treasure-house into the hand of faith, and says, 'Go in
and help yourself. Take what you will.'

Only, of course, we must remember that there are limitations in the
very nature of the case, imposed not arbitrarily, but because the
very nature of the truest gifts creates them, and these limitations
to some of us sound as if they took all the blessedness out of the
act of prayer. 'We know,' says one of the Apostles, 'that if we ask
anything according to His will He heareth us.' Some of us think that
that is a very poor kind of charter, but it sets the necessary limit
to the omnipotence of faith. 'What wouldst thou that I should do for
thee?' Unless our answer always, and at bottom, is, 'Not my will,
but Thine,' we have not yet learnt the highest blessing, nor the
truest meaning, of prayer. For to pray does not mean to insist, to
press our wishes on God, but it means, first, to desire that our
wills may be brought into harmony with His. The old Rabbis hit upon
great truths now and then, and one of them said, 'Make God's will
thy will, that He may make thy will His will.' If any poor, blind
Bartimaeus remembers that, and asks accordingly, he has the key to
the royal treasury in his possession, and he may go in and plunge
his hand up to the wrist in jewels and diamonds, and carry away bars
of gold, and it will all be his.

When this man, who had no sight in his eyeballs, knew that whatever
he wanted he should have, he did not need to pause long to consider
what it was that he wanted most. If you and I had that Aladdin's
lamp given to us, and had only to rub it for a mighty spirit to come
that would fulfil our wishes, I wonder if we should be as sure of
what we wanted. If we were as conscious of our need as the blind man
was of his, we should pause as little in our response to the
question: 'What wouldst thou that I should do for thee?' 'Lord! Dost
Thou not see that mine eyes are dark? What else but sight can I
want?' Jesus still comes to us with the same question. God grant
that we may all say; 'Lord, how canst Thou ask us? Dost Thou not see
that my soul is stained, my love wandering, my eyeballs dim? Give me
Thyself!' If we thus ask, then the answer will come as quickly to us
as it did to this blind man: 'Go thy way! Thy faith hath saved
thee,' and that 'Go thy way' will not be dismissal from the Presence
of our Benefactor, but our 'way' will be the same as Bartimaeus'
was, when he received his sight, and 'followed Jesus in the way.'



MELTED BY KINDNESS


    'And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw
    him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come
    down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.'
    --LUKE xix. 5.

It is characteristic of Luke that only he tells the story
of Zacchaeus. He always dwells with special interest on incidents
bringing out the character of Christ as the Friend of outcasts. His
is eminently the Gospel of forgiveness. For example, we owe to Him
the three supreme parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the
prodigal son, as well as those of the Pharisee and the publican
praying in the Temple; and of the good Samaritan. It is he that
tells us that all the publicans and sinners came near to Jesus to
hear Him; and he loses no opportunity of enforcing the lesson with
which this incident closes, 'The Son of Man is come to seek and to
save that which was lost.' It is because of the light that it throws
upon that great thought that he tells this fascinating story of
Zacchaeus. I need not repeat it. We all remember it, and the
quaintness and grotesqueness of part of it fix it in people's
memories. We know how the rich tax gatherer, pocketing his dignity,
and unable to see over the heads of the crowd, scrambled up into the
branches of the sycamore tree that overhung the road; and there was
found by the eye of love, and surprised by the words of kindness,
which melted him down, and made a new man of him on the spot. The
story seems to me to be full of teaching, to which I desire to turn
your attention at this time.

I. First, note the outcast, drawn by imperfect motives to Jesus
Christ.

It has been supposed that this man was a Gentile, but his Jewish
name establishes his origin. And, if so, the fact that he was a
publican and a Jew says a good deal about his character. There are
some trades which condemn, to a certain extent, the men who engage
in them. You would not expect to find a man of sensitive honour
acting as a professional spy; or one of earnest religious character
keeping a public-house. You would not expect to find a very good Jew
condescending to be the tool of the Roman Government. Zacchaeus was
at the head of the revenue office in Jericho, a position of
considerable importance, inasmuch as there was a large volume of
trade through that city from its situation near the fords of the
Jordan, and from the fertility of the plain in which it stood. He
had made some money, and probably made it by very questionable
means. He was the object, not undeservedly, of the execration and
suspicion of his countrymen. Italians did not love Italians who took
service under Austria. Irishmen did not love Irishmen who in the bad
old days used to collect church cess. And so Jews had no very kind
feeling towards Jews who became Caesar's servants. That a man should
be in such a position indicated that he cared more for money than
for patriotism, religion, or popular approval. His motto was the
motto of that Roman Emperor who said, 'Money has no smell,' out of
whatever cesspool it may have been fished up. But the consciousness
of being encompassed by universal hatred would induce the object of
it to put on an extra turn of the screw, and avenge upon individuals
the general hostility. So we may take it for granted that Zacchaeus,
the head of the Jericho custom-house, and rich to boot, was by no
means a desirable character.

What made him want to see Jesus Christ? He said to himself, curiosity;
but probably he was doing himself injustice, and there was something
else working below than merely the wish to see what sort of man was
this Rabbi Joshua from Galilee that everybody was talking about. Had
he heard that Jesus had a soft place in His heart for his class? Or
was he, perhaps, beginning to get tired of being the butt of universal
hatred, and finding that money scarcely compensated for that? Or was
there some reaching out towards some undefined good, and a
dissatisfaction with a very defined present, though unnamed, evil?
Probably so. Like some of us, he put the trivial motive uppermost
because he was half ashamed of the half-conscious better one.

I wonder if there are any here now who said to themselves that they
would come out of curiosity to hear the preacher, or from some such
ordinary motive, and who all the while have, lying deep below that,
another reason altogether, a dim feeling that it is not all right
between them and God, and that here may be the place to have it put
right? At all events, from whatsoever imperfect motives little
Zacchaeus was perched up in the sycamore there, he went to
see Christ, and he got more than he went for. Unconsciously we may
be drawn, and imperfect motives may lead us to a perfect Saviour.

He sets us an example in another way. Do not be too punctilious
about dignity in pursuing aims that you know to be good. It would be
a sight to bring jeers and grins on the faces of the crowd to see
the rich man of the custom-house sitting up amongst the leaves. But
he did not mind about that if he got a good look at the Rabbi when
He passed. People care nothing for ridicule if their hearts are set
upon a thing. I wish there were more of us who did not mind being
laughed at if only what we did helped us to see Jesus Christ. Do not
be afraid of ridicule. It is not a test of truth; in nine cases out
of ten it is the grimace of fools.

II. Then, further, notice the self-invited Guest.

When the little procession stopped under the sycamore tree,
Zacchaeus would begin to feel uncomfortable. He may have had
experience in past times of the way in which the great doctors of
orthodoxy were in the habit of treating a publican, and may have
begun to be afraid that this new one was going to be like all the
rest, and elicit some kind of mob demonstration against him. The
crowd would be waiting with intense curiosity to see what would pass
between the Rabbi and the revenue collector. They would all be very
much astonished. 'Zacchaeus! make haste and come down. To-day I must
abide at thy house.' Perhaps it was the first time since he had been
a child at his mother's knee that he had heard his name pronounced
in tones of kindness. There was not a ragged beggar in Jericho who
would not have thought himself degraded by putting his foot across
the threshold that Jesus now says He will cross.

It is the only time in which we read that Jesus volunteered to go
into any house. He never offers to go where He is not wanted, any
more than He ever stays away where He is. And so the very fact of
His saying 'I will abide at thy house,' is to me an indication
that, deep down below Zacchaeus' superficial and vulgar curiosity,
there was something far more noble which our Lord fosters into life
and consciousness by this offer.

Many large truths are suggested by it on which we may touch. We have
in Christ's words an illustration of His individualising knowledge.
'Zacchaeus, come down.' There is no sign that anybody had told Christ
the name, or that He knew anything about Zacchaeus before by human
knowledge. But the same eye that saw Nathanael under the fig-tree
saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore; and, seeing in secret, knew without
being told the names of both. Christ does not name men in vain. He
generally, when He uses an individual's name in addressing him, means
either to assert His knowledge of his character, or His authority
over him, or in some way or other to bespeak personal adhesion and
to promise personal affection. So He named some of His disciples,
weaving a bond that united each single soul to Himself by the act.
This individualising knowledge and drawing love and authority are all
expressed, as I think, in that one word 'Zacchaeus.' And these are as
true about us as about him. The promises of the New Testament, the
words of Jesus Christ, the great, broad, universal 'whosoevers' of
His assurance and of His commandments are as directly meant for each
of us as if they were in an envelope with our names upon them and put
into our hands. We, too, are spoken to by Him by our names, and for
us, too, there may be a personal bond of answering love that knits us
individually to the Master, as there certainly is a bond of personal
regard, compassion, affection, and purpose of salvation in His heart
in regard of each single soul of all the masses of humanity. I should
have done something if I should have been able to gather into a point,
that blessedly pierced some heart to let the life in, the broad truths
of the Gospel. 'Whosoever will, let him come.' Say to yourself, 'That
is me.' 'Whosoever cometh I will in no wise cast out.' Say to yourself,
'That is me.' And in like manner with all the general declarations,
and especially with that chiefest of them all, 'God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish.' Read it as you may--and you will never read it
right until you do--'God so loved _me_'--John, Mary, or whatever
be your name--'Jesus so loved _me_ that if _I_ believe upon
Him _I_ shall not perish, but have everlasting life.'

Then, note, further, how here we get the revelation, in a concrete
form, of Christ's perfect willingness and desire to make common
cause, and dwell with the most degraded and outcast. I have said
that this is the only instance in which He volunteered to be a
guest. Pharisees asked Him, and He did not refuse. The publican's
dwelling, which was tabooed, He opened the door of by His own hand.
And that is what He always does.

This little incident may be taken to be, not merely a symbol of His
whole dealings, but an illustration, in small, of the same principle
which has its largest embodiment and illustration in the fact of His
Incarnation and Manhood. Why did Jesus Christ take flesh and dwell
among us? Because He desired to seek and to save that which is lost.
Why did He go into the publican's house, and brave the sneers of the
crowd, and associate Himself with the polluted? For the same reason.
Microscopic crystals and gigantic ones are due to the same forces
working in the same fashion. This incident is more than a symbol; it
is a little instance of the operation of the law which finds its
supreme and transcendent instance in the fact that the Eternal Son
of God bowed the heavens and came down 'and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory.'

His example is our pattern. A Christian church which does not
imitate its Master in its frank and continual willingness to
associate itself with the degraded and the outcast has lost one of
the truest signs of its being vitalised with the life of Christ.
There is much in this day in the condition of Christian communities
to make men dissatisfied and fearful. But there is one thing which,
though in all its developments one cannot sympathise with it, is in
its essence wholly good, and that is the new and quickened
consciousness that a church which does not address itself to the
outcasts has no business to live; and that Christian people who are
too proud of their righteousness to go amongst the unclean and the
degraded are a great deal more of Pharisees than Christians, and
have need to learn which be the first principles of the religion
which they profess. Self-righteousness gathers up its skirts in holy
horror; perfect righteousness goes cheerily and without fear amongst
the outcasts, for where should the physician go but to the sick, and
where should Christ be found but in the house of the publican?

Further, the saying of our Lord suggests His recognition of the
great law that ruled His life. Chronology here is of much
importance. We do not generally remember that the scene with
Zacchaeus was within about a week of the Crucifixion. Our Lord was
on that last journey to Jerusalem to die, during the whole of which
there was over His demeanour a tension of holy impatience,
altogether unlike His usual manner, which astonished and amazed the
disciples as they followed Him. He set His face like a flint to go
to Jerusalem; and strode before them on the way as if He were eager
to reach the culmination of His sufferings and of His work. Thus
borne on the wings of the strong desire to be perfected on the
Cross, He is arrested on His path. Nothing else was able to stop
Him, but 'To-day I _must_ abide in thy house.' There was a soul
to be saved; and the world's sacrifice had to wait till the single
soul was secured. Christ hurrying, if I may use the word, at all
events steadfastly and without wavering, pressing towards the Cross,
let His course be stopped by this need. The highest 'must' was
obedience to the Father's will, and parallel with that need there
was the other, of rescuing the Father's prodigal sons. So this elder
Brother owned the obligation, and paused on the road to Calvary, to
lodge in the house of Zacchaeus. Let us learn the sweet lesson,
and take the large consolations that lie in such a thought.

Again, the utterance of this self-invited Guest suggests His
over-abundant fulfilment of timid, half-conscious desires. I said at
the beginning of my remarks that only curiosity was on the surface;
but that the very fact that our Lord addressed Himself to the man
seemed to imply that He descried in him something more than mere vulgar
curiosity. And the glad leap with which Zacchaeus came down from his
tree might have revealed to Zacchaeus himself, as no doubt it did to
some of the bystanders, what it was that he had been dimly wishing.
So with us all there are needs, longings, half-emerging wishes, that
have scarcely come into the field of consciousness, but yet have
power enough to modify our actions. Jesus Christ understands all
about us, and reads us better than we do ourselves; and is ready to
meet, and by meeting to bring into full relief, these vague feelings
after an undefined good. Brethren, He is to us, if we will let Him
be, all that we want; and He is to us all that we need, although we
only half know that we need it, and never say to ourselves that we
wish it.

There is a last thought deducible from these words of our Lord's;
and that is, His leaving a man to decide whether he will have Him or
no. 'Make haste and come down, for to-day I _must_ abide at thy
house. Yes! but if Zacchaeus had stuck in his tree, Christ's 'must'
would not have been fulfilled. He would have gone on to Jerusalem if
the publican had not scrambled down in haste. He forces Himself on
no man; He withholds Himself from no man. He respects that awful
prerogative of being the architects of our own evil and our own
good, by our own free and unconstrained choice.

Did you ever think that it was now or never with this publican; that
Jesus Christ was never to go through the streets of Jericho any
more; that it was Zacchaeus' last chance; and that, if he had not
made haste, he would have lost Christ for ever? And so it is yet.
There may be some in this place at this moment to whom Jesus Christ
is now making His last appeal. I know not; no man knows. A Rabbi
said, when they asked him when a man should repent, 'Repent on the
last day of your lives.' And they said, 'But we do not know when
that will be.' And he said, 'Then repent _now_.' So I say,
because some of you may never hear Christ's Gospel again, and
because none of us know whether we shall or not; make sure work of
it _now_, and do not let Jesus Christ go out of the city and
up the road between the hills yonder; for if once the folds of the
ravine shut Him from sight He will never be back in Jericho, or seen
by Zacchaeus any more for ever.

III. And so, lastly, notice the outcast melted by kindness.

We do not know at what stage in our Lord's intercourse with the
publican he 'stood and said, Half of my goods I give to the poor,'
and so on. But whensoever it was, it was the sign of the entire
revolution that had been wrought upon him by the touch of that
loving hand, and by the new fountain of sympathy and love
that he had found in Jesus Christ.

Some people have supposed, indeed, that his words do not mark a vow
for the future, but express his practice in the past. But it seems
to me to be altogether incongruous that Zacchaeus should advertise
his past good in order to make himself out to be not quite so bad as
people thought him, and, therefore, not so unworthy of being
Christ's host. Christ's love kindles sense of our sin, not
complacent recounting of our goodness. So Zacchaeus said, 'Lord!
Thou hast loved me, and I wonder. I yield, and fling away my black
past; and, so far as I can, make restitution for it.'

The one transforming agency is the love of Christ received into the
heart. I do not suppose that Zacchaeus knew as much about Jesus
Christ even after the conversation as we do; nor did he see His love
in that supreme death on the Cross as we do. But the love of the
Lord made a deep dint in his heart, and revolutionised his whole
nature. The thing that will alter the whole current and set of a
man's affections, that will upset his estimate of the relative value
of material and spiritual, and that will turn him inside out and
upside down, and make a new man of him, is the revelation of the
supreme love that in Jesus Christ has come into the world, with an
individualising regard to each of us, and has died on the Cross for
the salvation of us all. Nothing else will do it. People had frowned
on Zacchaeus, and it made him bitter. They had execrated and
persecuted him; and his only response was setting his teeth more
firmly and turning the screw a little tighter when he had the
chance. You can drive a man into devilry by contempt. If you want to
melt him into goodness, try love. The Ethiopian cannot change his
skin, but Jesus Christ can change his heart, and that will change
his skin by degrees. The one transforming power is faith in the love
of Jesus Christ.

Further, the one test of a true reception of Him is the abandonment
of past evil and restitution for it as far as possible. People say
that our Gospel is unreal and sentimental, and a number of other
ugly adjectives. Well! If it ever is so, it is the fault of the
speakers, and not of the Gospel. For its demands from every man that
accepts it are intensely practical, and nothing short of a complete
turning of his back upon his old self, shown in the conclusive
forsaking of former evil, however profitable or pleasant, and
reparation for harm done to men, satisfies them.

It is useless to talk about loving Jesus Christ and trusting Him,
and having the sweet assurance of forgiveness, and a glorious hope
of heaven, unless these have made you break off your bad habits of
whatsoever sort they may be, and cast them behind your backs. Strong
emotion, sweet deep feeling, assured confidence in the sense of
forgiveness and the hope of heaven, are all very well. Let us see
your faith by your works; and of these works the chief is--Behold
the evil that I did, I do it no more: 'Behold! Lord! the half of my
goods I give to the poor.' There was a young ruler, a chapter before
this, who could not make up his mind to part with wealth in order to
follow Christ. This man has so completely made up his mind to follow
Christ that he does not need to be bidden to give up his worldly
goods. The half given to the poor, and fourfold restoration to those
whom he had wronged, would not leave much. How astonished Zacchaeus
would have been if anybody had said to him that morning, 'Zacchaeus!
before this night falls you will be next door to a pauper, and you
will be a happier man than you are now!'

So, dear friends, like him, all of us may, if we will, and if we
need, make a sudden right-about-face that shall alter the complexion
of our whole future. People tell us that sudden conversions are
suspicious. So they may be in certain cases. But the moment when a
man makes up his mind to change the direction in which his face is
set will always be a moment, however long may be the hesitation, and
the meditation, and the preparation that led up to it.

Jesus Christ is standing before each of us as truly as He did before
that publican, and is saying to us as truly as He said to him, 'Let
Me in.' 'Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If any man open ...
I will enter.' If He comes in He will teach you what needs to be
turned out if He is to stop; and will make the sacrifice blessed and
not painful; and you will be a happier and a richer man with Christ
and nothing than with all beside and no Christ.



THE TRADING SERVANTS


    'Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath
    gained ten pounds.... And the second came, saying,
    Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.'
    --LUKE xix.16, 18.

The Evangelist, contrary to his usual practice, tells us what was
the occasion of this parable. It was spoken at Jericho, on our
Lord's last journey to Jerusalem, Bethany was but a day's march
distant; Calvary but a week ahead. An unusual tension of spirit
marked our Lord's demeanour, and was noticed by the disciples with
awe. It infected them, and the excitable crowd, which was more than
usually excitable because on its way to the passover festival. The
air was electric, and everybody felt that something was impending.
They 'thought that the kingdom of God should _immediately_
appear.' So Christ spoke this parable to damp down that expectation
which might easily flash up into the flame of rebellion. He tells
them His real programme. He was to go a long way off to receive
the kingdom. That was a familiar experience amongst the nations
tributary to Rome, and more than one of the Herodian family had
passed through it. In the meantime there was to be a period of
expectancy. It was to be a long time, for he had to go to a 'far
country,' and it was to be extended enough for the servants to turn
their money over many times during His absence. When He did return
it was not to do what they expected. They thought that the kingdom
meant Jewish lordship over subject nations. He teaches them that it
meant the destruction of the rebellious citizens, and a rigid
scrutiny of the servants' faithfulness.

Now, the words of my two texts bring out in connection with this
outline of the future some large lessons which I desire to draw.

I. Notice the small capital that the servants receive to trade with.

It was a pound apiece, which, numismatic authorities tell us, is
somewhat about the same value as some £6 odd of English money;
though, of course, the purchasing power would be considerably
greater. A small amount, and an equal amount to every servant--these
are the two salient points of this parable. They make the broad
distinction between it and the other parable, which is often mixed
up with it, the parable of the talents. There, instead of the amount
being excessively small, it is exceedingly great; for a talent was
worth some £400, and ten talents would be £4000, a fair capital for
a man to start with. The other point of difference between the two
parables, which belongs to the essence of each, is that while the
gift in the one case is identical, in the other case it is graduated
and different.

Now, to suppose that these are but two varying versions of the same
parable, which the Evangelists have manipulated is, in my judgment,
to be blind to the plainest of the lessons to be drawn from them.

There are two sorts of gifts. In one, all Christian men, the
Master's servants, are alike; in another, they differ. Now, what is
the thing in which all Christians are alike? What gift do they all
possess equally; rich and poor, largely endowed or slenderly
equipped; 'talented'--as we use the word from the parable--or not?
The rich man and the poor, the wise man and the foolish, the
cultured man and the ignorant, the Fijian and the Englishman, have
one thing alike--the message of salvation which we call the Gospel
of the blessed Lord. That is the 'pound.' We all stand upon an equal
platform there, however differently we are endowed in respect of
capacities and other matters. All have it; and all have the same.

Now if that is the interpretation of this parable, there are
considerations that flow from that thought, and on which I would
dwell for a moment.

The first of them is the apparent smallness of the gift. You may
feel a difficulty in accepting that explanation, and may have been
saying to yourselves that it cannot be correct, because Jesus Christ
would never compare the unspeakable gift of His message of salvation
through Him, to that paltry sum. But throw yourselves back to the
moment of utterance, and I think you will feel the pathos and power
of the metaphor. Here was that handful of disciples set in the midst
of a hostile world, dead against them, with its banded superstitions,
venerable idolatries, systematised philosophies, the force of the
mightiest instruments of material power that the world had ever seen,
in the organisation and military power of Rome. And there stood twelve
Galilean men, with their simple, unlettered message; one poor 'pound,'
and that was all. 'The foolishness of preaching,' the message which to
'the Jews was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks was folly,' was all
that they were equipped with. Their Master, who left them to seek a
Kingdom, had so little to bestow, before He received His crown, that
all that He could spare them was that small sum. They had to go into
business in a very poor way. They had to be content to do a very
insignificant retail trade. 'The foolishness of God is wiser than men;
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.' The old experience of
the leather sling and the five stones out of the brook, in the hand of
the stripling, that made short work of the brazen armour of the giant,
and penetrated with a whizz into his thick skull, and laid him
prostrate, was to be repeated. 'He called his servants, and gave
them'--a pound apiece! If you and I, Christian men and women, were
true to the Master's legacy, and believed that we have in it more
wealth than the treasures of wisdom and knowledge or force which the
world has laid up, we should find that our mite was more than they all
have in their possession.

Further, the texts suggest the purpose for which the pound is given.
The servants had to live on it themselves, no doubt. So have we.
They had to trade with it. So have we. Now that means two things.
We get the Gospel, not as some of us lazily suppose, in order to
secure that we shall not be punished for our past sins whilst we
live, and go to heaven when we die. We get it, not only to enjoy its
consolations and its sweetness, but to do business with.

And there are two ways in which this trading is to be done by us.
The main one is the honest application of the principles and powers
of the Gospel to the moulding of our own characters, and the making
us better, purer, gentler, more heavenly-minded, and more
Christlike. That is the first trading that we have to carry on with
the Word. We get it not for an indolent assent, as so many of us
misuse it. We receive it not merely to say, 'Oh I believe it,' and
there an end, but that we may bring it to bear upon all our conduct,
and that it may be the chief formative influence in our characters.
Christian people! is that what you do with your Christianity? Is the
Gospel moulding you, hour by hour, moment by moment? Have you
brought all its great truths to bear upon your daily lives? Have
you inwrought its substance into, not merely your understandings
or your emotions, but your daily conduct? Is it indeed the life of
your lives, and the leaven that is leavening your whole character?
You have it to trade with; see that you do not wrap it in a napkin,
and stow it idly away in some corner.

Then there is the other way of trading and that is, telling it to
others. That is an obligation incumbent on all Christians. There may
be differences in regard to other gifts, which determine the manner
in which each shall use the equal gift which we all possess alike.
But these are of subordinate importance. The main thing is to feel
that the possession of Christian faith, which is our way of
receiving the pound, carries with it indissolubly the obligation of
Christian evangelism. However it may be discharged, discharged it is
to be, by every true servant. I am sometimes half disposed to think
that it would have been better for the Church if there had never
been any men in my position, on whom the mass of unspiritual, idle
because busy, and silent because little-loving, Christian professors
contentedly roll the whole obligation to preach God's Gospel. My
brethren, the world is not going to be evangelised by officials.
Until all Christian people wake up to the sense that they have the
'pound' to trade with, there will be nothing adequate done to bring
the world to the obedience and the love of Jesus Christ. You say you
have the Gospel; if you have it what are you doing with it?

Self-centred Christianity, if such a thing were possible, is a
mistake. It is generally a sham; it is always a crime. A man that
puts away his pound, and never goes out and says, 'Come, share with
me in the wealth that I have found in Jesus Christ' will be like a
miser that puts his hoardings into an old stocking, and hides it in
the ground somewhere. When he goes to dig it up, he is only too
likely to find that all the coins have slipped out. If you want to
keep your Christianity, let the air into it. If you want it to
increase, sow it. There are hosts of you who would be far happier
Christian people, if you came out of your shells and traded with
your pound.

II. Observe the varying profits of the trading.

The one man says, 'Thy pound hath gained ten pounds.' The other
says, 'Thy pound hath gained five pounds.' And the others who are
not mentioned, no doubt, had also varying results to present. Now
that inequality of profits from an equal capital to start with, is
but a picturesque way of saying what is, alas! too obviously true,
that Christian people do not all stand on the same level in regard
to the use they have made of, and the benefits they have derived
from, the one equal gift which was bestowed upon them. It is
the same to every one at the beginning, but differences develop as
they go on. One man makes twice as much out of it as another does.

Now, let us distinctly understand what sort of differences these are
which our Lord signalises here. Let me clear away a mistake which
may interfere with the true lessons of this parable, that the
differences in question are the superficial ones in apparent results
which follow from difference of endowments, or from difference of
influential position. That is the kind of meaning that is often
attached to the 'ten pounds' or the 'five pounds' in the text. We
think that the ten pounder is the man who has been able to do some
large spiritual work for Jesus Christ, that fills the world with its
greatness, the man who has been set in some most conspicuous place,
and by reason of intellectual ability or other talent has been able
to gather in many souls into the kingdom; but that is not Christ's
way of estimating. We should be going dead in the teeth of
everything that He teaches if we thought that such as these were the
differences intended. No, no! Every man that co-operates in a great
work with equal diligence and devotion has an equal place in his
eyes. The soldier that clapped Luther on the back as he was going
into the Diet of Worms, and said, 'You have a bigger fight to fight
than we ever had; cheer up, little monk!' stands on the same level
as the great reformer, if what he did was done from the game motive
and with as full consecration of himself. The old law of Israel
states the true principle of Christian recompense: they that 'abide
by the stuff' have the same share in the spoil as they 'that go down
into the battle.' All servants who have exercised equal faithfulness
and equal diligence stand on the same level and have the same
success; no matter how different may be their estimation in the eyes
of men; no matter how different may be the conspicuousness of the
places that they fill in the eyes of the world whilst they live, or
in the records of the Church when they are dead. Equal diligence
will issue in equal results in the development of character, and the
only reason for the diversity of results is the diversity of
faithfulness and of zeal in trading with the pound.

Notice, too, before I go further, how all who trade make profits.
There are no bad debts in that business. There are no investments
that result in a loss. Everybody that goes into it makes something
by it; which is just to say that any man who is honest and earnest
in the attempt to utilise the powers of Christ's Gospel for his own
culture, or for the world's good, will succeed in reality, however
he may seem to fail in appearance. There are no commercial failures
in this trading. The man with his ten pounds of profit made them
because he worked hardest. The man that made the five made all that
his work entitled him to. There was no one who came and said, 'Lord!
I put thy pound into my little shop, and I did my best with it, and
it is all gone!' Every Christian effort is crowned with success.

III. Lastly, we have here the final declaration of profits.

The master has come back. He is a king now, but he is the master
still, and he wants to know what has become of the money that was
left in the servants' hands. Now, that is but a metaphorical way of
bringing to our minds that which we cannot conceive of without
metaphor--viz., the retribution that lies beyond the grave for us
all. Although we cannot conceive it without metaphor, we may reach,
through the metaphor to some apprehension, at any rate, of the facts
that lie behind it. There are two points in reference to this final
declaration of profits suggested here.

The first is this, that all the profit is ascribed to the capital.
Neither of the two men say: 'I, with thy pound, have gained,' but
'Thy pound hath gained.' That is accurately true. For if I accept,
and live by, any great moral truth or principle, it is the principle
or the truth that is the real productive cause of the change in my
life and character. I, by my acceptance of it, simply put the belt
on the drum that connects my loom with the engine, but it is the
engine that drives the looms and the shuttle, and brings out the web
at last. And so, Christian people who, with God's grace in their
hearts, have utilised the 'pound,' and thereby made themselves
Christlike, have to say, 'It was not I, but Christ in me. It was the
Gospel, and not my faith in the Gospel, that wrought this change.'
Is it your teeth or your dinner that nourishes you? Is it the Gospel
or your trust in the Gospel that is the true cause of your
sanctifying?

With regard to the other aspect of this trading, the same thing is
true. Is it my word or Christ's Word ministered by me that helps any
of my hearers who are helped? Surely! surely! there is no question
about that. It is the 'pound' that gains the 'pounds.' 'Paul
planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So, then,
neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God
that giveth the increase.'

The other consideration suggested by these words is the exact
knowledge of the precise results of a life, which is possessed at
last. Each servant knew precisely what was the net outcome of his
whole activity. That is exactly what we do not know here, and never
shall, and never can know. But yonder all illusions will have
vanished; and there will be two sorts of disillusionising then. Men,
for instance, of my profession, whose names are familiar, and who
hold high places in the esteem of the Church, and may be tempted to
suppose that they have done a great deal--I am afraid that many of
us will find, when we get yonder, that we have not done nearly so
much as our admirers in this world, and we ourselves, were sometimes
tempted to think that we had done. The searching light that comes in
will show a great many seamy places in the cloth that looks very
sound when it is inspected in the twilight. And there will be
another kind of disillusionising. Many a man has said, 'Lord! I have
laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought,' who will find
out that he was mistaken, and that where he saw failure there were
solid results; that where he thought the grain had perished in the
furrows, it had sprung up and borne fruit unto life everlasting.
'Lord! when saw we Thee in prison, and visited Thee?' We never knew
that we had done anything of the sort. 'Behold! I was left alone,'
said the widowed Jerusalem when she was restored to her husband,
'these'--children that have gathered round me--'where had they
been?' We shall know, for good or bad, exactly the results of our
lives.

We shall have to tell them. The slothful servant, too, was under
this compulsion of absolute honesty. If he had not been so, do you
think he would have ventured to stand up before his master, a king
now, and insult him to his face? But he had to turn himself inside
out, and tell then what he had thought in his inmost heart. So
'every one of us shall give an account of himself to God'; and like
a man in the bankruptcy court, we shall have to explain our books,
and go into all our transactions. We are working in the dark today.
Our work will be seen as it is, in the light. The coral reef rises
in the ocean, and the creatures that made it do not see it. The
ocean will be drained away, and the reef will stand up sheer and
distinct.

My brother! 'I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire'--and
when you have bought your pound, see that you use it; for 'it is
required in stewards that a man be found faithful.'



THE REWARDS OF THE TRADING SERVANTS


    'Because thou hast been faithful in a very little,
    have thou authority over ten cities... Be thou also
    over five cities.'--LUKE xix. 17, 19.

The relation between this parable of the pounds and the other of the
talents has often been misunderstood, and is very noteworthy. They
are not two editions of one parable variously manipulated by the
Evangelists, but they are two parables presenting two kindred and
yet diverse aspects of one truth. They are neither identical, as
some have supposed, nor contradictory, as others have imagined; but
they are complementary. The parable of the talents represents the
servants as receiving different endowments; one gets five; another
two; another one. They make the same rate of profit with their
different endowments. The man that turned his two talents into four
did just as well as he that turned his five into ten. In either case
the capital is doubled. Since the diligence is the same, the rewards
are the same, and to each is given the identical same eulogium and
the same entrance into the joy of his Lord. So the lesson of that
parable is that, however unequal are our endowments, there may be as
much diligence shown in the use of the smallest as in the greatest,
and where that is the case, the man with the small endowments will
stand on the same level of recompense as the man with the large.

But that is not all. This parable comes in to complete the thoughts.
Here all the servants get the same gift, the one pound, but they
make different profits out of it, one securing twice as much as the
other. And, inasmuch as the diligence has been different, the
rewards are different. So the lesson of this parable is that unequal
faithfulness in the use of the same opportunities results in unequal
retribution and reward. Unequal faithfulness, I say, because, of
course, in both parables it is presupposed that the factor in
producing the profit is not any accidental circumstance, but the
earnestness and faithfulness of the servant. Christ does not pay for
results; He pays for motives. And it is not because the man has made
a certain number of pounds, but because in making them he has shown
a certain amount of faithfulness, that he is rewarded. Christ does
not say, 'Well done! good and _successful_ servant,' but 'Well
done! good and _faithful_ servant.'

So, keeping these two sides of the one truth in view, I desire now
to draw out two or three of the lessons which seem to me to lie in
the principle laid down in my texts, of the unequal results of the
unequal diligence of these servants.

I. I would note the solemn view of this present life that underlies
the whole.

'Thou hast been faithful in a very little; have thou authority over
five cities.' Well, that rests upon the thought that all our present
life here is a stewardship, which in its nature is preparatory to
larger work yonder. And that is the point of view from which alone
it is right to look at, and possible to understand, this else
unintelligible and bewildering life on earth. Clearly enough, to
anybody that has eyes in his head, moral ends are supreme in man's
relation to nature, and in man's life. We are here for the sake of
making character, and of acquiring aptitudes and capacities which
shall be exercised hereafter. The whole of our earthly career is the
exercise of stewardship in regard to all the gifts with which we
have been entrusted, in order that by the right exercise of that
stewardship we may develop ourselves and acquire powers.

Now if it is clear that the whole meaning and end of the present
life are to make character, and that we have to do with the material
and the transient only, in order that, like the creatures that build
up the coral reefs, we may draw from the ever-varying waves of the
ocean that welters around us solid substance which we can pile up
into an enduring monument--is this process of making character, and
developing ourselves, to be cut short by such a contemptible thing
as the death of the body? One very distinguished evolutionist, who
has been forced onwards from his position to a kind of theism,
declares that he is driven to a belief in immortality because he
must believe in the reasonableness of God's work. And it seems to me
that if indeed--as is plainly the case--moral ends are supreme in
our life's history, it brings utter intellectual bewilderment and
confusion to suppose that these ends are kept in view up till the
moment of death, and that then down comes the guillotine and cuts
off all. God does not take the rough ore out of the mine, and deal
with it, and change it to polished steel, and shape His weapons, and
then take them when they are at their highest temper and their
sharpest edge, and break them across His knee. No! if here we are
shaped, it is because yonder there is work for the tool.

So all here is apprenticeship, and the issues of to-day are recorded
in eternity. We are like men perched up in a signal-box by the side
of the line; we pull over a lever here, and it lifts an arm half a
mile off. The smallest wheel upon one end of a shaft may cause
another ten times its diameter to revolve, at the other end of the
shaft through the wall there. Here we prepare, yonder we achieve.

II. Note the consequent littleness and greatness of this present.

'Thou hast been faithful in a very little.' Some of you may remember
a recent sermon on the previous part of this parable, in which I
tried to bring out an explanation of the small sum with which these
servants were entrusted--the pound apiece for their little retail
businesses--and found reason to believe that the interpretation of
that gift was the Gospel of Jesus Christ which, in comparison with
the world's wisdom and philosophies and material forces, seemed such
a very insignificant thing. If we keep that interpretation in view
in treating my present text, then there is hinted to us the contrast
between the necessary limitations and incompletenesses even of the
revelation of God in Jesus Christ which we have here, and the flood
of glory and of light, which shall pour upon our eyes when the veil
of flesh and sense has dropped away. Here we know in part; here,
even with the intervention of the Eternal and Incarnate Word of God,
the Revealer of the Father, we see as in a glass darkly; there face
to face. The magnificences and the harmonies of that great
revelation of God in Jesus Christ, which transcends all human
thought and all worldly wisdom, are but a point, in comparison with
the continent of illumination which shall come to us hereafter. 'The
moon that rules the night' is the revelation that we have to-day,
the reflection and echo of the sun that will rule the unsetting day
of the heavens.

But I pass from that aspect of the words before us to the other,
which, I suppose, is rather to be kept in view, in which the
faithfulness in a very little points to the smallness of this
present, as measured against that infinite future to which it
conducts. Much has been said upon that subject, which is very
antagonistic to the real ideas of Christianity. Life here, and this
present, have been depreciated unduly, untruly, and unthankfully.
And harm has been done, not only to the men who accept that
estimate, but to the world that scoffs at it. There is nothing in
the Bible, which is at all in sympathy with the so-called religious
depreciation of the present, but there is this--'the things that are
seen are temporal; the things that are unseen are eternal.' The
lower hills look high when beheld from the flat plain that stretches
on this side of them; but, if the mist lifts, the great white peaks
come out beyond them, glittering in the sunshine, and with the
untrodden snows on their inaccessible pinnacles; and nobody thinks
about the green foothills, with the flowers upon them, any more.
Brethren, think away the mist, for you can, and open your eyes, and
see the snow-clad hills of eternity, and then you will understand
how low is the elevation of the heights in the foreground. The
greatness of the future makes the present little, but the little
present is great, because its littleness is the parent of the great
future. 'The child is father of the man'; and earth's narrow range
widens out into the infinitude of eternity and of heaven. The only
thing that gives real greatness and sublimity to our mortal life is
its being the vestibule to another. Historically you will find that,
wherever faith in a future life has become dim, as it has become dim
in large sections of the educated classes to-day, there the general
tone of strenuous endeavour has dropped, and the fatal feeling of
'It is not worth while' begins to creep over society. 'Is life worth
living?' is the question that is asked on all sides of us to-day.
And the modern recrudescence of pessimism has along with it, as one
of the main thoughts which cut the nerves of effort, doubt of, and
disbelief in, a future. It is because the very little opens out into
the immeasurably great, and the passing moments tick us onwards into
an unpassing eternity, that the moments are worth living through,
and the fleeting insignificances of earth's existence become solemn
and majestic as the portals of heaven.

III. Notice the future form of activity prepared for by faithful
trading.

'Thou hast been faithful in a very little; have thou authority over
ten cities.' Now I do not need to spend a word in dwelling on the
contrast between the two pictures of the huckster with his little
shop and the pound of capital to begin with, and the vizier that has
control of ten of the cities of his master. That is too plain to
need any enforcement. We are all here, all us Christian people
especially, like men that keep a small shop, in a back street, with
a few trivial things in the window, but we are heirs of a kingdom.
That is what Christ wants us to lay to heart, so that the little
shop shall not seem so very small, and its smoky obscurity shall be
irradiated by true visions of what it will lead to.

Nor do I wish to risk any kind of fanciful and precarious
speculations as to the manner and the sphere of the authority that
is here set forth; only I would keep to one or two plain things.
Faithfulness here prepares for participation in Christ's authority
hereafter. For we are not to forget that whilst the master, the
nobleman, was away seeking the kingdom, all that he could give his
servants was the little stock-in-trade with which he started them,
and that it is because he has won his kingdom that he is able to
dispense to them the larger gifts of dominion over the ten and the
five cities. The authority is delegated, but it is more than that--
it is shared. For it is participation in, and not merely delegation
from, the King and His rule, that is set forth in this and in other
places of Scripture, for 'they shall sit down with Me on My throne,
even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father on His
throne.'

If, then, the rule set forth, in whatever sphere and in whatever
fashion it may be exercised, is participation in Christ's authority,
let us not forget that therefore it is a rule of which the manifestation
is service. In heaven as on earth, and for the Lord in heaven as for the
Lord on earth, and for the servants in heaven as for the servants on
earth, the law stands irrefragable and eternal--'If any man will be
chief among you, let him be your minister.' The authority over the ten
cities is the capacity and opportunity of serving and helping every
citizen in them all. What that help may be let us leave. It is better
to be ignorant than to speculate about matters where there is no
possibility of certainty. Ignorance is more impressive than knowledge,
only be sure that no dignity can live amidst the pure light of the
heavens, except after the fashion of the dignity of the Lord of all,
who there, as here, is the servant of all.

But there is a thought in connection with this great though dim
revelation of the future, which may well be laid to heart by us. And
that is, that however close and direct the dependence on, and the
communion with, Jesus Christ, the King of all His servants, in that
future state is, it shall not be so close and direct as to exclude
room for the exercise of brotherly sympathy and brotherly aid. We
shall have Christ for our life and our light and our glory. But
there, as here, we shall help one another to have Him more fully,
and to understand Him more perfectly. What further lies in these
great words, I do not venture to guess. Enough to know that Christ
will be all in all, and that Christ in each will help the others to
know Christ more fully.

Only remember, we have to take this great conception of the future
as being one that implies largely increased and ennobled activity. A
great deal of very cheap ridicule has been cast upon the Christian
conception of the future life as if it was an eternity of idleness
and of repose. Of repose, yes; of idleness, no! For it is no
sinecure to be the governor of ten cities. There will be a good deal
of work to be done, in order to discharge that office properly. Only
it will be work that does not disturb repose, and at one and the
same moment His servants will serve in constant activity, and gaze
upon His face in calm contemplation. Christ's session at the right
hand of God does not interfere with Christ's continual activity
here. And, in like manner, His servants shall rest from their
labours, but not from their work; they shall serve Him undisturbed,
and shall repose, but not idly.

IV. Lastly, our texts remind us of the variety in recompense which
corresponds to diversity in faithfulness.

I need but say a word about that. The one man gets his ten cities
because his faithfulness has brought in ten pounds. The other gets
five, corresponding to his faithfulness. As I said, our Lord pays,
not for results, except in so far as these are conditioned and
secured by the diligence of His servants. And so we come to the old
familiar, and yet too often forgotten, conception of degrees in
dignity, degrees in nearness to Him. That thought runs all through
the New Testament representations of a future life, sometimes more
clearly, sometimes more obscurely, but generally present. It is in
entire accordance with the whole conception of that future, because
the Christian notion of it is not that it is an arbitrary reward,
but that it is the natural outcome of the present; and, of course,
therefore, varying according to the present, of which it is the
outcome. We get what we have wrought for. We get what we are capable
of receiving, and what we are capable of receiving depends upon what
has been our faithfulness here.

Now, that is perfectly consistent with the other side of the truth
which the twin parable sets forth--viz., that the recompenses of the
future are essentially one. All the servants, who were entrusted
with the Talents, received the same eulogium, and entered into the
same joy of their Lord. That is one side of the truth. And the other
is, that the degree in which Christian people, when they depart
hence, possess the one gift of eternal life, and Christ-shared joy
is conditioned by their faithfulness and diligence here. Do not let
the Gospel that says 'The gift of God is eternal life' make you
forget the completing truths, that the measure in which a man
possesses that eternal life depends on his fitness for it, and that
fitness depends on his faithfulness of service and his union with
his Lord.

We obscure this great truth often by reason of the way in which we
preach the deeper truth on which it rests--forgiveness and
acceptance all unmerited, through faith in Jesus Christ. But the two
things are not contradictory; they are complementary. No man
will be faithful as a steward who is not full of faith as a penitent
sinner. No man will enter into the joy of his Lord, who does not
enter in through the gate of penitence and trust, but, having
entered, we are ranked according to the faithfulness of our service
and diligence of stewardship. 'Wherefore, giving all diligence, make
your calling and election sure, for so an entrance shall be
ministered unto you _abundantly_ into the everlasting kingdom
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'



A NEW KIND OF KING


    'And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of
    the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the
    disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud
    voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
    38. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the
    name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the
    highest. 38. And some of the Pharisees from among the
    multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
    40. And He answered and said unto them, I tell you
    that, if these should hold their peace, the stones
    would immediately cry out. 41. And when He was come
    near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, 42. Saying,
    If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy
    day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now
    they are hid from thine eyes. 43. For the days shall
    come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench
    about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in
    on every side, 44. And shall lay thee even with the
    ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall
    not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou
    knewest not the time of thy visitation. 45. And he
    went into the temple, and began to cast out them that
    sold therein, and them that bought; 46. Saying unto
    them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer:
    but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47. And He
    taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and
    the scribes and the chief of the people sought to
    destroy Him, 48. And could not find what they might
    do: for all the people were very attentive to hear
    Him.'--LUKE xix. 37-48.

'He went on before.' What concentrated determination, and almost
eagerness, impelled His firm and swift steps up the steep, weary
road! Mark tells that the disciples followed, 'amazed'--as they well
might be--at the unusual haste, and strange preoccupation on the
face, set as a flint.

Luke takes no notice of the stay at Bethany and the sweet seclusion
which soothed Jesus there. He dwells only on the assertion of
royalty, which stamped an altogether unique character on the
remaining hours of Christ's life.

I. The narrative brings into prominence Christ's part in originating
the triumphal entry (vs. 30-34). He sent for the colt with the
obvious intention of stimulating the people to just such a
demonstration as followed.

As to the particulars, we need only note that the most obvious
explanation of His knowledge of the circumstances that the
messengers would encounter, is that it was supernatural. Only one
other explanation is possible; namely, that the owners of the animal
were secret disciples, with whom our Lord had arranged to send for
it, and had settled a sign and countersign, by which they would know
His messengers. But that is a less natural explanation.

Note the remarkable blending of dignity and poverty in 'The Lord
hath need of him.' It asserts sovereign authority and absolute
rights, and it confesses need and penury. He is a King, but He has
to borrow even a colt to make His triumphal entry on. Though He was
rich, for our sakes He became poor.

Jesus then deliberately brought about His public entry. He thereby
acts in a way perfectly unlike His whole previous course. And He
stirs up popular feelings at a time when they were specially
excitable by reason of the approaching Passover and its crowds.
Formerly He had avoided the danger which He now seems to court, and
had gone up to the feast 'as it were in secret.' But it was fitting
that once, for the last time, He should assert before the gathered
Israel that He was their King, and should make a last appeal.
Formerly He had sought to avoid attracting the attention of the
rulers; now He knows that the end is near, and deliberately makes
Himself conspicuous, though--or we might say because--He knew that
thereby He precipitated His death.

The nature of His dominion is as plainly taught by the humble pomp
as is its reality. A pauper King, who makes His public entrance into
His city mounted on a borrowed ass, with His followers' clothes for
a saddle, attended by a shouting crowd of poor peasants, for weapons
or banners had but the branches plucked from other people's trees,
was a new kind of king.

We do not need Matthew's quotation of the prophet's vision of the
meek King coming to Zion on an ass, to understand the contrast of
this kingdom with such a dominion as that of Rome, or of such
princes as the Herods. Gentleness and peace, a sway that rests not
on force nor wealth, are shadowed in that rustic procession and the
pathetic poverty of its leader, throned on a borrowed colt, and
attended, not by warriors or dignitaries, but by poor men unarmed,
and saluted, not with the blare of trumpets, but with the shouts of
joyful, though, alas! fickle hearts.

II. We have the humble procession with the shouting disciples and
the background of hostile spies. The disciples eagerly caught at the
meaning of bringing the colt, and threw themselves with alacrity
into what seemed to them preparation for the public assertion of
royalty, for which they had long been impatient. Luke tells us that
they lifted Jesus on to the seat which they hurriedly prepared,
while some spread their garments in the way--the usual homage to a
king:

  'Ride on triumphantly; behold, we lay
  Our lusts and proud wills in Thy way.'

How different the vision of the future in their minds and His! They
dreamed of a throne; He knew it was a Cross. Round the southern
shoulder of Olivet they came, and, as the long line of the Temple
walls, glittering in the sunshine across the valley, burst on the
view, and their approach could be seen from the city, they broke
into loud acclamations, summoning, as it were, Jerusalem to welcome
its King.

Luke's version of their chant omits the Jewish colouring which it
has in the other Gospels, as was natural, in view of his Gentile
readers. Christ's royalty and divine commission are proclaimed from
a thousand throats, and then up swells the shout of praise, which
echoes the angels' song at Bethlehem, and ascribes to His coming,
power to make peace in heaven with an else alienated world, and thus
to make the divine glory blaze with new splendour even in the
highest heavens.

Their song was wiser than they knew, and touched the deepest,
sweetest mysteries of the unity of the Son with the Father, of
reconciliation by the blood of His Cross, and of the new lustre
accruing to God's name thereby, even in the sight of principalities
and powers in heavenly places. They meant none of these things,
but they were unconscious prophets. Their shouts died away, and
their faith was almost as short-lived. With many of them, it
withered before the branches which they waved.

High-wrought emotion is a poor substitute for steady conviction. But
cool, unemotional recognition of Christ as King is as unnatural. If
our hearts do not glow with loyal love, nor leap up to welcome Him;
if the contemplation of His work and its issues on earth and in
heaven does not make our dumb tongues sing--we have need to ask
ourselves if we believe at all that He is the King and Saviour of
all and of us. There were cool observers there, and they make the
foil to the glad enthusiasm. Note that these Pharisees, mingling in
the crowd, have no title for Jesus but 'Teacher.' He is no king to
them. To those who regard Jesus but as a human teacher, the
acclamations of those to whom He is King and Lord always sound
exaggerated.

People with no depth of religious life hate religious emotion, and
are always seeking to repress it. A very tepid worship is warm
enough for them. Formalists detest genuine feeling. Propriety is
their ideal. No doubt, too, these croakers feared that this tumult
might come to formidable size, and bring down Pilate's heavy hand on
them.

Christ's answer is probably a quoted proverb. It implies His entire
acceptance of the character which the crowd ascribed to Him, His
pleasure in their praises, and, in a wider aspect, His vindication
of outbursts of devout feeling, which shock ecclesiastical martinets
and formalists.

III. We see the sorrowing King plunged in bitter grief in the very
hour of His triumph. Who can venture to speak of that infinitely
pathetic scene? The fair city, smiling across the glen, brings
before His vision the awful contrast of its lying compassed by
armies and in ruins. He hears not the acclamation of the crowd. 'He
wept,' or, rather, 'wailed,'--for the word does not imply tears so
much as cries. That sorrow is a sign of His real manhood, but it is
also a part of His revelation of the very heart of God. The form is
human, the substance divine. The man weeps becau