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´╗┐Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chapters I to XIV
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. John Chapters I to XIV" ***

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EXPOSITIONS OF
HOLY SCRIPTURE

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



ST. JOHN

Vols. I and II

CONTENTS


THE WORD IN ETERNITY, IN THE WORLD, AND IN THE FLESH (John i. 1-14)

THE LIGHT AND THE LAMPS (John i. 8; v. 35)

'THREE TABERNACLES' (John i. 14; Rev. vii. 15; xxi. 3)

THE FULNESS OF CHRIST (John i. 16)

GRACE AND TRUTH (John i. 17)

THE WORLD'S SIN-BEARER (John i. 29)

THE FIRST DISCIPLES: I. JOHN AND ANDREW (John i. 37-39)

THE FIRST DISCIPLES: II. SIMON PETER (John i. 40-42)

THE FIRST DISCIPLES: III. PHILIP (John i. 43)

THE FIRST DISCIPLES: IV. NATHANAEL (John i. 45-49)

THE FIRST DISCIPLES: V. BELIEVING AND SEEING (John i. 50, 51)

JESUS THE JOY-BRINGER (John ii. 1-11)

THE FIRST MIRACLE IN CANA--THE WATER MADE WINE (John ii. 11)

CHRIST CLEANSING THE TEMPLE (John ii. 16)

THE DESTROYERS AND THE RESTORER (John ii. 19)

TEACHER OR SAVIOUR? (John iii. 2)

WIND AND SPIRIT (John iii. 8)

THE BRAZEN SERPENT (John iii. 14)

CHRIST'S MUSTS (John iii. 14)

THE LAKE AND THE RIVER (John iii. 16)

THE WEARIED CHRIST (John iv. 6, 32)

'GIVE ME TO DRINK' (John iv. 7, 26)

THE GIFT AND THE GIVER (John iv. 10)

THE SPRINGING FOUNTAIN (John iv. 14)

THE SECOND MIRACLE (John iv. 54)

THE THIRD MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL (John v, 8)

THE LIFE-GIVER AND JUDGE (John v. 17-27)

THE FOURTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL (John vi. 11)

'FRAGMENTS' OR 'BROKEN PIECES' (John vi. 12)

THE FIFTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL (John vi. 19, 20)

HOW TO WORK THE WORK OF GOD (John vi. 28, 29)

THE MANNA (John vi. 48-50)

ONE SAYING WITH TWO MEANINGS (John vii. 33, 34; xiii. 33)

THE ROCK AND THE WATER (John vii. 37, 38)

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (John viii. 12)

THREE ASPECTS OF FAITH (John viii. 30, 31)

'NEVER IN BONDAGE' (John viii. 33)

ONE METAPHOR AND TWO MEANINGS (John ix. 4; Romans xiii. 12)

THE SIXTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL--THE BLIND MADE TO SEE, AND THE
SEEING MADE BLIND (John ix. 6,7)

THE GIFTS TO THE FLOCK (John x. 9)

THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John x. 14, 15)

'OTHER SHEEP' (John x. 16 R.V.)

THE DELAYS OF LOVE (John xi. 5, 6)

CHRIST'S QUESTION TO EACH (John xi. 26, 27)

THE OPEN GRAVE AT BETHANY (John xi. 30-45)

THE SEVENTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL--THE RAISING OF LAZARUS (John xi.
43, 44)

CAIAPHAS (John xi. 49, 50)

LOVE'S PRODIGALITY CENSURED AND VINDICATED (John xii. 1-1l)

A NEW KIND OF KING (John xii. 12-26)

AFTER CHRIST: WITH CHRIST (John xii. 26)

THE UNIVERSAL MAGNET (John xii. 32)

THE SON OF MAN (John xii. 34)

A PARTING WARNING (John xii. 35, 36 R V.)

THE LOVE OF THE DEPARTING CHRIST (John xiii. 1)

THE SERVANT-MASTER (John xiii. 3-5)

THE DISMISSAL OF JUDAS (John xiii. 27)

THE GLORY OF THE CROSS (John xiii. 31, 32)

CANNOT AND CAN (John xiii. 33)

SEEKING JESUS (John xiii. 33)

'AS I HAVE LOVED' (John xiii. 34, 35)

'QUO VADIS?' (John xiii. 37, 38)

A RASH VOW (John xiii. 38)

FAITH IN GOD AND CHRIST (John xiv. 1)

'MANY MANSIONS' (John xiv. 2)

THE FORERUNNER (John xiv. 2, 3)

THE WAY (John xiv. 4-7)

THE TRUE VISION OF GOD (John xiv. 8-11)

CHRIST'S WORKS AND OURS (John xiv. 12-14)

LOVE AND OBEDIENCE (John xiv. 15)

THE COMFORTER GIVEN (John xiv. 16, 17)

THE ABSENT PRESENT CHRIST (John xiv. 18, 19)

THE GIFTS OF THE PRESENT CHRIST (John xiv. 20, 21)

WHO BRING CHRIST (John xiv. 22-24)

THE TEACHER SPIRIT (John xiv. 25, 26)

CHRIST'S PEACE (John xiv. 27)

JOY AND FAITH, THE FRUITS OF CHRIST'S DEPARTURE (John xiv. 28, 29)

CHRIST FORESEEING HIS PASSION (John xiv. 30, 31)



THE WORD IN ETERNITY, IN THE WORLD, AND IN THE FLESH


'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. 2. The same was in the beginning with God. 3. All things
were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was
made. 4. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5. And
the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7. The same
came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through
him might believe. 8. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear
witness of that Light. 9. That was the true Light, which lighteth
every man that cometh into the world. 10. He was in the world, and the
world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. 11. He came unto
His own, and His own received Him not. 12. But as many as received
Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them
that believe on His name: 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14. And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the
glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and
truth.'--JOHN i. 1-14.

The other Gospels begin with Bethlehem; John begins with 'the bosom of
the Father.' Luke dates his narrative by Roman emperors and Jewish
high-priests; John dates his 'in the beginning.' To attempt adequate
exposition of these verses in our narrow limits is absurd; we can only
note the salient points of this, the profoundest page in the New
Testament.

The threefold utterance in verse 1 carries us into the depths of
eternity, before time or creatures were. Genesis and John both start
from 'the beginning,' but, while Genesis works downwards from that
point and tells what followed, John works upwards and tells what
preceded--if we may use that term in speaking of what lies beyond
time. Time and creatures came into being, and, when they began, the
Word 'was.' Surely no form of speech could more emphatically declare
absolute, uncreated being, outside the limits of time. Clearly, too,
no interpretation of these words fathoms their depth, or makes worthy
sense, which does not recognise that the Word is a person. The second
clause of verse 1 asserts the eternal communion of the Word with God.
The preposition employed means accurately 'towards,' and expresses the
thought that in the Word there was motion or tendency towards, and not
merely association with, God. It points to reciprocal, conscious
communion, and the active going out of love in the direction of God.
The last clause asserts the community of essence, which is not
inconsistent with distinction of persons, and makes the communion of
active Love possible; for none could, in the depths of eternity, dwell
with and perfectly love and be loved by God, except one who Himself
was God.

Verse 1 stands apart as revealing the pretemporal and essential nature
of the Word. In it the deep ocean of the divine nature is partially
disclosed, though no created eye can either plunge to discern its
depths or travel beyond our horizon to its boundless, shoreless
extent. The remainder of the passage deals with the majestic march of
the self-revealing Word through creation, and illumination of
humanity, up to the climax in the Incarnation.

John repeats the substance of verse 1 in verse 2, apparently in order
to identify the Agent of creation with the august person whom he has
disclosed as filling eternity. By Him creation was effected, and,
because He was what verse 1 has declared Him to be, therefore was it
effected by Him. Observe the three steps marked in three consecutive
verses. 'All things were made by Him'; literally 'became,' where the
emergence into existence of created things is strongly contrasted with
the divine 'was' of verse 1. 'Through Him' declares that the Word is
the agent of creation; 'without Him' (literally, 'apart from Him')
declares that created things continue in existence because He
communicates it to them. Man is the highest of these 'all things,' and
verse 4 sets forth the relation of the Word to Him, declaring that
'life,' in all the width and height of its possible meanings, inheres
in Him, and is communicated by Him, with its distinguishing
accompaniment, in human nature, of light, whether of reason or of
conscience.

So far, John has been speaking as from the upper or divine side, but
in verse 5 he speaks from the under or human, and shows us how the
self-revelation of the Word has, by some mysterious necessity, been
conflict. The 'darkness' was not made by Him, but it is there, and the
beams of the light have to contend with it. Something alien must have
come in, some catastrophe have happened, that the light should have to
stream into a region of darkness.

John takes 'the Fall' for granted, and in verse 5 describes the whole
condition of things, both within and beyond the region of special
revelation. The shining of the light is continuous, but the darkness
is obstinate. It is the tragedy and crime of the world that the
darkness will not have the light. It is the long-suffering mercy of
God that the light repelled is not extinguished, but shines meekly on.

Verses 6-13 deal with the historical appearance of the Word. The
Forerunner is introduced, as in the other Gospels; and, significantly
enough, this Evangelist calls him only 'John,'--omitting 'the
Baptist,' as was very natural to him, the other John, who would feel
less need for distinguishing the two than others did. The subordinate
office of a witness to the light is declared positively and
negatively, and the dignity of such a function is implied. To witness
to the light, and to be the means of leading men to believe, was
honour for any man.

The limited office of the Forerunner serves as contrast to the
transcendent lustre of the true Light. The meaning of verse 9 may be
doubtful, but verses 10 and 11 clearly refer to the historical
manifestation of the Word, and probably verse 9 does so too. Possibly,
however, it rather points to the inner revelation by the Word, which
is the 'light of men.' In that case the phrase 'that cometh into the
world' would refer to 'every man,' whereas it is more natural in this
context to refer it to 'the light,' and to see in the verse a
reference to the illumination of humanity consequent on the appearance
of Jesus Christ. The use of 'world' and 'came' in verses 10 and 11
points in that direction. Verse 9 represents the Word as 'coming';
verse 10 regards Him as come--'He was in the world.'

Note the three clauses, so like, and yet so unlike the august three in
verse 1. Note the sad issue of the coming--'The world knew Him not.'
In that 'world' there was one place where He might have looked for
recognition, one set of people who might have been expected to hail
Him; but not only the wide world was blind ('knew not'), but the
narrower circle of 'His own' fought against what they knew to be light
('received not').

But the rejection was not universal, and John proceeds to develop the
blessed consequences of receiving the light. For the first time he
speaks the great word 'believe.' The act of faith is the condition or
means of 'receiving.' It is the opening of the mental eye for the
light to pour in. We possess Jesus in the measure of our faith. The
object of faith is 'His name,' which means, not this or that
collocation of letters by which He is designated, but His whole
self-revelation. The result of such faith is 'the right to become
children of God,' for through faith in the only-begotten Son we
receive the communication of a divine life which makes us, too, sons.
That new life, with its consequence of sonship, does not belong to
human nature as received from parents, but is a gift of God mediated
through faith in the Light who is the Word.

Verse 14 is not mere repetition of the preceding, but advances beyond
it in that it declares the wonder of the way by which that divine Word
did enter into the world. John here, as it were, draws back the
curtain, and shows us the transcendent miracle of divine love, for
which he has been preparing in all the preceding. Note that he has not
named 'the Word' since verse 1, but here he again uses the majestic
expression to bring out strongly the contrast between the
ante-temporal glory and the historical lowliness. These four words,
'The Word became flesh,' are the foundation of all our knowledge of
God, of man, of the relations between them, the foundation of all our
hopes, the guarantee of all our peace, the pledge of all blessedness.
'He tabernacled among us.' As the divine glory of old dwelt between
the cherubim, so Jesus is among men the true Temple, wherein we see a
truer glory than that radiant light which filled the closed chamber of
the holy of holies. Rapturous remembrances rose before the Apostle as
he wrote, 'We beheld His glory'; and he has told us what he has beheld
and seen with his eyes, that we also may have fellowship with him in
beholding. The glory that shone from the Incarnate Word was no
menacing or dazzling light. He and it were 'full of grace and truth,'
perfect Love bending to inferiors and sinners, with hands full of
gifts and a heart full of tenderness and the revelation of reality,
both as regards God and man. His grace bestows all that our lowness
needs, His truth teaches all that our ignorance requires. All our
gifts and all our knowledge come from the Incarnate Word, in whom
believing we are the children of God.



THE LIGHT AND THE LAMPS


'He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that
Light.'--JOHN i. 8.

'He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a
season to rejoice in His light.'--JOHN v. 35.

My two texts both refer to John the Baptist. One of them is the
Evangelist's account of him, the other is our Lord's eulogium upon
him. The latter of my texts, as the Revised Version shows, would be
more properly rendered, 'He was a lamp' rather than 'He was a light,'
and the contrast between the two words, the 'light' and 'the lamps,'
is my theme. I gather all that I would desire to say into three
points: 'that Light' and its witnesses; the underived Light and the
kindled lamps; the undying Light and the lamps that go out.

I. First of all, then, the contrast suggested to us is between 'that
Light' and its witnesses.

John, in that profound prologue which is the deepest part of
Scripture, and lays firm and broad in the depths the foundation-stones
of a reasonable faith, draws the contrast between 'that Light' and
them whose business it was to bear witness to it. As for the former, I
cannot here venture to dilate upon the great, and to me absolutely
satisfying and fundamental, thoughts that lie in these eighteen first
verses of this Gospel. 'The Word was with God,' and that Word was the
Agent of Creation, the Fountain of Life, the Source of the Light which
is inseparable from all human life. John goes back, with the
simplicity of a child's speech, which yet is deeper than all
philosophies, to a Beginning, far anterior to 'the Beginning' of which
Genesis speaks, and declares that before creation that Light shone;
and he looks out over the whole world, and declares, that before and
beyond the limits of the historical manifestation of the Word in the
flesh, its beams spread over the whole race of man. But they are all
focussed, if I may so speak, and gathered to a point which burns as
well as illuminates, in the historical manifestation of Jesus Christ
in the flesh. 'That was the true Light which lighteth every man that
cometh into the world.'

Next, he turns to the highest honour and the most imperative duty
laid, not only upon mighty men and officials, but upon all on whose
happy eyeballs this Light has shone, and into whose darkened hearts
the joy and peace and purity of it have flowed, and he says, 'He was
sent'--and they are sent--'to bear witness of that Light.' It is the
noblest function that a man can discharge. It is a function that is
discharged by the very existence through the ages of a community
which, generation after generation, subsists, and generation after
generation manifests in varying degrees of brightness, and with
various modifications of tint, the same light. There is the family
character in all true Christians, with whatever diversities of
idiosyncrasies, and national life or ecclesiastical distinctions.
Whether it be Francis of Assisi or John Wesley, whether it be Thomas a
Kempis or George Fox, the light is one that shines through these
many-coloured panes of glass, and the living Church is the witness of
a living Lord, not only before it, and behind it, and above it, but
living in it. They are 'light' because they are irradiated by Him.
They are 'light' because they are 'in the Lord.' But not only by the
fact of the existence of such a community is the witness-bearing
effected, but it comes as a personal obligation, with immense weight
of pressure and immense possibilities of joy in the discharge of it,
to every Christian man and woman.

What, then, is the witness that we all are bound to bear, and shall
bear if we are true to our obligations and to our Lord? Mainly, dear
brethren, the witness of experience. That a Christian man shall be
able to stand up and say, 'I know this because I live it, and I
testify to Jesus Christ because I for myself have found Him to be the
life of my life, the Light of all my seeing, the joy of my heart, my
home, and my anchorage'--that is the witness that is impregnable. And
there is no better sign of the trend of Christian thought to-day than
the fact that the testimony of experience is more and more coming to
be recognised by thoughtful men and writers as being the sovereign
attestation of the reality of the Light. 'I see'; that is the proof
that light has touched my eyeballs. And when a man can contrast, as
some of us can, our present vision with our erstwhile darkness, then
the evidence, like that of the sturdy blind man in the Gospels, who
had nothing to say in reply to the subtleties and Rabbinical traps and
puzzles but only 'I was blind; now I see'--his experience is likely to
have the effect that it had in another miracle of healing: 'Beholding
the man which was healed standing amongst them, they could say nothing
against it.' I should think they could not.

But there is one thing that will always characterise the true
witnesses to that Light, and that is self-suppression. Remember the
beautiful, immovable humility of the Baptist about whom these texts
were spoken: 'What sayest thou of thyself?' 'I am a Voice,' that is
all. 'Art thou that Prophet?' 'No!' 'Art thou the Christ?' 'No! I am
nothing but a Voice.' And remember how, when John's disciples tried to
light the infernal fires of jealousy in his quiet heart by saying, 'He
whom thou didst baptise, and to whom thou didst give witness'--He whom
thou didst start on His career--'is baptising,' poaching upon thy
preserves, 'and all men come unto Him,' the only answer that he gave
was, 'The friend of the Bridegroom'--who stands by in a quiet, dark
corner--'rejoices greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice.' Keep
yourself out of sight, Christian teachers and preachers; put Christ in
the front, and hide behind Him.

II. Now let me ask you to look at the other contrast that is suggested
by our other text. The underived light and the kindled lamps.

It is possible to read the words of that second text thus--'He was a
lamp kindled and (therefore) shining.' But whether that be the
meaning, or whether the usual rendering is correct, the emblem itself
carries the same thought, for a lamp must be lit by contact with a
light, and must be fed with oil, if its flame is to be sustained. And
so the very metaphor-whatever the force of the ambiguous word--in its
eloquent contrast between the Light and the lamp, suggests this
thought, that the one is underived, self-fed, and therefore undying,
and that the other owes all its flame to the touch of that uncreated
Light, and burns brightly only on condition of its keeping up the
contact with Him, and being fed continually from His stores of
radiance.

I need not say more than a word with regard to the former member of
that contrast suggested here. That unlit Light derives its brilliancy,
according to the Scriptural teaching, from nothing but its divine
union with the Father. So that long before there were eyes to see,
there was the eradiation and outshining of the Father's glory. I do
not enter into these depths, but this I would say, that what is called
the 'originality' of Jesus is only explained when we reverently see in
that unique life the shining through a pure humanity, as through a
sheet of alabaster, of that underived, divine Light. Jesus is an
insoluble problem to men who will not see in Him the Eternal Light
which 'in the beginning was with God.' You find in Him no trace of
gradual acquisition of knowledge, or of arguing or feeling His way to
His beliefs. You find in Him no trace of consciousness of a great
horizon of darkness encompassing the region where He sees light. You
find in Him no trace of a recognition of other sources from which He
has drawn any portion of His light. You find in Him the distinct
declaration that His relation to truth is not the relation of men who
learn, and grow, and acquire, and know in part; for, says He, 'I am
the Truth.' He stands apart from us all, and above us all, in that He
owes His radiance to none, and can dispense it to every man. The
question which the puzzled Jews asked about Him, 'How knoweth this Man
letters, having never learned?' may be widened out to all the
characteristics of His human life. To me the only answer is: 'Thou art
the King of glory, O Christ! Thou art the Everlasting Son of the
Father.'

Dependent on Him are the little lights which He has lit, and in the
midst of which He walks. Union with Jesus Christ--'that Light'--is the
condition of all human light. That is true over all regions, as I
believe. 'The inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.' The
candle of the Lord shines in every man, and 'that true Light lighteth
every man that cometh into the world.' Thinker, student, scientist,
poet, author, practical man--all of them are lit from the uncreated
Source, and all of them, if they understand their own nature, would
say, 'In Thy light do we see Light.'

But especially is this great thought true and exemplified within the
limits of the Christian life. For the Christian to be touched with
Christ's Promethean finger is to flame into light. And the condition
of continuing to shine is to continue the contact which first
illuminated. A break in the contact, of a finger's breadth, is as
effectual as one of a mile. Let Christian men and women, if they would
shine, remember, 'Ye are light in the Lord'; and if we stray, and get
without the circle of the Light, we pass into darkness, and ourselves
cease to shine.

Brethren, it is threadbare truth, that the condition of Christian
vitality and radiance is close and unbroken contact with Jesus Christ,
the Source of all light. Threadbare; but if we lived as if we believed
it, the Church would be revolutionised and the world illuminated; and
many a smoking wick would flash up into a blazing torch. Let Christian
people remember that the words of my text define no special privilege
or duty of any official or man of special endowments, but that to all
of us has been said, 'Ye are My witnesses,' and to all of us is
offered the possibility of being 'burning and shining lights' if we
keep ourselves close to that Light.

III. Lastly, the second of my texts suggests--the contrast between the
Undying Light and the lamps that go out.

'For a season ye were willing to rejoice in His light.' There is
nothing in the present condition of the civilised and educated world
more remarkable and more difficult for some people to explain than the
contrast between the relation which Jesus Christ bears to the present
age, and the relation which all other great names in the
past--philosophers, poets, guides of men--bear to it. There is nothing
in the world the least like the vividness, the freshness, the
closeness, of the personal relation which thousands and thousands of
people, with common sense in their heads, bear to that Man who died
nineteen hundred years ago. All others pass, sooner or later, into the
darkness. Thickening mists of oblivion, fold by fold, gather round the
brightest names. But here is Jesus Christ, whom all classes of
thinkers and social reformers have to reckon with to-day, who is a
living power amongst the trivialities of the passing moment, and in
whose words and in the teaching of whose life serious men feel that
there lie undeveloped yet, and certainly not yet put into practice,
principles which are destined to revolutionise society and change the
world. And how does that come?

I am not going to enter upon that question; I only ask you to think of
the contrast between His position, in this generation, to communities
and individuals, and the position of all other great names which lie
in the past. Why, it does not take more than a lifetime such as mine,
for instance, to remember how the great lights that shone seventy
years ago in English thinking and in English literature, have for the
most part gone out, and what we young men thought to be bright
particular stars, this new generation pooh-poohs as mere exhalations
from the marsh or twinkling and uncertain tapers, and you will find
their books in the twopenny-box at the bookseller's door. A cynical
diplomatist, in one of our modern dramas, sums it up, after seeing the
death of a revolutionary, 'I have known eight leaders of revolts.' And
some of us could say, 'We have known about as many guides of men who
have been forgotten and passed away.' 'His Name shall endure for ever.
His name shall continue as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed
in Him; all generations shall call Him blessed.' Even Shelley had the
prophecy forced from him--

  'The moon of Mahomet
  Arose and it shall set,
  While blazoned as on heaven's eternal noon,
  The Cross leads generations on.'

We may sum up the contrast between the undying Light and the lamps
that go out in the old words: 'They truly were many, because they were
not suffered to continue by reason of death, but this Man, because He
continueth ever... is able to save unto the uttermost them that come
unto God through Him.'

So, brethren, when lamps are quenched, let us look to the Light. When
our own lives are darkened because our household light is taken from
its candlestick, let us lift up our hearts and hopes to Him that
abideth for ever. Do not let us fall into the folly, and commit the
sin, of putting our heart's affections, our spirit's trust, upon any
that can pass and that must change. We need a Person whom we can
clasp, and who never will glide from our hold. We need a Light
uncreated, self-fed, eternal. 'Whilst ye have the Light, believe in
the Light, that ye may be the children of light.'



'THREE TABERNACLES'

'The Word ... dwelt among us.'--JOHN i. 14.

'... He that sitteth on the Throne shall dwell among them.'--REV. vii.
15.

'... Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with
them.'--REV. xxi. 3.

The word rendered 'dwelt' in these three passages, is a peculiar one.
It is only found in the New Testament--in this Gospel and in the Book
of Revelation. That fact constitutes one of the many subtle threads of
connection between these two books, which at first sight seem so
extremely unlike each other; and it is a morsel of evidence in favour
of the common authorship of the Gospel and of the Apocalypse, which
has often, and very vehemently in these latter days of criticism, been
denied.

The force of the word, however, is the matter to which I desire
especially to draw attention. It literally means 'to dwell in a tent,'
or, if we may use such a word, 'to tabernacle,' and there is no doubt
a reference to the Tabernacle in which the divine Presence abode in
the wilderness and in the land of Israel before the erection. In all
three passages, then, we may see allusion to that early symbolical
dwelling of God with man. 'The Word tabernacled among us'; so is the
truth for earth and time. 'He that sitteth upon the throne shall
spread His tabernacle upon' the multitude which no man can number, who
have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb; that is the
truth for the spirits of just men made perfect, the waiting Church,
which expects the redemption of the body. 'God shall tabernacle with
them'; that is the truth for the highest condition of humanity, when
the Tabernacle of God shall be with redeemed men in the new earth.
'Let us build three tabernacles,' one for the Incarnate Christ, one
for the interspace between earth and heaven, and one for the
culmination of all things. And it is to these three aspects of the one
thought, set forth in rude symbol by the movable tent in the
wilderness, that I ask you to turn now.

I. First, then, we have to think of that Tabernacle for earth. 'The
Word was made flesh, and dwelt, as in a tent, amongst us.'

The human nature, the visible, material body of Jesus Christ, in which
there enshrined itself the everlasting Word, which from the beginning
was the Agent of all divine revelation, that is the true Temple of
God. When we begin to speak about the special presence of Omnipresence
in any one place, we soon lose ourselves, and get into deep waters of
glory, where there is no standing. And I do not care to deal here with
theological definitions or thorny questions, but simply to set forth,
as the language of my text sets before us, that one transcendent,
wonderful, all-blessed thought that this poor human nature is capable
of, and has really once in the history of the world received into
itself, the real, actual presence of the whole fulness of the
Divinity. What must be the kindred and likeness between Godhood and
manhood when into the frail vehicle of our humanity that wondrous
treasure can be poured; when the fire of God can burn in the bush of
our human nature, and that nature not be consumed? So it has been. 'In
Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.'

And when we come with our questions, How? In what manner? How can the
lesser contain the greater? we have to be content with the recognition
that the manner is beyond our fathoming, and to accept the fact,
pressed upon our faith, that our hearts may grasp it and be at peace.
God hath dwelt in humanity. The everlasting Word, who is the
forthcoming of all the fulness of Deity into the realm of finite
creatures, was made flesh and dwelt among us.

But the Tabernacle was not only the dwelling-place of God, it was also
and, therefore, the place of Revelation of God. So in our text there
follows, 'we beheld His glory.' As in the tent in the wilderness there
hovered between the outstretched wings of the silent cherubim, above
the Mercy-seat, the brightness of the symbolical cloud which was
expressly named 'the glory of God,' and was the visible manifestation
of His real presence; so John would have us think that in that lowly
humanity, with its curtains and its coverings of flesh, there lay
shrined in the inmost place the brightness of the light of the
manifest glory of God. 'We beheld His glory.' The rapturous adoration
of the remembrance overcomes him, and he breaks his sentence, reckless
of grammatical connection, as the fulness of the blessed memory floods
into his soul. 'That glory was as of the Only Begotten of the Father.'
The manifestation of God in Christ is unique, as becomes Him who
partakes of the nature of that God of whom He is the Representative
and the Revealer.

And how did that glory make itself known to us? By miracle? Yes! As we
read in the story of the first that Christ wrought, 'He manifested
forth His glory and His disciples believed upon Him.' By miracle? Yes!
As we read His own promise at the grave of Lazarus: 'Said I not unto
thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of
God?' But, blessed be His name, miracle is not the highest
manifestation of Christ's glory and of God's. The uniqueness of the
revelation of Christ's glory in God does not depend upon the deeds
which He wrought. For, as the context goes on to tell, the Word which
tabernacled among us was 'full of grace and truth,' and therein is the
glory most gloriously revealed.

The lambent light of stooping love that shone forth warning and
attracting in His gentle life, and the clear white beam of unmingled
truth that streamed from the radiant purity of Christ's life, revealed
God to hearts that pine for love and spirits that hunger for truth, as
no others of God's self-revealing works have done. And that revelation
of the glory of God in the fulness of grace and truth is the highest
possible revelation. For the divinest thing in God is love, and the
true 'glory of God' is neither some symbolical flashing light nor the
pomp of mere power and majesty; nor even those inconceivable and
incommunicable attributes which we christen with names like
Omnipotence and Omnipresence and Infinitude, and the like. These are
all at the fringes of the brightness. The true central heart and
lustrous light of the glory of God lie In His love, and of that glory
Christ is the unique Representative and Revealer, because He is the
only Begotten Son, and 'full of grace and truth.'

Thus the Word tabernacled amongst us. And though the Tabernacle to
outward seeming was covered by curtains and skins that hid all the
glowing splendour within; yet in that lowly life that was lived in the
body of His humiliation, and knew our limitations and our weaknesses,
'the glory of the Lord was revealed; and all flesh hath seen it
together' and acknowledged the divine Presence there.

Still further the Tabernacle was the place of sacrifice. So in the
tabernacle of His flesh Jesus offered up the one sacrifice for sins
for ever. In the offering up of His human life in continuous
obedience, and in the offering up of His body and blood in the bitter
Passion of the Cross, He brought men nigh unto God.

Therefore, because of all these things, because the Tabernacle is the
dwelling-place of God, the place of revelation, and the place of
sacrifice, therefore, finally is it the meeting-place betwixt God and
man. In the Old Testament it is always called by the name which our
Revised Version has accurately substituted for 'tabernacle of the
congregation,' namely 'tent of meeting.' The correctness of that
rendering and the meaning of the name are established by several
passages in the Old Testament, as for instance, 'There I will meet
with you, to speak there unto thee, and there I will meet with the
children of Israel.' So in Christ, who by His Incarnation lays His
hand upon both, God touches man and man touches God. We who are afar
off are made nigh, and in that 'true tabernacle which the Lord pitched
and not man' we meet God and are glad.

  'And so the word was flesh, and wrought
  With human hands the creed of creeds,
  In loveliness of perfect deeds.'

The temple for earth is 'the temple of His body.'

II. We have the Tabernacle for the Heavens.

In the context of our second passage we have a vision of the great
multitude redeemed out of all nations and kindreds, 'standing before
the Throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in
their hands.' The palms in their hands give important help towards
understanding the vision. As has been often remarked, there are no
heathen emblems in the Book of the Apocalypse. All its metaphors move
within the circle of Jewish experiences and facts. So that we are not
to think of the Roman palm of victory, but of the Jewish palm which
was borne at the Feast of Tabernacles. What was the Feast of
Tabernacles? A festival established on purpose to recall to the minds
and to the gratitude of the Jews settled in their own land the days of
their wandering in the wilderness. Part of the ritual of it was that
during its celebration they builded for themselves booths or
tabernacles of leaves and boughs of trees, under which they dwelt,
thus reminding themselves of their nomad condition.

Now what beauty and power it gives to the word of my text, if we take
in this allusion to the Jewish festival! The great multitude bearing
the palms are keeping the feast, memorial of past wilderness
wanderings; and 'He that sitteth on the throne shall spread His
tabernacle above them,' as the word might be here rendered. That is to
say, He Himself shall build and be the tent in which they dwell; He
Himself shall dwell with them in it. He Himself, in closer union than
can be conceived of here, shall keep them company during that feast.

What a thought of that condition--the condition as I believe
represented in this vision--of the spirits of the just made perfect,
'who wait for the adoption, to wit, the resurrection of the body,' is
given us if we take this point of view to interpret the whole lovely
symbolism. It is all a time of glad, grateful remembrance of the
wilderness march. It is all a time in which festal joys shall be
theirs, and the memory of the trials and the weariness and the sorrow
and the solitude that are past shall deepen to a more exquisite
poignancy of delight, the rest and the fellowship and the felicity of
that calm Presence, and God Himself shall spread His tent above them,
lodge with them, and they with Him.

And so, dear brethren, rest in that assurance, that though we know so
little of that state, we know this: 'Absent from the body, present
with the Lord,' and that the happy company who bear the palms shall
dwell in God, and God in them.

III. And now, lastly, look at that final vision which we have in these
texts, which we may call the Tabernacle for the renewed earth.

I do not pretend to interpret the scenery and the setting of these
Apocalyptic visions with dogmatic confidence, but it seems to me as if
the emblems of this final vision coincide with dim hints in many other
portions of Scripture; to the effect that some cosmical change having
passed upon this material world in which we dwell, it, in some
regenerated form, shall be the final abode of a regenerated and
redeemed humanity. That, I think, is the natural interpretation of a
great deal of Scriptural teaching.

For that highest condition there is set forth this as the
all-sufficing light upon it. 'Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with
men, and He will tabernacle with them.' The climax and the goal of all
the divine working, and the long processes of God's love for, and
discipline of, the world, are to be this, that He and men shall abide
together in unity and concord. That is God's wish from the beginning.
We read in one of the profound utterances of the Book of Proverbs how
from of old the 'delights' of the Incarnate Wisdom which foreshadowed
the Incarnate Word 'were with the sons of men.' And, at the close of
all things, when the vision of this final chapter shall be fulfilled,
God will say, settling Himself in the midst of a redeemed humanity,
'Lo! here will I dwell, for I have desired it. This is My rest for
ever.' He will tabernacle with men, and men with Him.

We know not, and never shall know until experience strips the bandages
from our eyes, what new methods of participation of the divine nature,
and new possibilities of intimacy and intercourse with Him may be ours
when the veils of flesh and sense and time have all dropped away. New
windows may be opened in our spirits, from which we shall perceive new
aspects of the divine character. New doors may be opened in our souls,
from out of which we may pass to touch parts of His nature, all
impalpable and inconceivable to us now. And when all the veils of a
discordant moral nature are taken away, and we are pure, then we shall
see, then we shall draw nigh to God. The thing that chiefly separates
man from God is man's sin. When that is removed, the centrifugal force
which kept our tiny orb apart from the great central sun being
withdrawn, we shall, as it were, fall into the brightness and be one,
not losing our sense of individuality, which would be to lose all the
blessedness, but united with Him in a union far more intimate than
earth can parallel. 'The Tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He
will tabernacle with them.'

Do not let us forget that this highest and ultimate hope that is held
forth here, of the union and communion, perfect and perpetual, of
humanity with God, does not sweep aside Jesus Christ. For through all
eternity the Everlasting Word, the Christ who bears our nature in its
glorified form, or, rather, whose nature in its glorified form we
shall bear, is the Medium of Revelation, and the Medium of
communication between man and God.

'I saw no Temple therein,' says this final vision of the Apocalypse,
but 'God Almighty and the Lamb,' and these are the Temples thereof.
Therefore through eternity God shall tabernacle with men, as He does
tabernacle with us now through Him, in whom dwelleth as in its
perennial habitation, 'all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.'

So we have the three tabernacles, for earth, for heaven, for the
renewed earth; and these three, if I may say so, are like the triple
division of that ancient Tabernacle in the wilderness: the Outer
Court; the Holy Place; the Holiest of all. Let us enter into that
outer court, and abide and commune with that God who comes near to us,
revealing, forgiving, in the person of His Son, and then we shall pass
from court to court, 'and go from strength to strength, until every
one of us in Zion appear before God'; and enter into the Holiest of
all, where 'within the veil' we shall receive splendours of revelation
undreamed of here, and enjoy depths of communion to which the
selectest moments of fellowship with God on earth are shallow and
poor.



THE FULNESS OF CHRIST

'And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.'--JOHN
1.16.

What a remarkable claim that is which the Apostle here makes for his
Master! On the one side he sets His solitary figure as the universal
Giver; on the other side are gathered the whole race of men,
recipients from Him. As in the wilderness the children of Israel
clustered round the rock from which poured out streams, copious enough
for all the thirsty camp, John, echoing his Master's words, 'If any
man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,' here declares 'Of _His_
fulness have _all we_ received.'

I. Notice, then, the one ever full Source.

The words of my text refer back to those of the fourteenth verse: 'The
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.' 'And
of His fulness have all we received.' The 'fulness' here seems to mean
that of which the Incarnate Word was full, the 'grace and truth' which
dwelt without measure in Him; the unlimited and absolute completeness
and abundance of divine powers and glories which 'tabernacled' in Him.
And so the language of my text, both verbally and really, is
substantially equivalent to that of the Apostle Paul. 'In Him dwelleth
all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in Him.'
The whole infinite Majesty, and inexhaustible resources of the divine
nature, were incorporated and insphered in that Incarnate Word from
whom all men may draw.

There are involved in that thought two ideas. One is the unmistakable
assertion of the whole fulness of the divine nature as being in the
Incarnate Word, and the other is that the whole fulness of the divine
nature dwells in the Incarnate Word in order that men may get at it.

The words of my text go back, as I said, to the previous verse; but
notice what an advance upon that previous verse they present to us.
There we read, 'We beheld His glory.' To _behold_ is much, but to
_possess_ is more. It is much to say that Christ comes to manifest
God, but that is a poor, starved account of the purpose of His coming,
if that is all you have to say. He comes to manifest Him. Yes! but He
comes to communicate Him, not merely to dazzle us with a vision, not
merely to show us Him as from afar, not merely to make Him known to
understanding or to heart; but to bestow--in no mere metaphor, but in
simple, literal fact--the absolute possession of the divine nature.
'We beheld His glory' is a reminiscence that thrills the Evangelist,
though half a century has passed since the vision gleamed upon his
eyes; but 'of His fulness have all we received' is infinitely and
unspeakably more. And the manifestation was granted that the
possession might be sure, for this is the very centre and heart of
Christianity, that in Him who is Christianity God is not merely made
known, but given; not merely beheld, but possessed.

In order that that divine fulness might belong to us there was needed
that the Word should be made flesh; and there was further needed that
incarnation should be crowned by sacrifice, and that life should be
perfected in death. The alabaster box had to be broken before the
house could be filled with the odour of the ointment. If I may so say,
the sack, the coarse-spun sack of Christ's humanity, had to be cut
asunder in order that the wealth that was stored in it might be poured
into our hands. God came near us in the life, but God became ours in
the death, of His dear Son. Incarnation was needed for that great
privilege--'we beheld His glory'; but the Crucifixion was needed in
order to make possible the more wondrous prerogative: 'Of His fulness
have all we received.' God gives Himself to men in the Christ whose
life revealed and whose death imparted Him to the world.

And so He is the sole Source. All men, in a very real sense, draw from
His fulness. 'In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.' The
life of the body and the life of the spirit willing, knowing, loving,
all which makes life into light, all comes to us through that
everlasting Word of God. And when that Word has 'become flesh and
dwelt among us,' His gifts are not only the gifts of light and life,
which all men draw from Him, but the gifts of grace and truth which
all those who love Him receive at His hands. His gifts, like the water
from some fountain, may flow underground into many of the pastures of
the wilderness; and many a man is blessed by them who knows not from
whence they come. It is He from whom all the truth, all the grace
which illuminates and blesses humanity, flow into all lands in all
ages.

II. Consider, then, again, the many receivers from the one Source. 'Of
His fulness have all we received.'

Observe, we are not told definitely what it is that we receive. If we
refer back to words in a previous verse, they may put us on the right
track for answering the question, What is it that we get? 'He came
unto His own,' says verse 11, 'and His own received Him not; but as
many as received Him, to them gave He power,' etc. That answers the
question, What do we receive? Christ is more than all His gifts. All
His gifts are treasured up in Him and inseparable from Him. We get
Jesus Christ Himself.

The blessings that we receive may be stated in many different ways.
You may say we get pardon, purity, hope, joy, the prospect of Heaven,
power for service; all these and a hundred more designations by which
we might describe the one gift. All these are but the consequences of
our having got the Christ within our hearts. He does not give pardon
and the rest, as a king might give pardon and honours, a thousand
miles off, bestowing it by a mere word, upon some criminal, but He
gives all that He gives because He gives Himself. The real possession
that we receive is neither more nor less than a loving Saviour, to
enter our spirits and abide there, and be the spirit of our spirits,
and the life of our lives.

Then, notice the universality of this possession. John has said, in
the previous words, '_We_ beheld His glory.' He refers there, of
course, to the comparatively small circle of the eye-witnesses of our
Master's life; who, at the time when he wrote, must have been very,
very few in number. They had had the prerogative of seeing with their
eyes and handling with their hands the Word of life that 'was
manifested unto us'; and with that prerogative the duty of bearing
witness of Him to the rest of men. But in the 'receiving,' John
associates with himself, and with the other eyewitnesses, all those
who had listened to their word, and had received the truth in the love
of it. '_We beheld_' refers to the narrower circle; 'we _all_ received'
to the wider sweep of the whole Church. There is no exclusive class,
no special prerogative. Every Christian man, the weakest, the
lowliest, the most uncultured, rude, ignorant, foolish, the most
besotted in the past, who has wandered furthest away from the Master;
whose spirit has been most destitute of all sparks of goodness and of
God--receives from out of His fulness. 'If any man have not the Spirit
of Christ he is none of His.' And every one of us, if we will, may
have dwelling in our hearts, in the greatness of His strength, in the
sweetness of His love, in the clearness of His illuminating wisdom,
the Incarnate Word, the Comforter, the All-in-all whom 'we all
receive.'

And, as I said, that word 'all' might have even a wider extension
without going beyond the limits of the truth. For on the one side
there stands Christ, the universal Giver; and grouped before Him, in
all attitudes of weakness and of want, is gathered the whole race of
mankind. And from Him there pours out a stream copious enough to
supply all the necessities of every human soul that lives to-day, of
every human soul that has lived in the past, of every one that shall
live in the future. There is no limit to the universality except only
the limit of the human will: 'Whosoever will, let him take the water
of life freely.'

Think of that solitary figure of the Christ reared up, as it were,
before the whole race of man, as able to replenish all their emptiness
with His fulness, and to satisfy all their thirst with His
sufficiency. Dear brother! you have a great gaping void in your
heart--an aching emptiness there, which you know better than I can
tell you. Look to Him who can fill it and it shall be filled. He can
supply all your wants as He can supply all the wants of every soul of
man. And after generations have drawn from Him, the water will not
have sunk one hairsbreadth in the great fountain, but there will be
enough for all coming eternities as there has been enough for all past
times. He is like His own miracle--the thousands are gathered on the
grass, they do 'all eat and are filled.' As their necessities required
the bread was multiplied, and at the last there was more left than
there had seemed to be at the beginning. So 'of His fulness have all
we received'; and after a universe has drawn from it, for an Eternity,
the fulness is not turned into scantiness or emptiness.

III. And so, lastly, notice the continuous flow from the inexhaustible
Source. 'Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.'

The word 'for' is a little singular. Of course it means _instead of,
in exchange for_; and the Evangelist's idea seems to be that as one
supply of grace is given and used, it is, as it were, given back to
the Bestower, who substitutes for it a fresh and unused vessel, filled
with new grace. He might have said, grace _upon_ grace; one supply
being piled upon the other. But his notion is, rather, one supply
given in substitution for the other, 'new lamps for old ones.'

Just as a careful gardener will stand over a plant that needs water,
and will pour the water on the surface until the earth has drunk it
up, and then add a little more; so He gives step by step, grace for
grace, an uninterrupted bestowal, yet regulated according to the
absorbing power of the heart that receives it. Underlying that great
thought are two things: the continuous communication of grace, and the
progressive communication of grace. We have here the continuous
communication of grace. God is always pouring Himself out upon us in
Christ. There is a perpetual out flow from Him to us: if there is not
a perpetual inflow into us from Him it is our fault, and not His. He
is always giving, and His intention is that our lives shall be a
continual reception. Are they? How many Christian men there are whose
Christian lives at the best are like some of those Australian or
Siberian rivers; in the dry season, a pond here, a stretch of sand,
waterless and barren there, then another place with a drop of muddy
water in some hollow, and then another stretch of sand, and so on. Why
should not the ponds be linked together by a flashing stream? God is
always pouring Himself out; why do we not always take Him in?

There is but one answer, and the answer is, that we do not fulfil the
condition, which condition is simple faith. 'As many as received Him,
to them gave He power to become the sons of God; even to them that
believed on His name.' Faith is the condition of receiving, and
wherever there is a continuous trust there will be an unbroken grace;
and wherever there are interrupted gifts it is because there has been
an intermitted trust in Him. Do not let your lives be like some dimly
lighted road, with a lamp here, and a stretch of darkness, and then
another twinkling light; let the light run all along the side of your
path, because at every moment your heart is turning to Christ with
trust. Make your faith continuous, and God will make His grace
incessant, and out of His fulness you will draw continual supplies of
needed strength.

But not only have we here the notion of continuous, but also, as it
seems to me, of progressive gifts. Each measure of Christ received, if
we use it aright, makes us capable of possessing more of Christ. And
the measure of our capacity is the measure of His gift, and the more
we can hold the more we shall get. The walls of our hearts are
elastic, the vessel expands by being filled out; it throbs itself
wider by desire and faith. The wider we open our mouths the larger
will be the gift that God puts into them. Each measure and stage of
grace utilised and honestly employed will make us capable and
desirous, and, therefore, possessors, of more and more of the grace
that He gives. So the ideal of the Christian life, and God's intention
concerning us, is not only that we should have an uninterrupted, but a
growing possession, of Christ and of His grace.

Is that the case with you, my friend? Can you hold more of God than
you could twenty years ago? Is there any more capacity in your soul
for more of Christ than there was long, long ago? If there is you have
more of Him; if you have not more of Him it is because you cannot
contain more; and you cannot contain more because you have not desired
more, and because you have been so wretchedly unfaithful in your use
of what you had. The ideal is, 'they go from strength to strength,'
and the end of that is, 'every one of them appeareth before God.'

So, dear brother, as the dash of the waves will hollow out some little
indentation on the coast, and make it larger and larger until there is
a great bay, with its headlands miles apart, and its deep bosom
stretching far into the interior, and all the expanse full of flashing
waters and leaping waves, so the giving Christ works a place for
Himself in a man's heart, and makes the spirit which receives and
faithfully uses the gifts which He brings, capable of more of Himself,
and fills the widened space with larger gifts and new grace.

Only remember the condition of having Him is trusting to His name and
longing for His presence. 'If any man open the door I will come in.'
We have Him if we trust Him. That trust is no mere passive reception,
such as is the case with some empty jar which lies open-mouthed on the
shore and lets the sea wash into it and out of it, as may happen. But
the 'receive' of our text might be as truly rendered 'take.' Faith is
an active taking, not a passive receiving. We must 'lay hold on
eternal life.' Faith is the hand that grasps the offered gift, the
mouth that feeds upon the bread of God, the voice that says to Christ,
'Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord; why standest Thou without?' Such a
faith alone brings us into vital connection with Jesus. Without it,
you will be none the richer for all His fulness, and may perish of
famine in the midst of plenty, like a man dying of hunger outside the
door of a granary. They who believe take the Saviour who is given, and
they who take receive, and they who receive obtain day by day growing
grace from the fulness of Christ, and so come ever nearer to the
realisation of the ultimate purpose of the Father, that they should be
'filled with all the fulness of God.'



GRACE AND TRUTH

'The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ.'--JOHN 1. 17.

There are scarcely any traces, in the writings of the Apostle John, of
that great controversy as to the relation of the Law and the Gospel
which occupied and embittered so much of the work of the Apostle Paul.
We have floated into an entirely different region in John's writings.
The old controversies are dead--settled, I suppose, mainly by Paul's
own words, and also to a large extent by the logic of events. This
verse is almost the only one in which John touches upon that extinct
controversy, and here the Law is introduced simply as a foil to set
off the brightness of the Gospel. All artists know the value of
contrast in giving prominence. A dark background flashes up brighter
colours into brilliancy. White is never so white as when it is
relieved against black. And so here the special preciousness and
distinctive peculiarities of what we receive in Christ are made more
vivid and more distinct by contrast with what in old days 'was given
by Moses.'

Every word in this verse is significant. 'Law' is set against 'grace
and truth.' It was 'given'; they 'came.' Moses is contrasted with
Christ. So we have a threefold antithesis as between Law and Gospel:
in reference to their respective contents; in reference to the manner
of their communication; and in reference to the person of their
Founders. And I think, if we look at these three points, we shall get
some clear apprehension of the glories of that Gospel which the
Apostle would thereby commend to our affection and to our faith.

I. First of all, then, we have here the special glory of the contents
of the Gospel heightened by the contrast with Law.

Law has no tenderness, no pity, no feeling. Tables of stone and a pen
of iron are its fitting vehicles. Flashing lightnings and rolling
thunders symbolise the fierce light which it casts upon men's duty and
the terrors of its retribution. Inflexible, and with no compassion for
human weakness, it tells us what we ought to be, but it does not help
us to be it. It 'binds heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne,' upon
men's consciences, but puts not forth 'the tip of a finger' to enable
men to bear them. And this is true about law in all forms, whether it
be the Mosaic Law, or whether it be the law of our own country, or
whether it be the laws written upon men's consciences. These all
partake of the one characteristic, that they help nothing to the
fulfilment of their own behests, and that they are barbed with
threatenings of retribution. Like some avenging goddess, law comes
down amongst men, terrible in her purity, awful in her beauty, with a
hard light in her clear grey eyes--in the one hand the tables of
stone, bearing the commandments which we have broken, and in the other
a sharp two-edged sword.

And this is the opposite of all that comes to us in the Gospel. The
contrast divides into two portions. The 'Law' is set against 'grace
and truth.' Let us look at these two in order.

What we have in Christ is not law, but grace. Law, as I said, has no
heart; the meaning of the Gospel is the unveiling of the heart of God.
Law commands and demands; it says: 'This shalt thou do, or else--';
and it has nothing more that it can say. What is the use of standing
beside a lame man, and pointing to a shining summit, and saying to
him, 'Get up there, and you will breathe a purer atmosphere'? He is
lying lame at the foot of it. There is no help for any soul in law.
Men are not perishing because they do not know what they ought to do.
Men are not bad because they doubt as to what their duty is. The worst
man in the world knows a great deal more of what he ought to do than
the best man in the world practises. So it is not for want of precepts
that so many of us are going to destruction, but it is for want of
power to fulfil the precepts.

Grace is love giving. Law demands, grace bestows. Law comes saying 'Do
this,' and our consciences respond to the imperativeness of the
obligation. But grace comes and says, 'I will help thee to do it.' Law
is God requiring; grace is God bestowing. 'Give what Thou commandest,
and then command what Thou wilt.'

Oh, brethren! we have all of us written upon the fleshly tablets of
our hearts solemn commandments which we know are binding upon us; and
which we sometimes would fain keep, but cannot. Is this not a message
of hope and blessedness that comes to us? Grace has drawn near in
Jesus Christ, and a giving God, who bestows upon us a life that will
unfold itself in accordance with the highest law, holds out the
fulness of His gift in that Incarnate Word. Law has no heart; the
Gospel is the unveiling of the heart of God. Law commands; grace is
God bestowing Himself.

And still further, law condemns. Grace is love that bends down to an
evildoer, and deals not on the footing of strict retribution with the
infirmities and the sins of us poor weaklings. And so, seeing that no
man that lives but hears in his heart an accusing voice, and that
every one of us knows what it is to gaze upon lofty duties that we
have shrunk from, upon plain obligations from the yoke of which we
have selfishly and cowardly withdrawn our necks; seeing that every
man, woman, and child listening to me now has, lurking in some corner
of their hearts, a memory that only needs to be quickened to be a
torture, and deeds that only need to have the veil drawn away from
them to terrify and shame them--oh! surely it ought to be a word of
gladness for every one of us that, in front of any law that condemns
us, stands forth the gentle, gracious form of the Christ that brings
pardon, and 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation unto all men.'
Thank God! law needed to be 'given,' but it was only the foundation on
which was to be reared a better thing. 'The law was given By
Moses'--'a schoolmaster,' as conscience is to-day, 'to bring us to
Christ' by whom comes the grace that loves, that stoops, that gives,
and that pardons.

Still further, there is another antithesis here. The Gospel which
comes by Christ is not law, but truth. The object of law is to
regulate conduct, and only subordinately to inform the mind or to
enlighten the understanding. The Mosaic Law had for its foundation, of
course, a revelation of God. But that revelation of God was less
prominent, proportionately, than the prescription for man's conduct.
The Gospel is the opposite of this. It has for its object the
regulation of conduct; but that object is less prominent,
proportionately, than the other, the manifestation and the revelation
of God. The Old Testament says 'Thou shalt'; the New Testament says
'God is.' The Old was Law; the New is Truth.

And so we may draw the inference, on which I do not need to dwell, how
miserably inadequate and shallow a conception of Christianity that is
which sets it forth as being mainly a means of regulating conduct, and
how false and foolish that loose talk is that we hear many a
time.--'Never mind about theological subtleties; conduct is the main
thing.' Not so. The Gospel is not law; the Gospel is truth. It is a
revelation of God to the understanding and to the heart, in order that
thereby the will may be subdued, and that then the conduct may be
shaped and moulded. But let us begin where it begins, and let us
remember that the morality of the New Testament has never long been
held up high and pure, where the theology of the New Testament has
been neglected and despised. 'The law came by Moses; truth came by
Jesus Christ.'

But, still further, let me remind you that, in the revelation of a God
who is gracious, giving to our emptiness and forgiving our sins--that
is to say, in the revelation of grace--we have a far deeper, nobler,
more blessed conception of the divine nature than in law. It is great
to think of a righteous God, it is great and ennobling to think of One
whose pure eyes cannot look upon sin, and who wills that men should
live pure and noble and Godlike lives. But it is far more and more
blessed, transcending all the old teaching, when we sit at the feet of
the Christ who gives, and who pardons, and look up into His deep eyes,
with the tears of compassion shining in them, and say: 'Lo! This is
our God! We have waited for Him and He will save us.' That is a better
truth, a deeper truth than prophets and righteous men of old
possessed; and to us there has come, borne on the wings of the mighty
angel of His grace, the precious revelation of the Father-God whose
heart is love. 'The law was given by Moses,' but brighter than the
gleam of the presence between the Cherubim is the lambent light of
gentle tenderness that shines from the face of Jesus Christ. Grace,
and therefore truth, a deeper truth, came by Him.

And, still further, let me remind you of how this contrast is borne
out by the fact that all that previous system was an adumbration, a
shadow and a premonition of the perfect revelation that was to come.
Temple, priest, sacrifice, law, the whole body of the Mosaic
constitution of things was, as it were, a shadow thrown along the road
in advance by the swiftly coming King. The shadow fell before Him, but
when He came the shadow disappeared. The former was a system of types,
symbols, pictures. Here is the reality that antiquates and fulfils and
transcends them all. 'The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came
by Jesus Christ.'

II. Now, secondly, look at the other contrast that is here, between
giving and coming.

I do not know that I have quite succeeded in making clear to my own
mind the precise force of this antithesis. Certainly there is a
profound meaning if one can fathom it; perhaps one might put it best
in something like the following fashion.

The word rendered 'came' might be more correctly translated 'became,'
or 'came into being.' The law was _given_; grace and truth _came to
be_.

Now, what do we mean when we talk about a law being given? We simply
mean, I suppose, that it is promulgated, either in oral or in written
words. It is, after all, no more than so many words. It is given when
it is spoken or published. It is a verbal communication at the best.
'But grace and truth came to be.' They are realities; they are not
words. They are not communicated by sentences, they are actual
existences; and they spring into being as far as man's historical
possession and experience of them are concerned--they spring into
being in Jesus Christ, and through Him they belong to us all. Not that
there was no grace, no manifest lore of God, in the world, nor any
true knowledge of Him before the Incarnation, but the earlier portions
of this chapter remind us that all of grace, however restrained and
partial, that all of truth, however imperfect and shadowy it may have
been, which were in the world before Christ came, were owing to the
operation of that Eternal Word 'Who became flesh and dwelt among us,'
and that these, in comparison with the affluence and the fulness and
the nearness of grace and truth after Christ's coming, were so small
and remote that it is not an exaggeration to say that, as far as man's
possession and experience of them are concerned, the giving love of
God and the clear and true knowledge of His deep heart of tenderness
and grace, sprang into being with the historical manifestation of
Jesus Christ the Lord.

He comes to reveal by no words. His gift is not like the gift that
Moses brought down from the mountain, merely a writing upon tables;
His gift is not the letter of an outward commandment, nor the letter
of an outward revelation. It is the thing itself which He reveals by
being it. He does not speak about grace, He brings it; He does not
show us God by His words, He shows us God by His acts. He does not
preach about Him, but He lives Him, He manifests Him. His gentleness,
His compassion, His miracles, His wisdom, His patience, His tears, His
promises; all these are the very Deity in action before our eyes; and
instead of a mere verbal revelation, which is so imperfect and so
worthless, grace and truth, the living realities, are flashed upon a
darkened world in the face of Jesus Christ. How cold, how hard, how
superficial, in comparison with that fleshly table of the heart of
Christ on which grace and truth were written, are the stony tables of
law, which bore after all, for all their majesty, only words which are
breath and nothing besides.

III. And so, lastly, look at the contrast that is drawn here between
the persons of the Founders.

I do not suppose that we are to take into consideration the difference
between the limitations of the one and the completeness of the other.
I do not suppose that the Apostle was thinking about the difference
between the reluctant service of the Lawgiver and the glad obedience
of the Son; or between the passion and the pride that sometimes marred
Moses' work, and the continual calmness and patient meekness that
perfected the sacrifice of Jesus. Nor do I suppose that there flashed
before his memory the difference between that strange tomb where God
buried the prophet, unknown of men, in the stern solitude of the
desert, true symbol of the solemn mystery and awful solitude with
which the law which we have broken invests death, to our trembling
consciences, and the grave in the garden with the spring flowers
bursting round it, and visited by white-robed angels, who spoke
comfort to weeping friends, true picture of what His death makes the
grave for all His followers.

But I suppose he was mainly thinking of the contrast between the
relation of Moses to his law, and of Christ to His Gospel. Moses was
but a medium. His personality had nothing to do with his message. You
may take away Moses, and the law stands all the same. But Christ is so
interwoven with Christ's message that you cannot rend the two apart;
you cannot have the figure of Christ melt away, and the gift that
Christ brought remain. If you extinguish the sun you cannot keep the
sunlight; if you put away Christ in the fulness of His manhood and of
His divinity, in the power of His Incarnation and the omnipotence of
His cross--if you put away Christ from Christianity, it collapses into
dust and nothingness.

So, dear brethren, do not let any of us try that perilous experiment.
You cannot melt away Jesus and keep grace and truth. You cannot tamper
with His character, with His nature, with the mystery of His passion,
with the atoning power of His cross, and preserve the blessings that
He has brought to the world. If you want the grace which is the
unveiling of the heart of God, the gift of a giving God and the pardon
of a forgiving Judge; or if you want the truth, the reality of the
knowledge of Him, you can only get them by accepting Christ. 'I _am_
the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.' There _is_ a 'law given which
gives life,' and 'righteousness _is_ by that law.' There is a Person
who is the Truth, and our knowledge of the truth is through that
Person, and through Him alone. By humble faith receive Him into your
hearts, and He will come bringing to you the fulness of grace and
truth.



THE WORLD'S SIN-BEARER

'The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the
Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'--JOHN i. 29.

Our Lord, on returning from His temptation in the wilderness, came
straight to John the Baptist. He was welcomed with these wonderful and
rapturous words, familiarity with which has deadened our sense of
their greatness. How audacious they would sound to some of their first
hearers! Think of these two, one of them a young Galilean carpenter,
to whom His companion witnesses and declares that He is of worldwide
and infinite significance. It was the first public designation of
Jesus Christ, and it throws into exclusive prominence one aspect of
His work.

John the Baptist summing up the whole of former revelation which
concentrated in Him, pointed a designating finger to Jesus and said,
'That is He!' My text is the sum of all Christian teaching ever since.
My task, and that of all preachers, if we understand it aright, is but
to repeat the same message, and to concentrate attention on the same
fact--'The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' It is
the one thing needful for you, dear friend, to believe. It is the
truth that we all need most of all. There is no reason for our being
gathered together now, except that I may beseech you to behold for
yourselves the Lamb of God which takes away the world's sin.

I. Now let me ask you to note, first, that Jesus Christ is the world's
sin-bearer.

The significance of the first clause of my text, 'the Lamb of God,' is
deplorably weakened if it is taken to mean only, or mainly, that Jesus
Christ, in the sweetness of His human nature, is gentle and meek and
patient and innocent and pure. It _does_ mean all that, thank God! But
it was no mere description of Christ's disposition which John the
Baptist conceived himself to be uttering, as is clear by the words
that follow in the next clause. His reason for selecting (under divine
guidance, as I believe) that image of 'the Lamb of God,' went a great
deal deeper than anything in the temper of the Person of whom he was
speaking. Many streams of ancient prophecy and ritual converge upon
this emblem, and if we want to understand what is meant by the
designation 'the Lamb of God,' we must not content ourselves with the
sentimentalisms which some superficial teachers have supposed to
exhaust the significance of the expression; but we must submit to be
led back by John, who was the summing up of all the ancient
Revelation, to the sources in that Revelation from which he drew this
metaphor.

First and chiefest of these, as I take it, are the words which no Jew
ever doubted referred to the Messiah, until after He had come, and the
Rabbis would not believe in Him, and so were bound to hunt up another
interpretation--I mean the great words in the prophecy which, I
suppose, is familiar to most of us, where there are found two
representations, one, 'He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a
sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth'; and
the other, still more germane to the purpose of my text, 'the Lord
hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.... By His knowledge shall He
justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.' John the Baptist,
looking back through the ages to that ancient prophetic utterance,
points to the young Man standing by his side, and says, 'There it is
fulfilled.'

But the prophetic symbol of the Lamb, and the thought that He bore the
iniquity of the many, had their roots in the past, and pointed back to
the sacrificial lamb, the lamb of the daily sacrifice, and especially
to the lamb slain at the Passover, which was an emblem and sacrament
of deliverance from bondage. Thus the conceptions of vicarious
suffering, and of a death which is a deliverance, and of blood which,
sprinkled on the doorposts, guards the house from the destroying
angel, are all gathered into these words.

Nor do these exhaust the sources of this figure, as it comes from the
venerable and sacred past. For when we read 'the Lamb _of God_,' who
is there that does not recognise, unless his eyes are blinded by
obstinate prejudice, a glance backward to that sweet and pathetic
story when the father went up with his son to the top of Mount Moriah,
and to the boy's question, 'Where is the lamb?' answered, 'My son, God
Himself will provide the lamb!' John says, 'Behold the Lamb that God
_has_ provided, the Sacrifice, on whom is laid a world's sins, and who
bears them away.'

Note, too, the universality of the power of Christ's sacrificial work.
John does not say 'the _sins_,' as the Litany, following an imperfect
translation, makes him say. But he says, 'the _sin_ of the world,' as
if the whole mass of human transgression was bound together, in one
black and awful bundle, and laid upon the unshrinking shoulders of
this better Atlas who can bear it all, and bear it all away. Your sin,
and mine, and every man's, they were all laid upon Jesus Christ.

Now remember, dear brethren, that in this wondrous representation
there lie, plain and distinct, two things which to me, and I pray they
may be to you, are the very foundation of the Gospel to which we have
to trust. One is that on Christ Jesus, in His life and in His death,
were laid the guilt and the consequences of a world's sin. I do not
profess to be ready with an explanation of how that is possible. That
it is a fact I believe, on the authority of Christ Himself and of
Scripture; that it is inconsistent with the laws of human nature may
be asserted, but never can be proved. Theories manifold have been
invented in order to make it plain. I do not know that any of them
have gone to the bottom of the bottomless. But Christ in His perfect
manhood, wedded, as I believe it is, to true divinity, is capable of
entering into--not merely by sympathy, though that has much to do with
it--such closeness of relation with human kind, and with every man, as
that on Him can be laid the iniquity of us all.

Oh, brethren! what was the meaning of 'I have a baptism to be baptized
with,' unless the cold waters of the flood into which He unshrinkingly
stepped, and allowed to flow over Him, were made by the gathered
accumulation of the sins of the whole world? What was the meaning of
the agony in Gethsemane? What was the meaning of that most awful word
ever spoken by human lips, in which the consciousness of union with,
and of separation from, God, were so marvellously blended, 'My God! my
God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?' unless the Guiltless was then loaded
with the sins of the world, which rose between Him and God?

Dear friends, it seems to me that unless this transcendent element be
fairly recognised as existing in the passion and death of Jesus
Christ, His demeanour when He came to die was far less heroic and
noble and worthy of imitation than have been the deaths of hundreds of
people who drew all their strength to die from Him. I do not venture
to bring a theory, but I press upon you the fact, He bears the sins of
the world, and in that awful load are yours and mine.

There is the other truth here, as clearly, and perhaps more directly,
meant by the selection of the expression in my text, that the
Sin-bearer not only carries, but carries _away_, the burden that is
laid upon Him. Perhaps there may be a reference--in addition to the
other sources of the figure which I have indicated as existing in
ritual, and prophecy, and history--there may be a reference in the
words to yet another of the eloquent symbols of that ancient system
which enshrined truths that were not peculiar to any people, but were
the property of humanity. You remember, no doubt, the singular
ceremonial connected with the scapegoat, and many of you will recall
the wonderful embodiment of it given by the Christian genius of a
modern painter. The sins of the nation were symbolically laid upon its
head, and it was carried out to the edge of the wilderness and driven
forth to wander alone, bearing away upon itself into the darkness and
solitude--far from man and far from God--the whole burden of the
nation's sins. Jesus Christ takes away the sin which He bears, and
there is, as I believe, only one way by which individuals, or society,
or the world at large, can thoroughly get rid of the guilt and penal
consequences and of the dominion of sin, and that is, by beholding the
Lamb of God that takes upon Himself, that He may carry away out of
sight, the sin of the world. So much, then, for the first thought that
I wish to suggest to you.

II. Now let me ask you to look with me at a second thought, that such
a world's Sin-bearer is the world's deepest need.

The sacrifices of every land witness to the fact that humanity all
over the world, and through all the ages, and under all varieties of
culture, has been dimly conscious that its deepest need was that the
fact of sin should be dealt with. I know that there are plenty of
modern ingenious ways of explaining the universal prevalence of an
altar and a sacrifice, and the slaying of innocent creatures, on other
grounds, some of which I think it is not uncharitable to suppose are
in favour mainly because they weaken this branch of the evidence for
the conformity of Christian truth with human necessities. But
notwithstanding these, I venture to affirm, with all proper submission
to wiser men, that you cannot legitimately explain the universal
prevalence of sacrifice, unless you take into account as one--I should
say the main--element in it, this universally diffused sense that
things are wrong between man and the higher Power, and need to be set
right even by such a method.

But I do not need to appeal only to this world-wide fact as being a
declaration of what man's deepest need is. I would appeal to every
man's own consciousness--hard though it be to get at it; buried as it
is, with some of us, under mountains of indifference and neglect; and
callous as it is with many of us by reason of indulgence in habits of
evil. I believe that in every one of us, if we will be honest, and
give heed to the inward voice, there does echo a response and an amen
to the Scripture declaration, 'God hath shut up all under sin.' I ask
you about yourselves, is it not so? Do you not know that, however you
may gloss over the thing, or forget it amidst a whirl of engagements
and occupations, or try to divert your thoughts into more or less
noble or ignoble channels of pleasures and pursuits, there does lie,
in each of our hearts, the sense, dormant often, but sometimes like a
snake in its hybernation, waking up enough to move, and sometimes
enough to sting--there does lie, in each of us, the consciousness that
we are wrong with God, and need something to put us right?

And, brethren, let modern philanthropists of all sorts take this
lesson: The thing that the world wants is to have sin dealt
with--dealt with in the way of conscious forgiveness; dealt with in
the way of drying up its source, and delivering men from the power of
it. Unless you do that, I do not say you do nothing, but you pour a
bottle full of cold water into Vesuvius, and try to put the fire out
with that. You may educate, you may cultivate, you may refine; you may
set political and economical arrangements right in accordance with the
newest notions of the century, and what then? Why! the old thing will
just begin over again, and the old miseries will appear again, because
the old grandmother of them all is there, the sin that has led to
them.

Now do not misunderstand me, as if I were warring against good and
noble men who are trying to remedy the world's evils by less thorough
methods than Christ's Gospel. They will do a great deal. But you may
have high education, beautiful refinement of culture and manners; you
may divide out political power in accordance with the most democratic
notions; you may give everybody 'a living wage,' however extravagant
his notions of a living wage may be. You may carry out all these
panaceas and the world will groan still, because you have not dealt
with the tap-root of all the mischief. You cannot cure an internal
cancer with a plaster upon the little finger, and you will never
stanch the world's wounds until you go to the Physician that has balm
and bandage, even Jesus Christ, that takes away the sins of the world.
I profoundly distrust all these remedies for the world's misery as in
themselves inadequate, even whilst I would help them all, and regard
them all as then blessed and powerful, when they are consequences and
secondary results of the Gospel, the first task of which is to deal by
forgiveness and by cleansing with individual transgression.

And if I might venture to go a step further, I would like to say that
this aspect of our Lord's work on which John the Baptist concentrated
all our attention is the only one which gives Him power to sway men,
and which makes the Gospel--the record of His work--the kingly power
in the world that it is meant to be. Depend upon it, that in the
measure in which Christian teachers fail to give supreme importance to
that aspect of Christ's work they fail altogether. There are many
other aspects which, as I have just said, follow in my conception from
this first one; but if, as is obviously the tendency in many quarters
to-day, Christianity be thought of as being mainly a means of social
improvement, or if its principles of action be applied to life without
that basis of them all, in the Cross which takes away the world's
iniquity, then it needs no prophet to foretell that such a
Christianity will only have superficial effects, and that, in losing
sight of this central thought, it will have cast away all its power.

I beseech you, dear brethren, remember that Jesus Christ is something
more than a social reformer, though He is the first of them, and the
only one whose work will last. Jesus Christ is something more than a
lovely pattern of human conduct, though He is that. Jesus Christ is
something more than a great religious genius who set forth the
Fatherhood of God as it had never been set forth before. The Gospel of
Jesus Christ is the record not only of what He said but of what He
did, not only that He lived but that He died; and all His other
powers, and all His other benefits and blessings to society, come as
results of His dealing with the individual soul when He takes away its
guilt and reconciles it to God.

III. And so, lastly, let me ask you to notice that this Sin-bearer of
the world is our Sin-bearer if we 'behold' Him.

John was simply summoning ignorant eyes to look, and telling of what
they would see. But his call is susceptible, without violence, of a
far deeper meaning. This is really the one truth that I want to press
upon you, dear friends--'Behold the Lamb of God!'

What is that beholding? Surely it is nothing else than our recognising
in Him the great and blessed work which I have been trying to
describe, and then resting ourselves upon that great Lord and
sufficient Sacrifice. And such an exercise of simple trust is well
named beholding, because they who believe do see, with a deeper and a
truer vision than sense can give. You and I can see Christ more really
than these men who stood round Him, and to whom His flesh was 'a
veil'--as the Epistle to the Hebrews calls it--hiding His true
divinity and work. They who thus behold by faith lack nothing either
of the directness or of the certitude that belong to vision. 'Seeing
is believing,' says the cynical proverb. The Christian version inverts
its terms, 'Believing is seeing.' 'Whom having not seen ye love, in
whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing ye rejoice.'

And your simple act of 'beholding,' by the recognition of His work and
the resting of yourself upon it, makes the world's Sin-bearer your
Sin-bearer. You appropriate the general blessing, like a man taking in
a little piece of a boundless prairie for his very own. Your
possession does not make my possession of Him less, for every eye gets
its own beam, and however many eyes wait upon Him, they all receive
the light on to their happy eyeballs. You can make Christ your own,
and have all that He has done for the world as your possession, and
can experience in your own hearts the sense of your own forgiveness
and deliverance from the power and guilt of your own sin, on the
simple condition of looking unto Jesus. The serpent is lifted on the
pole, the dying camp cannot go to it, but the filming eyes of the man
in his last gasp may turn to the gleaming image hanging on high; and
as he looks the health begins to tingle back into his veins, and he is
healed.

And so, dear brethren, behold Him; for unless you do, though He has
borne the world's sin, your sin will not be there, but will remain on
your back to crush you down. 'O Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins
of the world, have mercy upon _me_!'



THE FIRST DISCIPLES: I. JOHN AND ANDREW

'And the two disciples heard Him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What
seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being
interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou? 39. He saith unto them,
Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him
that day: for it was about the tenth hour.'--JOHN i. 37-39.

In these verses we see the head waters of a great river, for we have
before us nothing less than the beginnings of the Christian Church. So
simply were the first disciples made. The great society of believers
was born like its Master, unostentatiously and in a corner.

Jesus has come back from His conflict in the wilderness after His
baptism, and has presented Himself before John the Baptist for his
final attestation. It was a great historical moment when the last of
the Prophets stood face to face with the Fulfilment of all prophecy.
In his words, 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the
world!' Jewish prophecy sang its swan-song, uttered its last
rejoicing, 'Eureka! I have found Him!' and died as it spoke.

We do not sufficiently estimate the magnificent self-suppression and
unselfishness of the Baptist, in that he, with his own lips, here
repeats his testimony in order to point his disciples away from
himself, and to attach them to Jesus. If he could have been touched by
envy he would not so gladly have recognised it as his lot to decrease
while Jesus increased. Bare magnanimity that in a teacher! The two who
hear John's words are Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, and an anonymous
man. The latter is probably the Evangelist. For it is remarkable that
we never find the names of James and John in this Gospel (though from
the other Gospels we know how closely they were associated with our
Lord), and that we only find them referred to as 'the sons of
Zebedee,' once near the close of the book. That fact points, I think,
in the direction of John's authorship of this Gospel.

These two, then, follow behind Jesus, fancying themselves unobserved,
not desiring to speak to Him, and probably with some notion of
tracking Him to His home, in order that they may seek an interview at
a later period. But He who notices the first beginnings of return to
Him, and always comes to meet men, and is better to them than their
wishes, will not let them steal behind Him uncheered, nor leave them
to struggle with diffidence and delay. So He turns to them, and the
events ensue which I have read in the verses that follow as my text.

We have, I think, three things especially to notice here. First, the
Master's question to the whole world, 'What seek ye?' Second, the
Master's invitation to the whole world, 'Come and see!' Lastly, the
personal communion which brings men's hearts to Him, 'They came and
saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day.'

I. So, then, first look at this question of Christ to the whole world,
'What seek ye?'

As it stands, on its surface, and in its primary application, it is
the most natural of questions. Our Lord hears footsteps behind Him,
and, as any one would do, turns about, with the question which any one
would ask, 'What is it that you want?' That question would derive all
its meaning from the look with which it was accompanied, and the tone
in which it was spoken. It might mean either annoyance and rude
repulsion of a request, even before it was presented, or it might mean
a glad wish to draw out the petition, and more than half a pledge to
bestow it. All depends on the smile with which it was asked and the
intonation of voice which carried it to their ears. And if we had been
there we should have felt, as these two evidently felt, that though in
form a question, it was in reality a promise, and that it drew out
their shy wishes, made them conscious to themselves of what they
desired, and gave them confidence that their desire would be granted.
Clearly it had sunk very deep into the Evangelist's mind; and now, at
the end of his life, when his course is nearly run, the
never-to-be-forgotten voice sounds still in his memory, and he sees
again, in sunny clearness, all the scene that had transpired on that
day by the fords of the Jordan. The first words and the last words
of those whom we have learned to love are cut deep on our hearts.

It was not an accident that the first words which the Master spoke in
His Messianic office were this profoundly significant question, 'What
seek ye?' He asks it of us all, He asks it of us to-day. Well for them
who can answer, 'Rabbi! where dwellest _Thou_?' 'It is Thou whom we
seek!' So, venturing to take the words in that somewhat wider
application, let me just suggest to you two or three directions in
which they seem to point.

First, the question suggests to us this: the need of having a clear
consciousness of what is our object in life. The most of men have
never answered that question. They live from hand to mouth, driven by
circumstances, guided by accidents, impelled by unreflecting passions
and desires, knowing what they want for the moment, but never having
tried to shape the course of their lives into a consistent whole, so
as to stand up before God in Christ when He puts the question to them,
'What seek ye?' and to answer the question.

These incoherent, instinctive, unreflective lives that so many of you
are living are a shame to your manhood, to say nothing more. God has
made us for something else than that we should thus be the sport of
circumstances. It is a disgrace to any of us that our lives should be
like some little fishing-boat, with an unskilful or feeble hand at the
tiller, yawing from one point of the compass to another, and not
keeping a straight and direct course. I pray you, dear brethren, to
front this question: 'After all, and at bottom, what is it I am living
for? Can I formulate the aims and purposes of my life in any
intelligible statement of which I should not be ashamed?' Some of you
are not ashamed to do what you would be very much ashamed to say, and
you practically answer the question, 'What are you seeking?' by
pursuits that you durst not call by their own ugly names.

There may be many of us who are living for our lusts, for our
passions, for our ambitions, for avarice, who are living in all
uncleanness and godlessness. I do not know. There are plenty of
shabby, low aims in all of us which do not bear being dragged out into
the light of day. I beseech you to try and get hold of the ugly things
and bring them up to the surface, however much they may seek to hide
in the congenial obscurity and twist their slimy coils round something
in the dark. If you dare not put your life's object into words,
bethink yourselves whether it ought to be your life's object at all.

Ah, brethren! if we would ask ourselves this question, and answer it
with any thoroughness, we should not make so many mistakes as to the
places where we look for the things for which we are seeking. If we
knew what we were really seeking, we should know where to go to look
for it. Let me tell you what you are seeking, whether you know it or
not. You are seeking for rest for your heart, a home for your spirits;
you are seeking for perfect truth for your understandings, perfect
beauty for your affections, perfect goodness for your conscience. You
are seeking for all these three, gathered into one white beam of
light, and you are seeking for it all in a Person. Many of you do not
know this, and so you go hunting in all manner of impossible places
for that which you can only find in one. To the question, 'What seek
ye?' the deepest of all answers, the only real answer, is, 'My soul
thirsteth for God, for the living God.' If you know that, you know
where to look for what you need! 'Do men gather grapes of thorns?' If
these are really the things that you are seeking after, in all your
mistaken search--oh! how mistaken is the search! Do men look for
pearls in cockle-shells, or for gold in coal-pits; and why should you
look for rest of heart, mind, conscience, spirit, anywhere and in
anything short of God? 'What seek ye?'--the only answer is, 'We seek
_Thee_!'

And then, still further, let me remind you how these words are not
only a question, but are really a veiled and implied promise. The
question, 'What do you want of Me?' may either strike an intending
suppliant like a blow, and drive him away with his prayer sticking in
his throat unspoken, or it may sound like a merciful invitation, 'What
is thy petition, and what is thy request, and it shall be granted unto
thee?' We know which of the two it was here. Christ asks all such
questions as this (and there are many of them in the New Testament),
not for His information, but for our strengthening. He asks people,
not because He does not know before they answer, but that, on the one
hand, their own minds may be clear as to their wishes, and so they may
wish the more earnestly because of the clearness; and that, on the
other hand, their desires being expressed, they may be the more able
to receive the gift which He is willing to bestow. So He here turns to
these men, whose purpose He knew well enough, and says to them, 'What
seek ye?' Herein He is doing the very same thing on a lower level, and
in an outer sphere, as is done when He appoints that we shall pray for
the blessings which He is yearning to bestow, but which He makes
conditional on our supplications, only because by these supplications
our hearts are opened to a capacity for receiving them.

We have, then, in the words before us, thus understood, our Lord's
gracious promise to give what is desired on the simple condition that
the suppliant is conscious of his own wants, and turns to Him for the
supply of them. 'What seek ye?' It is a blank cheque that He puts into
their hands to fill up. It is the key of His treasure-house which He
offers to us all, with the assured confidence that if we open it we
shall find all that we need.

Who is He that thus stands up before a whole world of seeking,
restless spirits, and fronts them with the question which is a pledge,
conscious of His capacity to give to each of them what each of them
requires? Who is this that professes to be able to give all these men
and women and children bread here in the wilderness? There is only one
answer--the Christ of God.

And He has done what He promises. No man or woman ever went to Him,
and answered this question, and presented their petition for any real
good, and was refused. No man can ask from Christ what Christ cannot
bestow. No man can ask from Christ what Christ will not bestow. In the
loftiest region, the region of inward and spiritual gifts, which are
the best gifts, we can get everything that we want, and our only limit
is, not His boundless omnipotence and willingness, but our own poor,
narrow, and shrivelled desires. 'Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and
ye shall find.'

Christ stands before us, if I may so say, like some of those fountains
erected at some great national festival, out of which pour for all the
multitude every variety of draught which they desire, and each man
that goes with his empty cup gets it filled, and gets it filled with
that which he wishes. 'What seek ye?' Wisdom? You students, you
thinkers, you young men that are fighting with intellectual
difficulties and perplexities, 'What seek ye?' Truth? He gives us
that. You others, 'What seek ye?' Love, peace, victory, self-control,
hope, anodyne for sorrow? Whatever you desire, you will find in Jesus
Christ. The first words with which He broke the silence when He spake
to men as the Messias, were at once a searching question, probing
their aims and purposes, and a gracious promise pledging Him to a task
not beyond His power, however far beyond that of all others, even the
task of giving to each man his heart's desire. 'What seek ye?' 'Seek,
and ye shall find.'

II. Then, still further, notice how, in a similar fashion, we may
regard here the second words which our Lord speaks as being His
merciful invitation to the world. 'Come and see.'

The disciples' answer was simple and timid. They did not venture to
say, 'May we talk to you?' 'Will you take us to be your disciples?'
All they can muster courage to ask now is, 'Where dwellest Thou?' At
another time, perhaps, we will go to this Rabbi and speak with Him.
His answer is, 'Come, come now; come, and by intercourse with Me learn
to know Me.' His temporary home was probably nothing more than some
selected place on the river's bank, for 'He had not where to lay His
head'; but such as it was, He welcomes them to it. 'Come and see!'

Take a plain, simple truth out of that. Christ is always glad when
people resort to Him. When He was here in the world, no hour was
inconvenient or inopportune; no moment was too much occupied; no
physical wants of hunger, or thirst, or slumber were ever permitted to
come between Him and seeking hearts. He was never impatient. He was
never wearied of speaking, though He was often wearied in speaking. He
never denied Himself to any one or said, 'I have something else to do
than to attend to you.' And just as in literal fact, whilst He was
here upon earth, nothing was ever permitted to hinder His drawing near
to any man who wanted to draw near to Him, so nothing now hinders it;
and He is glad when any of us resort to Him and ask Him to let us
speak to Him and be with Him. His weariness or occupation never shut
men out from Him then. His glory does not shut them out now.

Then there is another thought here. This invitation of the Master is
also a very distinct call to a firsthand knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Andrew and John had heard from the Baptist about Him, and now what He
bids them to do is to come and hear Himself. That is what He calls
you, dear brethren, to do. Do not listen to us, let the Master Himself
speak to you. Many who reject Christianity reject it through not
having listened to Jesus Himself teaching them, but only to
theologians and other human representations of the truth. Go and ask
Christ to speak to you with His own lips of truth, and take Him as the
Expositor of His own system. Do not be contented with traditional talk
and second-hand information. Go to Christ, and hear what He Himself
has to say to you.

Then, still further, in this 'Come and see' there is a distinct call
to the personal act of faith. Both of these words, '_come_' and
'_see_,' are used in the New Testament as standing emblems of faith.
Coming to Christ is trusting Him; trusting Him is seeing Him, looking
unto Him. 'Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,' 'Look unto Me, and
be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.' There are two metaphors, both
of them pointing to one thing, and that one thing is the invitation
from the dear lips of the loving Lord to every man, woman, and child
in this congregation. 'Come and see!' 'Put your trust in Me, draw near
to Me by desire and penitence, draw near to Me in the fixed thought of
your mind, in the devotion of your will, in the trust of your whole
being. Come to Me, and see Me by faith; and then--and then--your
hearts will have found what they seek, and your weary quest will be
over, and, like the dove, you will fold your wings and nestle at the
foot of the Cross, and rest for evermore. Come! "Come and see!"'

III. So, lastly, we have in these words a parable of the blessed
experience which binds men's hearts to Jesus for ever. 'They came and
saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the
tenth hour.'

'Dwelt' and 'abode' are the same words in the original. It is one of
John's favourite words, and in its deepest meaning expresses the
close, still communion which the soul may have with Jesus Christ,
which communion, on that never-to-be-forgotten day, when he and Andrew
sat with Him in the quiet, confidential fellowship that disclosed
Christ's glory 'full of grace and truth' to their hearts, made them
His for ever.

If the reckoning of time here is made according to the Hebrew fashion,
the 'tenth hour' will be ten o'clock in the morning. So, one long day
of talk! If it be according to the Roman legal fashion, the hour will
be four o'clock in the afternoon, which would only give time for a
brief conversation before the night fell. But, in any case, sacred
reserve is observed as to what passed in that interview. A lesson for
a great deal of blatant talk, in this present day, about conversion
and the details thereof!

  'Not easily forgiven
  Are those, who setting wide the doors, that bar
  The secret bridal chambers of the heart.
  Let in the day.'

John had nothing to say to the world about what the Master said to him
and his brother in that long day of communion.

One plain conclusion from this last part of our narrative is that the
impression of Christ's own personality is the strongest force to make
disciples. The character of Jesus Christ is, after all, the central
and standing evidence and the mightiest credential of Christianity. It
bears upon its face the proof of its own truthfulness. If such a
character was not lived, how did it ever come to be described, and
described by such people? And if it was lived, how did it come to be
so? The historical veracity of the character of Jesus Christ is
guaranteed by its very uniqueness. And the divine origin of Jesus
Christ is forced upon us as the only adequate explanation of His
historical character. 'Truly this man was the Son of God.'

I believe that to lift Him up is the work of all Christian preachers
and teachers; as far as they can to hide themselves behind Jesus
Christ, or at the most to let themselves appear, just as the old
painters used to let their own likenesses appear in their great
altar-pieces--a little kneeling figure there, away in a dark corner of
the background. Present Christ, and He will vindicate His own
character; He will vindicate His own nature; He will vindicate His own
gospel. 'They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him,' and
the end of it was that they abode with Him for evermore. And so it
will always be.

Once more, personal experience of the grace and sweetness of this
Saviour binds men to Him as nothing else will:

  'He must be loved ere that to you
  He will seem worthy of your love.'

The deepest and sweetest and most precious part of His character and
of His gifts can only be known on condition of possessing Him and
them, and they can be possessed only on condition of holding
fellowship with Him. I do not say to any man: 'Try trust in order to
be sure that Jesus Christ is worthy to be trusted,' for by its very
nature faith cannot be an experiment or provisional. I do not say that
my experience is evidence to you, but at the same time I do say that
it is worth any man's while to reflect upon this, that none who ever
trusted in Him have been put to shame. No man has looked to Jesus and
has said: 'Ah! I have found Him out! His help is vain, His promises
empty.' Many men have fallen away from Him, I know, but not because
they have proved Him untruthful, but because they have become
unfaithful.

And so, dear brethren, I come to you with the old message, 'Oh!
taste,' and thus you will 'see that the Lord is good.' There must be
the faith first, and then there will be the experience, which will
make anything seem to you more credible than that He whom you have
loved and trusted, and who has answered your love and your trust,
should be anything else than the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind.
Come to Him and you will see. The impregnable argument will be put
into your mouth--'Whether this man be a sinner or no, I know not. One
thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.' Look to Him,
listen to Him, and when He asks you, 'What seek ye?' answer, 'Rabbi,
where dwellest Thou? It is Thou whom I seek.' He will welcome you to
close blessed intercourse with Him, which will knit you to Him with
cords that cannot be broken, and with His loving voice making music in
memory and heart, you will be able triumphantly to confess--'Now we
believe, not because of any man's saying, for we have heard Him
ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the
world.'



THE FIRST DISCIPLES: II. SIMON PETER


'One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew,
Simon Peter's brother. 41. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and
saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being
interpreted, the Christ. 42. And he brought him to Jesus. And when
Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt
be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone.'--JOHN i.
40-42.

There are many ways by which souls are brought to their Saviour.
Sometimes, like the merchantman seeking goodly pearls, men seek Him
earnestly and find Him. Sometimes, by the intervention of another, the
knowledge of Him is kindled in dark hearts. Sometimes He Himself takes
the initiative, and finds those that seek Him not. We have
illustrations of all these various ways in these simple records of the
gathering in of the first disciples. Andrew and his friend, with whom
we were occupied in our last sermon, looked for Christ and found Him.
Peter, with whom we have to do now, was brought to Christ by his
brother; and the third of the group, consisting of Philip, was sought
by Christ while he was not thinking of Him, and found an unsought
treasure; and then Philip again, like Andrew, finds a friend, and
brings him to Christ.

Each of the incidents has its own lesson, and each of them adds
something to the elucidation of John's two great subjects: the
revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, and the development of that
faith in Him which gives us life. It may be profitable to consider
each group in succession, and mark the various aspects of these two
subjects presented by each.

In this incident, then, we have two things mainly to consider: first,
the witness of the disciple; second, the self-revelation of the
Master.

I. The witness of the disciple.

We have seen that the unknown companion of Andrew was probably the
Evangelist himself, who, in accordance with his uniform habit,
suppresses his own name, and that that omission points to John's
authorship of this Gospel. Another morsel of evidence as to the date
and purpose of the Gospel lies in the mention here of Andrew as 'Simon
Peter's brother.' We have not yet heard anything about Simon Peter.
The Evangelist has never mentioned his name, and yet he takes it for
granted that his hearers knew all about Peter, and knew him better
than they did Andrew. That presupposes a considerable familiarity with
the incidents of the Gospel story, and is in harmony with the theory
that this fourth Gospel is the latest of the four, and was written for
the purpose of supplementing, not of repeating, their narrative. Hence
a number of the phenomena of the Gospel, which have troubled critics,
are simply and sufficiently explained.

But that by the way. Passing that, notice first the illustration that
we get here of how instinctive and natural the impulse is, when a man
has found Jesus Christ, to tell some one else about Him. Nobody said
to Andrew, 'Go and look for your brother,' and yet, as soon as he had
fairly realised the fact that this Man standing before him was the
Messiah, though the evening seems to have come, he hurries away to
find his brother, and share with him the glad conviction.

Now, that is always the case. If a man has any real depth of
conviction, he cannot rest till he tries to share it with somebody
else. Why, even a dog that has had its leg mended, will bring other
limping dogs to the man that was kind to it. Whoever really believes
anything becomes a propagandist.

Look round about us to-day! and hearken to the Babel, the wholesale
Babel of noises, where every sort of opinion is trying to make itself
heard. It sounds like a country fair where every huckster is shouting
his loudest. That shows that the men believe the things that they
profess. Thank God that there is so much earnestness in the world! And
now are Christians to be dumb whilst all this vociferous crowd is
calling its wares, and quacks are standing on their platforms shouting
out their specifics, which are mostly delusions? Have you not a
medicine that will cure everything, a real heal-all, a veritable
pain-killer? If you believe that you have, certainly you will never
rest till you share your boon with your brethren.

If the natural effect of all earnest conviction, viz. a yearning and
an absolute necessity to speak it out, is no part of your Christian
experience, very grave inferences ought to be drawn from that. This
man, before he was four-and-twenty hours a disciple, had made another.
Some of you have been disciples for as many years, and have never even
tried to make one. Whence comes that silence which is, alas, so common
among us?

It is very plain that, making all allowance for changed manners, for
social difficulties, for timidity, for the embarrassment that besets
people when they talk to other people about religion, which is 'such
an awkward subject to introduce into mixed company,' and the
like,--making all allowance for these, there is a deplorable number of
Christian people who ought to be, in their own circles, evangelists
and missionaries, who are, if I may venture to quote very rude words
which the Bible uses, 'Dumb dogs lying down, and loving to slumber.'
'He first findeth his own brother, Simon!'

Now, take another lesson out of this witness of the disciple, as to
the channel in which such effort naturally runs. 'He _first_ findeth
_his own brother_'; does not that imply a second finding by the other
of the two? The language of the text suggests that the Evangelist's
tendency to the suppression of himself, of which I have spoken, hides
away, if I may so say, in this singular expression, the fact that he
too went to look for a brother, but that Andrew found his brother
before John found his. If so, each of the original pair of disciples
went to look for one who was knit to him by close ties of kindred and
affection, and found him and brought him to Christ; and before the day
was over the Christian Church was doubled, because each member of it,
by God's grace, had added another. Home, then, and those who are
nearest to us, present the natural channels for Christian work. Many a
very earnest and busy preacher, or Sunday-school teacher, or
missionary, has brothers and sisters, husband or wife, children or
parents at home to whom he has never said a word about Christ. There
is an old proverb, 'The shoemaker's wife is always the worst shod.'
The families of many very busy Christian teachers suffer wofully for
want of remembering 'he first findeth his own brother.' It is a poor
affair if all your philanthropy and Christian energy go off noisily in
Sunday-schools and mission-stations, and if your own vineyard is
neglected, and the people at your own fireside never hear anything
from you about the Master whom you say you love. Some of you want that
hint; will you take it?

But then, the principle is one that might be fairly expanded beyond
the home circle. The natural relationships into which we are brought
by neighbourhood and by ordinary associations prescribe the direction
of our efforts. What, for instance, are we set down in this swarming
population of Lancashire for? For business and personal ends? Yes,
partly. But is that all? Surely, if we believe that 'there is a
divinity that shapes our ends' and determines the bounds of our
habitation, we must believe that other purposes affecting other people
are also meant by God to be accomplished through us, and that where a
man who knows and loves Christ Jesus is brought into neighbourly
contact with thousands who do not, he is thereby constituted his
brethren's keeper, and is as plainly called to tell them of Christ as
if a voice from Heaven had bid him do it. What is to be said of the
depth and vital energy of the Christianity that neither hears the call
nor feels the impulse to share its blessing with the famishing Lazarus
at its gate? What will be the fate of such a church? Why, if you live
in luxury in your own well drained and ventilated house, and take no
heed to the typhoid fever or cholera in the slums at its back, the
chances are that seeds of the disease will find their way to you, and
kill your wife, or child, or yourself. And if you Christian people,
living in the midst of godless people, do not try to heal them, they
will infect you. If you do not seek to impress your conviction that
Christ is the Messiah upon an unbelieving generation, the unbelieving
generation will impress upon you its doubts whether He is; and your
lips will falter, and a pallor will come over the complexion of your
love, and your faith will become congealed and turn into ice.

Notice again the simple word which is the most powerful means of
influencing most men.

Andrew did not begin to argue with his brother. Some of us can do that
and some of us cannot. Some of us are influenced by argument and some
of us are not. You may pound a man's mistaken creed to atoms with
sledge-hammers of reasoning, and he is not much the nearer being a
Christian than he was before; just as you may pound ice to pieces and
it is pounded ice after all. The mightiest argument that we can use,
and the argument that we can all use, if we have got any religion in
us at all, is that of Andrew, 'We have found the Messias.'

I recently read a story in some newspaper or other about a minister
who preached a very elaborate course of lectures in refutation of some
form of infidelity, for the special benefit of a man that attended his
place of worship. Soon after, the man came and declared himself a
Christian. The minister said to him, 'Which of my discourses was it
that removed your doubts?' The reply was, 'Oh! it was not any of your
sermons that influenced me. The thing that set me thinking was that a
poor woman came out of the chapel beside me, and stumbled on the
steps, and I stretched out my hand to help her, and she said "Thank
you!" Then she looked at me and said, "Do you love Jesus Christ, my
blessed Saviour?" And I did not, and I went home and thought about it;
and now I can say _I_ love Jesus.' The poor woman's word, and her
frank confession of her experience, were all the transforming power.

If you have found Christ, you can say that you have. Never mind about
the how! Any how! Only say it! A boy that is sent on an errand by his
father has only one duty to perform, and that is to repeat what he was
told. Whether we have any eloquence or not, whether we have any logic
or not, whether we can speak persuasively and gracefully or not, if we
have laid hold of Christ at all we can say that we have; and it is at
our peril that we do not. We can say it to somebody. There is surely
some one who will listen to you more readily than to any one else.
Surely you have not lived all your life and bound nobody to you by
kindness and love, so that they will gladly attend to what you say.
Well, then, _use_ the power that is given to you.

Remember the beginnings of the Christian Church--two men, each of whom
found his brother. Two and two make four; and if every one of us would
go, according to the old law of warfare, and each of us slay our man,
or rather each of us give life by God's grace to some one, or try to
do it, our congregations and our churches would grow as fast as,
according to the old problem, the money grew that was paid down for
the nails in the horse's shoes. Two snowflakes on the top of a
mountain gather an avalanche by the time they reach the valley. 'He
first findeth his brother, Simon.'

II. And now I turn to the second part of this text, the
self-revelation of the Master.

The bond which knit these men to Christ at first was by no means the
perfect Christian faith which they afterwards attained. They
recognised Him as the Messiah, they were personally attached to Him,
they were ready to accept His teaching and to obey His commandments.
That was about as far as they had gone. But they were scholars. They
had entered the school. The rest would come. It would be absurd to
expect that Christ would begin by preaching to them faith in His
divinity and atoning work. He binds them to _Himself_. That is lesson
enough for a beginner for one day.

It was the impression which Christ Himself made on Simon which
completed the work begun by his brother. What, then, was the
impression? He comes all full of wonder and awe, and he is met by a
look and a sentence. The look, which is described by an unusual word,
was a penetrating gaze which regarded Peter with fixed attention. It
must have been remarkable, to have lived in John's memory for all
these years. Evidently, as I think, a more than natural insight is
implied. So, also, the saying with which our Lord received Peter seems
to me to be meant to show more than natural knowledge: 'Thou art
Simon, the son of Jonas.' Christ may, no doubt, have learned the
Apostle's name and lineage from his brother, or in some other ordinary
way. But if you observe the similar incident which follows in the
conversation with Nicodemus, and the emphatic declaration of the next
chapter that Jesus knew both 'all men,' and 'what was in man'--both
human nature as a whole, and each individual--it is more natural to
see here superhuman knowledge.

So then, the first point in our Lord's self-revelation here is that He
shows Himself possessed of supernatural and thorough knowledge. One
remembers the many instances where our Lord read men's hearts, and the
prayer addressed to Him probably, by Peter, 'Thou, Lord, which knowest
the hearts of all men,' and the vision which John saw of 'eyes like a
flame of fire,' and the sevenfold 'I know thy works.'

It may be a very awful thought, 'Thou, God, seest me.' It is a very
unwelcome thought to a great many men, and it will be so to us unless
we can give it the modification which it receives from the belief in
the divinity of Jesus Christ, and feel sure that the eyes which are
blazing with divine omniscience are dewy with divine and human love.

Do you believe it? Do you feel that Christ is looking at you, and
searching you altogether? Do you rejoice in it? Do you carry it about
with you as a consolation and a strength in moments of weakness and in
times of temptation? Is it as blessed to you to feel 'Thou Christ
beholdest me now,' as it is for a child to feel that, when it is
playing in the garden, its mother is sitting up at the window watching
it, and that no harm can come? There have been men driven mad in
prisons because they knew that somewhere in the wall there was a
little pinhole, through which a gaoler's eye was always, or might be
always, glaring down at them. And the thought of an absolute
Omniscience up there, searching me to the depths of my nature, may
become one from which I recoil shudderingly, and will not be
altogether a blessed one unless it comes to me in this shape:--'My
Christ knows me altogether and loves me better than He knows. And so I
will spread myself out before Him, and though I feel that there is
much in me which I dare not tell to men, I will rejoice that there is
nothing which I need to tell to Him. He knows me through and through.
He knew me when He died for me. He knew me when He forgave me. He knew
me when He undertook to cleanse me. Like this very Peter I will say,
"Lord, Thou knowest all things," and, like him, I will cling the
closer to His feet, because I know, and He knows, my weakness and my
sin.'

Another revelation of our Lord's relation to His disciples is given in
the fact that He changes Simon's name. Jehovah, in the Old Testament,
changes the names of Abraham and of Jacob. Babylonian kings in the Old
Testament change the names of their vassal princes. Masters impose
names on their slaves; and I suppose that even the marriage custom of
the wife's assuming the name of the husband rests originally upon the
same idea of absolute authority. That idea is conveyed in the fact
that our Lord changes Peter's name, and so takes absolute possession
of him, and asserts His mastery over him. We belong to Him altogether,
because He has given Himself altogether for us. His absolute authority
is the correlative of His utter self-surrender. He who can come to me
and say, 'I have spared not my life for thee,' and He only, has the
right to come to me and say, 'yield yourself wholly to Me.' So,
Christian friends, your Master wants all your service; do you give
yourselves up to Him out and out, not by half and half.

Lastly, that change of name implies Christ's power and promise to
bestow a new character and new functions and honours. Peter was by no
means a 'Peter' then. The name no doubt mainly implies official
function, but that official function was prepared for by personal
character; and in so far as the name refers to character, it means
firmness. At that epoch Peter was rash, impulsive, headstrong,
self-confident, vain, and therefore, necessarily changeable. Like the
granite, all fluid and hot, and fluid because it was hot, he needed to
cool in order to solidify into rock. And not until his self-confidence
had been knocked out of him, and he had learned humility by falling;
not until he had been beaten from all his presumption, and tamed down,
and sobered and steadied by years of difficulty and responsibilities,
did he become the rock that Christ meant him to be. All _that_ lay
concealed in the future, but in the change of his name, while he stood
on the very threshold of his Christian career, there was preached to
him, and there is preached to us, this great truth, that if you will
go to Jesus Christ He will make a new man of you. No man's character
is so obstinately rooted in evil but that Christ can change its set
and direction. No man's natural dispositions are so faulty and low but
that Christ can develop counterbalancing virtues, and out of the evil
and weakness make strength. He will not make a Peter into a John, or a
John into a Paul, but He will deliver Peter from the 'defects of his
qualities,' and lead them up into a higher and a nobler region. There
are no outcasts in the view of the transforming Christ. He dismisses
no people out of His hospital as incurable, because anybody,
everybody, the blackest, the most rooted in evil, those who have
longest indulged in any given form of transgression, may all come to
Him; with the certainty that if they will cleave to Him, He will read
all their character and all its weaknesses, and then with a glad smile
of welcome and assured confidence on His face, will ensure to them a
new nature and new dignities. 'Thou art Simon--thou shalt be Peter.'

The process will be long. It will be painful. There will be a great
deal pared off. The sculptor makes the marble image by chipping away
the superfluous marble. Ah! and when you have to chip away superfluous
flesh and blood it is bitter work, and the chisel is often deeply dyed
in gore, and the mallet seems to be very cruel. Simon did not know all
that had to be done to make a Peter of him. We have to thank God's
providence that we do not know all the sorrows and trials of the
process of making us what He wills us to be. But we may be sure of
this, that if only we keep near our Master, and let Him have His way
with us, and work His will upon us, and if only we will not wince from
the blows of the Great Artist's chisel, then out of the roughest block
He will carve the fairest statue; and He will fulfil for us at last
His great promise: 'I will give unto him a white stone, and in the
stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth
it.'



THE FIRST DISCIPLES: III. PHILIP

'The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth
Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me.'--JOHN i. 43.

'The day following'--we have a diary in this chapter and the next,
extending from the day when John the Baptist gives his official
testimony to Jesus, up till our Lord's first journey to Jerusalem. The
order of events is this. The deputation from the Sanhedrim to John
occupied the first day. On the second Jesus comes back to John after
His temptation, and receives his solemn attestation. On the third day,
John repeats his testimony, and three disciples, probably four, make
the nucleus of the Church. These are the two pairs of brothers, James
and John, Andrew and Peter, who stand first in every catalogue of the
Apostles, and were evidently nearest to Christ.

'The day following' of our text is the fourth day. On it our Lord
determines to return to Galilee. His objects in His visit to John were
accomplished--to receive his public attestation, and to gather the
first little knot of His followers. Thus launched upon His course, He
desired to return to His native district.

These events had occurred where John was baptising, in a place called
in the English version Bethabara, which means 'The house of crossing,'
or as we might say, Ferry-house. The traditional site for John's
baptism is near Jericho, but the next chapter (verse i.) shows that it
was only a day's journey from Cana of Galilee, and must therefore have
been much further north than Jericho. A ford, still bearing the name
Abarah, a few miles south of the lake of Gennesaret, has lately been
discovered. Our Lord, then, and His disciples had a day's walking to
take them back to Galilee. But apparently before they set out on that
morning, Philip and Nathanael were added to the little band. So these
two days saw six disciples gathered round Jesus.

Andrew and John sought Christ and found Him. To them He revealed
Himself as very willing to be approached, and glad to welcome any to
His side. Peter, who comes next, was brought to Christ by his brother,
and to him Christ revealed Himself as reading his heart, and promising
and giving him higher functions and a more noble character.

Now we come to the third case, 'Jesus findeth Philip,' who was not
seeking Jesus, and who was brought by no one. To him Christ reveals
Himself as drawing near to many a heart that has not thought of Him,
and laying a masterful hand of gracious authority on the springs of
life and character in that autocratic word 'Follow Me.' So we have a
gradually heightening revelation of the Master's graciousness to all
souls, to them that seek and to them that seek Him not. It is only to
the working out of these simple thoughts that I ask your attention
now.

I. First, then, let us deal with the revelation that is given us here
of the seeking Christ.

Every one who reads this chapter with even the slightest attention
must observe how 'seeking' and 'finding' are repeated over and over
again. Christ turns to Andrew and John with the question, 'What _seek_
ye?' Andrew, as the narrative says, '_findeth_ his own brother, Simon,
and saith unto him, "We have _found_ the Messias!"' Then again, Jesus
_finds_ Philip; and again, Philip, as soon as he has been won to
Jesus, goes off to _find_ Nathanael; and his glad word to him is, once
more, 'We have _found_ the Messias.' It is a reciprocal play of
finding and seeking all through these verses.

There are two kinds of finding. There is a casual stumbling upon a
thing that you were not looking for, and there is a finding as the
result of seeking. It is the latter which is here. Christ did not
casually stumble upon Philip, upon that morning, before they departed
from the fords of the Jordan on their short journey to Cana of
Galilee. He went to look for this other Galilean, one who was
connected with Andrew and Peter, a native of the same little village.
He went and found him; and whilst Philip was all unexpectant and
undesirous, the Master came to him and laid His hand upon him, and
drew him to Himself.

Now that is what Christ often does. There are men like the merchantman
who went all over the world seeking goodly pearls, who with some eager
longing to possess light, or truth, or goodness, or rest, search up
and down and find it nowhere, because they are looking for it in a
hundred different places. They are expecting to find a little here and
a little there, and to piece all together to make of the fragments one
all-sufficing restfulness. Then when they are most eager in their
search, or when, perhaps, it has all died down into despair and
apathy, the veil seems to be withdrawn, and they see Him whom they
have been seeking all the time and knew not that He was there beside
them. All, and more than all, that they sought for in the many pearls
is stored for them in the one Pearl of great price. The ancient
covenant stands firm to-day as for ever. 'Seek and ye shall find,
knock and it shall be opened unto you.'

But then there are others, like Paul on the road to Damascus or like
Matthew the publican, sitting at the receipt of custom, on whom there
is laid a sudden hand, to whom there comes a sudden conviction, on
whose eyes, not looking to the East, there dawns the light of Christ's
presence. Such cases occur all through the ages, for He is not to be
confined, bless His name! within the narrow limits of answering
seeking souls, or of showing Himself to people that are brought to Him
by human instrumentality; but far beyond these bounds He goes, and
many a time discloses His beauty and His sweetness to hearts that wist
not of Him, and who can only say, 'Lo! God was in this place, and I
knew it not.' 'Thou wast found of them that sought Thee not.'

As it was in His miracles upon earth, so it has been in the sweet and
gracious works of His grace ever since. Sometimes He healed in
response to the yearning desire that looked out of sick eyes, or that
spoke from parched lips, and no man that ever came to Him and said
'Heal me!' was sent away beggared of His blessing. Sometimes He healed
in response to the beseeching of those who, with loving hearts,
carried their dear ones and laid them at His feet. But sometimes, to
magnify the spontaneity and the completeness of His own love, and to
show us that He is bound and limited by no human co-operation, and
that He is His own motive, He reached out the blessing to a hand that
was not extended to grasp it; and by His question, 'Wilt thou be made
whole?' kindled desires that else had lain dormant for ever.

And so in this story before us; He will welcome and over-answer Andrew
and John when they come seeking; He will turn round to them with a
smile on His face, that converts the question, 'What seek ye?' into an
invitation, 'Come and see.' And when Andrew brings his brother to Him,
He will go more than halfway to meet him. But when these are won,
there still remains another way by which He will have disciples
brought into His Kingdom, and that is by Himself going out and laying
His hand on the man and drawing him to His heart by the revelation of
His love. But further, and in a deeper sense, He really seeks us all,
and, unasked, bestows His love upon us.

Whether we seek Him or no, there is no heart upon earth which Christ
does not desire; and no man or woman within the sound of His gospel
whom He is not in a very real sense seeking that He may draw them to
Himself. His own word is a wonderful one: 'The Father _seeketh_ such
to worship Him'; as if God went all up and down the world looking for
hearts to love Him and to turn to Him with reverent thankfulness. And
as the Father, so the Son--who is for us the revelation of the Father:
'The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' No
one on earth wanted Him, or dreamed of His coming. When He bowed the
heavens and gathered Himself into the narrow space of the manger in
Bethlehem, and took upon Him the limitations and the burdens and the
weaknesses of manhood, it was not in response to any petition, it was
in reply to no seeking; but He came spontaneously, unmoved, obeying
but the impulse of His own heart, and because He would have mercy. He
who is the Beginning, and will be First in all things, was first in
this, that before they called He answered, and came upon earth
unbesought and unexpected, because His own infinite love brought Him
hither. Christ's mercy to a world does not come like water in a well
that has to be pumped up, by our petitions, by our search, but like
water in some fountain, rising sparkling into the sunlight by its own
inward impulse. He is His own motive; and came to a forgetful and
careless world, like a shepherd who goes after his flock in the
wilderness, not because they bleat for him, while they crop the
herbage which tempts them ever further from the fold and remember him
and it no more, but because he cannot have them lost. Men are not
conscious of needing Christ till He comes. The supply creates the
demand. He is like the 'dew which tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth
for the sons of men.'

But not only does Christ seek us all, inasmuch as the whole conception
and execution of His great work are independent of man's desires, but
He seeks us each in a thousand ways. He longs to have each of us for
His disciples. He seeks each of us for His disciples, by the motion of
His Spirit on our spirits, by stirring conviction in our consciences,
by pricking us often with a sense of our own evil, by all our
restlessness and dissatisfaction, by the disappointments and the
losses, as by the brightnesses and the goodness of earthly
providences, and often through such agencies as my lips and the lips
of other men. The Master Himself, who seeks all mankind, has sought
and is seeking you at this moment. Oh! yield to His search. The
shepherd goes out on the mountain side, for all the storm and the
snow, and wades knee-deep through the drifts until he finds the sheep.
And your Shepherd, who is also your Brother, has come looking for you,
and at this moment is putting out His hand and laying hold of some of
you through my poor words, and saying to you, as He said to Philip,
'Follow Me!'

II. And now let us next consider that word of authority which, spoken
to the one man in our text, is really spoken to us all.

'Jesus findeth Philip, and saith unto him, "Follow Me!"' No doubt a
great deal more passed, but no doubt what more passed was less
significant and less important for the development of faith in this
man than what is recorded. The word of authority, the invitation which
was a demand, the demand which was an invitation, and the personal
impression which He produced upon Philip's heart, were the things that
bound him to Jesus Christ for ever. 'Follow Me,' spoken at the
beginning of the journey of Christ and His disciples back to Galilee,
might have meant merely, on the surface, 'Come back with us.' But the
words have, of course, a much deeper meaning. They mean--be My
disciple. Think what is implied in them, and ask yourself whether the
demand that Christ makes in these words is an unreasonable one, and
then ask yourselves whether you have yielded to it or not.

We lose the force of the image by much repetition. Sheep follow a
shepherd. Travellers follow a guide. Here is a man upon some dangerous
cornice of the Alps, with a ledge of limestone as broad as the palm of
your hand, and perhaps a couple of feet of snow above that, for him to
walk upon, a precipice on either side; and his guide says, as he ropes
himself to him, 'Now, tread where I tread!' Travellers follow their
guides. Soldiers follow their commanders. There is the hell of the
battlefield; here a line of wavering, timid, raw recruits. Their
commander rushes to the front and throws himself upon the advancing
enemy with the one word, 'Follow' and the coward becomes a hero.
Soldiers follow their captains. Your Shepherd comes to you and calls,
'Follow Me.' Your Captain and Commander comes to you and calls,
'Follow Me.' In all the dreary wilderness, in all the difficult
contingencies and conjunctions, in all the conflicts of life, this Man
strides in front of us and proposes Himself to us as Guide, Example,
Consoler, Friend, Companion, everything; and gathers up all duty, all
blessedness, in the majestic and simple words, 'Follow Me.'

It is a call at the least to accept Him as a Teacher, but the whole
gist of the context here is to show us that from the beginning
Christ's disciples did not look upon Him as a Rabbi's disciples did,
as being simply a teacher, but recognised Him as the Messias, the Son
of God, the King of Israel. So that they were called upon by this
command to accept His teaching in a very special way, not merely as
Hillel or Gamaliel asked their disciples to accept theirs. Do you do
that? Do you take Him as your illumination about all matters of
theoretical truth, and of practical wisdom? Is His declaration of God
your theology? Is His declaration of His own Person your creed? Do you
think about His Cross as He did when He elected to be remembered in
all the world by the broken body and the shed blood, which were the
symbols of His reconciling death? Is His teaching, that the Son of Man
comes to 'give His life a ransom for many,' the ground of your hope?
Do you follow Him in your belief, and following Him in your belief, do
you accept Him as, by His death and passion, the Saviour of your soul?
That is the first step--to follow Him, to trust Him wholly for what He
is, the Incarnate Son of God, the Sacrifice for the sins of the whole
world, and therefore for your sins and mine. This is a call to faith.

It is also a call to obedience. 'Follow Me' certainly means 'Do as I
bid you,' but softens all the harshness of that command. Sedulously
plant your tremulous feet in His firm footsteps. Where you see His
track going across the bog be not afraid to walk after Him, though it
may seem to lead you into the deepest and the blackest of it. 'Follow
Him' and you will be right. 'Follow Him' and you will be blessed. Do
as Christ did, or as according to the best of your judgment it seems
to you that Christ would have done if He had been in your
circumstances; and you will not go far wrong. 'The Imitation of
Christ,' which Thomas a Kempis wrote his book about, is the sum of all
practical Christianity. 'Follow Me!' makes discipleship to be
something more than intellectual acceptance of His teaching, something
more than even reliance for my salvation upon His work. It makes
discipleship--springing out of these two--the acceptance of His
teaching and the consequent reliance, by faith, upon His word--to be a
practical reproduction of His character and conduct in mine.

It is a call to communion. If a man follows Christ he will walk close
behind Him, and near enough to Him to hear Him speak, and to be
'guided by His eye.' He will be separated from other people, and from
other paths. In these four things, then--Faith, Obedience, Imitation,
Communion--lies the essence of discipleship. No man is a Christian who
has not in some measure all four. Have you got them?

What right has Jesus Christ to ask me to follow Him? Why should I? Who
is He that He should set Himself up as being the perfect Example and
the Guide for all the world? What has He done to bind me to Him, that
I should take Him for my Master, and yield myself to Him in a
subjection that I refuse to the mightiest names in literature, and
thought, and practical benevolence? Who is this that assumes thus to
dominate over us all? Ah! brethren, there is only one answer. 'This is
none other than the Son of God who has given Himself a ransom for me,
and therefore has the right, and only therefore has the right, to say
to me, "Follow Me."'

III. And now one last word. Think for a moment about this silently and
swiftly obedient disciple.

Philip says nothing. Of course the narrative is mere sketchy outline.
He is silent, but he yields. Ah, brethren, how quickly a soul may be
won or lost! That moment, when Philip's decision was trembling in the
balance, was but a moment. It might have gone the other way, for
Christ has no pressed men in His army; they are all volunteers. It
might have gone the other way. A moment may settle for you whether you
will be His disciple or not. People tell us that the belief in
instantaneous conversions is unphilosophical. It seems to me that the
objections to them are unphilosophical. All decisions are matters of
an instant. Hesitation may be long, weighing and balancing may be a
protracted process, but the decision is always a moment's work, a
knife-edge. And there is no reason whatever why any one listening to
me may not now, if he or she will, do as this man Philip did on the
spot, and when Christ says 'Follow Me,' turn to Him and answer, 'I
will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.'

There is an old church tradition which says that the disciple who at a
subsequent period answered Christ, 'Lord! suffer me first to go and
bury my father,' was this same Apostle. I do not think that at all
likely, but the tradition suggests to us one last thought about the
reasons why people are kept back from yielding this obedience to
Christ's invitation. Many of you are kept back, as that
procrastinating follower was, because there are some other duties
which you feel, or make to be, more important. 'I will think about
Christianity and turning religious when this, that, or the other thing
has been got over. I have my position in life to make. I have a great
many things to do that must be done at once, and really, I have not
time to think about it.'

Then there are some of you that are kept from following Christ because
you have never yet found out that you need a guide at all. Then there
are some of you that are kept back because you like very much better
to go your own way, and to follow your own inclination, and dislike
the idea of following the will of another. There are a host of other
reasons that I do not need to deal with now; but oh! brethren, none of
them is worth pleading. They are excuses, they are not reasons. 'They
all with one consent began to make excuse'--excuses, not reasons; and
manufactured excuses, in order to cover a decision which has been
taken before, and on other grounds altogether, which it is not
convenient to bring up to the surface. I am not going to deal with
these in detail, but I beseech you, do not let what I venture to call
Christ's seeking of you once more, even by my poor words now, be in
vain.

Follow Him. Trust, obey, imitate, hold fellowship with Him. You will
always have a Companion, you will always have a Protector. 'He that
followeth Me,' saith He, 'shall not walk in darkness, but shall have
the light of life.' And if you will listen to the Shepherd's voice and
follow Him, that sweet old promise will be true, in its divinest and
sweetest sense, about your life, in time; and about your life in the
moment of death, the isthmus between two worlds, and about your life
in eternity--'They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun
nor heat smite them; for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them,
even by the springs of water shall He guide them.' 'Follow thou Me.'



THE FIRST DISCIPLES: IV. NATHANAEL


'Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of
whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth,
the son of Joseph. 46. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good
thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an
Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48. Nathanael saith unto Him,
Whence knowest Thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that
Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49.
Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God;
Thou art the King of Israel.'--JOHN i. 45-49.

The words are often the least part of a conversation. The Evangelist
can tell us what Nathanael said to Jesus, and what Jesus said to
Nathanael, but no Evangelist can reproduce the look, the tone, the
magnetic influence which streamed out from Christ, and, we may
believe, more than anything He said, riveted these men to Him.

It looks as if Nathanael and his companions were very easily
convinced, as if their adhesion to such tremendous claims as those of
Jesus Christ was much too facile a thing to be a very deep one. But
what can be put down in black and white goes a very short way to solve
the secret of the power which drew them to Himself.

The incident which is before us now runs substantially on the same
lines as the previous bringing of Peter to Jesus Christ. In both cases
the man is brought by a friend, in both cases the friend's weapon is
simply the expression of his own personal experience, 'We have found
the Messias,' although Philip has a little more to say about Christ's
correspondence with the prophetic word. In both cases the work is
finished by our Lord Himself manifesting His own supernatural
knowledge to the inquiring spirit, though in the case of Nathanael
that process is a little more lengthened out than in the case of
Peter, because there was a little ice of hesitation and of doubt to be
melted away. And Nathanael, starting from a lower point than Peter,
having questions and hesitations which the other had not, rises to a
higher point of faith and certitude, and from his lips first of all
comes the full articulate confession, beyond which the Apostles never
went as long as our Lord was upon earth: 'Rabbi, Thou art the Son of
God; Thou art the King of Israel.' So that both in regard to the
revelation that is given of the character of our Lord, and in regard
to the teaching that is given of the development and process of faith
in a soul, this last narrative fitly crowns the whole series. In
looking at it with you now, I think I shall best bring out its force
by asking you to take it as falling into these three portions: first,
the preparation--a soul brought to Christ by a brother; then the
conversation--a soul fastened to Christ by Himself; and then the
rapturous confession--'Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the
King of Israel.'

I. Look, then, first of all, at the preparation--a soul brought to
Christ by a brother.

'Philip findeth Nathanael.' Nathanael, in all probability, as
commentators will tell you, is the Apostle Bartholomew; and in the
catalogues of the Apostles in the Gospels, Philip and he are always
associated together. So that the two men, friends before, had their
friendship riveted and made more close by this sacredest of all bonds,
that the one had been to the other the means of bringing him to Jesus
Christ. There is nothing that ties men to each other like that. If you
want to know the full sweetness of association with friends, and of
human love, get some heart knit to yours by this sacred and eternal
bond that it owes to you its first knowledge of the Saviour. So all
human ties will be sweetened, ennobled, elevated, and made perpetual.

'We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did
write: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.' Philip knows nothing
about Christ's supernatural birth, nor about its having been in
Bethlehem; to him He is the son of a Nazarene peasant. But,
notwithstanding that, He is the great, significant, mysterious Person
for whom the whole sacred literature of Israel had been one long
yearning for centuries; and he has come to believe that this Man
standing beside him is the Person on whom all previous divine
communications for a millennium past focussed and centred.

I need not dwell upon these words, because to do so would be to repeat
substantially what I said in a former sermon on these first disciples,
about the value of personal conviction as a means of producing
conviction in the minds of others, and about the necessity and the
possibility of all who have found Christ for themselves saying so to
others, and thereby becoming His missionaries and evangelists.

I do not need to repeat what I said on that occasion; therefore I pass
on to the very natural hesitation and question of Nathanael: 'Can
there any good thing come out of Nazareth?' A prejudice, no doubt, but
a very harmless one; a very thin ice which melted as soon as Christ's
smile beamed upon him. And a most natural prejudice. Nathanael came
from Cana of Galilee, a little hill village, three or four miles from
Nazareth. We all know the bitter feuds and jealousies of neighbouring
villages, and how nothing is so pleasant to the inhabitants of one as
a gibe about the inhabitants of another. And in Nathanael's words
there simply speaks the rustic jealousy of Cana against Nazareth.

It is easy to blame him, but do you think that you or I, if we had
been in his place, would have been likely to have said anything very
different? Suppose you were told that a peasant out of Ross-shire was
a man on whom the whole history of this nation hung. Do you think you
would be likely to believe it without first saying, 'That is a strange
place for such a person to be born in'? Galilee was the despised part
of Palestine, and Nazareth obviously was a proverbially despised
village of Galilee; and this Jesus was a carpenter's son that nobody
had ever heard of. It seemed to be a strange head on which the divine
dove should flutter down, passing by all the Pharisees and the
Scribes, all the great people and wise people. Nathanael's prejudice
was but the giving voice to a fault that is as wide as humanity, and
which we have every day of our lives to fight with; not only in regard
to religious matters but in regard to all others--namely, the habit of
estimating people, and their work, and their wisdom, and their power
to teach us, by the class to which they are supposed to belong, or
even by the place from which they come.

'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' 'Can a German teach an
Englishman anything that he does not know?' 'Is a Protestant to owe
anything of spiritual illumination to a Roman Catholic?' 'Are we
Dissenters to receive any wisdom or example from Churchmen?' 'Will a
Conservative be able to give any lessons in politics to a Liberal?'
'Is there any other bit of England that can teach Lancashire?' Take
care that whilst you are holding up your hands in horror against the
prejudices of our Lord's contemporaries, who stumbled at His origin,
you are not doing the same thing in regard to all manner of subjects
twenty times a day.

That is one very plain lesson, and not at all too secular for a
sermon. Take another. This three-parts innocent prejudice of Nathanael
brings into clear relief for us what a very real obstacle to the
recognition of our Lord's Messianic authority His apparent lowly
origin was. We have got over it, and it is no difficulty to us; but it
was so then. When Jesus Christ came into this world Judaea was ruled
by the most heartless of aristocracies, an aristocracy of cultured
pedants. Wherever you get such a class you get people who think that
there can be nobody worth looking at, or worth attending to, outside
the little limits of their own supercilious superiority. Why did Jesus
Christ come from 'the men of the earth,' as the Rabbis called all who
had not learned to cover every plain precept with spiders' webs of
casuistry? Why, for one thing, in accordance with the general law that
the great reformers and innovators always come from outside these
classes, that the Spirit of the Lord shall come on a herdsman like
Amos, and fishermen and peasants spread the Gospel through the world;
and that in politics, in literature, in science, as well as in
religion, it is always true that 'not many wise men after the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble are called.' To the cultivated classes
you have to look for a great deal that is precious and good, but for
fresh impulse, in unbroken fields, you have to look outside them. And
so the highest of all lives is conformed to the general law.

More than that, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph,' came thus
because He was the poor man's Christ, because He was the ignorant
man's Christ, because His word was not for any class, but as broad as
the world. He came poor, obscure, unlettered, that all who, like Him,
were poor and untouched by the finger of earthly culture, might in Him
find their Brother, their Helper, and their Friend.

'Philip saith unto him, Come and see.' He is not going to argue the
question. He gives the only possible answer to it--'You ask Me, can
any good thing come out of Nazareth?' 'Come and see whether it is a
good thing or no; and if it is, and if it came out of Nazareth, well
then, the question has answered itself.' The quality of a thing cannot
be settled by the origin of the thing.

As it so happened, this Man did not come out of Nazareth at all,
though neither Philip nor Nathanael knew it; but if He had, it would
have been all the same. The right answer was 'Come and see.'

Now although, of course, there is no kind of correspondence between
the mere prejudice of this man Nathanael and the rooted intellectual
doubts of other generations, yet 'Come and see' carries in it the
essence of all Christian apologetics. By far the wisest thing that any
man who has to plead the cause of Christianity can do is to put Christ
well forward, and let people look at Him, and trust Him to produce His
own impression. We may argue round, and round, and round about Him for
evermore, and we shall never convince as surely as by simply holding
Him forth. 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.' Yet we
are so busy proving Christianity that we sometimes have no time to
preach it; so busy demonstrating that Jesus Christ is this, that, and
the other thing, or contradicting the notion that He is not this,
that, and the other thing, that we forget simply to present Him for
men to look at. Depend upon it, whilst argument has its function, and
there are men that must be approached thereby; on the whole, and for
the general, the best way of propagating Christianity is to proclaim
it, and the second best way is to prove it. Our arguments do fare very
often very much as did that elaborate discourse that a bishop once
preached to prove the existence of a God, at the end of which a simple
old woman who had not followed his reasoning very intelligently,
exclaimed, 'Well, for all he says, I can't help thinking there is a
God after all.' The errors that are quoted to be confuted often remain
more clear in the hearers' minds than the attempted confutations. Hold
forth Christ--cry aloud to men, 'Come and see!' and some eyes will
turn and some hearts cleave to Him.

And on the other side, dear brethren, you have not done fairly by
Christianity until you have complied with this invitation, and
submitted your mind and heart honestly to the influence and the
impression that Christ Himself would make upon it.

II. We come now to the second stage--the conversation between Christ
and Nathanael, where we see a soul fastened to Christ by Himself.

In general terms, as I remarked, the method by which our Lord
manifests His Messiahship to this single soul is a revelation of His
supernatural knowledge of him. But a word or two may be said about the
details. Mark the emphasis with which the Evangelist shows us that our
Lord speaks this discriminating characterisation of Nathanael before
Nathanael had come to Him: 'He saw him coming.' So it was not with a
swift, penetrating glance of intuition that He read his character in
his face. It was not that He generalised rapidly from one action which
He had seen him do. It was not from any previous personal knowledge of
him, for, obviously, from the words of Philip to Nathanael, the latter
had never seen Jesus Christ. As Nathanael was drawing near Him, before
he had done anything to show himself, our Lord speaks the words which
show that He had read his very heart: 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in
whom is no guile.'

That is to say, here is a man who truly represents that which was the
ideal of the whole nation. The reference is, no doubt, to the old
story of the occasion on which Jacob's name was changed to Israel. And
we shall see a further reference to the same story in the subsequent
verses. Jacob had wrestled with God in that mysterious scene by the
brook Jabbok, and had overcome, and had received instead of the name
Jacob, 'a supplanter,' the name of Israel, 'for as a Prince hast thou
power with God and hast prevailed.' And, says Christ: 'This man also
is a son of Israel, one of God's warriors, who has prevailed with Him
by prayer.' 'In whom is no guile'--Jacob in his early life had been
marked and marred by selfish craft. Subtlety and guile had been the
very keynote of his character. To drive that out of him, years of
discipline and pain and sorrow had been needed. And not until it had
been driven out of him could his name be altered, and he become
Israel. This man has had the guile driven out of him. By what process?
The words are a verbal quotation from Psalm xxxii.: 'Blessed is he
whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the
man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit
there is no guile.' Clear, candid openness of spirit, and the freedom
of soul from all that corruption which the Psalmist calls 'guile,' is
the property of him only who has received it, by confession, by
pardon, and by cleansing, from God. Thus Nathanael, in his wrestling,
had won the great gift. His transgression had been forgiven; his
iniquity had been covered; to him God had not imputed his sin; and in
his spirit, therefore, there was no guile. Ah, brother! if that black
drop is to be cleansed out of your heart, it must be by the same
means--confession to God and pardon from God. And then you too will be
a prince with Him, and your spirit will be frank and free, and open
and candid.

Nathanael, with astonishment, says, 'Lord, whence knowest Thou me?'
Not that he appropriates the description to himself, or recognises the
truthfulness of it, but he is surprised that Christ should have means
of forming any judgment with reference to him, and so he asks Him,
half expecting an answer which will show the natural origin of our
Lord's knowledge: 'Whence knowest Thou me?' Then comes the answer,
which, to supernatural insight into Nathanael's character, adds
supernatural knowledge of Nathanael's secret actions: 'Before that
Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. And
it is because I saw thee under the fig-tree that I knew thee to be "an
Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile."' So then, under the
fig-tree, Nathanael must have been wrestling in prayer; under the
fig-tree must have been confessing his sins; under the fig-tree must
have been longing and looking for the Deliverer who was to 'turn away
ungodliness from Jacob.' So solitary had been that vigil, and so
little would any human eye that had looked upon it have known what had
been passing in his mind, that Christ's knowledge of it and of its
significance at once lights up in Nathanael's heart the fire of the
glad conviction, 'Thou art the Son of God.' If we had seen Nathanael,
we should only have seen a man sitting, sunk in thought, under a
fig-tree; but Jesus had seen the spiritual struggle which had no
outward marks, and to have known which He must have exercised the
divine prerogative of reading the heart.

I ask you to consider whether Nathanael's conclusion was not right,
and whether that woman of Samaria was not right when she hurried back
to the city, leaving her water-pot, and said, 'Come and see a man that
told me _all_ that ever I did.' That 'all' was a little stretch of
facts, but still it was true in spirit. And her inference was
absolutely true: 'Is not this the Christ, the Son of God?' This is the
first miracle that Jesus Christ wrought. His supernatural knowledge,
which cannot be struck out from the New Testament representations of
His character, is as much a mark of divinity as any of the other of
His earthly manifestations. It is not the highest; it does not appeal
to our sympathies as some of the others do, but it is irrefragable.
Here is a man to whom all men with whom He came in contact were like
those clocks with a crystal face which shows us all the works. How
does He come to have this perfect and absolute knowledge?

That omniscience, as manifested here, shows us how glad Christ is when
He sees anything good, anything that He can praise in any of us.
'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.' Not a word
about Nathanael's prejudice, not a word about any of his faults
(though no doubt he had plenty of them), but the cordial praise that
he was an honest, a sincere man, following after God and after truth.
There is nothing which so gladdens Christ as to see in us any faint
traces of longing for, and love towards, and likeness to, His own
self. His omniscience is never so pleased as when beneath heaps and
mountains of vanity and sin it discerns in a man's heart some poor
germ of goodness and longing for His grace.

And then again, notice how we have here our Lord's omniscience set
forth as cognisant of all our inward crises and struggles, 'When thou
wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.' I suppose all of us could look
back to some place or other, under some hawthorn hedge, or some
boulder by the seashore, or some mountain-top, or perhaps in some
back-parlour, or in some crowded street, where some never-to-be-forgotten
epoch in our soul's history passed, unseen by all eyes, and
which would have shown no trace to any onlooker, except perhaps a
tightly compressed lip. Let us rejoice to feel that Christ sees all
these moments which no other eye can see. In our hours of crisis, and
in our monotonous, uneventful moments, in the rush of the furious
waters, when the stream of our lives is caught among rocks, and in the
long, languid reaches of its smoothest flow, when we are fighting with
our fears or yearning for His light, or even when sitting dumb and
stolid, like snow men, apathetic and frozen in our indifference, He
sees us, and pities, and will help the need which He beholds.

  'Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
  And thy Saviour is not by;
  Think not thou canst weep a tear,
  And thy Saviour is not near.'

'When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.'

III. One word more about this rapturous confession, which crowns the
whole: 'Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.'

Where had Nathanael learned these great names? He was a disciple of
John the Baptist, and he had no doubt heard John's testimony as
recorded in this same chapter, when he told us how the voice from
Heaven had bid him recognise the Messiah by the token of the
descending Dove, and how he 'saw and bare record that this is the Son
of God.' John's testimony was echoed in Nathanael's confession.
Undoubtedly he attached but vague ideas to the name, far less
articulate and doctrinal than we have the privilege of doing. To him
'Son of God' could not have meant all that it ought to mean to us, but
it meant something that he saw clearly, and a great deal beyond that
he saw but dimly. It meant that God had sent, and was in some special
sense the Father of, this Jesus of Nazareth.

'Thou art the King of Israel,' John had been preaching, 'The Kingdom
of Heaven is at hand.' The Messiah was to be the theocratic King, the
King, not of 'Judah' nor of 'the Jews,' but of 'Israel,' the nation
that had entered into covenant with God. So the substance of the
confession was the Messiahship of Jesus, as resting upon His special
divine relationship and leading to His Kingly sway.

Notice also the enthusiasm of the confession; one's ear hears clearly
a tone of rapture in it. The joy-bells of the man's heart are all
a-ringing. It is no mere intellectual acknowledgment of Christ as
Messiah. The difference between mere head-belief and heart-faith lies
precisely in the presence of these elements of confidence, of
enthusiastic loyalty, and absolute submission.

So the great question for each of us is, not, Do I believe as a piece
of my intellectual creed that Christ is 'the Messiah, the Son of God,
the King of Israel'? I suppose almost all my hearers here now do that.
That will not make you a Christian, my friend. That will neither save
your soul nor quiet your heart, nor bring you peace and strength in
life, nor open the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to you. A man may be
miserable, wholly sunk in all manner of wickedness and evil, die the
death of a dog, and go to punishment hereafter, though he believe that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the King of Israel. You want
something more than that. You want just this element of rapturous
acknowledgment, of loyal submission, absolute obedience, of
unfaltering trust.

Look at these first disciples, six brave men that had all that loyalty
and love to Him; though there was not a soul in the world but
themselves to share their convictions. Do they not shame you? When He
comes to you, as He does come, with this question, 'Whom do ye say
that I am?' may God give you grace to answer, 'Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God,' and not only to answer it with your lips,
but to trust Him wholly with your hearts, and with enthusiastic
devotion to bow your whole being in adoring wonder and glad submission
at His feet. If we are 'Israelites indeed,' our hearts will crown Him
as the 'King of Israel.'



THE FIRST DISCIPLES: V. BELIEVING AND SEEING

'Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw
thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things
than these. 51. And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending
and descending upon the Son of Man.'--JOHN i. 50, 51.

Here we have the end of the narrative of the gathering together of the
first disciples, which has occupied several sermons. We have had
occasion to point out how each incident in the series has thrown some
fresh light upon two main subjects, namely, upon some phase or other
of the character and work of Jesus Christ, or upon the various ways by
which faith, which is the condition of discipleship, is kindled in
men's souls. These closing words may be taken as the crowning thoughts
on both these matters.

Our Lord recognises and accepts the faith of Nathanael and his
fellows, but, like a wise Teacher, lets His pupils at the very
beginning get a glimpse of how much lies ahead for them to learn; and
in the act of accepting the faith gives just one hint of the great
tract of yet uncomprehended knowledge of Him which lies before them;
'Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest
thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.' He accepts
Nathanael's confession and the confession of his fellows. Human lips
have given Him many great and wonderful titles in this chapter. John
called Him 'the Lamb of God'; the first disciples hailed Him as the
'Messias, which is the Christ'; Nathanael fell before Him with the
rapturous exclamation, 'Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of
Israel!' All these crowns had been put on His head by human hands, but
here He crowns Himself. He makes a mightier claim than any that they
had dreamed of, and proclaims Himself to be the medium of all
communication and intercourse between heaven and earth: 'Hereafter ye
shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and
descending upon the Son of Man.'

So, then, there are two great principles that lie in these verses, and
are contained in, first, our Lord's mighty promise to His new
disciples, and second, in our Lord's witness to Himself. Let me say a
word or two about each of these.

I. Our Lord's promise to His new disciples.

Christ's words here may be translated either as a question or as an
affirmation. It makes comparatively little difference to the
substantial meaning whether we read 'believest thou?' or 'thou
believest.' In the former case there will be a little more vivid
expression of surprise and admiration at the swiftness of Nathanael's
faith, but in neither case are we to find anything of the nature of
blame or of doubt as to the reality of his belief. The question, if it
be a question, is no question as to whether Nathanael's faith was a
genuine thing or not. There is no hint that he has been too quick with
his confession, and has climbed too rapidly to the point that he has
attained. But in either case, whether the word be a question or an
affirmation, we are to see in it the solemn and glad recognition of
the reality of Nathanael's confession and belief.

Here is the first time that that word 'belief' came from Christ's
lips; and when we remember all the importance that has been attached
to it in the subsequent history of the Church, and the revolution in
human thought which followed upon our Lord's demand of our faith,
there is an interest in noticing the first appearance of the word. It
was an epoch in the history of the world when Christ first claimed and
accepted a man's faith.

Of course the second part of this verse, 'Thou shalt see greater
things than these,' has its proper fulfilment in the gradual
manifestation of His person and character, which followed through the
events recorded in the Gospels. His life of service, His words of
wisdom, His deeds of power and of pity, His death of shame and of
glory, His Resurrection and His Ascension, these are the 'greater
things' which Nathanael is promised. They all lay unrevealed yet, and
what our Lord means is simply this: 'If you will continue to trust in
Me, as you have trusted Me, and stand beside Me, you will see unrolled
before your eyes and comprehended by your faith the great facts which
will make the manifestation of God to the world.' But though that be
the original application of the words, yet I think we may fairly draw
from them some lessons that are of importance to ourselves; and I ask
you to look at the hint that they give us about three things,--faith
and discipleship, faith and sight, faith and progress. 'Believest
thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.'

First, here is light thrown upon the relation between faith and
discipleship. It is clear that our Lord here uses the word for the
first time in the full Christian sense, that He regards the exercise
of faith as being practically synonymous with being a disciple, that
from the very first, believers were disciples, and disciples were
believers.

Then, notice still further that our Lord here employs the word
'belief' without any definition of what or whom it is that they were
to believe. He Himself, and not certain thoughts about Him, is the
true object of a man's faith. We may believe a proposition, but faith
must grasp a person. Even when the person is made known to us by a
proposition which we have to believe before we can trust the person,
still the essence of faith is not the intellectual process of laying
hold upon a certain thought, and acquiescing in it, but the moral
process of casting myself in full confidence upon the Being that is
revealed to me by the thought,--of laying my hand, and leaning my
weight, on the Man about whom it tells me. And so faith, which is
discipleship, has in it for its very essence the personal element of
trust in Jesus Christ.

Then, further, notice how widely different from our creed was
Nathanael's creed, and yet how identical with our faith, if we are
Christians, was Nathanael's faith. He knew nothing about the very
heart of Christ's work, His atoning death. He knew nothing about the
highest glory of Christ's person, His divine Sonship, in its unique
and lofty sense. These lay unrevealed, and were amongst the greater
things which he was yet to see; but though thus his knowledge was
imperfect, and his creed incomplete as compared with ours, his faith
was the very same. He laid hold upon Christ, he clave to Him with all
his heart, he was ready to accept His teaching, he was willing to do
His will, and as for the rest--'Thou shalt see greater things than
these.' So, dear brethren, from these words of my text here, from the
unhesitating attribution of the lofty notion of faith to this man,
from the way in which our Lord uses the word, are gathered these three
points that I beseech you to ponder: there is no discipleship without
faith; faith is the personal grasp of Christ Himself; the contents of
creeds may differ whilst the element of faith remains the same. I
beseech you let Christ come to you with the question of my text, and
as He looks you in the eyes, hear Him say to you, 'Believest _thou_?'

Secondly, notice how in this great promise to the new disciples there
is light thrown upon another subject, viz. the connection between
faith and sight. There is a great deal about seeing in this context.
Christ said to the first two that followed Him, 'Come and see.' Philip
met Nathanael's thin film of prejudice with the same words, 'Come and
see.' Christ greeted the approaching Nathanael with 'When thou wast
under the fig tree I saw thee.' And now His promise is cast into the
same metaphor: 'Thou shalt see greater things than these.'

There is a double antithesis here. 'I saw thee,' 'Thou shalt see Me.'
'Thou wast convinced because thou didst feel that thou wert the
passive object of My vision. Thou shalt be still more convinced when
illuminated by Me. Thou shalt see even as thou art seen. I saw thee,
and that bound thee to Me; thou shalt see Me, and that will confirm
the bond.'

There is another antithesis, namely--between believing and seeing.
'Thou believest--that is thy present; thou shalt see, that is thy hope
for the future.' Now I have already explained that, in the proper
primary meaning and application of the words, the sight which is here
promised is simply the observance with the outward eye of the
historical facts of our Lord's life which were yet to be learned. But
still we may gather a truth from this antithesis which will be of use
to us. 'Thou believest--thou shalt see'; that is to say, in the
loftiest region of spiritual experience you must believe first, in
order that you may see.

I do not mean, as is sometimes meant, by that statement that a man has
to try to force his understanding into the attitude of accepting
religious truth, in order that he may have an experience which will
convince him that it is true. I mean a very much simpler thing than
that, and a very much truer one, viz. this, that unless we trust to
Christ and take our illumination from Him, we shall never behold a
whole set of truths which, when once we trust Him, are all plain and
clear to us. It is no mysticism to say that. What do you _know_ about
God?--I put emphasis upon the word 'know'--What do you know about Him,
however much you may argue and speculate and think probable, and fear,
and hope, and question, about Him? What do you know about Him apart
from Jesus Christ? What do you know about human duty, apart from Him?
What do you know of all that dim region that lies beyond the grave,
apart from Him? If you trust Him, if you fall at His feet and say
'Rabbi! Thou art my Teacher and mine illumination,' then you will see.
You will see God, man, yourselves, duty; you will see light upon a
thousand complications and perplexities; and you will have a
brightness above that of the noonday sun, streaming into the thickest
darkness of death and the grave and the awful hereafter. Christ is the
Light. In that 'Light shall we see light.' And just as it needs the
sun to rise in order that my eye may behold the outer world, so it
needs that I shall have Christ shining in my heaven to illuminate the
whole universe, in order that I may see clearly. 'Believe and thou
shalt see.' For only when we trust Him do the mightiest truths that
affect humanity stand plain and clear before us.

And besides that, if we trust Christ, we get a living experience of a
multitude of facts and principles which are all mist and darkness to
men except through their faith; an experience which is so vivid and
brings such certitude as that it may well be called vision. The world
says, 'Seeing is believing.' So it is about the coarse things that you
can handle, but about everything that is higher than these invert the
proverb, and you get the truth. 'Seeing is believing.' Yes, in regard
to outward things. Believing is seeing in regard to God and spiritual
truth. 'Believest thou? thou shalt see.'

Then, thirdly, there is light here about another matter, the
connection between faith and progress. 'Thou shalt see greater things
than these.' A wise teacher stimulates his scholars from the
beginning, by giving them glimpses of how much there is ahead to be
learnt. That does not drive them to despair; it braces all their
powers. And so Christ, as His first lesson to these men, substantially
says, 'You have learnt nothing yet, you are only beginning.' That is
true about us all. Faith at first, both in regard to its contents and
its quality, is very rudimentary and infantile. A man when he is first
converted--perhaps suddenly--knows after a fashion that he himself is
a very sinful, wretched, poor creature, and he knows that Jesus Christ
has died for him, and is his Saviour, and his heart goes out to Him,
in confidence and love and obedience. But he is only standing at the
door and peeping in as yet. He has only mastered the alphabet. He is
but on the frontier of the promised land. His faith has brought him
into contact with infinite power, and what will be the end of that? He
will indefinitely grow. His faith has started him on a course to which
there is no natural end. As long as it keeps alive he will be growing
and growing, and getting nearer and nearer to the great centre of all.

So here is a grand possibility opened out in these simple words, a
possibility which alone meets what you need, and what you are craving
for, whether you know it or not, namely, something that will give you
ever new powers and acquirements; something which will ensure your
closer and ever closer approach to an absolute object of joy and
truth; something that will ensure you against stagnation and guarantee
unceasing progress. Everything else gets worn out, sooner or later; if
not in this world, then in another. There is one course on which a man
can enter with the certainty that there is no end to it, that it will
open out, and out, and out as he advances--with the certainty that,
come life, come death, it is all the same.

When the plant grows too tall for the greenhouse they lift the roof,
and it grows higher still. Whether you have your growth in this lower
world, or whether you have your top up in the brightness and the blue
of heaven, the growth is in one direction. There is a way that secures
endless progress, and here lies the secret of it: 'Thou believest!
thou shalt see greater things than these.'

Now, brethren, that is a grand possibility, and it is a solemn lesson
for some of you. You professing Christian people, are you any taller
than you were when you were born? Have you grown at all? Are you
growing now? Have you seen any further into the depths of Jesus Christ
than you did on that first day when you fell at His feet and said,
'Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel'? His promise to
you then was, 'Thou believest, thou shalt see greater things.' If you
have not seen greater things it is because your faith has broken down,
if it has not expired.

II. Now let me turn to the second thought which lies in these great
words.

We have here, as I said, our Lord crowning Himself by His own witness
to His own dignity. 'Hereafter ye shall see the heavens opened.' Mark
how, with superbly autocratic lips, He bases this great utterance upon
nothing else but His own word. Prophets ever said, 'Thus saith the
Lord.' Christ ever said: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you.' 'Because He
could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself.' He puts His own
assurance instead of all argument and of all support to His words.

'Hereafter.' A word which is possibly not genuine, and is omitted, as
you will observe, in the Revised Version. If it is to be retained it
must be translated, not 'hereafter,' as if it were pointing to some
indefinite period in the future, but 'from henceforth,' as if
asserting that the opening heavens and the descending angels began to
be manifested from that first hour of His official work. 'Ye shall see
heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending.' That is
an allusion from the story of Jacob at Bethel. We have found reference
to Jacob's history already in the conversation with Nathanael, 'An
Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.' And here is an unmistakable
reference to that story, when the fugitive, with his head on the stony
pillow, and the violet Syrian sky, with all its stars, rounding itself
above him, beheld the ladder on which the angels of God ascended and
descended. 'So,' says Christ, 'you shall see, in no vision of the
night, in no transitory appearance, but in a practical waking reality,
that ladder come down again, and the angels of God moving upon it in
their errands of mercy.'

And who, or what, is this ladder? Christ. Do not read these words as
meaning that the angels of God were to come down on Him to help, and
to honour, and to succour Him as they did once or twice in His life,
but as meaning that they are to ascend and descend by Him for the help
and blessing of the whole world.

That is to say, to put it into plain words, Christ is the sole medium
of communication between heaven and earth, the ladder with its foot
upon the earth in His humanity, and its top in the heavens. 'No man
hath ascended up into heaven save He which came down from heaven, even
the Son of Man which is in heaven.'

My time will not allow me to expand these thoughts as I would have
done; let me put them in the briefest outline. Christ is the medium of
all communication between heaven and earth, inasmuch as He is the
medium of all revelation. I have spoken incidentally about that in the
former part of this sermon, so I do not dwell on it now. Christ is the
ladder between heaven and earth, inasmuch as in Him the sense of
separation, and the reality of separation, are swept away. Sin has
shut heaven; there comes down from it many a blessing upon unthankful
heads, but between it in its purity and the earth in its muddy
foulness 'there is a great gulf fixed.' It is not because God is great
and I am small, or because He is Infinite and I am a mere pin-point as
against a great continent, it is not because He lives for ever, and my
life is but a hand-breadth, it is not because of the difference
between His Omniscience and my ignorance, His strength and my
weakness, that I am parted from Him. 'Your sins have separated between
you and your God,' and no man, build he Babels ever so high, can reach
thither. There is one means by which the separation is at an end, and
by which all objective hindrances to union, and all subjective
hindrances, are alike swept away. Christ has come, and in Him the
heavens have bended down to touch, and touching to bless, this low
earth, and man and God are at one once more.

He is the ladder, or sole medium of communication, inasmuch as by Him
all divine blessings, grace, helps, and favours, come down angel-like,
into our weak and needy hearts. Every strength, every mercy, every
spiritual power, consolation in every sorrow, fitness for duty,
illumination in darkness, all gifts that any of us can need, come to
us down on that one shining way, the mediation and the work of the
Divine-Human Christ, the Lord.

He is the ladder, the sole medium of communication between heaven and
earth, inasmuch as by Him my poor desires and prayers and
intercessions, my wishes, my sighs, my confessions rise to God. 'No
man cometh to the Father but by Me.' He is the ladder, the means of
all communication between heaven and earth, inasmuch as at the last,
if ever we enter there at all, we shall enter through Him and through
Him alone, who is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'

Ah, dear brethren! men are telling us now that there is no connection
between earth and heaven except such as telescopes and spectroscopes
can make out. We are told that there is no ladder, that there are no
angels, that possibly there is no God, or if that there be, we have
nothing to do with Him nor He with us; that our prayers cannot get to
His ears, if He have ears, nor His hand be stretched out to help us,
if He have a hand. I do not know how this cultivated generation is to
be brought back again to faith in God and delivered from that ghastly
doubt which empties heaven and saddens earth to its victims, but by
giving heed to the word which Christ spoke to the whole race while He
addressed Nathanael, 'Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.' If He be the Son of
God, then all these heavenly messengers reach the earth by Him. If He
be the Son of Man, then every man may share in the gifts which through
Him are brought into the world, and His Manhood, which evermore dwelt
in heaven, even while on earth, and was ever girt about by angel
presences, is at once the measure of what each of us may become, and
the power by which we may become it.

One thing is needful for this wonderful consummation, even our faith.
And oh! how blessed it will be if in waste solitudes we can see the
open heaven, and in the blackest night the blaze of the glory of a
present Christ, and hear the soft rustle of angels' wings filling the
air, and find in every place 'a house of God and a gate of heaven,'
because He is there. All that may be yours on one condition:
'Believest thou? Thou shalt see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'



JESUS THE JOY-BRINGER

'And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the
mother of Jesus was there: 2. And both Jesus was called, and His
disciples, to the marriage. 3. And when they wanted wine, the mother
of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. 4. Jesus saith unto her,
Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. 5. His
mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.
6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner
of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they
filled them up to the brim. 8. And He saith unto them, Draw out now,
and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9. When the
ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew
not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the
governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10. And saith unto him,
Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have
well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine
until now. 11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of
Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on
Him.'--JOHN ii. 1-11.

The exact dating of this first miracle indicates an eye-witness. As
Nazareth was some thirty miles distant from the place where John was
baptizing, and Cana about four miles from Nazareth, the 'third day' is
probably reckoned from the day of the calling of Philip. Jesus and His
disciples seem to have been invited to the marriage feast later than
the other guests, as Mary was already there. She appears to have been
closely connected with the family celebrating the feast, as appears
from her knowledge of the deficiency in the wine, and her direction to
the servants.

The first point, which John makes all but as emphatic as the miracle
itself, is the new relation between Mary and Jesus, the lesson she had
to learn, and her sweet triumphant trust. Now that she sees her Son
surrounded by His disciples, the secret hope which she had nourished
silently for so long bursts into flame, and she turns to Him with
beautiful faith in His power to help, even in the small present need.
What an example her first word to Him sets us all! Like the two sad
sisters at Bethany, she is sure that to tell Him of trouble is enough,
for that His own heart will impel Him to share, and perchance to
relieve it. Let us tell Jesus our wants and leave Him to deal with
them as He knows how.

Of course, His addressing her as 'Woman' has not the meaning which it
would have with us, for the term is one of respect and courtesy, but
there is a plain intimation of a new distance in it, which is
strengthened by the question, 'What is there in common between us?'
What in common between a mother and her son! Yes, but she has to learn
that the assumption of the position of Messiah in which her mother's
pride so rejoiced, carried necessarily a consequence, the first of the
swords which were to pierce that mother's heart of hers. That her Son
should no more call her 'mother,' but 'woman,' told her that the old
days of being subject to her were past for ever, and that the old
relation was merged in the new one of Messiah and disciple--a bitter
thought, which many a parent has to taste the bitterness of still,
when wider outlooks and new sense of a vocation come to their
children. Few mothers are able to accept the inevitable as Mary did,
Jesus' 'hour' is not to be prescribed to Him, but His own
consciousness of the fit time must determine His action. What gave Him
the signal that the hour was struck is not told us, nor how soon after
that moment it came. But the saying gently but decisively declares His
freedom, His infallible accuracy, and certain intervention at the
right time. We may think that He delays, but He always helps, 'and
that right early.'

Mary's sweet humility and strong trust come out wonderfully in her
direction to the servants, which is the exact opposite of what might
have been expected after the cold douche administered to her eagerness
to prompt Jesus. Her faith had laid hold of the little spark of
promise in that 'not yet,' and had fanned it into a flame. 'Then He
will intervene, and I can leave Him to settle when.' How firm, though
ignorant, must have been the faith which did not falter even at the
bitter lesson and the apparent repulse, and how it puts to shame our
feebler confidence in our better known Lord, if ever He delays our
requests! Mary left all to Jesus; His commands were to be implicitly
obeyed. Do we submit to Him in that absolute fashion both as to the
time and the manner of His responses to our petitions?

The next point is the actual miracle. It is told with remarkable
vividness and equally remarkable reserve. We do not even learn in what
precisely it consisted. Was all the water in the vessels turned into
wine? Did the change affect only what was drawn out? No answer is
possible to these questions. Jesus spoke no word of power, nor put
forth His hand. His will silently effected the change on matter. So He
manifested forth His glory as Creator and Sustainer, as wielding the
divine prerogative of affecting material things by His bare volition.

The reality of the miracle is certified by the jovial remark of the
'ruler of the feast.' As Bengel says: 'The ignorance of the ruler
proves the goodness of the wine; the knowledge of the servants, the
reality of the miracle.' His palate, at any rate, was not so dulled as
to be unable to tell a good 'brand' when he tasted it, nor is there
any reason to suppose that Jesus was supplying more wine to a company
that had already had more than enough.

The ruler's words are not meant to apply to the guests at that feast,
but are quite general. But this Evangelist is fond of quoting words
which have deeper meanings than the speakers dreamed, and with his
mystically contemplative eye he sees hints and symbols of the
spiritual in very common things. So we are not forcing higher meanings
into the ruler's jest, but catching one intention of John's quotation
of it, when we see in it an unconscious utterance of the great truth
that Jesus keeps His best wine till the last. How many poor deluded
souls are ever finding that the world does the very opposite, luring
men on to be its slaves and victims by brilliant promises and
shortlived delights, which sooner or later lose their deceitful lustre
and become stale, and often positively bitter! 'The end of that mirth
is heaviness.' The dreariest thing in all the world is a godless old
age, and one of the most beautiful things in all the world is the calm
sunset which so often glorifies a godly life that has been full of
effort for Jesus, and of sorrows patiently borne as being sent by Him.

  'Full often clad in radiant vest
  Deceitfully goes forth the morn,'

but Christ more than keeps His morning's promises, and Christian
experience is steadily progressive, if Christians cling close to Him,
and Heaven will supply the transcendent confirmation of the blessed
truth that was spoken unawares by the 'ruler' at that humble feast.

What effect the miracle produced on others is not told; probably the
guests shared the ruler's ignorance, but its effect on the disciples
is that they 'believed on Him.' They had 'believed' already, or they
would not have been disciples (John i. 50), but their faith was
deepened as well as called forth afresh. Our faith ought to be
continuously and increasingly responsive to His continuous
manifestations of Himself which we can all find in our own experience.

Jesus 'manifested His glory' in this first sign. What were the rays of
that mild radiance? Surely the chief of them, in addition to the
revelation of His sovereignty over matter, to which we have already
referred, is that therein He hallowed the sweet sacred joys of
marriage and family life, that therein He revealed Himself as looking
with sympathetic eye on the ties that bind us together, and on the
gladness of our common humanity, that therein He reveals Himself as
able and glad to sanctify and elevate our joys and infuse into them a
strange new fragrance and power. The 'water' of our ordinary lives is
changed into 'wine.' Jesus became 'acquainted with grief' in order
that He might impart to every believing and willing soul His own joy,
and that by its remaining in us, our joy might be full.



THE FIRST MIRACLE IN CANA--THE WATER MADE WINE

'This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and
manifested forth His glory.'--JOHN ii. 11.

The keynote of this Gospel was struck in the earlier verses of the
first chapter in the great words, 'The Word was made flesh and dwelt
among us, and we beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.' To these
words there is an evident reference in this language. The Evangelist
regards Christ's first miracle as the first ray of that forth-flashing
glory of the Incarnate Word. To this Evangelist all miracles are
especially important as being _signs_, which is the word he generally
employs to designate them. They are not mere portents, but significant
revelations as well as wonders. It is not, I think, accidental that
there are just seven miracles of our Lord's, before His crucifixion,
recorded by John, and one of the Risen Lord.

These signs are all set forth by the Evangelist as manifestations of
various aspects of that one white light, of uncreated glory which rays
from Christ. They are, if I may so say, the sevenfold colours into
which the one beam is analysed. Each of them might be looked at in
turn as presenting some fresh thought of what the 'glory...full of
grace and truth' is.

I begin with the first of the series. What, then, is the 'glory of the
only Begotten Son' which flashes forth upon us from the miracle? My
object is simply to try to answer that question for you.

I. First, then, we see here the revelation of His creative power.

It is very noteworthy that the miraculous fact is veiled entirely in
the narrative. Not a word is said of the method of operation, it is
not even said that the miracle was wrought; we are only told what
preceded it, and what followed it. Itself is shrouded in deep silence.
The servants fill the water-pots.--'Draw out now,' and they draw, 'and
bear it to the governor of the feast.' Where the miraculous act comes
in we do not know; what was its nature we cannot tell. How far it
extended is left obscure. Was all the large quantity of water in these
six great vessels of stone transformed into wine, or was the change
effected in the moment when the portion that was wanted was drawn from
them and on that portion only? We cannot answer the question.
Probably, I think, the latter; but at all events a veil is dropped
over the fact.

Only this, we see that in this miracle, even more conspicuously than
in any other of our Lord's, there are no means at all employed.
Sometimes He used material vehicles, anointing a man's eyes with clay,
or moistening the ear with the spittle; sometimes sending a man to
bathe in the Pool of Siloam; sometimes laying His hand on the sick;
sometimes healing from a distance by the mere utterance of His word.
But here there is not even a word; no means of any kind employed, but
the silent forth-putting of His will, which, without token, without
visible audible indication of any sort, passes with sovereign power
into the midst of material things and there works according to His own
purpose. Is not this the signature of divinity, that without means the
mere forth-putting of the will is all that is wanted to mould matter
as plastic to His command? It is not even, 'He spake and it was done,'
but silently He willed, and 'the conscious water knew its Lord, and
blushed.' This is the glory of the Incarnate Word.

Now that was no interruption of the order of things established in the
Creation. There was no suspension of natural laws here. What happened
was only this, that the power which generally works through mediating
links came into immediate connection with the effect. What does it
matter whether your engine transmits its powers through half a dozen
cranks, or two or three less? What does it matter whether the chain be
longer or shorter? Some parenthetical links are dropped here, that is
all that is unusual. For in all ordinary natural operations, as we
call them, the profound prologue of this Gospel teaches us to believe
that Christ, the Eternal Word, works according to His will. He was the
Agent of creation. He is the Agent of that preservation which is only
a continual creation. In Him is life, and all living things live
because of the continual presence and operation upon them of His
divine power. And again I say, what is phenomenal and unusual in this
miracle is but the suppression of two or three of the connecting links
between the continual cause of all creatural existences, and its
effect. So let us learn that whether through a long chain of so-called
causes, or whether close up against the effect, without the
intervention of these parenthetical and transmitting media, the divine
power works. The power is one, and the reason for the effect is one,
that Christ ever works in the world, and is that Eternal Word,
'without whom was not anything made that was made.' 'This beginning of
miracles did Christ... and manifested His glory.'

II. Then, again, we see here, I think, the revelation of one great
purpose of our Lord's coming, to hallow all common, and especially all
family, life.

What a strange contrast there is between the simple gladness of the
rustic village wedding and the tremendous scene of the Temptation in
the wilderness, which preceded it only by a few days! What a strange
contrast there is between the sublime heights of the first chapter and
the homely incident which opens the ministry! What a contrast between
the rigid asceticism of the Forerunner, 'who came neither eating nor
drinking,' and the Son of Man, who enters thus freely and cheerfully
into the common joys and relationships of human nature! How unlike the
scene at the marriage-feast must have been to the anticipations of the
half-dozen disciples that had gathered round Him, all a-tingling with
expectation as to what would be the first manifestation of His
Messianic power! The last thing they would have dreamed of would have
been to find Him in the humble home in Cana of Galilee. Some people
say 'this miracle is unworthy of Him, for it was wrought upon such a
trivial occasion.' And was it a trivial occasion that prompted Him
thus to commence His career, not by some high and strained and remote
exhibition of more than human saintliness or power, but by entering
like a Brother into the midst of common, homespun, earthly joys, and
showing how His presence ennobled and sanctified these? Surely the
world has gained from Him, among the many gifts that He has given to
it, few that have been the fountain of more sacred sweetness and
blessedness than is opened in that fact that the first manifestation
of His glory had for its result the hallowing of the marriage tie.

And is it not in accordance with the whole meaning and spirit of His
works that 'forasmuch as the brethren were partakers of' anything, 'He
Himself likewise should take part of the same,' and sanctify every
incident of life by His sharing of it? So He protests against that
faithless and wicked division of life into sacred and secular, which
has wrought such harm both in the sacred and in the secular regions.
So He protests against the notion that religion has to do with another
world rather than with this. So He protests against the narrowing
conception of His work which would remove from its influence anything
that interests humanity. So He says, as it were, at the very beginning
of His career, 'I am a Man, and nothing that is human do I reckon
foreign to Myself.'

Brethren! let us learn the lesson that all life is the region of His
Kingdom; that the sphere of His rule is everything which a man can do
or feel or think. Let us learn that where His footsteps have trod is
hallowed ground. If a prince shares for a few moments in the
festivities of his gathered people on some great occasion, how
ennobled the feast seems! If he joins in their sports or in their
occupations for a while as an act of condescension, how they return to
them with renewed vigour! And so we. We have had our King in the midst
of all our family life, in the midst of all our common duties;
therefore are they consecrated. Let us learn that all things done with
the consciousness of His presence are sacred. He has hallowed every
corner of human life by His presence; and the consecration, like some
pungent and perennial perfume, lingers for us yet in the else
scentless air of daily life, if we follow His footsteps.

Sanctity is not singularity. There is no need to withdraw from any
region of human activity and human interest in order to develop the
whitest saintliness, the most Christlike purity. The saint is to be in
the world, but not of it; like the Master, who went straight from the
wilderness and its temptations to the homely gladness of the rustic
marriage.

III. Still further, we have here a symbol of Christ's glory as the
ennobler and heightener of all earthly joys.

That may be taken with perhaps a permissible play of fancy as one
meaning, at any rate, of the transformation of water into wine; the
less savoury and fragrant and powerful liquid into the more so. Wine,
in the Old Testament especially, is the symbol of gladness, and though
it received a deeper and a sacreder meaning in the New Testament as
being the emblem of His blood shed for us, it is the Old Testament
point of view that prevails here. And therefore, I say, we may read in
the incident the symbol of His transforming power. He comes, the Man
of Sorrows, with the gift of joy in His hand. It is not an unworthy
object--not unworthy, I mean, of a divine sacrifice--to make men glad.
It is worth His while to come from Heaven to agonise and to die, in
order that He may sprinkle some drops of incorruptible and everlasting
joy over the weary and sorrowful hearts of earth. We do not always
give its true importance to gladness in the economy of our lives,
because we are so accustomed to draw our joys from ignoble sources
that in most of our joys there is something not altogether creditable
or lofty. But Christ came to bring gladness, and to transform its
earthly sources into heavenly fountains; and so to change all the less
sweet, satisfying, and potent draughts which we take from earth's
cisterns into the wine of the Kingdom; the new wine, strong and
invigorating, 'making glad the heart of man.'

Our commonest blessings, our commonest joys, if only they be not foul
and filthy, are capable of this transformation. Link them with Christ;
be glad in Him. Bring Him into your mirth, and it will change its
character. Like a taper plunged into a jar of oxygen, it will blaze up
more brightly. Earth, at its best and highest, without Him is like
some fair landscape lying in the shadow; and when He comes to it, it
is like the same scene when the sun blazes out upon it, flashes from
every bend of the rippling river, brings beauty into many a shady
corner, opens all the flowering petals and sets all the birds singing
in the sky. The whole scene changes when a beam of light from Him
falls upon earthly joys. He will transform them and ennoble them and
make them perpetual. Do not meddle with mirth over which you cannot
make the sign of the Cross and ask Him to bless it; and do not keep
Him out of your gladness, or it will leave bitterness on your lips,
howsoever sweet it tastes at first.

Ay! and not only can this Master transform the water at the marriage
feast into the wine of gladness, but the cups that we all carry, into
which our tears have dropped--upon these too He can lay His hand and
change them into cups of blessing and of salvation.

'Blessed are they... who, passing through the valley of weeping,
gather their tears into a well; the rain also covereth it with
blessings.' So the old Psalm put the thought that sorrow may be turned
into a solemn joy, and may lie at the foundation of our most flowery
fruitfulness. And the same lesson we may learn from this symbol. The
Christ who transforms the water of earthly gladness into the wine of
heavenly blessedness, can do the same thing for the bitter waters of
sorrow, and can make them the occasions of solemn joy. When the leaves
drop we see through the bare branches. Shivering and cold they may
look, but we see the stars beyond, and that is better. 'This beginning
of miracles' will Jesus repeat in every sad heart that trusts itself
to Him.

IV. And last of all, we have here a token of His glory as supplying
the deficiencies of earthly sources.

'His mother saith unto Him, "They have no wine."' The world's banquet
runs out, Christ supplies an infinite gift. These great water-pots
that stood there, if the whole contents of them were changed, as is
possible, contained far more than sufficient for the modest wants of
the little company. The water that flowed from each of them, in
obedience to the touch of the servant's hand, if the change were
effected then, as is possible, would flow on so long as any thirsted
or any asked. And Christ gives to each of us, if we choose, a fountain
that will spring unto life eternal. And when the world's platters are
empty, and the world's cups are all drained dry, He will feed and
satisfy the immortal hunger and the blessed thirst of every spirit
that longs for Him.

The rude speech of the governor of the feast may lend itself to
another aspect of this same thought. He said, in jesting surprise,
'Thou hast kept the good wine until now,' whereas the world gives its
best first, and when the palate is dulled and the appetite diminished,
then 'that which is worse.' How true that is; how tragically true in
some of our lives! In the individual the early days of hope and
vigour, when all things were fresh and wondrous, when everything was
apparelled in the glory of a dream, contrast miserably with the bitter
experiences of life that most of us have made. Habit comes, and takes
the edge off everything. We drag remembrance, like a lengthening
chain, through all our life; and with remembrance come remorse and
regret. 'The vision splendid' no more attends men, as they plod on
their way through the weariness of middle life, or pass down into the
deepening shadows of advancing and solitary old age. The best comes
first, for the men who have no good but this world's. And some of you
have got nothing in your cups but dregs that you scarcely care to
drink.

But Jesus Christ keeps the best till the last. His gifts become
sweeter every day. No time can cloy them. Advancing years make them
more precious and more necessary. The end is better in this course
than the beginning. And when life is over, and we pass into the
heavens, the word will come to our lips, with surprise and with
thankfulness, as we find how much better it all is than we had ever
dreamed it should be: 'Thou hast kept the good wine until now.'

Oh, my brother! do not touch that cup that is offered to you by the
harlot world, spiced and fragrant and foaming; 'at the last it biteth
like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.' But take the pure joys
which the Christ, loved, trusted, obeyed, summoned to your feast and
welcomed in your heart, will bring to you; and these shall grow and
greaten until the perfection of the Heavens.



CHRIST CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

'Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of
merchandise.'--JOHN ii. 16.

The other Evangelists do not record this cleansing of the Temple at
the beginning of Christ's ministry, but, as we all know, tell of a
similar act at its very close. John, on the other hand, has no notice
of the latter incident. The question, then, naturally arises, are
these diverse narratives accounts of the same event? The answer seems
to me to be in the negative, because John's Gospel is evidently
intended to supplement the other three, and to record incidents either
unknown to, or unnoticed by, them, and, as a matter of fact, the whole
of this initial visit of our Lord to Jerusalem is omitted by the three
Evangelists. Then the two incidents are distinctly different in tone,
in setting, and in the words with which our Lord accompanies them.
They are both appropriate in the place in which they stand, the one as
the initial and the other as all but the final act of His Messiahship.
So we may learn from the repetition of this cleansing the solemn
lesson: that outward reformation of religious corruptions is of small
and transient worth. For in three years--perhaps in as many weeks--the
abuse that He corrected returned in full force.

Now, this narrative has many points of interest, but I think I shall
best bring out its meaning if I remind you, by way of introduction,
that the Temple of Jerusalem was succeeded by the Temple of the
Christian Church, and that each individual Christian man is a temple.
So there are three things that I want to set before you: what Christ
did in the Temple; what He does in the Church; what He will do to each
of us if we will let Him.

I. First, then, what Christ did in the Temple.

Now, the scene in our narrative is not unlike that which may be
witnessed in any Roman Catholic country in the cathedral place or
outside the church on the saint's day, where there are long rows of
stalls, fitted up with rosaries, and images of the saint, and candles,
and other apparatus for worship.

The abuse had many practical grounds on which it could be defended. It
was very convenient to buy sacrifices on the spot, instead of having
to drag them from a distance. It was no less convenient to be able to
exchange foreign money, possibly bearing upon it the head of an
emperor, for the statutory half-shekel. It was profitable to the
sellers, and no doubt to the priests, who were probably sleeping
partners in the concern, or drew rent for the ground on which the
stalls stood. And so, being convenient for all and profitable to many,
the thing became a recognised institution.

Being familiar it became legitimate, and no one thought of any
incongruity in it until this young Nazarene felt a flash of zeal for
the sanctity of His Father's house consuming Him. Catching up some of
the reeds which served as bedding for the cattle, He twisted them into
the semblance of a scourge, which could hurt neither man nor beast. He
did not use it. It was a symbol, not an instrument. According to the
reading adopted in the Revised Version, it was the sheep and cattle,
not their owners, whom He 'drove out.' And then, dropping the scourge,
He turned to the money-changers, and, with the same hand, overthrew
their tables. And then came the turn of the sellers of doves. He would
not hurt the birds, nor rob their owners. And so He neither overthrew
nor opened the cages, but bade them 'Take these things hence'; and
then came the illuminating words, 'Make not My Father's house a house
of merchandise.'

Now this incident is very unlike our Lord's usual method, even if we
do not exaggerate the violence which He employed. It is unlike in two
respects: in the use of compulsion, and in aiming at mere outward
reformation. And both of these points are intimately connected with
its place in His career.

It was the first public appearance of Jesus before His nation as
Messiah. He inaugurates His work by a claim--by an act of
authority--to be the King of Israel and the Lord of the Temple. If we
remember the words from the last prophet, in which Malachi says that
'the Messenger of the Covenant...shall suddenly come to His Temple,
and purify the sons of Levi,' we get the significance of this
incident. We have to mark in it our Lord's deliberate assumption of
the role of Messiah; His shaping His conduct so as to recall to all
susceptible hearts that last utterance of prophecy, and to recognise
the fact that at the beginning of His career He was fully conscious of
His Son-ship, and inaugurated His work by the solemn appeal to the
nation to recognise Him as their Lord.

And this is the reason, as I take it, why the anomalous incident is in
its place at the beginning of His career no less than the repetition
of it was at the close. And this is the explanation of the anomaly of
the incident. It is His solemn, authoritative claiming to be God's
Messenger, the Messiah long foretold.

Then, further, this incident is a singular manifestation of Christ's
unique power. How did it come that all these sordid hucksters had not
a word to say, and did not lift a finger in opposition, or that the
Temple Guard offered no resistance, and did not try to quell the
unseemly disturbance, or that the very officials, when they came to
reckon with Him, had nothing harsher to say than, 'What sign showest
Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things'? No miracle is
needed to explain that singular acquiescence. We see in lower forms
many instances of a similar thing. A man ablaze with holy indignation,
and having a secret ally in the hearts of those whom He rebukes, will
awe a crowd even if he does not infect them. But that is not the full
explanation. I see here an incident analogous to that strange event at
the close of Christ's ministry, when, coming out from beneath the
shadows of the olives in the garden, He said to the soldiers 'Whom
seek ye?' and they fell backwards and wallowed on the ground. An
overwhelming impression of His personal majesty, and perhaps some
forth-putting of that hidden glory which did swim up to the surface on
the mountain of Transfiguration, bowed all these men before Him, like
reeds before the wind. And though there was no recognition of His
claim, there was something in the Claimant that forbade resistance and
silenced remonstrance.

Further, this incident is a revelation of Christ's capacity for
righteous indignation. No two scenes can be more different than the
two recorded in this chapter: the one that took place in the rural
seclusion of Cana, nestling among the Galilean hills, the other that
was done in the courts of the Temple swarming with excited
festival-keepers; the one hallowing the common joys of daily life, the
other rebuking the profanation of what assumed to be a great deal more
sacred than a wedding festival; the one manifesting the love and
sympathy of Jesus, His power to ennoble all human relationships, and
His delight in ministering to need and bringing gladness, and the
other setting forth the sterner aspect of His character as consumed
with holy zeal for the sanctity of God's name and house. Taken
together, one may say that they cover the whole ground of His
character, and in some very real sense are a summary of all His work.
The programme contains the whole of what is to follow hereafter.

We may well take the lesson, which no generation ever needed more than
the present, both by reason of its excellences and of its defects,
that there were no love worthy of a perfect spirit in which there did
not lie dormant a dark capacity of wrath, and that Christ Himself
would not have been the Joy-bringer, the sympathising Gladdener which
He manifested Himself as being in the 'beginning of miracles in Cana
of Galilee' unless, side by side, there had lain in Him the power of
holy indignation and, if need be, of stern rebuke. Brethren, we must
retain our conception of His anger if we are not to maim our
conception of His love. There is no wrath like the wrath of the Lamb.
The Temple court, with the strange figure of the Christ with a scourge
in His hand, is a revelation which this generation, with its
exaggerated sentimentalism, with its shrinking, by reason of its good
and of its evil, from the very notion of a divine retribution based
upon the eternal antagonism between good and evil, most sorely needs.

II. Now, secondly, notice what Christ does in His Church.

I need not remind you how God's method of restoration is always to
restore with a difference and a progress. The ruined Temple on Zion
was not to be followed by another house of stone and lime, but by 'a
spiritual house,' builded together for 'a habitation of God in the
Spirit.' The Christian Church takes the place of that material
sanctuary, and is the dwelling-place of God.

That being so, let us take the lesson that that house, too, may be
desecrated. There may be, as there were in the original Temple, the
externals of worship, and yet, eating out the reality of these, there
may be an inward mercenary spirit.

Note how insensibly such corruption creeps in to a community. You
cannot embody an idea in a form or in an external association without
immediately dragging it down, and running the risk of degradation. It
is just like a drop of quicksilver which you cannot expose to the air
but instantaneously its brightness is dimmed by the scum that forms on
its surface. A church as an outward institution is exposed to all the
dangers to which other institutions are exposed. And these creep on
insensibly, as this abuse had crept on. So it is not enough that we
should be at ease in our consciences in regard to our practices as
Christian communities. We become familiar with any abuse, and as we
become familiar we lose the power of rightly judging of it. Therefore
conscience needs to be guided and enlightened quite as much as to be
obeyed.

How long has it taken the Christian Church to learn the wickedness of
slavery? Has the Christian Church yet learned the unchristianity of
War? Are there no abuses amongst us, which subsequent generations will
see to be so glaring that they will talk about us as we talk about our
ancestors, and wonder whether we were Christians at all when we could
tolerate such things? They creep on gradually, and they need continual
watchfulness if they are not to assume the mastery.

The special type of corruption which we find in this incident is one
that besets the Church always. Of course, if I were preaching to
ministers, I should have a great deal to say about that. For men that
are necessarily paid for preaching have a sore temptation to preach
for pay. But it is not only we professionals who have need to lay to
heart this incident. It is all Christian communities, established and
non-established churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant. The same
danger besets them all. There must be money to work the outward
business of the house of God. But what about people that 'run'
churches as they run mills? What about people whose test of the
prosperity of a Christian community is its balance-sheet? What about
the people that hang on to religious communities and services for the
sake of what they can make out of them? We have heard a great deal
lately about what would happen 'if Christ came to Chicago.' If Christ
came to any community of professing Christians in this land, do you
not think He would need to have the scourge in His hand, and to say
'Make not My Father's house a house of merchandise'? He will come; He
does come; He is always coming if we would listen to Him. And at long
intervals He comes in some tremendous and manifest fashion, and
overthrows the money-changers' tables.

Ah, brethren! if Jesus Christ had not thus come, over and over again,
to His Church, Christian men would have killed Christianity long ago.
Did you ever think that Christianity is the only religion that has
shown recuperative power and that has been able to fling off its
peccant humours? They used to say--I do not know whether it is true or
not--that Thames water was good to put on board ship because of its
property of corrupting and then clearing itself, and becoming fit to
drink. We and our brethren, all through the ages, have been corrupting
the Water of Life. And how does it come to be sweet and powerful
still? This tree has substance in it when it casts its leaves. That
unique characteristic of Christianity, its power of reformation, is
not self-reformation, but it is a coming of the Lord to His temple to
'purify the sons of Levi, that their offering may be pleasant as in
days of yore.'

So one looks upon the spectacle of churches labouring under all manner
of corruptions; and one need not lose heart. The shortest day is the
day before the year turns; and when the need is sorest the help is
nearest. And so I, for my part, believe that very much of the
organisations of all existing churches will have to be swept away. But
I believe too, with all my heart--and I hope that you do--that, though
the precious wheat is riddled in the sieve, and the chaff falls to the
ground, not one grain will go through the meshes. Whatever becomes of
churches, the Church of Christ shall never have its strength so sapped
by abuses that it must perish, or its lustre so dimmed that the Lord
of the Temple must depart from His sanctuary.

III. Lastly, note what Christ will do for each of us if we will let
Him.

It is not a community only which is the temple of God. For the
Apostles in many places suggest, and in some distinctly say, 'ye are
the temples' individually, as well as the Temple collectively, of the
Most High. And so every Christian soul--by virtue of that which is the
deepest truth of Christianity, the indwelling of Christ in men's
hearts by faith--is a temple of God; and every human soul is meant to
be and may become such. That temple can be profaned. There are many
ways in which professing Christians make it a house of merchandise.
There are forms of religion which are little better than chaffering
with God, to give Him so much service if He will repay us with so much
Heaven. There are too many temptations, to which we yield, to bring
secular thoughts into our holiest things. Some of us, by reason not of
wishing wealth but of dreading penury, find it hard to shut worldly
cares out of our hearts. We all need to be on our guard lest the
atmosphere in which we live in this great city shall penetrate even
into our moments of devotion, and the noise of the market within
earshot of the Holy of Holies shall disturb the chant of the
worshippers. It is Manchester's temptation, and it is one that most of
us need to be guarded against.

So engrossed, and, as we should say, necessarily engrossed--or, at all
events, legitimately engrossed--are we in the pursuits of our daily
commerce, that we have scarcely time enough or leisure of heart and
mind enough to come into 'the secret place of the Most High.' The
worshippers stop outside trading for beasts and doves, and they have
no time to go into the Temple and present their offerings.

It is our besetting danger. Forewarned is forearmed, to some extent.
Would that we could all hear, as we go about our ordinary avocations,
that solemn voice, 'Make not My Father's house a house of
merchandise,' and could keep the inner sanctuary still from the
noises, and remote from the pollutions, of the market hard by!

We cannot cast out these or any other desecrating thoughts and desires
by ourselves, except to a very small degree. And if we do, then there
happens what our Lord warned us against in profound words. The house
may be emptied of the evil tenant in some measure by our own
resolution and self-reformation. But if it is not occupied by Him, it
remains 'empty,' though it is 'swept and garnished.' Nature abhors a
vacuum, and into the empty house there come the old tenant and seven
brethren blacker than himself. The only way to keep the world out of
my heart is to have Christ filling it. If we will ask Him He will come
to us. And if He has the scourge in His hand, let Him be none the less
welcome a guest for that. He will come, and when He enters, it will be
like the rising of the sun, when all the beasts of the forest slink
away and lay them down in their dens. It will be like the carrying of
the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of the whole earth into the temple
of Dagon, when the fish-like image fell prone and mutilated on the
threshold. If we say to Him, 'Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and
the Ark of Thy strength,' He will enter in, and by His entrance will
'make the place of His feet glorious' and pure.



THE DESTROYERS AND THE RESTORER

'Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three
days I will raise it up.'--JOHN ii. 19.

This is our Lord's answer to the Jewish request for a sign which
should warrant His action in cleansing the Temple. There are two such
cleansings recorded in the Gospels; this one His first public act, and
another, omitted by John, but recorded in the other Gospels, which was
almost His last public act.

It has been suggested that these are but two versions of one incident;
and although there is no objection in principle to admitting the
possibility of that explanation, yet in fact it appears to me
insufficient and unnecessary. For each event is appropriate in its own
place. In each there is a distinct difference in tone. The incident
recorded in the present chapter has our Lord's commentary, 'Make not
My Father's house a house of merchandise'; in that recorded in the
Synoptic Gospels the profanation is declared as greater, and the
rebuke is more severe. The 'house of merchandise' has become, by their
refusal to render to Him what was His, 'a den of thieves.' In the
later incident there is a reference in our Lord's quotation from the
Old Testament to the entrance of the Gentiles into the Kingdom. There
is no such reference here. In the other Gospels there is no record of
this question which the Jews asked, nor of our Lord's significant
answer, whilst yet a caricatured and mistaken version of that answer
was known to the other Evangelists, and is put by them into the mouths
of the false witnesses at our Lord's trial. They thus attest the
accuracy of our narrative even while they seem not to have known of
the incident.

All these things being taken into account, I think that we have to do
with a double, of which there are several instances in the Gospels,
the same event recurring under somewhat varied circumstances, and
reflecting varied aspects of truth. But it is to our Lord's words in
vindication of His right to cleanse the Temple rather than to the
incident on which they are based that I wish to turn your attention
now: 'Destroy this Temple,' said our Lord, as His sufficient and only
answer to the demand for a sign, 'and in three days I will raise it
up.'

Now these words, enigmatical as they are, seem to me to be very
profound and significant; and I wish, on this Easter Sunday, to look
at them as throwing a light upon the gladness of this day. They
suggest to me three things: I find in them, first, an enigmatical
forecast of our Lord's own history; second, a prophetic warning of
Israel's; and last, a symbolical foreshadowing of His world-wide work
as the Restorer of man's destructions. 'Destroy this Temple, and in
three days I will raise it up.'

I. First then, I think, we see here an enigmatical forecast of our
Lord's own history.

Notice, first, that marvellous and unique consciousness of our Lord's
as to His own dignity and nature. 'He spake of the temple of His
body.' Think that here is a man, apparently one of ourselves, walking
amongst us, living the common life of humanity, who declares that in
Him, in an altogether solitary and peculiar fashion, there abides the
fulness of Deity. Think that there has been a Man who said, 'In this
place is One greater than the Temple.' And people have believed Him,
and do believe Him, and have found that the tremendous audacity of the
words is simple verity, and that Christ is, in inmost reality, all
which the Temple was but in the poorest symbol. In it there had dwelt,
though there dwelt no longer at the time when He was speaking, a
material and symbolical brightness, the expression of something which,
for want of a better name, we call the 'presence of God.' But what was
that flashing fire between the cherubim that brooded over the
Mercy-seat, with a light that was lambent and lustrous as the light of
love and of life--what was that to the glory, moulded in meekness and
garbed in gentleness, the glory that shone, merciful and hospitable
and inviting--a tempered flame on which the poorest, diseased, blind
eyes could look, and not wince--from the face and from the character
of Jesus Christ the Lord? He is greater than the Temple, for in Him,
in no symbol but in reality, abode and abides the fulness of that
unnameable Being whom we name Father and God. And not only does the
fulness abide, but in Him that awful Remoteness becomes for us a
merciful Presence; the infinite abyss and closed sea of the divine
nature hath an outlet, and becomes a 'river of water of life.' And as
the ancient name of that Temple was the 'Tent of Meeting,' the place
where Israel and God, in symbolical and ceremonial form, met together,
so, in inmost reality in Christ's nature, Manhood and Divinity cohere
and unite, and in Him all of us, the weak, the sinful, the alien, the
rebellious, may meet our Father. 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the
Father.' 'In this place is One greater than the Temple.'

And so this Jewish Peasant, at the very beginning of His earthly
career, stands up there, in the presence of the ancestral sanctities
and immemorial ceremonials which had been consecrated by all these
ages and commanded by God Himself, and with autocratic hand sweeps
them all on one side, as one that should draw a curtain that the
statue might be seen, and remains poised Himself in the vacant place,
that all eyes may look upon Him, and on Him alone. 'Destroy this
Temple.... He spake of the temple of His body.'

Still further, notice how here we have, at the very beginning of our
Lord's career, His distinct prevision of how it was all going to end.
People that are willing to honour Jesus Christ, and are not willing to
recognise His death as the great purpose for which He came, tell us
that, like as with other reformers and heroes and martyrs, His death
was the result of the failure of His purpose. And some of them talk to
us very glibly, in their so-called 'Lives of Jesus Christ' about the
alteration in Christ's plan which came when He saw that His message
was not going to be received. I do not enter upon all the reasons why
such a construction of Christ's work cannot hold water, but here is
one--for any one who believes this story before us--that at the very
beginning, before He had gone half a dozen steps in His public career,
when the issues of the experiment, if it was a man that was making the
experiment, were all untried; when, if it were merely a
martyr-enthusiast that was beginning his struggle, some flickering
light of hope that He would be received of His brethren must have
shone, or He would never have ventured upon the path--that then, with
no mistake, with no illusion, with no expectation of a welcome and a
Hosanna, but with the clearest certitude of what lay before Him, our
Lord _beheld_ and accepted His Cross. Its shadow fell upon His path
from the beginning, because the Cross was the purpose for which He
came. 'To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the
world,' said He--when the reality of it was almost within arm's length
of Him--'to bear witness to the Truth,' and His bearing witness to the
truth was perfected and accomplished on the Cross. Here, at the very
commencement of His career, we have it distinctly set forth, 'the Son
of Man came to give His life a ransom for many.'

And, brethren, that fact is important, not only because it helps us to
understand that His death is the centre of His work, but also because
it helps us to a loving and tender thought of Him, how all His life
long, with that issue distinctly before Him, He journeyed towards it
of His own loving will; how every step that He took on earth's flinty
roads, taken with bleeding and pure feet, He took knowing whither He
was going. This Isaac climbs the mountain to the place of sacrifice,
with no illusions as to what He is going up the mountain for. He knows
that He goes up to be the lamb of the offering, and knowing it, He
goes. Therefore let us love Him with love as persistent as was His
own, who discerning the end from the beginning, willed to be born and
to live because He had resolved to die, for you and me and every man.

And then, further, we have here our Lord's claim to be Himself the
Agent of His own resurrection. '_I_ will raise it up in three days.'
Of course, in Scripture, we more frequently find the Resurrection
treated as being the result of the power of God the Father. We more
ordinarily read that Christ was raised; but sometimes we read, as
here, that Christ rises, and we have solemn words of His own, 'I have
power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.' Think of a
man saying, 'I am going to bring My own body from the dust of death,'
and think of the man who said that _doing_ it. If that is true, if
this prediction was uttered, and being uttered was fulfilled--what
then? I do not need to answer the question. My brother, this day
declares that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 'Destroy this
Temple'--there is a challenge--'and in three days I will raise it up';
and He did it. And He is the Lord of the Temple as well as the Temple.
Down on your knees before Him, with all your hearts and with all your
confidence, and worship, and trust, and love for evermore 'the Second
Man,' who 'is the Lord from Heaven!'

II. Now let us turn to the other aspects of these words. I think we
see here, in the next place, a prophetic warning of the history of the
men to whom He was speaking.

There must be a connection between the interpretation of the words
which our Evangelist assures us is the correct one, and the
interpretation which would naturally have occurred to a listener, that
by 'this Temple' our Lord really meant simply the literal building in
which He spoke. There is such a connection, and though our Lord did
not only mean the Temple, He _did_ mean the Temple. To say so is not
forcing double meanings in any fast and loose fashion upon Scripture,
nor playing with ambiguities, nor indulging in any of the vices to
which spiritualising interpretation of Scripture leads, but it is
simply grasping the central idea of the words of my text. Rightly
understood they lead us to this: 'The death of Christ was the
destruction of the Jewish Temple and polity, and the raising again of
Christ from the dead on the third day was the raising again of that
destroyed Theocracy and Temple in a new and nobler fashion.' Let us
then look for a moment, and it shall only be for a moment, at these
two thoughts.

If any one had said to any of that howling mob that stood round Christ
at the judgment-seat of the High Priest, and fancied themselves
condemning Him to death, because He had blasphemed the Temple: 'You,
at this moment, are pulling down the holy and beautiful house in which
your fathers praised; and what you are doing now is the destruction of
your national worship and of yourselves,' the words would have been
received with incredulity; and yet they were simple truth. Christ's
death destroyed that outward Temple. The veil was 'rent in twain from
the top to the bottom' at the moment He died; which was the
declaration indeed that henceforward the Holiest of All was patent to
the foot of every man, but was also the declaration that there was no
more sanctity now within those courts, and that Temple, and
priesthood, and sacrifice, and altar, and ceremonial and all, were
antiquated. That 'which was perfect having come,' Christ's death
having realised all which Temple-worship symbolised, that which was
the shadow was put away when the substance appeared.

And in another fashion, it is also true that the death of our Lord
Jesus Christ, inflicted by Jewish hands, was the destruction of the
Jewish worship, in the way of natural sequence and of divine
chastisement. When the husbandmen rejected the Son who was sent 'last
of all,' there was nothing more for it but that they should be 'cast
out of the vineyard,' and the firebrand which the Roman soldier, forty
years afterwards, tossed into the Holiest of All, and which burned the
holy and beautiful house with fire, was lit on the day when Israel
cried 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'

Oh, brethren! What a lesson it is to us all of how blind even
so-called religious zeal may be; how often it is true that men in
their madness and their ignorance destroy the very institutions which
they are trying to conserve! How it warns us to beware lest we,
unknowing what we are about, and thinking that we are fighting for the
honour of God, may really all the while be but serving ourselves and
rejecting His message and His Messenger!

And then let me remind you that another thing is also true, that just
as the Jewish rejection of Christ was their own rejection as the
people of God, and their attempted destruction of Christ the
destruction of the Jewish Temple, so the other side of the truth is
also here, viz. that His rising again is the restoration of the
destroyed Temple in nobler and fairer form. Of course the one real
Temple is the body of Jesus Christ, as we have said, where sacrifice
is offered, where God dwells, where men meet with God. But in a
secondary and derivative sense, in the place of the Jewish Temple has
come the Christian Church, which is, in a far deeper and more inward
fashion, what that ancient system aspired to be.

Christ has builded up the Church on His Resurrection. On His
Resurrection, I say, for there is nothing else on which it could rest.
If men ask me what is the great evidence of Christ's Resurrection, my
answer is--the existence in the world of a Church. Where did it come
from? How is it possible to conceive that without the Resurrection of
Jesus Christ such a structure as the Christian society should have
been built upon a dead man's grave? It would have gone to pieces, as
all similar associations would have gone. What had happened after that
moment of depression which scattered them every man to his own, and
led some of them to say, with pathetic use of the past tense to
describe their vanished expectations, 'We _trusted_ that it had been
He which should have redeemed Israel'? What was the force that instead
of driving them asunder drew them together? What was the power that,
instead of quenching their almost dead hopes, caused them to flame up
with renewed vigour heaven-high? How came it that that band of
cowardly, dispirited Jewish peasants, who scattered in selfish fear
and heart-sick disappointment, were in a few days found bearding all
antagonism, and convinced that their hopes had only erred by being too
faint and dim? The only answer is in their own message, which
explained it all: 'Him hath God raised from the dead, whereof we are
all witnesses.'

The destroyed Temple disappears, and out of the dust and smoke of the
vanishing ruins there rises, beautiful and serene, though incomplete
and fragmentary and defaced with many a stain, the fairer reality, the
Church of the living Christ. 'Destroy this Temple, and in three days I
will raise it up.'

III. Lastly, we have here a foreshadowing of our Lord's world-wide
work as the Restorer of man's destructions.

Man's folly, godlessness, worldliness, lust, sin, are ever working to
the destruction of all that is sacred in humanity and in life, and to
the desecrating of every shrine. We ourselves, in regard to our own
hearts, which are made to be the temples of the 'living God,' are
ever, by our sins, shortcomings, and selfishness, bringing pollution
into the holiest of all; 'breaking down the carved work thereof with
axes and hammers,' and setting up the abomination of desolation in the
holy places of our hearts. We pollute them all--conscience,
imagination, memory, will, intellect. How many a man listening to me
now has his nature like the facade of some of our cathedrals, with the
empty niches and broken statues proclaiming that wanton desecration
and destruction have been busy there?

My brother! what have you done with your heart? 'Destroy this temple.'
Christ spoke to men who did not know what they were doing; and He
speaks to you. It is the inmost meaning of the life of many of you.
Hour by hour, day by day, action by action, you are devastating and
profaning the sanctities of your nature, and the sacred places there
where God ought to live.

Listen to His confident promise. He knows that in me He is able to
restore to more than pristine beauty all which I, by my sin, have
destroyed; to reconsecrate all which I, by my profanity, have
polluted; to cast out the evil deities that desecrate and deform the
shrine; and to make my poor heart, if only I will let Him come in to
the ruined chamber, a fairer temple and dwelling-place of God.

'In three days,' does He do it? In one sense--Yes! Thank God! the
power that hallows and restores the desecrated and cast-down temple in
a man's heart, was lodged in the world in those three days of death
and resurrection. The fact that He 'died for our sins,' the fact that
He was 'raised again for our justification,' are the plastic and
architectonic powers which will build up any character into a temple
of God.

And yet more than 'forty and six years' will that temple have to be
'in building.' It is a lifelong task till the top-stone be brought
forth. Only let us remember this: Christ, who is Architect and
Builder, Foundation and Top-stone; ay! and Deity indwelling in the
temple, and building it by His indwelling--this Christ is not one of
those who 'begin to build and are not able to finish.' He realises all
His plans. There are no ruined edifices in 'the City'; nor any
half-finished fanes of worship within the walls of that great
Jerusalem whose builder and maker is Christ.

If you will put yourselves in His hands, and trust yourselves to Him,
He will take away all your incompleteness, and will make you body,
soul, and spirit, temples of the Lord God; as far above the loftiest
beauty and whitest sanctity of any Christian character here on earth
as is the building of God, 'the house not made with hands, eternal in
the heavens,' above 'the earthly house of this tabernacle.'

He will perfect this restoring work at the last, when His Word to His
servant Death, as He points him to us, shall be 'Destroy this temple,
and I will raise it up.'



TEACHER OR SAVIOUR?

'The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know
that Thou art a Teacher come from God: for no man can do these
miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.'--JOHN iii. 2.

The connection in which the Evangelist introduces the story of
Nicodemus throws great light on the aspect under which we are to
regard it. He has just been saying that upon our Lord's first visit to
Jerusalem at the Passover there was a considerable amount of interest
excited, and a kind of imperfect faith in Him drawn out, based solely
on His miracles. He adds that this faith was regarded by Christ as
unreliable; and he goes on to explain that our Lord exercised great
reserve in His dealings with the persons who professed it, for the
reason that 'He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify
of man, for He knew what was in man.'

Now, if you note that reiteration of the word 'man,' you will
understand the description which is given of the person who is next
introduced. 'He knew what was in man. There was a _man_ of the
Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.' It would have been
enough to have said, 'There was a Pharisee.' When John says 'a _man_
of the Pharisees,' he is not merely carried away by the echo in his
ears of his own last words, but it is as if he had said, 'Now, here is
one illustration of the sort of thing that I have been speaking about;
one specimen of an imperfect faith built upon miracles; and one
illustration of the way in which Jesus Christ dealt with it.'

Nicodemus was 'a Pharisee.' That tells us the school to which he
belonged, and the general drift of his thought. He was 'a ruler of the
Jews.' That tells us that he held an official position in the supreme
court of the nation, to which the Romans had left some considerable
shadow of power in ecclesiastical matters. And this man comes to
Christ and acknowledges Him. Christ deals with him in a very
suggestive fashion. His confession, and the way in which our Lord
received it, are what I desire to consider briefly in this sermon.

I. Note then, first, this imperfect confession.

Everything about it, pretty nearly, is wrong. 'He came to Jesus by
night,' half-ashamed and wholly afraid of speaking out the conviction
that was working in him. He was a man in position. He could not
compromise himself in the eyes of his co-Sanhedrists. 'It would be a
grave thing for a man like me to be found in converse with this new
Rabbi and apparent Prophet. I must go cautiously, and have regard to
my reputation and my standing in the world; and shall steal to Him by
night.' There is something wrong with any convictions about Jesus
Christ which let themselves be huddled up in secret. The true
apprehension of Him is like a fire in a man's bones, that makes him
'weary of forbearing' when he locks his lips, and forces him to speak.
If Christians can be dumb, there is something dreadfully wrong with
their Christianity. If they do not regard Jesus Christ in such an
aspect as to oblige them to stand out in the world and say, 'Whatever
anybody says or thinks about it, I am Christ's man,' then be sure that
they do not yet know Him as they ought to do.

Nicodemus 'came to Jesus by night,' and therein condemned himself. He
said, 'Rabbi, we know.' There is more than a _soupcon_ of patronage in
that. He is giving Jesus Christ a certificate, duly signed and sealed
by Rabbinical authority. He evidently thinks that it is no small
matter that he and some of his fellows should have been disposed to
look with favour upon this new Teacher. And so he comes, if not
patronising the young man, at all events extremely conscious of his
own condescension in recognising Him with his 'We know.'

Had he the right to speak for any of his colleagues? If so, then at
that very early stage of our Lord's ministry there was a conviction
beginning to work in that body of ecclesiastics which casts a very
lurid light on their subsequent proceedings. It was a good long while
after, when Jesus Christ's attitude towards them had been a little
more clearly made out than it was at the beginning, that they said
officially, 'As for this fellow, we know not whence He is.' They
'knew' when He did not seem to be trenching on their prerogatives, or
driving His Ithuriel-spear through their traditional professions of
orthodoxy and punctilious casuistries. But when He trod on their toes,
when He ripped up their pretensions, when He began to show His
antagonism to their formalism and traditionalism, _then_ they did not
know where He came from. And there are many of us who are very polite
to Jesus Christ as long as He does not interfere with us, and who
begin to doubt His authority when He begins to rebuke our sins.

The man that said 'We know,' and then proceeded to tell Christ the
grounds upon which He was accepted by him, was not in the position
which becomes sinful men drawing near to their Saviour. 'We know that
Thou art a Teacher'--contrast that, with its ring of complacency, and,
if not superior, at least co-ordinate, authority, with 'Jesus! Master!
have mercy on me,' or with 'Lord! save or I perish,' and you get the
difference between the way in which a formalist, conceited of his
knowledge, and a poor, perishing sinner, conscious of his ignorance
and need, go to the Saviour.

Further, this imperfect confession was of secondary value, because it
was built altogether upon miraculous evidence. Now, there has been a
great deal of exaggeration about the value of the evidence of miracle.
The undue elevation to which it was lifted in the apologetic
literature of the eighteenth century, when it was almost made out as
if there was no other proof that Jesus came from God than that He
wrought miracles, has naturally led, in this generation and in the
last one, to an equally exaggerated undervaluing of its worth. Jesus
Christ did appeal to signs; He did also most distinctly place faith
that rested merely upon miracle as second best; when He said, for
instance, 'If ye believe not Me, yet believe the works.' Nicodemus
says, 'We know that Thou art a Teacher sent from God, because no man
can do these miracles except God be with him.' Ah! Nicodemus! did not
the substance of the teaching reveal the source of the teaching even
more completely than the miracles that accompanied it? Surely, if I
may use an old illustration, the bell that rings in to the sermon
(which is the miracles) is less conclusive as to the divine source of
the teaching than is the sermon itself. Christ Himself is His own best
evidence, and His words shine in their own light, and need no signs in
order to authenticate their source. The signs are there, and are
precious in my eyes less as credentials of His authority than as
revelations of His character and His work. They are wonders; that is
much. They are proofs; as I believe. But, high above both of these
characteristics, they are signs of the spiritual work that He does,
and manifestations of His redeeming power. And so a faith that had no
ears for the ring of the divine voice in the words, and no eyes for
the beauty and perfection of the character, was vulgar and low and
unreliable, inasmuch as it could give no better reason for itself than
that Jesus had wrought miracles,

I need not remind you of how noticeable it is that at this very early
stage in our Lord's ministry there were a sufficient number of
miracles done to be qualified by the Evangelist as 'many,' and to have
been a very powerful factor in bringing about this real, though
imperfect, faith. John has only told us of one miracle prior to this;
and the other Evangelists do not touch upon these early days of our
Lord's ministry at all. So that we are to think of a whole series of
works of power and supernatural grace which have found no record in
these short narratives. How much more Jesus Christ was, and did, and
said, than any book can ever tell! These are but parts of His ways; a
whisper of His power. The fulness of it remains unrevealed after all
revelation.

But the central deficiency of this confession lies in the altogether
inadequate conception of Jesus Christ and His work which it embodies.
'We know that Thou art a Teacher, a miracle-worker, a man sent from
God, and in communion with Him.' These are large recognitions, far too
large to be spoken of any but a select few of the sons of men. But
they fall miserably beneath the grandeur, and do not even approach
within sight of the central characteristic, of Christ and of His work.
Nicodemus is the type of large numbers of men nowadays. All the people
that have a kind of loose, superficial connection with Christianity
re-echo substantially his words. They compliment Jesus Christ out of
His divinity and out of His redeeming work, and seem to think that
they are rather conferring an honour upon Christianity when they
condescend to say, 'We, the learned pundits of literature; we, the
arbiters of taste; we, the guides of opinion; we, the writers in
newspapers and magazines and periodicals; we, the leaders in social
and philanthropic movements--we recognise that Thou art a Teacher.'
Yes, brethren, and the recognition is utterly inadequate to the facts
of the case, and is insult, and not recognition.

II. Let me ask you to look now, in the next place, at the way in which
Jesus Christ deals with this imperfect confession.

It was a great thing for a young Rabbi from Nazareth, who had no
certificate from the authorities, to find an opening thus into the
very centre of the Sanhedrim. There is nothing in life, to an ardent
young soul, at the beginning of his career--especially if he feels
that he has a burden laid upon him to deliver to his fellows--half so
sweet as the early recognition by some man of wisdom and weight and
influence, that he too is a messenger from God. In later years praise
and acknowledgment cloy. And one might have expected some passing word
from the Master that would have expressed such a feeling as that, if
He had been only a young Teacher seeking for recognition. I remember
that in that strange medley of beauty and absurdity, the Koran,
somewhere or other, there is an outpouring of Mahomet's heart about
the blessedness of his first finding a soul that would believe in him.
And it is strange that Jesus Christ had no more welcome for this man
than the story tells that He had. For He meets him without a word of
encouragement; without a word that seemed to recognise even a growing
and a groping confidence, and yet He would not 'quench the smoking
flax.' Yes! sometimes the kindest way to deal with an imperfect
conception is to show unsparingly why it is imperfect; and sometimes
the apparent repelling of a partial faith is truly the drawing to
Himself by the Christ of the man, though his faith be not approved.

So, notice how our Lord meets the imperfections of this
acknowledgment. He begins by pointing out what is the deepest and
universal need of men. Nicodemus had said, 'Rabbi, we know that Thou
art a Teacher come from God.' And Christ says, 'Verily, verily, I say
unto you, ye must be born again.' What has that to do with Nicodemus's
acknowledgment? Apparently nothing; really everything. For, if you
will think for a moment, you will see how it meets it precisely, and
forces the Rabbi to deepen his conception of the Lord. The first thing
that you and I want, for our participation in the Kingdom of God, is a
radical out-and-out change in our whole character and nature. 'Ye must
be born again'; now, whatever more that means, it means, at all
events, this--a thorough-going renovation and metamorphosis of a man's
nature, as the sorest need that the world and all the individuals that
make up the world have.

The deepest ground of that necessity lies in the fact of sin. Brother,
we can only verify our Lord's assertion by honestly searching the
depths of our own hearts, and looking at ourselves in the light of
God. Think what is meant when we say, 'He is Light, and in Him is no
darkness at all.' Think of that absolute purity, that, to us, awful
aversion from all that is evil, from all that is sinful. Think of what
sort of men they must be who can see the Lord. And then look at
yourself. Are we fit to pass that threshold? Are we fit to gaze into
that Face? Is it possible that we should have fellowship with Him? Oh,
brethren, if we rightly meditate upon two facts, the holiness of God
and our own characters, I think we shall feel that Jesus Christ has
truly stated the case when He says, 'Ye must be born again.' Unless
you and I can get ourselves radically changed, there is no Heaven for
us; there is no fellowship with God for us. We must stand before Him,
and feel that a great gulf is fixed between us and Him.

And so when a man comes with his poor little 'Thou art a Teacher,' no
words are wanted in order to set in glaring light the utter inadequacy
of such a conception as that. What the world wants is not a Teacher,
it is a Life-giver. What men want is not to be told the truth; they
know it already. What they want is not to be told their duty; they
know that too. What they want is some power that shall turn them clean
round. And what each of us wants before we can see the Lord is that,
if it may be, something shall lay hold of us, and utterly change our
natures, and express from our hearts the black drop that lies there
tainting everything.

Now, this necessity is met in Jesus Christ. For there were two 'musts'
in His talk with Nicodemus, and both of them bore directly on the one
purpose of deepening Nicodemus's inadequate conception of what He was
and what He did. He said, 'Ye must be born again,' in order that his
hearer, and we, might lay to heart this, that we need something more
than a Teacher, even a Life-giver; and He said, 'The Son of Man must
be lifted up,' in order that we might all know that in Him the
necessity is met, and that the Son of Man, who came down from Heaven,
and is in Heaven, even whilst He is on earth, is the sole ladder by
which men can ascend into Heaven and gaze upon God.

Thus it is Christ's work as Redeemer, Christ's sacrifice on the Cross,
Christ's power as bringing to the world a new and holy life, and
breathing it into all that trust in Him, which make the very centre of
His work. Set by the side of that this other, 'Thou art a Teacher sent
from God.' Ah, brethren, that will not do; it will not do for you and
me! We want something a great deal deeper than that. The secret of
Jesus is not disclosed until we have passed into the inner shrine,
where we learn that He is the Sacrifice for the world, and the Source
and Fountain of a new life. I beseech you, take Christ's way of
dealing with this certificate of His character given by the Rabbi who
did not know his own necessities, and ponder it.

Mark the underlying principle which is here--viz. if you want to
understand Christ you must understand sin; and whoever thinks lightly
of it will think meanly of Him. An underestimate of the reality, the
universality, the gravity of the fact of sin lands men in the
superficial and wholly impotent conception, 'Rabbi! Thou art a Teacher
sent from God.' A true knowledge of myself as a sinful man, of my need
of pardon, of my need of cleansing, of my need of a new nature, which
must be given from above, and cannot be evolved from within, leads me,
and I pray it may lead you, to cast yourself down before Him, with no
complaisant words of intellectual recognition upon your lips, but with
the old cry, 'Lord! be merciful to me a sinner.'

III. And now, dear friends, one last word. Notice when and where this
imperfect disciple was transformed into a courageous confessor.

We do not know what came immediately of this conversation. We only
know that some considerable time after, Nicodemus had not screwed
himself up to the point of acknowledging out and out, like a brave
man, that he was Christ's follower; but that he timidly ventured in
the Sanhedrim to slip in a remonstrance ingeniously devised to conceal
his own opinions, and yet to do some benefit to Christ, when he said,
'Does our law judge any man before it hear him?' And, of course, the
timid remonstrance was swept aside, as it deserved to be, by the
ferocious antagonism of his co-Sanhedrists.

But when the Cross came, and it had become more dangerous to avow
discipleship, he plucked up courage, or rather courage flowed into him
from that Cross, and he went boldly and 'craved the body of Jesus,'
and got it, and buried it. No doubt when he looked at Jesus hanging on
the Cross, he remembered that night in Jerusalem when the Lord had
said, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up,' and he remembered how He had
spoken about the serpent lifted in the wilderness, and a great light
blazed in upon him, which for ever ended all hesitation and timidity
for him. And so he was ready to be a martyr, or anything else, for the
sake of Him whom he now found to be far more than a 'Teacher,' even
the Sacrifice by whose stripes he was healed.

Dear brethren, I bring that Cross to you now, and pray you to see
there Christ's real work for us, and for the world. He has taught us,
but He has done more. He has not only spoken, He has died. He has not
only shown us the path on which to walk, He has made it possible for
us to walk in it. He is not merely one amongst the noble band that
have guided and inspired and instructed humanity, but He stands
alone--not _a_ Teacher, but _the_ Redeemer, 'the Lamb of God, which
taketh away the sins of the world.'

If He is a Teacher, take His teachings, and what are they? These, that
He is the Son of God; that 'He came from God'; that He 'went to God';
that He 'gives His life a ransom for many'; that He is to be the Judge
of mankind; that if we trust in Him, our sins are forgiven and our
nature is renewed. Do not go picking and choosing amongst His
teachings, for these which I have named are as surely His as
'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to
them,' or any other of the moral teachings which the world professes
to admire. Take the whole teachings of the whole Christ, and you will
confess Him to be the Redeemer of your souls, and the Life-giver by
whom, and by whom alone, we enter the Kingdom of God.



WIND AND SPIRIT

'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and them hearest the sound
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so
is every one that is born of the Spirit.'--JOHN iii. 8.

Perhaps a gust of night wind swept round the chamber where Nicodemus
sat listening to Jesus, and gave occasion for this condensed parable.
But there is occasion sufficient for it in the word 'Spirit,' which,
both in the language in which our Lord addressed the ruler of the
Sanhedrim, and in that which John employed in recording the
conversation, as in our own English, means both 'spirit' and 'breath.'
This double signification of the word gives rise to the analogies in
our text, and it also raises the question as to the precise meaning of
the text. There are two alternatives, one adopted by our Authorised
and Revised Version, and one which you will find relegated to the
margin of the latter. We may either read 'the wind bloweth' or 'the
Spirit breathes.' I must not be tempted here to enter into a
discussion of the grounds upon which the one or the other of these two
renderings may be preferred. Suffice it to say that I adhere to the
rendering which lies before us, and find here a comparison between the
salient characteristics of the physical fact and the operations of the
Divine Spirit upon men's spirits.

But then, there is another step to be taken. Our Lord has just been
laying down the principle that like begets like, that flesh produces
flesh, and spirit, spirit. And so, applying that principle, He says
here, not as might be expected, 'So is the work of the Divine Spirit
in begetting new life in men,' but 'So is he that is born of the
Spirit.' There are three things brought into relation with one
another: the physical fact; the operations of the Spirit of God, of
which that physical fact in its various characteristics may be taken
as a symbol; and the result of its operations in the new man who is
made 'after the image of Him that created him.'

It is to the last of these that I wish to turn. Here you have the
ideal of the Christian life, considered as the product of the free
Spirit of God, the picture of what all Christian people have the
capacity of being, the obligation to be, and are, just in the measure
in which that new life, which the Spirit of God bestows, is dominant
in them and moulding their character. So I take these characteristics
just as they arise.

I. Here you have the freedom of the new life.

'The wind bloweth where it listeth.' Of course, in these days of
weather forecasts and hoisting cones, we know that the wind is subject
to as rigid physical laws as any other phenomena. But Jesus Christ
speaks here, as the Bible always speaks about Nature, from two points
of view--one the popular, regarding the thing as it looks on the
surface, and the other what I may call the poetico-devout--finding
'sermons in stones, books in the running brooks,' and hints of the
spiritual world in all the phenomena of the natural. So, just as in
spite of meteorological science, there has passed into common speech
the proverbial simile 'as free as the wind,' so Jesus Christ says
here, 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, ... so is every one that is
born of the Spirit.' He passes by the intermediate link, the Spirit
that is the parent of the life, and deals with the resulting life and
declares that it is self-impelled and self-directed. Is that a
characteristic to be desired or admired? Is doing as we list precisely
the description of the noblest life? It is the description of the
purely animal one. It is the description of an entirely ignoble and
base one. It may become the description of an atrociously criminal
one. But we do not generally think that a man that says 'Thus I will;
thus I command; let the fact that I will it stand in the place of all
reason,' is speaking from a lofty point of view.

But there are two sorts of 'listing.' There is the listing which is
the yielding to the mob of ignoble passions and clamant desires of the
animal nature within us, and there is the 'listing' which is obeying
the impulses of a higher will, that has been blended with ours. And
there you come to the secret of true freedom, which does not consist
in doing as I like, but in liking to do as God wishes me to do. When
our Lord says 'where it listeth,' He implies that a change has passed
over a man, when that new life is born within him, whereby the law,
the known will of God, is written upon his heart, and, inscribed on
these fleshly tables, becomes no longer an iron force external to him,
but a vital impulse within him. That is freedom, to have my better
will absolutely conterminous and coincident with the will of God, so
far as I know it. Just as a man is not imprisoned by limits beyond
which he has no desire to go, so freedom, and elevation, and nobility
come by obeying, not the commands of an external authority, but the
impulse of an inward life.

'Ye have not received the spirit of bondage,' because God hath given
us the Spirit of power, and of love, and of self-control, which keeps
down that base and inferior 'listing,' and elevates the higher and the
nobler one, 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,'
because duty has become delight, and there is no desire in the new and
higher nature for anything except that which God enjoins. The true
freedom is when, by the direction of our will, we change 'must' into
'I delight to do Thy will.' So we are set free from the bondage and
burden of a law that is external, and is not loved, and are brought
into the liberty of, for dear love's sake, doing the will of the
beloved.

  'Myself shall to my darling be
   Both law and impulse,'

says one of the poets about a far inferior matter. It is true in
reference to the Christian life, and the 'liberty wherewith Christ
hath made us free,'

But, then, in order freely to understand the sweep and the greatness
of this perfect law of liberty, we must remember that the new life is
implanted in us precisely in order that we may suppress, and, if need
be, cast out and exorcise, that lower 'listing,' of which I have said
that it is always ignoble and sometimes animal. For this freedom will
bring with it the necessity for continual warfare against all that
would limit and restrain it--namely, the passions and desires and
inclinations of our baser or nobler, but godless, self. These are, as
it were, deposed by the entrance of the new life. But it is a
dangerous thing to keep dethroned and discrowned tyrants alive, and
the best thing is to behead them, as well as to cast them from their
throne. 'If ye, through the Spirit, do put to death the deeds' and
inclinations and wills 'of the flesh, ye shall live'; and if you do
not, they will live and will kill you. So the freedom of the new life
is a militant freedom, and we have to fight to maintain it. As Burke
said about the political realm, 'the price of liberty is eternal
vigilance,' so we say about the new life of the Christian man--he is
free only on condition that he keeps well under hatches the old
tyrants, who are ever plotting and struggling to have dominion once
again.

Still further, whilst this new life makes us free from the harshness
of a law that can only proclaim duty, and also makes us free from our
own baser selves, it makes us free from all human authority. The true
foundation of the Christian democracy is that each individual soul has
direct and immediate access to, and direct and real possession of,
God, in his spirit and life. Therefore, in the measure in which we
draw into ourselves the new life and the Spirit of God shall we be
independent of men round us, and be able to say, 'With me it is a very
small matter to be judged of you or of man's judgment.' That new life
ought to make men _original_, in the deep and true sense of the word,
as drawing their conceptions of duty and their methods of life, not at
second hand from other men, but straight from God Himself. If the
Christian Church was fuller of that divine life than it is, it would
be fuller of all varieties of Christian beauty and excellence, and all
these would be the work of 'that one and the selfsame Spirit dividing
to every man severally as He will.' If this congregation were indeed
filled with the new life, there would be an exuberance of power, and a
harmonious diversity of characteristics about it, and a burning up of
the conventionalities of Christian profession such as we do not dream
of to-day. 'The wind bloweth where it listeth.'

II. Here we have this new life in its manifestation.

'Thou hearest the sound,' or, as the Word might literally be rendered,
the 'voice thereof,' from the little whisper among the young soft
leaves of the opening beeches in our woods to-day, up to the typhoon
that spreads devastation over leagues of tropical ocean. That voice,
now a murmur, now a roar, is the only manifestation of the unseen
force that sweeps around us. And if you are a Christian man or woman
your new life should be thus perceptible to others, in a variety of
ways, no doubt, and in many degrees of force. You cannot show its
roots; you are bound to show its fruits. You cannot lay bare your
spirits, and say to the world, 'Look! there is the presence of a
divine germ in me,' but you can go about amongst men, and witness to
the possession of it by the life that you live. There are a great many
Christian people from whom, if you were to listen ever so intently,
you would not hear a sough or a ripple. There is a dead calm; the
'rushing mighty wind' has died down; and there is nothing but a greasy
swell upon the windless ocean. 'The wind bloweth,' and the 'sound' is
heard. The wind ceases, and there is a hideous silence. And that is
the condition of many a man and woman that has a name to live and is
dead. Does anybody hear the whisper of that breath in your life,
Christian man? It is not for me to answer the question; it is for you
to ask it and answer it for yourselves.

And Christians should be in the world, as the very breath of life
amidst stagnation. When the Christian Church first sprung into being
it did come into that corrupt, pestilential march of ancient
heathenism with healing on its wings, and like fresh air from the pure
hills into some fever-stricken district. Wherever there has been a new
outburst, in the experience of individuals and of churches, of that
divine life, there has come, and the world has felt that there has
come, a new force that breathes over the dry bones, and they live.
Alas, alas! that so frequently the professing Christian Church has
ceased to discharge its plain function, to breathe on the slain that
they may live.

They are curing, or say they are curing, consumption nowadays, by
taking the patient and keeping him in the open air, and letting the
wind of heaven blow freely about him. That, and not shutting people in
warm chambers, and coddling them with the prescriptions of social and
political reformation, that is the cure for the world's diseases.
Wherever the new life is vigorous in men, men will hear the sound
thereof, and recognise that it comes from heaven.

III. Lastly, here we have the new life in its double secret.

I have been saying that it has a means of manifestation which all
Christian people are bound to exemplify. But our Lord draws a broad
distinction between that which can be manifested and that which
cannot. As I said, you can show the leaves and the fruits; the roots
are covered. 'Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell
whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth.'

The origin of that new life is 'hid with Christ in God.' And so, since
we are not dependent upon external things for the communication of the
life, we should not be dependent upon them for its continuation and
its nourishment, and we should realise that, if we are Christians, we
are living in two regions, and, though as regards the surface life we
belong to the things of time, as regards the deepest life, we belong
to eternity. All the surface springs may run dry. What then? As long
as there is a deep-seated fountain that comes welling up, the fields
will be green, and we may laugh at famine and drought. If it be true
that 'our lives are hid with Christ in God,' then it ought to be true
that the nourishments, as well as the direction and impulse of them,
are drawn from Him, and that we seek not so much for the abundance of
the things that minister to the external as for the fulness of those
that sustain the inward, the true life, the life of Christ in the
soul.

The world does not know where that Christian life comes from. If you
are a Christian, you ought to bear in your character a certain
indefinable something that will suggest to the people round you that
the secret power of your life is other than the power which moulds
theirs. You may be naturalised, and you may speak fairly well the
language of the country in which you are a sojourner, but there ought
to be something in your accent which tells where you come from, and
betrays the foreigner. We ought to move amongst men, having about us
that which cannot be explained by what is enough to explain their
lives. A Christian life should be the manifestation to the world of
the supernatural.

They 'know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth.' No; that new
life in its feeblest infancy, and before it speaks, if I may so say,
is, by its very existence, a prophet, and declares that there must be,
beyond this 'bank and shoal of time,' a region to which it is native,
and in which it may grow to maturity. You will find in your
greenhouses exotics that stand there, after all your pains and coals,
stunted, and seeming to sigh for the tropical heat which is their
home. The earnest of our inheritance, the first-fruits of the Spirit,
the Christian life which originated in, and is sustained by, the
flowing of the divine life into us, demands that, somehow or other,
the stunted plant should be lifted and removed into that 'higher house
where these are planted'--and what shall be the spread of its
branches, and the lustre of its leaves, and what the gorgeousness of
its blossoms, and what the perennial sweetness of its fruits then and
there, 'it doth not yet appear.'

They 'know not whither it goeth.' And even those who themselves
possess it know not, nor shall know, through the ages of a progressive
approximation to the ever-approached and never-attained perfection.
'This spake He of the Holy Ghost, which they that believe on Him
should receive.' Trust Christ, and 'the law of the Spirit of Life in
Christ Jesus shall make you free from the law of sin and death.'



THE BRAZEN SERPENT

'Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.'--JOHN iii. 14.

This is the second of the instances in this Gospel in which our Lord
lays His hand upon an institution or incident of the Old Testament, as
shadowing forth some aspect of His work. In the first of these
instances, under the image of the ladder that Jacob saw, our Lord
presented Himself as the sole medium of communication between heaven
and earth; here He goes a step further into the heart of His work, and
under the image, very eloquent to the Pharisee to whom He was
speaking, of the brazen serpent lifted up on the pole in the desert,
proclaims Himself as the medium of healing and of life to a poisoned
world.

Now, Nicodemus has a great many followers to-day. He took up a
position which many take up. He recognised Christ as a Teacher, and
was willing to accord to the almost unknown young man from Galilee the
coveted title of 'Rabbi.' He came to Him with a little touch of
condescension, and evidently thought that for him, a ruler of the
Jews, a member of the upper and educated classes, to be willing to
speak of Jesus as a Teacher, was an endorsement that the young
aspirant might be gratified to receive. 'Rabbi, _we_ know that Thou
art a Teacher sent from God'--but he stopped there. He is not the only
one who compliments Jesus Christ, while he degrades Him from His
unique position. Now, to this inadequate conception of our Lord's
Person and work, Christ opposed the solemn insistence on the
incapacity of human nature as it is, to enter into communion with, and
submission to, God. And then He passes on to speak--in precise
parallelism with the position that He took up when He likened Himself
to the Ladder of Jacob's vision--of Himself as being the Son of Man
that came down from Heaven, and therefore is able to reveal heavenly
things. In my text He further unveils in symbol the mystery and
dignity of His Person and of His work, whilst He speaks of a
mysterious lifting up of this Son of Man who came down from heaven.
These are the truths that the conception of Christ as a great Teacher
needs for its completion; the contrariety of human nature with the
divine will, the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Crucifixion of the
Incarnate Son. And so we have here three points, to which I desire to
turn, as setting forth the conception of His own work which Jesus
Christ presented as completing the conception of it, to which
Nicodemus had attained.

I. There is, first, the lifting up of the Son of Man.

Now, of course, the sole purpose of setting that brazen serpent on the
pole was to render it conspicuous, and all that Nicodemus could _then_
understand by the symbol was that, in some unknown way, this
heaven-descended Son of Man should be set forth before Israel and the
world as being the Healer of all their diseases. But we are wiser,
after the event, than the ruler of the Jews could be at the threshold
of Christ's ministry. We have also to remember that this is not the
only occasion, though it is the first, on which our Lord used this
very significant expression. For twice over in this Gospel we find it
upon His lips--once when, addressing the unbelieving multitude, He
says 'When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I
am He'; and once when in soliloquy, close on Calvary, He says, as the
vision of a world flocking to Him rises before Him on occasion of the
wish of a few Greek proselytes to see Him, 'I, if I be lifted up, will
draw all men unto Me.' We do not need, though we have, the
Evangelist's commentary, 'this He spake signifying what death He
should die.'

So, if we accept the historical veracity of this Gospel, we here
perceive Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of His career, and before
the dispositions of the nation towards Him had developed themselves in
action, discerning its end, and seeing, gaunt and grim before Him, the
Cross that was lifted up on Calvary. Enthusiasts and philanthropists
and apostles of all sorts, in the regions of science and beneficence
and morals and religion, begin their career with trusting that their
'brethren should have understood' that God was speaking through them.
But no illusion of that sort, according to these Evangelists, drew
Jesus Christ out of His seclusion at Nazareth and impelled Him on His
career. From the beginning He knew that the Cross was to be the end.
That Cross was not to Him a necessity, accepted as the price of
faithfulness in doing His work, so that His attitude was, 'I will
speak what is in Me, though I die for it,' but it was to Him the very
heart of the work which He came to do. Therefore, after He had said to
the ruler of the Jews that the Son of Man, as descended from Heaven,
was able to _speak_ of heavenly things, He added the deeper necessity,
He 'must be lifted up.' Where lay the 'must'? In the requirement of
the work which He had set Himself to do. Beneath this great saying
there lies a pathetic, stern, true conception of the condition of
human nature. That desert encampment, with the poisoned men dying on
every hand, is the emblem under which Jesus Christ, the gentlest and
the sweetest soul that ever lived, looked out upon humanity. And it
was because the facts of human nature called for something far more
than a teacher that He said 'the Son of Man must be lifted up.' For
what they needed, and what He had set Himself to bring, could only be
brought by One who yielded Himself up for the sins of the whole world.

But that 'must,' which thus arose from the requirements of the task
that He had set before Him, had its source in His own heart; it was no
necessity imposed upon Him from without. True, it was a necessity laid
on Him by filial obedience, but also true, it was the necessity
accepted by Him in pursuance of the impulse of His own heart. He must
die because He must save, and He must save because He loved. So He was
not nailed to the Cross by the nails and hammers of the Roman
soldiers, and the taunt that was flung at Him as He hung there had a
deeper meaning, as scoffs thrown at Him and His cause ordinarily have,
than the scoffers understood: 'He saved others,' and therefore
'Himself He cannot save.'

So here we have Christ accepting, as well as discerning, the Cross.
And we have more than that. We have Christ looking at the Cross as
being, not humiliation, but exaltation. 'The Son of Man must be lifted
up.' And what does that mean? It means the same thing that He said
when, near the end, He declared, 'The hour is come that the Son of Man
should be glorified.' We are accustomed to speak--and we speak
rightly--of His death as being the lowest point of the humiliation
which was inherent in the very fact of His humanity. He condescended
to be born; He stooped yet more to die. But whilst that is true, the
other side is also true--that in the Cross Christ is lifted up, and
that it is His Throne. For what see we there? The highest exhibition,
the tenderest revelation, of His perfect love. And what see we there
besides? The supreme manifestation of the highest power.

  ''Twas great to speak a world from nought,
   'Tis greater to redeem.'

To save humanity, to make it possible that men should receive that
second birth, and should enter into the Kingdom of God--that was a
greater work, because a work not only of creation, but of restoration,
than it was to send forth the stars on their courses and to 'preserve'
the ancient heavens 'from wrong.' There is a revelation of divine
might when we 'lift up our eyes on high,' and see how, 'because He is
great in power, not one faileth.' But there is a mightier revelation
of divine power when we see how, from amidst the ruins of humanity, He
can restore the divine image, and piece together, as it were, without
sign of flaw or crack or one fragment wanting, the fair image that was
shattered into fragments by the blow of Sin's heavy mace. Power in its
highest operation, power in its tenderest efficacy, power in its
widest sweep, are set forth on the Cross of Christ, and that weak Man
hanging there, dying in the dark, is 'the power of God' as well as
'the wisdom of God.' The Cross is Christ's Throne, but it is His
sovereign manifestation of love and power only if it is what, as I
believe He told us it was, and what His servants from His lips caught
the interpretation of it as being, the death for the sins of the
sin-stricken world. Unless we can believe that, when He died, He died
for us, I know not why Christ's death should appeal to our love. But
if we recognise--as I pray that we all may recognise--that our deep
need for something far more than Teacher or Pattern has been met in
that great 'one Sacrifice for sins for ever,' then the magnetism of
the Cross begins to tell, and we understand what He meant when He
said, 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.' Brethren, the
Cross is His Throne, from which He rules the world, and if you strike
His sacrifice for sins out of your conception of His work, you have
robbed Him of sovereignty, and taken out of His hand the sceptre by
which He governs the hearts and wills of rebellious and restored men.

II. Notice, again, how we have here the look at the uplifted Son of
Man.

I do not need to paint for you what your own imaginations can
sufficiently paint for yourselves--the scene in the wilderness where
the dying men from the very outskirts of the camp could turn a filmy
eye to the brazen serpent hanging in their midst. That look is the
symbol of what we need, in order that the life-giving power of Christ
should enter into our death. There is no better description of the act
of Christian faith than that picture of the dying Israelite turning
his languid eye to the symbol of healing and life. That trust which
Jesus emphasises here in 'whosoever _believeth_ on Him,' He opposes
very emphatically to Nicodemus's confession, 'We know that Thou art a
Teacher.' We know--you have to go a step further, Nicodemus! 'We
know'; well and good, but are you included in 'whosoever believeth'?
Faith is an advance on credence. There is an intellectual side to it,
but its essence is what is the essence of trust always, the act of the
will throwing itself on that which is discerned to be trustworthy. You
know that a given man is reliable--that is not relying on him. You
have to go a step further. And so, dear brethren, you may believe
thirty-nine or thirty-nine thousand Articles with an unfaltering
credence, and you may be as far away from faith as if you did not
believe one of them. There may be a perfect belief and an absolute
want of faith. And on the other hand, blessed be God! there may be a
real and an operative trust with a very imperfect or mistaken creed.
The wild flowers on the rock bloom fair and bright, though they have
scarcely any soil in which to strike their roots, and the plants in
the most fertile garden may fail to produce flowers and seed. So trust
and credence are not always of the same magnitude.

This trust is no arbitrary condition. The Israelite was bid to turn to
the brazen serpent. There was no connection between his look and his
healing, except in so far as the symbol was a help to, and looking at
it was a test of, his faith in the healing power of God. But it is no
arbitrary appointment, as many people often think it is, which
connects inseparably together the look of faith and the eternal life
that Christ gives. For seeing that salvation is no mere external gift
of shutting up some outward Hell and opening the door to some outward
Heaven, but is a state of heart and mind, of relation to God, the only
way by which that salvation can come into a man's heart is that he,
knowing his need of it, shall trust Christ, and through Him the new
life will flow into his heart. Faith is trust, and trust is the
stretching out of the hand to take the precious gift, the opening of
the heart for the influx of the grace, the eating of the bread, the
drinking of the water, of life.

It is the only possible condition. God forbid that I should even seem
to depreciate other forms of healing men's evils and redressing men's
wrongs, and diminishing the sorrows of humanity! We welcome them all;
but education, art, culture, refinement, improved environment,
bettered social and political conditions, whilst they do a great deal,
do not go down to the bottom of the necessity. And after you have
built your colleges and art museums and stately pleasure-houses, and
set every man in an environment that is suited to develop him, you
will find out what surely the world might have found out already,
that, as in some stately palace built in the Campagna, the malaria is
in the air, and steals in at the windows, and infects all the
inhabitants. Thank God for all these other things! but you cannot heal
a man who has poison in his veins by administering cosmetics, and you
cannot put out Vesuvius with a jugful of water. If the camp is to be
healed, the Christ must be lifted up.

III. And now, lastly, here we have the life that comes with a look at
the lifted-up Son of Man.

Those of you who are using the Revised Version will see that there is
a little change made here, partly by the exclusion of a clause and
partly by changing the order of the words. The alteration is not only
nearer the original text, but brings out a striking thought. It reads
that 'whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life.' Now, it is
far too late a period of my discourse to enlarge upon all that these
great words would suggest to us, but let me just, in a sentence or
two, mark the salient points.

'Eternal life'; do not bring that down to the narrow and inadequate
conception of unending existence. It involves that, but it means a
great deal more. It means a life of such a sort as is worth calling
life, which is a life in union with God, and therefore full of
blessedness, full of purity, full of satisfaction, full of desire and
aspiration, and all these with the stamp of unendingness deeply
impressed upon them. And that is what comes to us through the look.
Not only is the process of dying arrested, but there is substituted
for it a new process of growing possession of a new life. You 'must be
born again,' Christ had been saying to Nicodemus. The change that
passes upon a man when once he has anchored his trust on Jesus Christ,
the uplifted Son of Man, is so profound that it is nothing else than a
new birth, and a new life comes into his veins untainted by the
poison, and with no proclivity to death.

'May have eternal life'--now, here, on the instant. That eternal life
is no future gift to be bestowed upon mortal men when they have passed
through the agony of death, but it is a gift which comes to us here,
and may come to any man on the instant of his looking to Jesus Christ.

'May in Him have eternal life'--union with Christ by faith, that
profound incorporation--if I may use the word--into Him, which the New
Testament sets forth in all sorts of aspects as the very foundation of
the blessings of Christianity; that union is the condition of eternal
life. So, dear brethren, we all need that the poison shall be cast out
of our veins. We all need that the tendency downwards to a condition
which can only be described as death may be arrested, and the motion
reversed. We all need that our knowledge shall be vitalised into
faith. We all need that the past shall be forgiven, and the power of
sin upon us in the present shall be cancelled. 'The blood of Jesus
Christ cleanseth from all sin,' because it was shed for the remission
of the sins of the many, and is transfused, an untainted principle of
life, into our veins. What Jesus said to Nicodemus by night in that
quiet chamber in Jerusalem, what He said in effect and act upon the
Cross, when uplifted there, is what He says to each of us from the
Throne where He is now lifted up: 'Whosoever believeth shall in Me
have eternal life.' Take Him at His word, and you will find that it is
true.



CHRIST'S MUSTS


'... Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.'--JOHN iii. 14.

I have chosen this text for the sake of one word in it, that solemn
'must' which was so often on our Lord's lips. I have no purpose of
dealing with the remainder of this clause, nor indeed with it at all,
except as one instance of His use of the expression. But I have felt
it might be interesting, and might set old truths in a brighter light,
if we gather together the instances in which Christ speaks of the
great necessity which dominated His life, and shaped even small acts.

The expression is most frequently used in reference to the Passion and
Resurrection. There are many instances in the Gospels, in which He
speaks of that _must_. The first of these is that of my text. Then
there is another class, of which His word to His mother when a
twelve-year-old child may be taken as a type: 'Wist ye not that I
_must_ be about My Father's business?' where the mysterious
consciousness of a special relation to God in the child's heart drew
Him to the Temple and to His Father's work. Other similar instances
are those in which He responded to the multitude when they wanted to
keep Him to themselves: 'I _must_ preach in other cities also'; or as
when He said, 'I _must_ work the works of Him that sent Me while it is
day.'

Yet another aspect of the same necessity is presented when, looking
far beyond the earthly work and suffering, He discerned the future
triumph which was to be the issue of these, and said, 'Other sheep I
have... them also I _must_ bring.'

And yet another is in reference to a very small matter: His selection
of a place for a few hours' rest on His last fateful journey to
Jerusalem, when He said, 'Zaccheus,... to-day I _must_ abide at thy
house.'

Now, if we put these instances together, we shall get some precious
glimpses into our Lord's heart, and His view of life.

I. Here we see Christ recognising and accepting the necessity for His
death.

My text, if we accept John's Gospel, contributes an altogether new
element to our conception of our Lord as announcing His death. For the
other three Gospels lay emphasis on it as being part of His teaching,
especially during the later stage of His ministry. But it does not
follow that He began to think about it or to see it, when He began to
speak about it. There are reasons for the earlier comparative
reticence, and there is no ground for the conclusion that then first
began to dawn upon a disappointed enthusiast the grim reality that His
work was not going to prosper, and that martyrdom was necessary. That
is a notion that has been frequently upheld of late years, but to me
it seems altogether incongruous with the facts of the case. And, if
John's Gospel is a true record, that theory is shivered against this
text, which represents Him at the very beginning of His career--the
time when, according to that other theory, He was full of the usual
buoyant and baseless anticipations of a reformer commencing His
course--as telling Nicodemus, 'Even so _must_ the Son of Man be lifted
up.' In like manner, in the previous chapter of this same Gospel, we
have the significant though enigmatical utterance: 'Destroy this
Temple, and in three days I will raise it up'; with the Evangelist's
authoritative comment: 'He spake of the Temple of His body.' So, from
the beginning of His career, the end was clear before Him.

And why _must_ He go to the Cross? Not merely, as the other
Evangelists put it, in order that 'it might be fulfilled which was
spoken of the prophets.' It was not that Jesus must die because the
prophets had said that Messiah should, but that the prophets had said
that Messiah should because Jesus must. There was a far deeper
necessity than the fulfilment of any prophetic utterance, even the
necessity which shaped that utterance. The work of Jesus Christ could
not be done unless He died. He could not be the Saviour of the world
unless He was the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We cannot see all the grounds of that solemn imperative, but this we
can see, that it was because of the requirements of the divine
righteousness, and because of the necessities of sinful men. And so
Christ's was no martyr's death, who had to die as the penalty of the
faithful discharge of His duty. It was not the penalty that He paid
for doing His work, but it was the work itself. Not that gracious
life, nor 'the loveliness of perfect deeds,' nor His words of sweet
wisdom, nor His acts of transcendent power, equalled only by the pity
that moved the power, completed His task, but He 'came to give His
life a ransom for many.'

'Must' is a hard word. It may express an unwelcome necessity. Was this
necessity unwelcome? When He said, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up,'
was He shrinking, or reluctantly submitting? Ah, no! He _must_ die
because He _would_ save, and He _would_ save because He _did_ love.
His filial obedience to God coincided with His pity for men: and not
merely in obedience to the requirements of the divine righteousness,
but in compassion for the necessities of sinners, necessity was laid
upon Him.

Oh, brethren! nothing held Christ to the Cross but His own desire to
save us. Neither priests nor Romans carried Him thither. What fastened
Him to it was not the nails driven by rude hands. And the reason why
He did not, as the taunters bade Him do, come down from it, was
neither a physical nor a moral necessity unwelcome to Himself, but the
yielding of His own will to do all which was needed for man's
salvation.

This sacrifice was bound to the altar by the cords of love. We have
heard of martyrs who have refused to be tied to the stake, and have
kept themselves motionless in the centre of the fierce flames by the
force of their wills. Jesus Christ fastened Himself to the Cross and
died because He would.

And, oh! if we think of that sweet, serene life as having clear before
it from the very first steps that grim end, how infinitely it gains in
pathetic beauty and in heart-touchingness! What wonderful
self-abnegation! How he was at leisure from Himself, with a heart of
pity for every sorrow, and loins girt for all service, though during
all His life the Cross closed the vista! Think that human shrinking
was felt by Him, think that it was so held back that His purpose never
faltered, think that each of us may say, 'He _must_ die because He
_would_ save me'; and then ask, 'What shall I render to the Lord for
all His benefits toward me?'

II. In a second class of these utterances, we see Christ impelled by
filial obedience and the consciousness of His mission.

'Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?' That was a
strange utterance for a boy of twelve. It seems to negative the
supposition that what is called the 'Messianic consciousness' dawned
upon Jesus Christ first after His baptism and the descent of the
Spirit. But however that may be, it and the similar passages to which
I have already referred, bearing upon His discharge of His work prior
to His death, teach that the necessity was an inward necessity
springing from His consciousness of Sonship, and His recognition of
the work that He had to do. And so He is our great Example of
spontaneous obedience, which does violence to itself if it does not
obey. It was instinct that sent the boy into the Temple. Where should
a Son be but in His Father's house? How could He not be doing His
Father's business?

Thus He stands before us, the pattern for the only obedience that is
worth calling so, the obedience which would be pained and ill at ease
unless it were doing the work of God. Religion is meant to make it a
second nature, or, as I have ventured to call it, an instinct--a
spontaneous, uncalculating, irrepressible desire--to be in fellowship
with God, and to be doing His will. That is the meaning of our
Christianity. There is no obedience in reluctant obedience; forced
service is slavery, not service. Christianity is given for the
specific purpose that it may bring us so into touch with Jesus Christ
as that the mind which was in Him may be in us; and that we too may be
able to say, with a kind of wonder that people should have expected to
find us in any other place, or doing anything else, 'Wist ye not that
because I am a Son, _I_ must be about my Father's business?' As
certainly as the sunflower follows the sun, so certainly will a man
animated by the mind that was in Jesus Christ, like Him find his very
life's breath in doing the Father's will.

So then, brethren, what about our grudging service? What about our
reluctant obedience? What about the widespread mistake that religion
prohibits wished-for things and enforces unwelcome duties? If my
Christianity does not make me recoil from what it forbids, and spring
eagerly to what it commends, my Christianity is of very little use. If
when in the Temple we are like idle boys in school, always casting
glances at the clock and the door, and wishing ourselves outside, we
may just as well be out as in. Glad obedience is true obedience. Only
he who can say, 'Thy law is within my heart, and I do Thy will because
I love Thee, and cannot but do as Thou desirest,' has found the joy
possible to a Christian life. It is not 'harsh and crabbed,' as those
that look upon it from the outside may 'suppose,' but musical and full
of sweetness. There is nothing more blessed than when 'I choose'
covers exactly the same ground as 'I ought.' And when duty is delight,
delight will never become disgust, nor joy pass away.

III. We see, in yet another use of this great 'must,' Christ
anticipating His future triumph.

'Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must
bring, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.' Striking as
these words are in themselves, they are still more striking when we
notice their connection; for they follow immediately upon His
utterance about laying down His life for the sheep. So, then, this was
a work beyond the Cross, and whatever it was, it was to be done after
He had died.

I need not point out to you how far afield Christ's vision goes out
into the dim, waste places, where on the dark mountains the straying
sheep are torn and frightened and starving. I need not dwell upon how
far ahead in the future His glance travels, or how magnificent and how
rebuking to our petty narrowness this great word is. 'There shall be
one _flock_' (not fold); and they shall be one, not because they are
within the bounds of any visible 'fold,' but because they are gathered
round the one Shepherd, and in their common relation to Him are knit
together in unity.

But what sort of a Man is this who considers that His widest work is
to be done by Him after He is dead? 'Them also I _must_ bring.' Thou?
how? when? Surely such words as these, side by side with a clear
prevision of the death that was so soon to come, are either
meaningless or the utterance of an arrogance bordering on insanity, or
they anticipate what an Evangelist declares did take place--that the
Lord was 'taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God,'
whilst His servants 'went everywhere preaching the Word, the Lord also
working with them and confirming the Word' with the signs He wrought.

'Them also I must bring.' That is not merely a necessity rooted in the
nature of God and the wants of men. It is not merely a necessity
springing from Christ's filial obedience and sense of a mission; but
it is a 'must' of destiny, a 'must' which recognises the sure results
of His passion; a 'must' which implies the power of the Cross to be
the reconciliation of the world. And so for all pessimistic thoughts
to-day, or at any time, and when Christian men's hearts may be
trembling for the Ark of God--although, perhaps, there may be little
reason for the tremor--and in the face of all blatant antagonisms and
of proud Goliaths despising the 'foolishness of preaching,' we fall
back upon Christ's great 'must.' It is written in the councils of
Heaven more unchangeably than the heavens; it is guaranteed by the
power of the Cross; it is certain, by the eternal life of the
crucified Saviour, that He will one day be the King of humanity, and
_must_ bring His wandering sheep to couch in peace, one flock round
one Shepherd.

IV. Lastly, we have Christ applying the greatest principle to the
smallest duty.

'Zaccheus! make haste and come down; to-day I _must_ abide in thy
house.' Why must He? Because Zaccheus was to be saved, and was worth
saving. What was the 'must'? To stop for an hour or two on His road to
the Cross. So He teaches us that in a life penetrated by the thought
of the divine will, which we gladly obey, there are no things too
great, and none too trivial, to be brought under the dominion of that
law, and to be regulated by that divine necessity. Obedience is
obedience, whether in large things or in small. There is no scale of
magnitude applicable to the distinction between God's will and that
which is not God's will. Gravitation rules the motes that dance in the
sunshine as well as the mass of Jupiter. A triangle with its apex in
the sun, and its base beyond the solar system, has the same properties
and comes under the same laws as one that a schoolboy scrawls upon his
slate. God's truth is not too great to rule the smallest duties. The
star in the East was a guide to the humble house at Bethlehem, and
there are starry truths high in the heavens that avail for our
guidance in the smallest acts of life.

So, brethren, bring your doings under that all-embracing law of
duty--duty, which is the heathen expression for the will of God. There
are great regions of life in which lower necessities have play.
Circumstances, our past, bias and temper, relationship, friendship,
civic duty, and the like--all these bring their necessities; but let
us think of them all as being, what indeed they are, manifestations to
us of the will of our Father. There are great tracts of life in which
either of two courses may be right, and we are left to the decision of
choice rather than of duty; but high above all these, let us see
towering that divine necessity. It is a daily struggle to bring 'I
will' to coincide with 'I ought'; and there is only one adequate and
always powerful way of securing that coincidence, and that is to keep
close to Jesus Christ and to drink in His spirit. Then, when duty and
delight are conterminous, 'the rough places will be plain, and the
crooked things straight, and every mountain shall be brought low, and
every valley shall be exalted,' and life will be blessed, and service
will be freedom. Joy and liberty and power and peace will fill our
hearts when this is the law of our being; 'All that the Lord hath
spoken, that _must_ I do.'



THE LAKE AND THE RIVER

'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting
life.'--JOHN iii. 16.

I venture to say that my text shows us a lake, a river, a pitcher, and
a draught. 'God so loved the world'--that is the lake. A lake makes a
river for itself--'God so loved the world that He _gave_ His... Son.'
But the river does not quench any one's thirst unless he has something
to lift the water with: 'God so loved the world that He gave His...
Son, that whosoever _believeth_ on Him.' Last comes the draught:
'shall not perish, but have _everlasting life._'

I. The great lake, God's love.

Before Jesus Christ came into this world no one ever dreamt of saying
'God _loves_.' Some of the Old Testament psalmists had glimpses of
that truth and came pretty near expressing it. But among all the 'gods
many and lords many,' there were lustful gods and beautiful gods, and
idle gods, and fighting gods and peaceful gods: but not one of whom
worshippers said, 'He loves.' Once it was a new and almost incredible
message, but we have grown accustomed to it, and it is not strange any
more to us. But if we would try to think of what it means, the whole
truth would flash up into fresh newness, and all the miseries and
sorrows and perplexities of our lives would drift away down the wind,
and we should be no more troubled with them. 'God loves' is the
greatest thing that can be said by lips.

'God ... loved the world.' Now when we speak of loving a number of
individuals--the broader the stream, the shallower it is, is it not?
The most intense patriot in England does not love her one
ten-thousandth part as well as he loves his own little girl. When we
think or feel anything about a great multitude of people, it is like
looking at a forest. We do not see the trees, we see the whole wood.
But that is not how God loves the world. Suppose I said that I loved
the people in India, I should not mean by that that I had any feeling
about any individual soul of all those dusky millions, but only that I
massed them all together; or made what people call a generalisation of
them. But that is not the way in which God loves. He loves all because
He loves each. And when we say, 'God so loved the world,' we have to
break up the mass into its atoms, and to think of each atom as being
an object of His love. We all stand out in God's love just as we
should do to one another's eyes, if we were on the top of a
mountain-ridge with a clear sunset sky behind us. Each little black
dot of the long procession would be separately visible. And we all
stand out like that, every man of us isolated, and getting as much of
the love of God as if there was not another creature in the whole
universe but God and ourselves. Have you ever realised that when we
say, 'He loved the world,' that really means, as far as each of us is
concerned, He loves _me_? And just as the whole beams of the sun come
pouring down into every eye of the crowd that is looking up to it, so
the whole love of God pours down, not upon a multitude, an
abstraction, a community, but upon every single soul that makes up
that community. He loves us all because He loves us each. We shall
never get all the good of that thought until we translate it, and lay
it upon our hearts. It is all very well to say, 'Ah yes! God is love,'
and it is all very well to say He loves 'the world.' But I will tell
you what is a great deal better--to say--what Paul said--'Who loved
_me_ and gave Himself for _me_.'

Now, there is one other suggestion that I would make to you before I
go on, and that is that all through the New Testament, but especially
in John's Gospel, 'the world' does not only mean men, but _sinful_
men, men separated from God. And the great and blessed truth taught
here is that, however I may drag myself away from God, I cannot drive
Him away from me, and that however little I may care for Him, or love
Him, or think about Him, it does not make one hairs-breadth of
difference as to the fact that He loves me. I know, of course, that if
a man does not love Him back again, God's love has to take shapes that
it would not otherwise take, which may be extremely inconvenient for
the man. But though the shape may alter, _must_ alter, the fact
remains; and every sinful soul on the earth, including Judas
Iscariot--who is said to head the list of crimes--has God's love
resting upon him.

II. The river.

Now, to go back to my metaphor, the lake makes a river. 'God so loved
the world that He gave His only begotten Son.'

So then, it was not Christ's death that turned God from hating and
being angry, but it was God's love that appointed Christ's death. If
you will only remember that, a great many of the shallow and popular
objections to the great doctrine of the Atonement disappear at once.
'God so loved ... that He gave.' But some people say that when we
preach that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that God's wrath might not
fall upon men, our teaching is immoral, because it means 'Christ came,
and so God loved.' It is the other way about, friend. 'God so loved
... that He gave.'

But now let me carry you back to the Old Testament. Do you remember
the story of the father taking his boy who carried the bundle of wood
and the fire, and tramping over the mountains till they reached the
place where the sacrifice was to be offered? Do you remember the boy's
question that brings tears quickly to the reader's eyes: 'Here is the
wood, and here is the fire, where is the lamb'? Do you not think it
would be hard for the father to steady his voice and say, 'My son, God
will provide the lamb'? And do you remember the end of that story?
'The Angel of the Lord said unto Abraham, Because thou hast done this
thing, and hast not _withheld_ thy son, _thine only son_, from Me,
therefore blessing I will bless thee,' etc. Remember that one of the
Apostles said, using the very same word that is used in Genesis as to
Abraham's giving up his son to God, 'He _spared not_ His own Son, but
delivered Him up to the death for us all.' Does not that point to a
mysterious parallel? Somehow or other--we have no right to attempt to
say how--somehow or other, God not only _sent_ His Son, as it is said
in the next verse to my text, but far more tenderly, wonderfully,
pathetically, God _gave_--gave up His Son, and the sacrifice was
enhanced, because it was His only begotten Son.

Ah! dear brethren, do not let us be afraid of following out all that
is included in that great word, 'God ... _loved_ the world.' For there
is no love which does not delight in giving, and there is no love that
does not delight in depriving itself, in some fashion, of what it
gives. And I, for my part, believe that Paul's words are to be taken
in all their blessed depth and wonderfulness of meaning when he says,
'He gave up'--as well as gave--'Him to the death for us all.'

And now, do you not think that we are able in some measure to estimate
the greatness of that little word 'so'? 'God _so_ loved'--_so_ deeply,
so holily, _so_ perfectly--that He 'gave His only begotten Son'; and
the gift of that Son is, as it were, the river by which the love of
God comes to every soul in the world.

Now there are a great many people who would like to put the middle
part of this great text of ours into a parenthesis. They say that we
should bring the first words and the last words of this text together,
and never mind all that lies between. People who do not like the
doctrine of the Cross would say, 'God so loved the world that He
gave... everlasting life'; and there an end. 'If there is a God, and
if He loves the world, why cannot He save the world without more ado?
There is no need for these interposed clauses. God so loved the world
that everybody will go to heaven'--that is the gospel of a great many
of you; and it is the gospel of a great many wise and learned people.
But it is not John's Gospel, and it is not Christ's Gospel. The
beginning and the end of the text cannot be buckled up together in
that rough-and-ready fashion. They have to be linked by a chain; and
there are two links in the chain: God forges the one, and we have to
forge the other. 'God so loved the world that He gave'--then He has
done His work. 'That whosoever believeth'--that is your work. And it
is in vain that God forges _His_ link, unless you will forge _yours_
and link it up to His. 'God so loved the world,' that is step number
one in the process; 'that He gave,' that is step number two; and then
there comes another 'that'--'that whosoever believeth,' that is step
number three; and they are all needed before you come to number four,
which is the landing-place and not a step--'should not perish, but
have everlasting life.'

III. The pitcher.

I come to what I called the pitcher, with which we draw the water for
our own use--'that whosoever believeth.' You perhaps say, 'Yes, I
believe. I accept every word of the Gospel, I quite believe that Jesus
Christ died, as a matter of history; and I quite believe that He died
for men's sins.' And what then? Is that what Jesus Christ meant by
believing? To believe _about_ Him is not to believe _on_ Him; and
unless you believe on Him you will get no good out of Him. There is
the lake, and the river must flow past the shanties in the clearing in
the forest, if the men there are to drink. But it may flow past their
doors, as broad as the Mississippi, and as deep as the ocean; but they
will perish with thirst, unless they dip in their hands, like Gideon's
men, and carry the water to their own lips. Dear friend, what you have
to do--and your soul's salvation, and your peace and joy and nobleness
in this life and in the next depend absolutely upon it--is simply to
trust in Jesus Christ and His death for your sins.

I sometimes wish we had never heard that word 'faith.' For as soon as
we begin to talk about 'faith,' people begin to think that we are away
up in some theological region far above everyday life. Suppose we try
to bring it down a little nearer to our businesses and bosoms, and
instead of using a word that is kept sacred for employment in
religious matters, and saying 'faith,' we say 'trust.' That is what
you give to your wives and husbands, is it not? And that is exactly
what you have to give to Jesus Christ, simply to lay hold of Him as a
man lays hold of the heart that loves him, and leans his whole weight
upon it. Lean hard on Him, hang on Him, or, to take the other metaphor
that is one of the Old Testament words for trust, 'flee for refuge' to
Him. Fancy a man with the avenger of blood at his back, and the point
of the pursuer's spear almost pricking his spine--don't you think he
would make for the City of Refuge with some speed? That is what you
have to do. He that believeth, and by trust lays hold of the Hand that
holds him up, will never fall; and he that does not lay hold of that
Hand will never stand, to say nothing of rising. And so by these two
links God's love of the world is connected with the salvation of the
world.

IV. The draught.

Finally, we have here the draught of living water. Did you ever think
why our text puts 'should not perish' first? Is it not because, unless
we put our trust in Him, we shall certainly perish, and because,
therefore, that certainty of perishing must be averted before we can
have 'everlasting life'?

Now I am not going to enlarge on these two solemn expressions,
'perishing' and 'everlasting life.' I only say this: men do not need
to wait until they die before they 'perish.' There are men and women
here now who are dead--dead while they live, and when they come to
die, the perishing, which is condemnation and ruin, will only be the
making visible, in another condition of life, of what is the fact
to-day. Dear brethren, you do not need to die in order to perish in
your sins, and, blessed be God, you can have everlasting life before
you die. You can have it now, and there is only one way to have it,
and that is to lay hold of Him who is the Life. And when you have
Jesus Christ in your heart, whom you will be sure to have if you trust
Him, then you will have life--life eternal, here and now, and death
will only make manifest the eternal life which you had while you were
alive here, and will perfect it in fashions that we do not yet know
anything about.

Only remember, as I have been trying to show you, the order that runs
through this text. Remember the order of these last words, and that we
must first of all be delivered from eternal and utter death, before we
can be invested with the eternal and absolute life.

Now, dear brethren, I dare say I have never spoken to the great
majority of you before; it is quite possible I may never speak to any
of you again. I have asked God to help me to speak so as that souls
should be drawn to the Saviour. And I beseech you now, as my last
word, that you would listen, not to me, but to Him. For it is He that
says to us, 'God so loved the world, that He gave His Son, that
whosoever'--'whosoever,' a blank cheque, like the M. or N. of the
Prayer-book, or the A. B. of a schedule; you can put your own name in
it--'that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but
have'--here, now--'everlasting life.'



THE WEARIED CHRIST

'Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the
well.... He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not
of.'--JOHN iv. 6,32.

Two pictures result from these two verses, each striking in itself,
and gaining additional emphasis by the contrast. It was during a long
hot day's march that the tired band of pedestrians turned into the
fertile valley. There, whilst the disciples went into the little
hill-village to purchase, if they could, some food from the despised
inhabitants, Jesus, apparently too exhausted to accompany them, 'sat
_thus_ on the well.' That little word _thus_ seems to have a force
difficult to reproduce in English. It is apparently intended to
enhance the idea of utter weariness, either because the word 'wearied'
is in thought to be supplied, 'sat, being thus wearied, on the well';
or because it conveys the notion which might be expressed by our 'just
as He was'; as a tired man flings Himself down anywhere and anyhow,
without any kind of preparation beforehand, and not much caring where
it is that he rests.

Thus, utterly worn out, Jesus Christ sits on the well, whilst the
western sun lengthens out the shadows on the plain. The disciples come
back, and what a change they find. Hunger gone, exhaustion ended,
fresh vigour in their wearied Master. What had made the difference?
The woman's repentance and joy. And He unveils the secret of His
reinvigoration when He says, 'I have meat to eat that ye know not
of'--the hidden manna. 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me,
and to finish His work.'

Now, I think if we take just three points of view, we shall gain the
lessons of this remarkable contrast. Note, then, the wearied Christ;
the devoted Christ; the reinvigorated Christ.

I. The wearied Christ.

How precious it is to us that this Gospel, which has the loftiest
things to say about the manifest divinity of our Lord, and the glory
that dwelt in Him, is always careful to emphasise also the manifest
limitations and weaknesses of the Manhood. John never forgets either
term of his great sentence in which all the gospel is condensed, 'the
Word became flesh.' Ever he shows us 'the Word'; ever 'the flesh.'
Thus it is he only who records the saying on the Cross, 'I thirst.' It
is he who tells us how Jesus Christ, not merely for the sake of
getting a convenient opening of a conversation, or to conciliate
prejudices, but because He needed what He asked, said to the woman of
Samaria, 'Give Me to drink.' So the weariness of the Master stands
forth for us as pathetic proof that it was no shadowy investiture with
an apparent Manhood to which He stooped, but a real participation in
our limitations and weaknesses, so that work to Him was fatigue, even
though in Him dwelt the manifest glory of that divine nature which
'fainteth not, neither is weary.'

Not only does this pathetic incident teach us for our firmer faith,
and more sympathetic and closer apprehension, the reality of the
Manhood of Jesus Christ, but it supplies likewise some imperfect
measure of His love, and reveals to us one condition of His power. Ah!
if He had not Himself known weariness He never could have said, 'Come
unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you
rest.' It was because Himself 'took our infirmities,' and amongst
these the weakness of tired muscles and exhausted frame, that 'He
giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He
increaseth strength.' The Creator must have no share in the
infirmities of the creature. It must be His unwearied power that calls
them all by their names; and because He is great in might 'not one' of
the creatures of His hand can 'fail.' But the Redeemer must
participate in that from which He redeems; and the condition of His
strength being 'made perfect in our weakness' is that our weakness
shall have cast a shadow upon the glory of His strength. The measure
of His love is seen in that, long before Calvary, He entered into the
humiliation and sufferings and sorrows of humanity; a condition of His
power is seen in that, forasmuch as the 'children were partakers of
flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same,' not
only that 'through death He might deliver' from death, but that in
life He might redeem from the ills and sorrows of life.

Nor does that exhausted Figure, reclining on Jacob's Well, preach to
us only what _He_ was. It proclaims to us likewise what _we_ should
be. For if His work was carried on to the edge of His capacity, and if
He shrank not from service because it involved toil, what about the
professing followers of Jesus Christ, who think that they are exempted
from any form of service because they can plead that it will weary
them? What about those who say that they tread in His footsteps, and
have never known what it was to yield up one comfort, one moment of
leisure, one thrill of enjoyment, or to encounter one sacrifice, one
act of self-denial, one aching of weariness for the sake of the Lord
who bore all for them? The wearied Christ proclaims His manhood,
proclaims His divinity and His love, and rebukes us who consent to
'walk in the way of His commandments' only on condition that it can be
done without dust or heat; and who are ready to run the race that is
set before us, only if we can come to the goal without perspiration or
turning a hair. 'Jesus, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on
the well.'

II. Still further, notice here the devoted Christ.

It is not often that He lets us have a glimpse into the innermost
chambers of His heart, in so far as the impelling motives of His
course are concerned. But here He lays them bare. 'My meat is to do
the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.'

Now, it is no mere piece of grammatical pedantry when I ask you to
notice that the language of the original is so constructed as to give
prominence to the idea that the aim of Christ's life was the doing of
the Father's will; and that it is the aim rather than the actual
performance and realisation of the aim which is pointed at by our
Lord. The words would be literally rendered 'My meat is _that I may
do_ the will of Him that sent Me and finish His work'--that is to say,
the very nourishment and refreshment of Christ was found in making the
accomplishment of the Father's commandment His ever-impelling motive,
His ever-pursued goal. The expression carries us into the inmost heart
of Jesus, dealing, as it does, with the one all-pervading motive
rather than with the resulting actions, fair and holy as these were.

Brethren, the secret of our lives, if they are at all to be worthy and
noble, must be the same--the recognition, not only as they say now,
that we have a mission, but that there _is_ a Sender; which is a
wholly different view of our position, and that He who sends is the
loving Father, who has spoken to us in that dear Son, who Himself made
it His aim thus to obey, in order that it might be possible for us to
re-echo His voice, and to repeat His aim. The recognition of the
Sender, the absolute submission of our wills to His, must run through
all the life. You may do your daily work, whatever it be, with this
for its motto, 'the will of the Lord be done'; and they who thus can
look at their trade, or profession, and see the trivialities and
monotonies of their daily occupations, in the transfiguring light of
that great thought, will never need to complain that life is small,
ignoble, wearisome, insignificant. As with pebbles in some clear brook
with the sunshine on it, the water in which they are sunk glorifies
and magnifies them. If you lift them out, they are but bits of dull
stone; lying beneath the sunlit ripples they are jewels. Plunge the
prose of your life, and all its trivialities, into that great stream,
and it will magnify and glorify the smallest and the homeliest.
Absolute submission to the divine will, and the ever-present thrilling
consciousness of doing it, were the secret of Christ's life, and ought
to be the secret of ours.

Note the distinction between doing the will and perfecting the work.
That implies that Jesus Christ, like us, reached forward, in each
successive act of obedience to the successive manifestations of the
Father's will, to something still undone. The work will never be
perfected or finished except on condition of continual fulfilment,
moment by moment, of the separate behests of that divine will. For the
Lord, as for His servants, this was the manner of obedience, that He
'pressed towards the mark,' and by individual acts of conformity
secured that at last the whole 'work' should have been so completely
accomplished that He might be able to say upon the Cross, 'It is
finished.' If we have any right to call ourselves His, we too have
thus to live.

III. Lastly, notice the reinvigorated Christ.

I have already pointed out the lovely contrast between the two
pictures, the beginning and the end of this incident; so I need not
dwell upon that. The disciples wondered when they found that Christ
desired and needed none of the homely sustenance that they had brought
to Him. And when He answered their sympathy rather than their
curiosity--for they did not ask Him any questions, but they said to
Him, 'Master, eat'--with 'I have meat to eat that ye know not of,'
they, in their blind, blundering fashion, could only imagine that some
one had brought Him something. So they gave occasion for the great
words upon which we have been touching.

Notice, however, that Christ here sets forth the lofty aim at
conformity to the divine will and fulfilment of the divine Work as
being the meat of the soul. It is the true food for us all. The spirit
which feeds upon such food will grow and be nourished. And the soul
which feeds upon its own will and fancies, and not upon the plain
brown bread of obedience, which is wholesome, though it be often
bitter, will feed upon ashes, which will grate upon the teeth and hurt
the palate. Such a soul will be like those wretched infants that are
discovered sometimes at 'baby-farms,' starved and stunted, and not
grown to half their right size. If you would have your spirits strong,
robust, well nourished, live by obedience, and let the will of God be
the food of your souls, and all will be well.

Souls thus fed can do without a good deal that others need. Why,
enthusiasm for anything lifts a man above physical necessities and
lower desires, even in its poorest forms. A regiment of soldiers
making a forced march, or an athlete trying to break the record, will
tramp, tramp on, not needing food, or rest, or sleep, until they have
achieved their purpose, poor and ignoble though it may be. In all
regions of life, enthusiasm and lofty aims make the soul lord of the
body and of the world.

And in the Christian life we shall be thus lords, exactly in
proportion to the depth and earnestness of our desires to do the will
of God. They who thus are fed can afford 'to scorn delights and live
laborious days.' They who thus are fed can afford to do with plain
living, if there be high impulses as well as high thinking. And sure I
am that nothing is more certain to stamp out the enthusiasm of
obedience which ought to mark the Christian life than the luxurious
fashion of living which is getting so common to-day amongst professing
Christians.

It is not in vain that we read the old story about the Jewish boys
whose faces were radiant and whose flesh was firmer when they were fed
on pulse and water than on all the wine and dainties of the Babylonish
court. 'Set a knife to thy throat if thou be a man given to appetite,'
and let us remember that the less we use, and the less we feel that we
need, of outward goods, the nearer do we approach to the condition in
which holy desires and lofty aims will visit our spirits.

I commend to you, brethren, the story of our text, in its most literal
application, as well as in the loftier spiritual lessons that may be
drawn from it. To be near Christ, and to desire to live for Him,
delivers us from dependence upon earthly things; and in those who thus
do live the old word shall be fulfilled, 'Better is a little that a
righteous man hath, than the abundance of many wicked.'



'GIVE ME TO DRINK'

'... Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink.... Jesus saith unto her,
I that speak unto thee am He.'--JOHN iv. 7, 26.

This Evangelist very significantly sets side by side our Lord's
conversations with Nicodemus and with the woman of Samaria. The
persons are very different: the one a learned Rabbi of reputation,
influence, and large theological knowledge of the then fashionable
kind; the other an alien woman, poor--for she had to do this menial
task of water-drawing in the heat of the day--and of questionable
character.

The diversity of persons necessitates great differences in the form of
our Lord's address to each; but the resemblances are as striking as
the divergencies. In both we have His method of gradually unveiling
the truth to a susceptible soul, beginning with symbol and a hint,
gradually enlarging the hint and translating the symbol; and finally
unveiling Himself as the Giver and the Gift. There is another
resemblance; in both the characteristic gift is that of the Spirit of
Life, and, perhaps, in both the symbol is the same. For we read in one
of 'water and the Spirit'; and in the other of the fountain within,
springing into everlasting life. However that may be, the process of
teaching is all but identical in substance in both cases, though in
form so various.

The words of our Lord which I have taken for our text now are His
first and last utterance in this conversation. What a gulf lies
between! They are linked together by the intervening sayings, and
constitute with these a great ladder, of which the foot is fast on
earth, and the top fixed in heaven. On the one hand, He owns the
lowest necessities; on the other, He makes the highest claims. Let us
ponder on this remarkable juxtaposition, and try to gather the lessons
that are plain in it.

I. First, then, I think we see here the mystery of the dependent
Christ.

'Give Me to drink': 'I am He.' Try to see the thing for a moment with
the woman's eyes. She comes down from her little village, up amongst
the cliffs on the hillside, across the narrow, hot valley, beneath the
sweltering sunshine reflected from the bounding mountains, and she
finds, in the midst of the lush vegetation round the ancient well, a
solitary, weary Jew, travel-worn, evidently exhausted--for His
disciples had gone away to buy food, and He was too wearied to go with
them--looking into the well, but having no dipper or vessel by which
to get any of its cool treasure. We lose a great deal of the meaning
of Christ's request if we suppose that it was merely a way of getting
into conversation with the woman, a 'breaking of the ice.' It was a
great deal more than that. It was the utterance of a felt and painful
necessity, which He Himself could not supply without a breach of what
He conceived to be His filial dependence. He could have brought water
out of the well. He did not need to depend upon the pitcher that the
disciples had perhaps unthinkingly carried away with them when they
went to buy bread. He did not need to ask the woman to give, but He
chose to do so. We lose much if we do not see in this incident far
more than the woman saw, but we lose still more if we do not see what
she did see. And the words which the Master spoke to her are no mere
way of introducing a conversation on religious themes; but He asked
for a draught which He needed, and which He had no other way of
getting.

So, then, here stands, pathetically set forth before us, our Lord's
true participation in two of the distinguishing characteristics of our
weak humanity--subjection to physical necessities and dependence on
kindly help. We find Him weary, hungry, thirsty, sometimes slumbering.
And all these instances are documents and proofs for us that He was a
true man like ourselves, and that, like ourselves, He depended on 'the
woman that ministered to Him' for the supply of His necessities, and
so knew the limitations of our social and else helpless humanity.

But then a wearied and thirsty man is nothing of much importance. But
here is a Man who _humbled Himself_ to be weary and to thirst. The
keynote of this Gospel, the one thought which unlocks all its
treasures, and to the elucidation of which, in all its aspects, the
whole book is devoted, is, 'The Word was made flesh.' Only when you
let in the light of the last utterance of our text, 'I that speak unto
thee am He,' do we understand the pathos, the sublimity, the depth and
blessedness of meaning which lie in the first one, 'Give Me to drink.'
When we see that He bowed Himself, and willingly stretched out His
hands for the fetters, we come to understand the significance of these
traces of His manhood. The woman says, with wonder, 'How is it that
Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?' and that was wonderful. But,
as He hints to her, if she had known more clearly who this Person was,
that seemed to be a Jew, a deeper wonder would have crept over her
spirit. The wonder is that the Eternal Word should need the water of
the well, and should ask it of a poor human creature.

And why this humiliation? He could, as I have said, have wrought a
miracle. He that fed five thousand, He that had turned water into wine
at the rustic marriage-feast, would have had no difficulty in
quenching His thirst if he had chosen to use His miraculous power
therefore. But He here shows us that the true filial spirit will rather
die than cast off its dependence on the Father, and the same motive
which led Him to reject the temptation in the wilderness, and to
answer with sublime confidence, 'Man doth not live by bread alone, but
by every word from the mouth of God,' forbids Him here to use other
means of securing the draught that He so needed than the appeal to the
sympathy of an alien, and the swift compassion of a woman's heart.

And then, let us remember that the motive of this willing acceptance
of the limitations and weaknesses of humanity is, in the deepest
analysis, simply His love to us; as the mediaeval hymn has it,
'Seeking me, Thou satest weary.'

In that lonely Traveller, worn, exhausted, thirsty, craving for a
draught of water from a stranger's hand, is set forth 'the glory of
the Father, full of grace and truth.' A strange manifestation of
divine glory this! But if we understand that the glory of God is the
lustrous light of His self-revealing love, perhaps we shall understand
how, from that faint, craving voice, 'Give Me to drink,' that glory
sounds forth more than in the thunders that rolled about the rocky
peak of Sinai. Strange to think, brethren, that the voice from those
lips dry with thirst, which was low and weak, was the voice that spoke
to the sea, 'Peace! be still,' and there was a calm; that said to
demons, 'Come out of him!' and they evacuated their fortress; that
cast its command into the grave of Lazarus, and he came forth; and
which one day all that are in the grave shall hear, and hearing shall
obey. 'Give Me to drink.' 'I that speak unto thee am He.'

II. Secondly, we may note here the self-revealing Christ.

The process by which Jesus gradually unveils His full character to
this woman, so unspiritual and unsusceptible as she appeared at first
sight to be, is interesting and instructive. It would occupy too much
of your time for me to do more than set it before you in the barest
outline. Noting the singular divergence between the two sayings which
I have taken as our text, it is interesting to notice how the one
gradually merges into the other. First of all, Jesus Christ, as it
were, opens a finger of His hand to let the woman have a glimpse of
the gift lying there, that that may kindle desire, and hints at some
occult depth in His person and nature all undreamed of by her yet, and
which would be the occasion of greater wonder, and of a reversal of
their parts, if she knew it. Then, in answer to her, half
understanding that He meant more than met the ear, and yet opposing
the plain physical difficulties that were in the way, in that He had
'nothing to draw with, and the well is deep,' and asking whether He
were greater than our father Jacob, who also had given, and given not
only a draught, but the well, our Lord enlarges her vision of the
blessedness of the gift, though He says but little more of its nature,
except in so far as that may be gathered from the fact that the water
that He will give will be a permanent source of satisfaction,
forbidding the pangs of unquenched desire ever again to be felt as
pangs; and from the other fact that it will be an inward possession,
leaping up with a fountain's energy, and a life within itself,
towards, and into everlasting life. Next, he strongly assails
conscience and demands repentance, and reveals Himself as the reader
of the secrets of the heart. Then He discloses the great truths of
spiritual worship. And, finally, as a prince in disguise might do, He
flings aside the mantle of which He had let a fold or two be blown
back in the previous conversation, and stands confessed. 'I that speak
unto thee am He.' That is to say, the kindling of desire, the proffer
of the all-satisfying gift, the quickening of conscience, the
revelation of a Father to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and
the final full disclosure of His person and office as the Giver of the
gift which shall slake all the thirsts of men--these are the stages of
His self-revelation.

Then note, not only the process, but the substance of the revelation
of Himself. The woman had a far more spiritual and lofty conception of
the office of Messiah than the Jews had. It is not the first time that
heretics have reached a loftier ideal of some parts of the truth than
the orthodox attain. To the Jew the Messiah was a conquering king, who
would help them to ride on the necks of their enemies, and pay back
their persecutions and oppressions. To this Samaritan woman--speaking,
I suppose, the conceptions of her race--the Messiah was One who was to
'_tell_ us all things.'

Jesus Christ accepts the position, endorses her anticipations, and in
effect presents Himself before her and before us as the Fountain of
all certitude and knowledge in regard to spiritual matters. For all
that we can know, or need to know, with regard to God and man and
their mutual relations; for all that we can or need know in regard to
manhood, its ideal, its obligations, its possibilities, its destinies;
for all that we need to know of men in their relation to one another,
we have to turn to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who 'will tell us all
things.' He is the Fountain of light; He is the Foundation of
certitude; and they who seek, not hypotheses and possibilities and
conjectures and dreams, but the solid substance of a reliable
knowledge, must grasp Him, and esteem the words of His mouth and the
deeds of His life more than their necessary food.

He meets this woman's conceptions as He had met those of Nicodemus. To
him He had unveiled Himself as the Son of God, and the Son of Man who
came down from heaven, and is in heaven, and ascends to heaven. To the
woman He reveals Himself as the Messiah, who will tell us all truth,
and to both as the Giver of the gift which shall communicate and
sustain and refresh the better life. But I cannot help dwelling for a
moment upon the remarkable, beautiful, and significant designation
which our Lord employs here. 'I that speak unto thee.' The word in the
original, translated by our version 'speak,' is even more sweet,
because more familiar, and conveys the idea of unrestrained frank
intercourse. Perhaps we might render 'I who am talking with Thee!' and
that our Lord desired to emphasise to the woman's heart the notion of
His familiar intercourse with her, Messiah though He were, seems to me
confirmed by the fact that He uses the same expression, with
additional grace and tenderness about it, when He says, with such
depth of meaning, to the blind man whom He had healed, 'Thou hast both
seen Him,' with the eyes to which He gave sight and object of sight,
'and it is He that _talketh_ with thee.' The familiar Christ who will
come and speak to us face to face and heart to heart, 'as a man
speaketh with his friend,' is the Christ who will tell us all things,
and whom we may wholly trust.

Note too how this revelation has for its condition the docile
acceptance of the earlier and imperfect teachings. If the woman had
not yielded herself to our Lord's earlier words, and, though with very
dim insight, yet with a heart that sought to be taught, followed Him
as He stepped from round to round of the ascending ladder, she had
never stood on the top and seen this great vision. If you see nothing
more in Jesus Christ than a man like yourself, compassed with our
infirmities, and yet sweet and gracious and good and pure, be true to
what you know, and put it into practice, and be ready to accept all
the light that dawns. They that begin down at the bottom with hearing
'Give me to drink,' may stand at the top, and hear Him speak to them
His unveiled truth and His full glory. 'To him that hath shall be
given.' 'If any man wills to do His will he shall know of the
teaching.'

III. Lastly, we have here the universal Christ.

The woman wondered that, being a Jew, He spoke to her. As I have said,
our Lord's first utterance is simply the expression of a real physical
necessity. But it is none the less what the woman felt it to be, a
strange overleaping of barriers that towered very high. A Samaritan, a
woman, a sinner, is the recipient of the first clear confession from
Jesus Christ of His Messiahship and dignity. She was right in her
instinct that something lay behind His sweeping aside of the barriers
and coming so close to her with His request. These two, the prejudices
of race and the contempt for woman, two of the crying evils of the old
world, were overpassed by our Lord as if He never saw them. They were
too high for men's puny limbs; they made no obstacle to the march of
His divine compassion. And therein lies a symbol, if you like, but
none the less a prophecy that will be fulfilled, of the universal
adaptation and destination of the Gospel, and its independence of all
distinctions of race and sex, condition, moral character. In Jesus
Christ 'there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, neither bond
nor free'; ye 'are all one in Christ.' If He had been but a Jew, it
was wonderful that He should talk to a Samaritan. But there is nothing
in the character and life of Christ, as recorded in Scripture, more
remarkable and more plain than the entire absence of any racial
peculiarities, or of characteristics owing to His position in space or
time. So unlike His nation was He that the very _elite_ of His nation
snarled at Him and said, 'Thou art a Samaritan!' So unlike them was He
that one feels that a character so palpitatingly human to its core,
and so impossible to explain from its surroundings, is inexplicable,
but on the New Testament theory that He is not a Jew, or man only, but
the Son of Man, the divine embodiment of the ideal of humanity, whose
dwelling was on earth, but His origin and home in the bosom of God.
Therefore Jesus Christ is the world's Christ, your Christ, my Christ,
every man's Christ, the Tree of Life that stands in the midst of the
garden, that all men may draw near to it and gather of its fruit.

Brother, answer His proffer of the gift as this woman did: 'Sir, give
me this water, that I thirst not; neither go all the way to the
world's broken cisterns to draw'; and He will put into your hearts
that indwelling fountain of life, so that you may say like this
woman's townspeople: 'Now I have heard Him myself, and know that this
is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.'



THE GIFT AND THE GIVER

'Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God,
and who it is that saith unto thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest
have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.'--JOHN
iv. 10.

This Gospel has two characteristics seldom found together: deep
thought and vivid character-drawing. Nothing can be more clear-cut and
dramatic than the scene in the chapter before us. There is not a word
of description of this Samaritan woman. She paints herself, and it is
not a beautiful picture. She is apparently of the peasant class, from
a little village nestling on the hill above the plain, come down in
the broiling sunshine to Jacob's well. She is of mature age, and has
had a not altogether reputable past. She is frivolous, ready to talk
with strangers, with a tongue quick to turn grave things into jests;
and yet she possesses, hidden beneath masses of unclean vanities, a
conscience and a yearning for something better than she has, which
Christ's words awoke, and which was finally so enkindled as to make
her fit to receive the full declaration of His Messiahship, which
Pharisees and priests could not be trusted with.

I need scarcely do more than remind you of the way in which the
conversation between this strangely assorted pair began. The solitary
Jew, sitting spent with travel on the well, asks for a draught of
water; not in order to get an opening for preaching, but because He
needs it. She replies with an exclamation of light wonder, half a jest
and half a sarcasm, and challenging a response in the same tone.

But Christ lifts her to a higher level by the words of my text, which
awed levity, and prepared for a fuller revelation. 'Thou dost wonder
that I, being a Jew, ask drink of thee, a Samaritan. If thou knewest
who I am, thy wonder at My asking would be more. If thou knewest what
I have to give, we should change places, and thou wouldest ask, and I
should bestow.'

So then, we have here gift, Giver, way of getting, and ignorance that
hinders asking. Let us look at these.

I. First, the gift of God. Now it is quite clear that our Lord means
the same thing, whatever it may be, by the two expressions, the 'gift
of God' and the 'living water.' For, unless He does, the whole
sequence of my text falls to pieces. 'Living water' was suggested, no
doubt, by the circumstances of the moment. There, in the well, was an
ever-springing source, and, says He, a like supply, ever welling up
for thirsty lips and foul hands, ever sweet and ever sufficient, God
is ready to give.

We may remember how, all through Scripture, we hear the tinkle of
these waters as they run. The force of the expression is to be
gathered largely from the Old Testament and the uses of the metaphor
there. It has been supposed that by the 'living water' which God gives
is here meant some one specific gift, such as that of the Holy Spirit,
which sometimes is expressed by the metaphor. Rather I should be
disposed to say the 'living water' is eternal life. 'With Thee is the
fountain of life.' And so, in the last resort, the gift of God is God
Himself. Nothing else will suffice for us, brethren. We need Him, and
we need none but Him.

Our Lord, in the subsequent part of this conversation, again touches
upon this great metaphor, and suggests one or two characteristics,
blessings, and excellences of it. 'It shall be _in_ him,' it is
something that we may carry about with us in our hearts, inseparable
from our being, free from all possibility of being filched away by
violence, being rent from us by sorrows, or even being parted from us
by death. What a man has outside of him he only seems to have. Our
only real possessions are those which have passed into the substance
of our souls. All else we shall leave behind. The only good is inward
good; and this water of life slakes our thirst because it flows into
the deepest place of our being, and abides there for ever.

Oh! you that are seeking your satisfaction from fountains that remain
outside of you after all your efforts, learn that all of them, by
reason of their externality, will sooner or later be 'broken cisterns
that can hold no water.' And I beseech you, if you want rest for your
souls and stilling for their yearnings, look for it there, where only
it can be found, in Him, who not only dwells in the heavens to rule
and to shower down blessings, but enters into the waiting heart and
abides there, the inward, and therefore the only real, possession and
riches. 'It shall be in him a fountain of water.'

It is 'springing up'--with an immortal energy, with ever fresh
fulness, by its own inherent power, needing no pumps nor machinery,
but ever welling forth its refreshment, an emblem of the joyous energy
and continual freshness of vitality, which is granted to those who
carry God in their hearts, and therefore can never be depressed beyond
measure, nor ever feel that the burden of life is too heavy to bear,
or its sorrows too sharp to endure.

It springs up 'into eternal life,' for water must seek its source, and
rise to the level of its origin, and this fountain within a man, that
reaches up ever towards the eternal life from which it came, and which
it gives to its possessor, will bear him up, as some strong spring
will lift the clods that choked its mouth, will bear him up towards
the eternal life which is native to it, and therefore native to him.

Brethren, no man is so poor, so low, so narrow in capacity, so limited
in heart and head, but that he needs a whole God to make him restful.
Nothing else will. To seek for satisfaction elsewhere is like sailors
who in their desperation, when the water-tanks are empty, slake their
thirst with the treacherous blue that washes cruelly along the
battered sides of their ship. A moment's alleviation is followed by
the recurrence, in tenfold intensity, of the pangs of thirst, and by
madness, and death. Do not drink the salt water that flashes and rolls
by your side when you can have recourse to the fountain of life that
is with God.

'Oh!' you say, 'commonplace, threadbare pulpit rhetoric.' Yes! Do you
live as if it were true? It will never be too threadbare to be dinned
into your head until it has passed into your lives and regulated them.

II. Now, in the next place, notice the Giver.

Jesus Christ blends in one sentence, startling in its boldness, the
gift of God, and Himself as the Bestower. This Man, exhausted for want
of a draught of water, speaks with parched lips a claim most
singularly in contrast with the request which He had just made: 'I
will give thee the living water.' No wonder that the woman was
bewildered, and could only say, 'The well is deep, and Thou hast
nothing to draw with.' She might have said, 'Why then dost Thou ask
me?' The words were meant to create astonishment, in order that the
astonishment might awaken interest, which would lead to the capacity
for further illumination. Suppose you had been there, had seen the Man
whom she saw, had heard the two things that she heard, and knew no
more about Him than she knew, what would _you_ have thought of Him and
His words? Perhaps you would have been more contemptuous than she was.
See to it that, since you know so much that explains and warrants
them, you do not treat them worse than she did.

Jesus Christ claims to give God's gifts. He is able to give to that
poor, frivolous, impure-hearted and impure-lifed woman, at her
request, the eternal life which shall still all the thirst of her
soul, that had often in the past been satiated and disgusted, but had
never been satisfied by any of its draughts.

And He claims that in this giving He is something more than a channel,
because, says He, 'If thou hadst asked of Me I would give thee.' We
sometimes think of the relation between God and Christ as being
typified by that of some land-locked sea amidst remote mountains, and
the affluent that brings its sparkling treasures to the thirsting
valley. But Jesus Christ is no mere vehicle for the conveyance of a
divine gift, but His own heart, His own power, His own love are in it;
and it is His gift just as much as it is God's.

Now I do not do more than pause for one moment to ask you to think of
what inference is necessarily involved in such a claim as this. If we
know anything about Jesus Christ at all, we know that He spoke in this
tone, not occasionally, but habitually. It will not do to pick out
other bits of His character or actions and admire these and ignore the
characteristic of His teachings--His claims for Himself. And I have
only this one word to say, if Jesus Christ ever said anything the
least like the words of my text, and if they were not true, what was
He but a fanatic who had lost His head in the fancy of His
inspiration? And if He said these words and they _were_ true, what is
He then? What but that which this Gospel insists from its beginning to
its end that He was--the Eternal Word of God, by whom all divine
revelation from the beginning has been made, and who at last 'became
flesh' that we might 'receive of His fulness,' and therein 'be filled
with all the fulness of God.' Other alternative I, for my part, see
none.

But I would have you notice, too, the connection between these human
needs of the Saviour and His power to give the divine gift. Why did He
not simply say to this woman, 'If thou knewest who I am?' Why did He
use this periphrasis of my text, 'Who it is that saith unto thee,
"Give Me to drink"'? Why but because He wanted to fix her attention on
the startling contradiction between His appearance and His claims--on
the one hand asserting divine prerogative, on the other forcing into
prominence human weakness and necessity, because these two things, the
human weakness and the divine prerogative, are inseparably braided
together and intertwined. Some of you will remember the great scene in
Shakespeare where the weakness of Caesar is urged as a reason for
rejecting his imperial authority:--

  'Ay! and that tongue of his, that bade the Romans
  Mark him, and write his speeches in their books,
  Alas! it cried, "Give me some drink, ...
  Like a sick girl."'

And the inference that is drawn is, how can he be fit to be a ruler of
men? But we listen to our Caesar and Emperor, when He asks this woman
for water, and when He says on the Cross, 'I thirst,' and we feel that
these are not the least of His titles to be crowned with many crowns.
They bring Him nearer to us, and they are the means by which His love
reaches its end, of bestowing upon us all, if we will have it, the cup
of salvation. Unless He had said the one of these two things, He never
could have said the other. Unless the dry lips had petitioned, 'Give
Me to drink,' the gracious lips could never have said, 'I will give
thee living water.' Unless, like Jacob of old, this Shepherd could
say, 'In the day the drought consumed Me,' it would have been
impossible that the flock 'shall hunger no more, neither shall they
thirst any more, ... for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne
shall lead them to living fountains of water.'

III. Again, notice how to get the gift.

Christ puts together, as if they were all but contemporaneous, 'thou
wouldst have asked of Me,' and 'I would have given thee.' The hand on
the telegraph transmits the message, and back, swift as the lightning,
flashes the response. The condition, the only condition, and the
indispensable condition, of possessing that water of life--the summary
expression for all the gifts of God in Jesus Christ, which at the last
are essentially God Himself--is the desire to possess it turned to
Jesus Christ. Is it not strange that men should not desire; is it not
strange and sad that such foolish creatures are we that we do not want
what we need; that our wishes and needs are often diametrically
opposite? All men desire happiness, but some of us have so vitiated
our tastes and our palates by fiery intoxicants that the water of life
seems dreadfully tasteless and unstimulating, and so we will rather go
back again to the delusive, poisoned drinks than glue our lips to the
river of God's pleasures.

But it is not enough that there should be the desire. It must be
turned to Him. In fact the asking of my text, so far as you and I are
concerned, is but another way of speaking the great keyword of
personal religion, faith in Jesus Christ. For they who ask, know their
necessity, are convinced of the power of Him to whom they appeal to
grant their requests, and rely upon His love to do so. And these three
things, the sense of need, the conviction of Christ's ability to save
and to satisfy, and of His infinite love that desires to make us
blessed--these three things fused together make the faith which
receives the gift of God.

Remember, brethren, that another of the scriptural expressions for the
act of trusting in Him, is _taking_, not asking. You do not need to
ask, as if for something that is not provided. What we all need to do
is to open our eyes to see what is there. If we like to put out our
hands and take it. Why should we be saying, 'Give me to drink,' when a
pierced hand reaches out to us the cup of salvation, and says, 'Drink
ye all of it'? 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ... and drink ...
without money and without price.'

There is no other condition but desire turned to Christ, and that is
the necessary condition. God cannot give men salvation, as veterinary
surgeons drench unwilling horses--forcing the medicine down their
throats through clenched teeth. There must be the opened mouth, and
wherever there is, there will be the full supply. 'Ask, and ye shall
receive'; take, and ye shall possess.

IV. Lastly, mark the ignorance that prevents asking.

Jesus Christ looked at this poor woman and discerned in her, though,
as I said, it was hidden beneath mountains of folly and sin, a thirsty
soul that was dimly longing for something better. And He believed
that, if once the mystery of His being and the mercy of God's gifts
were displayed before her, she would melt into a yearning of desire
that is certain to be fulfilled. In some measure the same thing is
true of us all. For surely, surely, if only you saw realities, and
things as they are, some of you would not be content to continue as
you are--without this water of life. Blind, blind, blind, are the men
who grope at noon-day as in the dark and turn away from Jesus. If you
knew, not with the head only, but with the whole nature, if you knew
the thirst of your soul, the sweetness of the water, the readiness of
the Giver, and the dry and parched land to which you condemn
yourselves by your refusal, surely you would bethink yourself and fall
at His feet and ask, and get, the water of life.

But, brethren, there is a worse case than ignorance; there is the case
of people that know and refuse, not by reason of imperfect knowledge,
but by reason of averted will. And I beseech you to ponder whether
that may not be your condition. 'Whosoever _will_, let him come.' 'Ye
_will_ not come unto Me that ye might have life.' I do not think I
venture much when I say that I am sure there are people hearing me
now, not Christians, who are as certain, deep down in their hearts,
that the only rest of the soul is in God, and the only way to get it
is through Christ, as any saint of God's ever was. But the knowledge
does not touch their will because they like the poison and they do not
want the life.

Oh! dear friends, the instantaneousness of Christ's answer, and the
certainty of it, are as true for each of us as they were for this
woman. The offer is made to us all, just as it was to her. We can
gather round that Rock like the Israelites in the wilderness, and
slake every thirst of our souls from its outgushing streams. Jesus
Christ says to each of us, as He did to her, tenderly, warningly,
invitingly, and yet rebukingly, 'If thou knewest ... thou wouldst ask,
... and I would give.'

Take care lest, by continual neglect, you force Him at last to change
His words, and to lament over you, as He did over the city that He
loved so well, and yet destroyed. 'If thou _hadst_ known in thy day
the things that belong to thy peace. But now they are hid from thine
eyes.'



THE SPRINGING FOUNTAIN

'The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water,
springing up into everlasting life.'--JOHN iv. 14.

There are two kinds of wells, one a simple reservoir, another
containing the waters of a spring. It is the latter kind which is
spoken about here, as is clear not only from the meaning of the word
in the Greek, but also from the description of it as 'springing up.'
That suggests at once the activity of a fountain. A fountain is the
emblem of motion, not of rest. Its motion is derived from itself, not
imparted to it from without. Its 'silvery column' rises ever
heavenward, though gravitation is too strong for it, and drags it back
again.

So Christ promises to this ignorant, sinful Samaritan woman that if
she chose He would plant in her soul a gift which would thus well up,
by its own inherent energy, and fill her spirit with music, and
refreshment, and satisfaction.

What is that gift? The answer may be put in various ways which really
all come to one. It is Himself, the unspeakable Gift, His own greatest
gift; or it is the Spirit 'which they that believe on Him should
receive,' and whereby He comes and dwells in men's hearts; or it is
the resulting life, kindred with the life bestowed, a consequence of
the indwelling Christ and the present Spirit.

And so the promise is that they who believe in Him and rest upon His
love shall receive into their spirits a new life principle which shall
rise in their hearts like a fountain, 'springing up into everlasting
life.'

I think we shall best get the whole depth and magnitude of this great
promise if, throwing aside all mere artificial order, we simply take
the words as they stand here in the text, and think, first, of
Christ's gift as a fountain within; then as a fountain springing,
leaping up, by its own power; and then as a fountain 'springing into
everlasting life.'

I. First, Christ's gift is represented here as a fountain within.

Most men draw their supplies from without; they are rich, happy,
strong, only when externals minister to them strength, happiness,
riches. For the most of us, what we have is that which determines our
felicity.

Take the lowest type of life, for instance, the men of whom the
majority, alas! I suppose, in every time is composed, who live
altogether on the low plane of the world, and for the world alone,
whether their worldliness take the form of sensuous appetite, or of
desire to acquire wealth and outward possessions. The thirst of the
body is the type of the experience of all such people. It is satisfied
and slaked for a moment, and then back comes the tyrannous appetite
again. And, alas! the things that you drink to satisfy the thirst of
your souls are too often like a publican's adulterated beer, which has
got salt in it, and chemicals, and all sorts of things to stir up,
instead of slaking and quenching, the thirst. So 'he that loveth
silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth
abundance with increase.' The appetite grows by what it feeds on, and
a little lust yielded to to-day is a bigger one to-morrow, and half a
glass to-day grows to a bottle in a twelvemonth. As the old classical
saying has it, he 'who begins by carrying a calf, before long is able
to carry an ox'; so the thirst in the soul needs and drinks down a
constantly increasing draught.

And even if we rise up into a higher region and look at the experience
of the men who have in some measure learned that 'a man's life
consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth,' nor
in the abundance of the gratification that his animal nature gets, but
that there must be an inward spring of satisfaction, if there is to be
any satisfaction at all; if we take men who live for thought, and
truth, and mental culture, and yield themselves up to the enthusiasm
for some great cause, and are proud of saying, 'My mind to me a
kingdom is,' though they present a far higher style of life than the
former, yet even that higher type of man has so many of his roots in
the external world that he is at the mercy of chances and changes, and
he, too, has deep in his heart a thirst that nothing, no truth, no
wisdom, no culture, nothing that addresses itself to one part of his
nature, though it be the noblest and the loftiest, can ever satisfy
and slake.

I am sure I have some such people in my audience, and to them this
message comes. You may have, if you will, in your own hearts, a
springing fountain of delight and of blessedness which will secure
that no unsatisfied desires shall ever torment you. Christ in His
fulness, His Spirit, the life that flows from both and is planted
within our hearts, these are offered to us all; and if we have them we
carry inclosed within ourselves all that is essential to our felicity;
and we can say, 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to
be self-satisfying,' not with the proud, stoical independence of a man
who does not want either God or man to make him blessed, but with the
humble independence of a man who can say 'my sufficiency is of God.'

No independence of externals is possible, nor wholesome if it were
possible, except that which comes from absolute dependence on Jesus
Christ.

If you have Christ in your heart then life is possible, peace is
possible, joy is possible, under all circumstances and in all places.
Everything which the soul can desire, it possesses. You will be like
the garrison of a beleaguered castle, in the courtyard of which is a
sparkling spring, fed from some source high up in the mountains, and
finding its way in there by underground channels which no besiegers
can ever touch. Sorrows will come, and make you sad, but though there
may be much darkness round about you, there will be light in the
darkness. The trees may be bare and leafless, but the sap has gone
down to the roots. The world may be all wintry and white with snow,
but there will be a bright little fire burning on your own
hearthstone. You will carry within yourselves all the essentials to
blessedness. If you have 'Christ in the vessel' you can smile at the
storm. They that drink from earth's fountains 'shall thirst again';
but they who have Christ in their hearts will have a fountain within
which will not freeze in the bitterest cold, nor fail in the fiercest
heat. 'The water that I shall give him shall be in him a fountain.'

II. Christ's gift is a springing fountain.

The emblem, of course, suggests motion by its own inherent impulse.
Water may be stagnant, or it may yield to the force of gravity and
slide down a descending river-bed, or it may be pumped up and lifted
by external force applied to it, or it may roll as it does in the sea,
drawn by the moon, driven by the winds, borne along by currents that
owe their origin to outward heat or cold. But a fountain rises by an
energy implanted within itself, and is the very emblem of joyous,
free, self-dependent and self-regulated activity.

And so, says Christ, 'The water that I shall give him shall be in him
a springing fountain'; it shall not lie there stagnant, but leap like
a living thing, up into the sunshine, and flash there, turned into
diamonds, when the bright rays smile upon it.

So here is the promise of two things: the promise of activity, and of
an activity which is its own law.

The promise of activity. There seems small blessing, in this
overworked world, in a promise of more active exertion; but what an
immense part of our nature lies dormant and torpid if we are not
Christians! How much of the work that is done is dreary, wearisome,
collar-work, against the grain. Do not the wheels of life often go
slowly? Are you not often weary of the inexpressible monotony and
fatigue? And do you not go to your work sometimes, though with a
fierce feeling of 'need-to-do-it,' yet also with inward repugnance?
And are there not great parts of your nature that have never woke into
activity at all, and are ill at ease, because there is no field of
action provided for them? The mind is like millstones; if you do not
put the wheat into them to grind, they will grind each other's faces.
So some of us are fretting ourselves to pieces, or are sick of a vague
disease, and are morbid and miserable because the highest and noblest
parts of our nature have never been brought into exercise. Surely this
promise of Christ's should come as a true Gospel to such, offering, as
it does, if we will trust ourselves to Him, a springing fountain of
activity in our hearts that shall fill our whole being with joyous
energy, and make it a delight to live and to work. It will bring to us
new powers, new motives; it will set all the wheels of life going at
double speed. We shall be quickened by the presence of that mighty
power, even as a dim taper is brightened and flames up when plunged
into a jar of oxygen. And life will be delightsome in its hardest
toil, when it is toil for the sake of, and by the indwelling strength
of, that great Lord and Master of our work.

And there is not only a promise of activity here, but of activity
which is its own law and impulse. That is a blessed promise in two
ways. In the first place, law will be changed into delight. We shall
not be driven by a commandment standing over us with whip and lash, or
coming behind us with spur and goad, but that which we ought to do we
shall rejoice to do; and inclination and duty will coincide in all our
lives when our life is Christ's life in us.

That should be a blessing to some of you who have been fighting
against evil and trying to do right with more or less success, more or
less interruptedly and at intervals, and have felt the effort to be a
burden and a wearisomeness. Here is a promise of emancipation from all
that constraint and yoke of bondage which duty discerned and unloved
ever lays upon a man's shoulders. When we carry within us the gift of
a life drawn from Jesus Christ, and are able to say like Him, 'Lo, I
come to do Thy will, and Thy law is within my heart,' only then shall
we have peace and joy in our lives. 'The law of the Spirit of life in
Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death.'

And then, in the second place, that same thought of an activity which
is its own impulse and its own law, suggests another aspect of this
blessedness, namely, that it sets us free from the tyranny of external
circumstances which absolutely shape the lives of so many of us. The
lives of all must be to a large extent moulded by these, but they need
not, and should not be completely determined by them. It is a
miserable thing to see men and women driven before the wind like
thistledown. Circumstances must influence us, but they may either
influence us to base compliance and passive reception of their stamp,
or to brave resistance and sturdy nonconformity to their
solicitations. So used, they will influence us to a firmer possession
of the good which is most opposite to them, and we shall be the more
unlike our surroundings, the more they abound in evil. You can make
your choice whether, if I may so say, you shall be like balloons that
are at the mercy of the gale and can only shape their course according
as it comes upon them and blows them along, or like steamers that have
an inward power that enables them to keep their course from whatever
point the wind blows, or like some sharply built sailing-ship that,
with a strong hand at the helm, and canvas rightly set, can sail
almost in the teeth of the wind and compel it to bear her along in all
but the opposite direction to that in which it would carry her if she
lay like a log on the water.

I beseech you all, and especially you young people, not to let the
world take and shape you, like a bit of soft clay put into a
brick-mould, but to lay a masterful hand upon it, and compel it to
help you, by God's grace, to be nobler, and truer, and purer.

It is a shame for men to live the lives that so many amongst us live,
as completely at the mercy of externals to determine the direction of
their lives as the long weeds in a stream that yield to the flow of
the current. It is of no use to preach high and brave maxims, telling
men to assert their lordship over externals, unless we can tell them
how to find the inward power that will enable them to do so. But we
can preach such noble exhortations to some purpose when we can point
to the great gift which Christ is ready to give, and exhort them to
open their hearts to receive that indwelling power which shall make
them free from the dominion of these tyrant circumstances and
emancipate them into the 'liberty of the sons of God.' 'The water that
I shall give him shall be in him a leaping fountain.'

III. The last point here is that Christ's gift is a fountain
'springing up into everlasting life.'

The water of a fountain rises by its own impulse, but howsoever its
silver column may climb it always falls back into its marble basin.
But this fountain rises higher, and at each successive jet higher,
tending towards, and finally touching, its goal, which is at the same
time its course. The water seeks its own level, and the fountain
climbs until it reaches Him from whom it comes, and the eternal life
in which He lives. We might put that thought in two ways. First, the
gift is eternal in its duration. The water with which the world
quenches its thirst perishes. All supplies and resources dry up like
winter torrents in summer heat. All created good is but for a time. As
for some, it perishes in the use; as for other, it evaporates and
passes away, or is 'as water spilt upon the ground which cannot be
gathered up'; as for all, we have to leave it behind when we go hence.
But this gift springs into everlasting life, and when we go it goes
with us. The Christian character is identical in both worlds, and
however the forms and details of pursuits may vary, the essential
principle remains one. So that the life of a Christian man on earth
and his life in heaven are but one stream, as it were, which may,
indeed, like some of those American rivers, run for a time through a
deep, dark canyon, or in an underground passage, but comes out at the
further end into broader, brighter plains and summer lands; where it
flows with a quieter current and with the sunshine reflected on its
untroubled surface, into the calm ocean. He has one gift and one life
for earth and heaven--Christ and His Spirit, and the life that is
consequent upon both.

And then the other side of this great thought is that the gift tends
to, is directed towards, or aims at and reaches, everlasting life. The
whole of the Christian experience on earth is a prophecy and an
anticipation of heaven. The whole of the Christian experience of earth
evidently aims towards that as its goal, and is interpreted by that as
its end. What a contrast that is to the low and transient aims which
so many of us have! The lives of many men go creeping along the
surface when they might spring heavenwards. My friend! which is it to
be with you? Is your life to be like one of those Northern Asiatic
rivers that loses itself in the sands, or that flows into, or is
sluggishly lost in, a bog; or is it going to tumble over a great
precipice, and fall sounding away down into the blackness; or is it
going to leap up 'into everlasting life'? Which of the two aims is the
wiser, is the nobler, is the better?

And a life that thus springs will reach what it springs towards. A
fountain rises and falls, for the law of gravity takes it down; this
fountain rises and reaches, for the law of pressure takes it up, and
the water rises to the level of its source. Christ's gift mocks no
man, it sets in motion no hopes that it does not fulfil; it stimulates
to no work that it does not crown with success. If you desire a life
that reaches its goal, a life in which all your desires are satisfied,
a life that is full of joyous energy, that of a free man emancipated
from circumstances and from the tyranny of unwelcome law, and
victorious over externals, open your hearts to the gift that Christ
offers you; the gift of Himself, of His death and passion, of His
sacrifice and atonement, of His indwelling and sanctifying Spirit.

He offered all the fulness of that grace to this Samaritan woman, in
her ignorance, in her profligacy, in her flippancy. He offers it to
you. His offer awoke an echo in her heart, will it kindle any response
in yours? Oh! when He says to you, 'The water that I shall give will
be in you a fountain springing into everlasting life,' I pray you to
answer as she did--'Sir!--Lord--give me this water, that I thirst not;
neither come to earth's broken cisterns to draw.'



THE SECOND MIRACLE

'This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out
of Judaea into Galilee.'--JOHN iv. 54.

The Evangelist evidently intends us to connect together the two
miracles in Cana. His object may, possibly, be mainly chronological,
and to mark the epochs in our Lord's ministry. But we cannot fail to
see how remarkably these two miracles are contrasted. The one takes
place at a wedding, a homely scene of rural festivity and gladness.
But life has deeper things in it than gladness, and a Saviour who
preferred the house of feasting to the house of mourning would be no
Saviour for us. The second miracle, then, turns to the darker side of
human experience. The happiest home has its saddened hours; the truest
marriage joy has associated with it many a care and many an anxiety.
Therefore, He who began by breathing blessing over wedded joy goes on
to answer the piteous pleading of parental anxiety. It was fitting
that the first miracle should deal with gladness, for that is God's
purpose for His creatures, and that the second should deal with
sicknesses and sorrows, which are additions to that purpose made
needful by sin.

Again, the first miracle was wrought without intercession, as the
outcome of Christ's own determination that His hour for working it was
come. The second miracle was drawn from Him by the imperfect faith and
the agonising pleading of the father.

But the great peculiarity of this second miracle in Cana is that it is
moulded throughout so as to develop and perfect a weak faith. Notice
how there are three words in the narrative, each of which indicates a
stage in the history. 'Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not
_believe_.' ... 'The man _believed_ the word that Jesus had spoken
unto him, and he went his way.' ... 'Himself _believed_ and his whole
house.'

We have here, then, Christ manifested as the Discerner, the Rebuker,
the Answerer, and therefore the Strengthener, of a very insufficient
and ignorant faith. It is a lovely example of the truth of that
ancient prophecy, 'He will not quench the smoking flax.' So these
three stages, as it seems to me, are the three points to observe. We
have, first of all, Christ lamenting over an imperfect faith. Then we
have Him testing, and so strengthening, a growing faith. And then we
have the absent Christ rewarding and crowning a tested faith. I think
if we look at these three stages in the story we shall get the main
points which the Evangelist intends us to observe.

I. First, then, we have here our Lord lamenting over an ignorant and
sensuous faith.

At first sight His words, in response to the hurried, eager appeal of
the father, seem to be strangely unfeeling, far away from the matter
in hand. Think of how breathlessly, feeling that not an instant is to
be lost, the poor man casts himself at the Master's feet, and pleads
that his boy is 'at the point of death.' And just think how, like a
dash of cold water upon this hot impatience, must have come these
strange words that seem to overleap his case altogether, and to be
gazing beyond him--'Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not
believe.' 'What has that to do with me and my dying boy, and my
impatient agony of petition?' 'It has everything to do with you.'

It is the revelation, first of all, of Christ's singular calmness and
majestic leisure, which befitted Him who needed not to hurry, because
He was conscious of absolute power. As when the pleading message was
sent to Him: 'He whom Thou lovest is sick, He abode still two days in
the same place where He was'; because He loved Lazarus and Martha and
Mary; and just as when Jairus is hurrying Him to the bed where his
child lies dead, He pauses on the way to attend to the petition of
another sufferer; so, in like calmness of majestic leisure, He here
puts aside the apparently pressing and urgent necessity in order to
deal with a far deeper, more pressing one.

For in the words there is not only a revelation of our Lord's majestic
leisure, but there is also an indication of what He thought of most
importance in His dealing with men. It was worthy of His care to heal
the boy; it was far more needful that He should train and lead the
father to faith. The one can wait much better than the other.

And there is in the words, too, something like a sigh of profound
sorrow. Christ is not so much rebuking as lamenting. It is His own
pained heart that speaks; He sees in the man before Him more than the
man's words indicated; reading his heart with that divine omniscience
which pierces beyond the surface, and beholding in him the very same
evil which affected all his countrymen. So He speaks to him as one of
a class, and thus somewhat softens the rebuke even while the answer to
the nobleman's petition seems thereby to become still less direct, and
His own sorrowful gaze at the wide-reaching spirit of blindness seems
thereby to become more absorbed and less conscious of the individual
sufferer kneeling at His feet.

Christ had just come from Samaria, the scorn of the Jews, and there He
had found people who needed no miracles, whose conception of the
Messiah was not that of a mere wonder-worker, but of one who will
'tell us all things,' and who believed on Him not because of the
portents which He wrought, but because they heard Him themselves, and
His words touched their consciences and stirred strange longings in
their hearts. On the other hand, this Evangelist has carefully pointed
out in the preceding chapters how such recognition as Christ had thus
far received 'in His own country' had been entirely owing to His
miracles, and had been therefore regarded by Christ Himself as quite
unreliable (chap. ii. 23-25), while even Nicodemus, the Pharisee, had
seen no better reason for regarding Him as a divinely sent Teacher
than 'these miracles that Thou doest.' And now here He is no sooner
across the border again than the same spirit meets Him. He hears it
even in the pleading, tearful tones of the father's voice, and that so
clearly that it is for a moment more prominent even to His pity than
the agony and the prayer. And over that Christ sorrows. Why? Because,
to their own impoverishing, the nobleman and his fellows were blind to
all the beauty of His character. The graciousness of His nature was
nothing to them. They had no eyes for His tenderness and no ears for
His wisdom; but if some vulgar sign had been wrought before them, then
they would have run after Him with their worthless faith. And that
struck a painful chord in Christ's heart when He thought of how all
the lavishing of His love, all the grace and truth which shone radiant
and lambent in His life, fell upon blind eyes, incapable of beholding
His beauty; and of how the manifest revelation of a Godlike character
had no power to do what could be done by a mere outward wonder.

This is not to disparage the 'miraculous evidence.' It is only to put
in its proper place the spirit, which was blind to the self-attesting
glory of His character, which beheld it and did not recognise it as
'the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father.'

That very same blindness to the divine which is in Jesus Christ,
because material things alone occupy the heart and appeal to the mind,
is still the disease of humanity. It still drives a knife into the
loving heart of the pitying and helpful Christ. The special form which
it takes in such a story as this before us is long since gone. The
sense-bound people of this generation do not ask for signs. Miracles
are rather a hindrance than a help to the reception of Christianity in
many quarters. People are more willing to admire, after a fashion, the
beauty of Christ's character, and the exalted purity of His teaching
(meaning thereby, generally, the parts of it which are not exclusively
His), than to accept His miracles. So far round has the turn in the
wheel gone in these days.

But although the form is entirely different the spirit still remains.
Are there not plenty of us to whom sense is the only certitude? We
think that the only knowledge is the knowledge that comes to us from
that which we can see and touch and handle, and the inferences that we
may draw from these; and to many all that world of thought and beauty,
all those divine manifestations of tenderness and grace, are but mist
and cloudland. Intellectually, though in a somewhat modified sense,
this generation has to take the rebuke: 'Except ye see, ye will not
believe.'

And practically do not the great mass of men regard the material world
as all-important, and work done or progress achieved there as alone
deserving the name of 'work' or 'progress,' while all the glories of a
loving Christ are dim and unreal to their sense-bound eyes? Is it not
true to-day, as it was in the old time, that if a man would come among
you, and bring you material good, that would be the prophet for you?
True wisdom, beauty, elevating thoughts, divine revelations; all these
go over your heads. But when a man comes and multiplies loaves, then
you say, 'This is of a truth the prophet that should come into the
world.' 'Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.'

And on the other side, is it not sadly true about those of us who have
the purest and the loftiest faith, that we feel often as if it was
very hard, almost impossible, to keep firm our grasp of One who never
is manifested to our sense? Do we not often feel, 'O that I could for
once, for once only, hear a voice that would speak to my outward ear,
or see some movement of a divine hand'? The loftiest faith still leans
towards, and has an hankering after, some external and visible
manifestation, and we need to subject ourselves to the illuminating
rebuke of the Master who says, 'Except ye see signs and wonders, ye
will not believe,' and, therefore, your faith that craves the support
of some outward thing, and often painfully feels that it is feeble
without it, is as yet but very imperfect and rudimentary.

II. And so we have here, as the next stage of the narrative, our Lord
testing, and thus strengthening, a growing faith.

The nobleman's answer to our Lord's strange words sounds, at first
sight, as if these had passed over him, producing no effect at all.
'Sir, come down ere my child die'; it is almost as if he had said, 'Do
not talk to me about these things at present. Come and heal my boy.
That is what I want; and we will speak of other matters some other
time.' But it is not exactly that. Clearly enough, at all events, he
did not read in Christ's words a reluctance to yield to his request,
still less a refusal of it. Clearly he did not misunderstand the sad
rebuke which they conveyed, else he would not have ventured to
reiterate his petition. He does not pretend to anything more than he
has, he does not seek to disclaim the condemnation that Christ brings
against him, nor to assume that he has a loftier degree or a purer
kind of faith than he possesses. He holds fast by so much of Christ's
character as he can apprehend; and that is the beginning of all
progress. What he knows he knows. He has sore need; that is something.
He has come to the Helper; that is more. He is only groping after Him,
but he will not say a word beyond what he knows and feels; and,
therefore, there is something in him to work upon; and faith is
already beginning to bud and blossom. And so his prayer is his best
answer to Christ's word: 'Sir, come down ere my child die.'

Ah! dear brethren, any true man who has ever truly gone to Christ with
a sense even of some outward and temporal need, and has ever really
prayed at all, has often to pass through this experience, that the
first result of his agonising cry shall be only the revelation to him
of the unworthiness and imperfection of his own faith, and that there
shall seem to be strange delay in the coming of the blessing so longed
for. And the true attitude for a man to take when there is unveiled
before him, in his consciousness, in answer to his cry for help, the
startling revelation of his own unworthiness and imperfection--the
true answer to such dealing is simply to reiterate the cry. And then
the Master bends to the petition, and because He sees that the second
prayer has in it less of sensuousness than the first, and that some
little germ of a higher faith is beginning to open, He yields, and yet
He does not yield. 'Sir, come down ere my child die.' Jesus saith unto
him, 'Go thy way, thy son liveth.'

Why did He not go with the suppliant? Why, in the act of granting,
does He refuse? For the suppliant's sake. The whole force and beauty
of the story come out yet more vividly if we take the contrast between
it and the other narrative, which presents some points of similarity
with it--that of the healing of the centurion's servant at Capernaum.
There the centurion prays that Christ would but speak, and Christ
says, 'I will come.' There the centurion does not feel that His
presence is necessary, but that His word is enough. Here the nobleman
says 'Come,' because it has never entered his mind that Christ can do
anything unless He stands like a doctor by the boy's bed. And he says,
too, 'Come, _ere my child die_,' because it has never entered his mind
that Christ can do anything if his boy has once passed the dark
threshold.

And because his faith is thus feeble, Christ refuses its request,
because He knows that so to refuse is to strengthen. Asked but to
'speak' by a strong faith, He rewards it by more than it prays, and
offers to 'come.' Asked to 'come' by a weak faith, He rewards it by
less, which yet is more, than it had requested; and refuses to come,
that He may heal at a distance; and thus manifests still more
wondrously His power and His grace.

His gentle and wise treatment is telling; and he who was so
sense-bound that 'unless he saw signs and wonders he would not
believe,' turns and goes away, bearing the blessing, as he trusts, in
his hands, while yet there is no sign whatever that he has received
it.

Think of what a change had passed upon that man in the few moments of
his contact with Christ. When he ran to His feet, all hot and
breathless and impatient, with his eager plea, he sought only for the
deliverance of his boy, and sought it at the moment, and cared for
nothing else. When he goes away from Him, a little while afterwards,
he has risen to this height, that he believes the bare word, and turns
his back upon the Healer, and sets his face to Capernaum in the
confidence that he possesses the unseen gift. So has his faith grown.

And that is what you and I have to do. We have Christ's bare word, and
no more, to trust to for everything. We must be content to go out of
the presence-chamber of the King with only His promise, and to cleave
to that. A feeble faith requires the support of something sensuous and
visible, as some poor trailing plant needs a prop round which it may
twist its tendrils. A stronger faith strides away from the Master,
happy and peaceful in its assured possession of a blessing for which
it has nothing to rely upon but a simple bare word. That is the faith
that we have to exercise. Christ has spoken. That was enough for this
man, who from the babyhood of Christian experience sprang at once to
its maturity. Is it enough for you? Are you content to say, 'Thy word,
Thy naked word, is all that I need, for Thou hast spoken, and Thou
wilt do it'?

'Go thy way; thy son liveth.' What a test! Suppose the father had not
gone his way, would his son have lived? No! The son's life and the
father's reception from Christ of what he asked were suspended upon
that one moment. Will he trust Him, or will he not? Will he linger, or
will he depart? He departs, and in the act of trusting he gets the
blessing, and his boy is saved.

And look how the narrative hints to us of the perfect confidence of
the father now. Cana was only a few miles from Capernaum. The road
from the little city upon the hill down to where the waters of the
lake flashed in the sunshine by the quays of Capernaum was only a
matter of a few hours; but it was the next day, and well on into the
next day, before he met the servants that came to him with the news of
his boy's recovery. So sure was he that his petition was answered that
he did not hurry to return home, but leisurely and quietly went
onwards the next day to his child. Think of the difference between the
breathless rush up to Cana, and the quiet return from it. 'He that
believeth shall not make haste.'

III. And so, lastly, we have here the absent Christ crowning and
rewarding the faith which has been tested.

We have the picture of the father's return. The servants meet him.
Their message, which they deliver before he has time to speak, is
singularly a verbal repetition of the promise of the Master, 'Thy son
liveth.' His faith, though it be strong, has not yet reached to the
whole height of the blessing, for he inquires 'at what hour he began
to _amend_,' expecting some slow and gradual recovery; and he is told
'that at the seventh hour,' the hour when the Master spoke, 'the fever
left him,' and all at once and completely was he cured. So, more than
his faith had expected is given to him; and Christ, when he lays His
hand upon a man, does His work thoroughly, though not always at once.

Why was the miracle wrought in that strange fashion? Why did our Lord
fling out His power as from a distance rather than go and stand at the
boy's bedside? We have already seen the reason in the peculiar
condition of the father's mind; but now notice what it was that he had
learned by such a method of healing, not only the fact of Christ's
healing power, but also the fact that the bare utterance of His will,
whether He were present or absent, had power. And so a loftier
conception of Christ would begin to dawn on him.

And for us that working of Christ at a distance is prophetic. It
represents to us His action to-day. Still He answers our cries that He
would come down to our help by sending forth from the city on the
hills, the city of the wedding feast, His healing power to descend
upon the sick-beds and the sorrows and the sins that afflict the
villages beneath. 'He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth, His
word runneth very swiftly.'

This new experience enlarged and confirmed the man's faith. The second
stage to which he had been led by Christ's treatment was simply belief
in our Lord's specific promise, an immense advance on his first
position of belief which needed sight as its basis.

But he had not yet come to the full belief of, and reliance upon, that
Healer recognised as Messiah. But the experience which he now has had,
though it be an experience based upon miracle, is the parent of a
faith which is not merely the child of wonder, nor the result of
beholding an outward sign. And so we read:--'So the father knew that
it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son
liveth. And himself believed and his whole house.'

A partial faith brings experience which confirms and enlarges faith;
and they who dimly apprehend Him, and yet humbly love Him, and
imperfectly trust Him, will receive into their bosoms such large gifts
of His love and gracious Spirit that their faith will be strengthened,
and they will grow into the full stature of peaceful confidence.

The way to increase faith is to exercise faith. And the true parent of
perfect faith is the experience of the blessings that come from the
crudest, rudest, narrowest, blindest, feeblest faith that a man can
exercise. Trust Him as you can, do not be afraid of inadequate
conceptions, or of a feeble grasp. Trust Him as you can, and He will
give you so much more than you expected that you will trust Him more,
and be able to say: 'Now I believe, because I have heard Him myself,
and know that this is the Christ, the Saviour of the world.'



THE THIRD MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL


'Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.'--JOHN v.8

This third of the miracles recorded in John's Gospel finds a place
there, as it would appear, for two reasons: first, because it marks
the beginning of the angry unbelief on the part of the Jewish rulers,
the development of which it is one part of the purpose of this Gospel
to trace; second, because it is the occasion for that great utterance
of our Lord about His Sonship and His divine working as the Father
also works, which occupies the whole of the rest of the chapter, and
is the foundation of much which follows in the Gospel. It is for these
reasons, and not for the mere sake of adding another story of a
miraculous cure to the many which the other Evangelists have given us,
that John narrates for us this history.

If, then, we consider the reason for the introduction of the miracle
into the Gospel, we may be saved from the necessity of dwelling,
except very lightly, upon some of the preliminary details which
preceded the actual cure. It does not matter much to us for our
present purpose which Feast it was on which Jesus went up to
Jerusalem, nor whether the pool was by the sheep-market or by the
sheep-gate, nor whereabouts in Jerusalem Bethesda might happen to be.
It may be of importance for us to notice that the mention of the angel
who appears in the fourth verse is not a part of the original
narrative. The true text only tells us of an intermittent pool which
possessed, or was supposed to possess, curative energy; and round
which the kindness of some forgotten benefactor had built five rude
porches. There lay a crowd of wasted forms, and pale, sorrowful faces,
with all varieties of pain and emaciation and impotence marked upon
them, who yet were gathered in Bethesda, which being interpreted means
'a house of mercy.' It is the type of a world full of men suffering
various sicknesses, but all sick; the type of a world that gathers
with an eagerness, not far removed from despair, round anything that
seems to promise, however vaguely, to help and to heal; the type of a
world, blessed be God, which, amidst all its sad variety of woe and
weariness, yet sits in the porches of 'a house of mercy,' and has in
the midst a 'fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,' whose
energy is as mighty for the last comer of all the generations as for
the first that stepped into its cleansing flood.

This poor man, sick and impotent for eight and thirty years--many of
which he had spent, as it would appear, day by day, wearily dragging
his paralysed limbs to the fountain with daily diminishing hope--this
poor man attracts the regard of Christ when He enters, and He puts to
him the strange question, 'Wilt thou be made whole?' Surely there was
no need to ask that; but no doubt the many disappointments and the
long years of waiting and of suffering had stamped apathy upon the
sufferer's face, and Christ saw that the first thing that was needed,
in order that His healing power might have a point of contact in the
man's nature, was to kindle some little flicker of hope in him once
more.

And so, no doubt, with a smile on His face, which converted the
question into an offer, He says: 'Wilt thou be made whole?' meaning
thereby to say, 'I will heal thee if thou wilt.' And there comes the
weary answer, as if the man had said: 'Will I be made whole? What have
I been lying here all these years for? I have nobody to put me into
the pool.'

Yes, it is a hopeful prospect to hold out to a man whose disease is
inability to walk, that if he will walk to the water he will get
cured, and be able to walk afterwards. Why, he could not even roll
himself into the pond, and so there he had lain, a type of the
hopeless efforts at self-healing which we sick men put forth, a type
of the tantalising gospels which the world preaches to its subjects
when it says to a paralysed man: 'Walk that you may be healed; keep
the commandments that you may enter into life.'

And so we have come at last to the main point of the narrative before
us, and I fix upon these words, the actual words in which the cure was
conveyed, as communicating to us some very important lessons and
thoughts about Christ and our relation to Him.

I. First, I see in them Christ manifesting Himself as the Giver of
power to the powerless who trust Him.

His words may seem at first hearing to partake of the very same almost
cruel irony as the condition of cure which had already proved
hopelessly impracticable. He, too, says, 'Walk that you may be cured';
and He says it to a paralysed and impotent man. But the two things are
very different, for before this cripple could attempt to drag his
impotent limbs into an upright position, and take up the little light
couch and sling it over his shoulders, he must have had some kind of
trust in the person that told him to do so. A very ignorant trust, no
doubt, it was; but all that was set before him about Jesus Christ he
grasped and rested upon. He only knew Him as a Healer, and he trusted
Him as such. The contents of a man's faith have nothing to do with the
reality of his faith; and he that, having only had the healing power
of Christ revealed to him, lays hold of that Healer, cleaves to Him
with as genuine a faith as the man who has the whole fulness and
sublimity of Christ's divine and human character and redeeming work
laid out before him, and who cleaves to these. The hand that grasps is
one, whatsoever be the thing that it grasps.

So it is no spiritualising of this story, or reading into it a deeper
and more religious meaning than belongs to it, to say that what passed
in that man's heart and mind before he caught up his little bed and
walked away with it, was essentially the same action of mind and heart
by which a sinful man, who knows that Christ is his Redeemer, grasps
His Cross and trusts his soul to Him. In the one case, as in the
other, there is confidence in the person; only in the one case the
person was only known as a Healer, and in the other the person is
known as a Saviour. But the faith is the same whatever it apprehends.

Christ comes and says to him, 'Rise, take up thy bed and walk.' There
is a movement of confidence in the man's heart; he tries to obey, and
in the act of obedience the power comes to him.

Ah, brother! it is always so. All Christ's commandments are gifts.
When He says to you, 'Do this!' He pledges Himself to give you power
to do it. Whatsoever He enjoins He strengthens for. He binds Himself,
by His commandments, and every word of His lips which says to us 'Thou
shalt!' contains as its kernel a word of His which says 'I will.' So
when He commands, He bestows; and we get the power to keep His
commandments when in humble faith we make the effort to do His will.
It is only when we try to obey for the love's sake of Him that has
healed us that we are able to obey. And be sure of this, whensoever we
attempt to do what we know to be the Master's will, because He has
given Himself for us, our power will be equal to our desire, and
enough for our duty. As St. Augustine says: 'Give what Thou
commandest, and command what Thou wilt.'

'Rise, take up thy bed and walk,' or as in another case, 'Stretch
forth thy hand.' 'And he stretched it forth, and his hand was restored
whole as the other.' Christ gives power to keep His commandments to
the impotent who try to obey, because they have been healed by Him.

II. In the next place, we have in this miracle our Lord set forth as
the absolute Master, because He is the Healer.

The Pharisees and their friends had no eyes for the miracle; but if
they found a man carrying his light couch on the Sabbath day, that was
a thing that excited their interest, and must be seen to immediately.

And so, paying no attention to the fact that it was a paralysed man
who was doing this, with the true narrow instinct of the formalist,
they lay hold only of the fact of the broken Rabbinical restrictions,
and try to stop him with these. 'It is the Sabbath day! It is not
lawful for thee to carry thy bed.'

And they get an answer which goes a great deal deeper than the speaker
knew, and puts the whole subject of Christian obedience on its right
footing. 'He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto
me, Take up thy bed and walk.' As if he had said: 'He gave me the
power, had He not a right to tell me what to do with it? It was His
gift that I could lift my bed; was I not bound to walk when and where
He that had made me able to walk at all chose to bid me?'

And if you generalise that it just comes to this: the only person that
has a right to command you is the Christ who saves you. He has the
absolute authority to do as He will with your restored spiritual
powers, because He has bestowed them all upon you. His dominion is
built upon His benefits. He is the King because He is the Saviour. He
rules because He has redeemed. He begins with giving, and it is only
afterwards that He commands; and He turns to each of us with that
smile upon His lips, and with tenderness in His voice which will bind
any man, who is not an ingrate, to Him for ever. 'If ye love Me, keep
My commandments.'

There is always something hard and distasteful to the individual will
in the tone of authority assumed by any man whatsoever. We always more
or less rebel and shrink from that; and there is only one thing that
makes commandment sweet, and that is when it drops like honey from the
honeycomb, from lips that we love. So does it in the case of Christ's
commands to us. It is joy to know and to do the will of One to whom
the whole heart turns with gratitude and affection. And Christ blesses
and privileges us by the communication to us of His pleasure
concerning us, that we may have the gladness of yielding to His
desires, and so meeting the love which commands with the happy love
which obeys. 'He that made me whole, the same said unto me...' and
what He says it must be joy to do.

So, 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light,' not because Christ
diminishes the requirements of law; not because the standard of
Christian obedience is lowered beneath any other standard of conduct
and character. It is far higher. The things which make Christian duty
are often very painful in themselves. There is always self-sacrifice
in Christian virtue, and self-sacrifice has always a sting in it; but
the 'yoke is easy and the burden is light,' because, if I may so say,
the yoke is padded with the softest velvet of love, and lies upon our
necks lightly because He has laid it there. All the rigid harshness of
precept is done away when the precept comes from Christ's lips, and
His commandment 'makes the crooked things straight and the rough
places plain'; and turns duty, distasteful duty, into joyful service.
The blessed basis of Christian obedience, and of Christ's authority,
is Christ's redemption.

III. And then, still further, we have here our Lord setting Himself
forth as the divine Son, whose working needs and knows no rest.

We find, in the subsequent part of the chapter, that 'the Jews,' as
they are called, by which is meant the antagonistic portion of the
nation, sought to slay Christ 'because He had done these things on the
Sabbath day.' But Jesus answered them, 'My Father worketh hitherto,
and I work.' Unquestionably the form which the healing took was
intended by our Lord to bring into prominence the very point which
these pedantic casuists laid hold of. He meant to draw attention to
His sweeping aside of the Rabbinical casuistries of the law of the
Sabbath. And He meant to do it in order that He might have the
occasion of making this mighty claim, which is lodged in these solemn
and profound words, to possess a Sonship, which, like the divine
working, wrought, needing and knowing no repose.

'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' The rest, which the old
story in Genesis attributed to the Creator after the Creation, was not
to be construed as if it meant the rest of inactivity; but it was the
rest of continuous action. God's rest and God's work are one.
Throughout all the ages preservation is a continuous creation. The
divine energy is streaming out for evermore, as the bush that burns
unconsumed, as the sun that flames undiminished for ever, pouring out
from the depth of that divine nature, and for ever sustaining a
universe. So that there is no Sabbath, in the sense of a cessation
from action, proper to the divine nature; because all His action is
repose, and 'e'en in His very motion there is rest.' And this divine
coincidence of activity and of repose belongs to the divine Son in His
divine-human nature. With that arrogance which is the very audacity of
blasphemy, if it be not the simplicity of a divine consciousness, He
puts His own work side by side with the Father's work, as the same in
principle, the same in method, the same in purpose, the same in its
majestic coincidence of repose and of energy.

'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore for Me, as for Him,
there is no need of a Sabbath of repose.' Human activity is dissipated
by toil, human energy is exhausted by expenditure. Man works and is
weary; man works and is distracted. For the recovery of the serenity
of his spirit, and for the renewal of his physical strength, repose of
body and gathering in of mind, such as the Sabbath brought, were
needed; but neither is needed for Him who toils unwearied in the
heavens; and neither is needed for the divine nature of Him who
labours in labours parallel with the Father's here upon the earth.

Now remember that this is no abolition of the Sabbatic rest for
Christ's followers. Rather the ground on which He here asserts His
superiority over, and His non-dependence upon, such a repose shows, or
at all events implies, that all mere human workers need such rest, and
should thankfully accept it. But it is a claim on His part to a divine
equality. It is a claim on His part to do works which are other than
human works. It is a claim on His part to be the Lord of a divine
institution, living above the need of it, and able to mould it at His
will.

And so it opens up depths, into which we cannot go now, of the
relations of that divine Father and that divine Son; and makes us feel
that the little incident in which He turned to a paralysed man and
said: 'Rise, take up thy bed and walk,' on the Sabbath day, like some
small floating leaf of sea-weed upon the surface, has great deep
tendrils that go down and down into the very abyss of things, and lays
hold upon that central truth of Christianity, the divinity of the Son
of God, who is One with the ever-working Father.

IV. Lastly, we have in this incident yet another lesson. We have the
Healer who is also the Judge, warning the healed of the possibilities
of a relapse.

'Jesus findeth him in the Temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art
made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.' The man's
eight-and-thirty years of illness had apparently been brought on by
dissipation. It was a sin of flesh, avenged in the flesh, that had
given him that miserable life. One would have thought he had got
warning enough, but we all know the old proverb about what happened
when the devil was ill, and what befell his resolutions when he got
better. And so Christ comes to him again with this solemn warning:
'There is a worse thing than eight-and-thirty years of paralysis. You
fell once, and sore was your punishment. If you fall twice, your
punishment will be sorer.' Why? Because the first one had done him no
good. So here are lessons for us. There is always danger that we shall
fall back into old sins, even if we think we have overcome them. The
mystic influence of habit, enfeebled will, the familiar temptation,
the imagination rebelling, the memory tempting, sometimes even, as in
the case of a man that has been a drunkard, the physical effect of the
odour of his temptation upon his nostrils--all these things make it
extremely unlikely that a man who has once been under the condemnation
of any evil shall never be tempted to fall under its sway again.

And such a fall is not only more criminal than the former, it is more
deadly than the former. 'It were better for them not to have known the
way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn aside.'
'The last state of that man is worse than the first.'

My brother, there is no blacker condemnation; and if I may use a
strong word, there is no hotter hell, than that which belongs to an
apostate Christian. 'It has happened unto them according to the true
proverb. The dog is turned to his vomit again.' Very unpolite, a very
coarse metaphor? Yes; to express a far worse reality.

Christian men and women! you have been made whole. 'Sin no more, lest
a worse thing come unto you.' And turn to that Lord and say, 'Hold
Thou me up and I shall be saved.' Then the enemies will not be able to
recapture you, and the chains which have dropped from your wrists will
never enclose them any more.



THE LIFE-GIVER AND JUDGE

'But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18.
Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only
had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making
Himself equal with God. 19. Then answered Jesus and said unto them,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but
what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these
also doeth the Son likewise. 20. For the Father loveth the Son, and
sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him
greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21. For as the Father
raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth
whom He will. 22. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed
all judgment unto the Son: 23. That all men should honour the Son,
even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son,
honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. 24. Verily, verily, I
say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent
Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but
is passed from death unto life. 25. Verily, verily, I say unto you,
The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of
the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26. For as the Father
hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in
Himself; 27. And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also,
because He is the Son of Man.'--JOHN v. 17-27.

'The Jews' were up in arms because Jesus had delivered a man from
thirty-eight years of misery. They had no human sympathies for the
sufferer, whom hope deferred had made sick and hopeless, but they
shuddered at the breach of the Sabbath. 'Sacrifice' was more important
in their view than 'mercy.' They did not acknowledge that the miracle
proved Christ's Messiahship, but they were quite sure that doing it on
the Sabbath proved His wickedness. How formalism twists men's
judgments of the relative magnitude of form and spirit!

Jesus' vindication of His action roused them still farther, for He put
it on a ground which seemed to them nothing short of blasphemy: 'My
Father worketh even until now, and I work.' They fastened on one point
in that great saying, namely, that it claimed Sonship in a special
sense, and vindicated His right to disregard the Sabbath law on that
ground. God's rest is not inaction. 'Preservation is a continual
creation.' All being subsists because God is ever working. The Son
co-operates with the Father, and for Him, as for the Father, the
Sabbath law does not apply. The charge of breaking the Sabbath fades
into insignificance before the sin, in the objectors' eyes, of making
such claims. Therefore our Lord proceeds to expand and justify them.

He makes, first, a general statement in verses 19 and 20, in which He
sets forth the relation involved in the very idea of Fatherhood and
Sonship. He, as perfect Son of God, is perfectly one with the Father
in will and act, and so knit to Him in sympathy that a self-originated
action is impossible, not by reason of defect of power, but by reason
of unity of being. That perfect unity is expressed negatively ('can do
nothing') and then positively ('doeth likewise'). But it is not
manifest in actions alone, but has its deep roots in the perfect love
which flows ever from each to each, and in the Father's perfect
communication to the Son, and the Son's perfect reception from the
Father. Jesus claimed to stand in such a relation to the Father that
He was able to do whatsoever the Father did, and 'in like manner' as
the Father did it; that He was the unique object of the Father's love,
and capable of receiving complete communications as to 'all things
that Himself doeth'; that He lived in such complete unity with the
Father that His every act was the result of it, and that no trace of
self-will had ever tinged His perfect spirit. What man has ever made
such claims and not been treated as insane? He makes them, and
likewise says that He is 'lowly of heart'; and the world listens, if
not believing, at any rate reverent, as in the presence of the best
man that ever lived. Strange goodness, to claim such divine
prerogatives, unless the claim is valid!

It is expanded in verses 21-23 into two great classes of works, which
Jesus says that He does. Both are distinctively divine works. To give
life and to judge the world are equally beyond human power; they are
equally His actions. These are the 'greater works' which He foretells
in verse 20, and they are greater than the miracle of healing which
had originated the whole conversation. To give life at first, and to
give it again to the dead, and not only to revivify, but to raise
them, are plainly competent to no power short of the divine; and here
Jesus calmly claims them.

That tremendous claim is here made in the widest sense, including both
the corporeally and the spiritually dead, who are afterwards treated
of separately. The Son is the fountain of life in all the aspects of
that wide-reaching word; and He 'quickeneth whom He will,' as He had
spontaneously healed the impotent man. Does that assertion contradict
the other, just before it, that He does nothing of Himself? No; for
His will, while His, is ever harmonious with the Father's, just as His
love, which is ever coincident with the Father's. Does that assertion
imply His arbitrary pleasure, or make man's will a cipher? No; for His
will is guided by righteous love, and wills to quicken those who
comply with His conditions. But the assertion does declare that His
will to quicken is omnipotent, and that His voice can pierce 'the
dull, cold ear of death,' and bring back the soul to the empty house
of this tabernacle, or rouse the spirit 'dead in trespasses.'

The other divine prerogative of judging is inseparable from that of
revivifying, and in regard to it Christ's claim is still higher, for
He says that it is wholly vested in Him as Son. The idea of judgment
here, like that of quickening, with which it is associated, is to be
taken in its more general sense ('_all_ judgment'), and therefore as
including both the present judgment, for which Jesus said that He was
come into the world, and which men pass on themselves by the very fact
of their attitude to Him and His Gospel, and also the future final
judgment, which manifests character and determines destiny. Both these
has the Father given into the hands of the Son.

The purpose, so far as men are concerned, of the Son's investiture,
with these solemn prerogatives, is that He may receive universal
divine honour. A narrower purpose was stated in verse 20, where the
persons seeing His works are only His then audience, and the effect
sought to be produced is merely 'marvel.' But wonder is meant to lead
on to recognition of the meaning of His power, and of the mystery of
His person, and that, again, to rendering to Him precisely the same
honour as is due to the Father. No more unmistakable demand for
worship, no more emphatic assertion of divinity, can be made than lie
in these words. To worship Christ does not intercept the honour due to
God; to worship the Son is to worship the Father; and no man honours
the Father who sent Him who does not honour the Son whom He has sent.

In verses 24-27 the two related prerogatives are presented in their
spiritual aspect, while in the later verses of the chapter the
resurrection and quickening of the literally dead are dealt with. Mark
the significant new term introduced in verse 24, 'He that believeth.'
That spiritual resurrection from the death of sin and self is wrought
on 'whom He will,' but He wills that it shall be wrought on them who
believe. Similarly, in verse 25, it is 'they that hear' who 'shall
live.' It must be so, for there is no other way by which life from
Him, who is the Life, can pass into and quicken us than by our opening
our hearts by faith for its inflow. The mysteries of the Son's
divinity and of His imparted life are deep, but the condition of
receiving that life is plain. If we will trust Jesus, we shall live;
if not, we are dead. Trusting Him is trusting the Father that sent
Him, and that Father becomes accessible to our trust when we 'hear'
Christ's 'word.'

The effects of faith are immediate, and the poor present may be
enriched and clothed in celestial light for each of us, if we will.
For Jesus does not point first to the mysteries of the resurrection of
the dead, and the tremendous solemnities of the final judgment, but to
what we may each enter upon at any moment. The believing man '_hath_
eternal life,' and 'cometh not into judgment.' That life is not
reserved to be entered on in the blessed future, but is a present
possession. True, it will blossom into unexampled nobleness when it is
transported into its native country, like some exotic in our colder
climates if it were carried back to the tropics. But it is a present
possession, and heaven is not different in kind from the Christian
life on earth, but differs mainly in degree and in circumstances. And
he that has the life here and now is, by its moulding of his outward
life, preserved from the sins which would bring him into judgment, and
the merciful judgment to which he is still subject is that for which
his truest self longs. And that blessed condition carries in it the
pledge that, at the last great day, which is to others a 'day of
wrath, a dreadful day,' he whom Christ has quickened by His own
indwelling life shall have 'boldness before Him.'

Obviously, in these verses the present effects of faith are in view,
since Jesus emphatically declares that the 'hour now is' when they can
be realised. Once more He states in the strongest terms, and as the
reason for the assurance that faith secures to us life, His possession
of the two divine prerogatives of quickening and judging. What a
paradox it is to say that it is '_given_' to Him to have 'life in
_Himself_'! And when was that gift given? In the depths of eternity.

He 'sits on no precarious throne, nor borrows leave to be,' and hence
He can impart life and lose none. Inseparably connected with that
given, and yet self-inherent, life, is the capacity for executing
judgment which belongs to Him as 'a Son of man.' It has been as 'the
Son' of the Father that it has been considered, in the previous
verses, as belonging to Him; but now it is as a true man that He is
fitted to bear, and actually is clothed with, that judicial power. No
doubt He is Judge of all, because by His incarnation and earthly life
He presents to all the offer of eternal life, by their attitude to
which offer men are judged. But the connection of thought seems rather
to be that Christ's Manhood, inextricably intertwined with His
divinity, is equally needed with the latter to constitute Him our
Judge. He 'knoweth our frame,' from the inside, as it were, and the
participation in our nature which fits Him to 'be a merciful and
faithful High Priest' also fits Him to be the Judge of mankind.



THE FOURTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL

'And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He
distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set
down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.'--JOHN vi. 11.

This narrative of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand is
introduced into John's Gospel with singular abruptness. We read in the
first verse of the chapter: 'After these things Jesus went over the
Sea of Galilee,' _i.e._ from the western to the eastern side. But the
Evangelist does not tell us how or when He got to the western side.
'These things,' which are recorded in the previous chapter, are the
healing of the impotent man at the Pool of Bethesda, the consequent
outburst of Jewish hostility, and the profound and solemn discourse of
our Lord, in which He claims filial relationship to the Father. So
that we must insert between the chapters a journey from Jerusalem to
Galilee, and a lapse at all events of some months--or, if the feast
referred to in the previous chapter be, as it may be, the Passover, an
interval of nearly a year. So little care for the mere framework of
events has this fourth Gospel; so entirely would the Evangelist have
us see that his reason for narrating this miracle is mainly its
spiritual lessons and the revelation which it makes of Christ as
Himself the Bread of Life.

Similarly, he has no care to tell us anything about the reasons for
our Lord's retirement with His disciples from Galilee to the eastern
bank. These we have to learn from the other Evangelists. They give us
several concurrent motives--the news of the death of John the Baptist;
and of the desire of the bloody tyrant to see Jesus, which foreboded
evil; also the return of the twelve Apostles from their trial journey,
which involved the necessity of rest for them; and, perhaps, the
approach of the Passover, which our Lord did not purpose to observe in
Jerusalem because of the Jewish hostility, and which, therefore,
suggested the withdrawal to temporary retirement.

All these reasons concurring, He and His disciples would seek for a
brief space of seclusion and repose. But the hope of securing such was
vain. The people followed in crowds so eagerly, so hastily, in such
enormous numbers, that no natural or ordinary provision for their
wants could be thought of. Hence the occasion for the miracle before
us.

Now I think that this narrative, with which I wish to deal, falls
mainly into two portions, both of which suggest for us some important
lessons. There is, first, the preparations for the sign; and then
there is the sign itself. Let us look at these two points in
succession.

I. First, then, the preparations for the sign.

Now it is to be observed that this is the only incident before our
Lord's last journey to Jerusalem which is recorded by all four
Evangelists; therefore the variations between the narratives are of
especial interest, and these variations are very considerable. We
find, for instance, that in John's account the question as to how the
bread was to be provided came from Christ; in the other Evangelists'
accounts that question is discussed first amongst the Apostles
privately. We find from John's narrative that the question was
suggested even before the multitudes had come to Jesus. We find in the
Synoptic Gospels that it arose at the close of a long day of teaching
and of healing.

Now it is possible that this diversity of time may be the solution of
the diversity of the person proposing. That is to say, it is quite
legitimate to conclude that John's account takes up the incident at an
earlier period than the other Evangelists do, and that the full order
of events was this; that, privately, at the beginning of the day,
whilst the people were yet flocking to our Lord, He, to one of the
disciples alone, suggests the question, 'Whence shall we buy bread
that these may eat?' and that the answer, 'Two hundred pennyworth of
bread is not sufficient that every one of them may take a little,'
explains for us the suggestion of the same amount at a subsequent part
of the day, by the Apostles when they asked our Lord the question,
'Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread that these may
eat?'

Be that as it may, we may pause for a moment upon this question of our
Lord's, 'Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?'

Now notice what a lovely glimpse we get there into the quick-rising
sympathy of the Saviour with all forms of human necessity. He had gone
away to snatch a brief moment of rest. The rest is denied Him; the
hurrying crowds come pressing with their vulgar curiosity--for it was
nothing better--after Him. No movement of impatience passes across His
mind; no reluctance as He turns away from the vanishing prospect of a
quiet afternoon with His friends. He looks upon them, and the first
thought is a quick, instinctive movement of a divine and yet most
human sympathy. The question rises in His mind of how He was to
provide for them; they were not hungry yet; they had not thought where
their bread was to come from. But He cared for the careless, and His
heart was prophetic of their necessities, and quick to determine 'what
He should do' to supply them. So is it ever. Before we call, He
answers. Thy mercy, O loving Christ! needs no more than the sight of
human necessities, or even the anticipation of them, swiftly to bestir
itself for their satisfaction and their supply.

But, farther, He selects for the question Philip, a man who seems to
have been what is called--as if it were the highest praise--an
'intensely practical person'; who seems to have had little faith in
anything that he could not get hold of by his senses, and who lived
upon the low level of 'common sense.' He always lays stress upon
'seeing.' His answer to Nathanael when he said, 'Can any good thing
come out of Nazareth?' was, 'Come and see.' A very good answer, and
yet one that relies only on the external manifestation of Christ to
the senses. Then, on another occasion, he breaks in upon the lofty
spiritualities of our Lord's final discourse to His disciples, with
the _malapropos_ request, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth
us.' And so here, to the man who believed in his eyesight, and did not
easily apprehend much else, Jesus puts this question, 'Where is the
bread to come from for all these people? This He said to prove him.'
He hoped that the question might have shaped itself in the hearer's
mind into a promise, and that he might have been able to say in
answer, 'Thou canst supply; we need not buy.'

So Christ does still. He puts problems before us, too, to settle;
takes us, as it were, into His confidence with interrogations that try
us, whether we can rise above the level of the material and visible,
or whether all our conceptions of possibilities are bounded by these.
And sometimes, even though the question at first sight seems to evoke
only such a response as it did here, it works more deeply down below
afterwards, and we are helped by the very difficulty to rise to a
clear faith.

Philip's answer is very significant. 'Two hundred pennyworth of bread
are not sufficient.' He casts his eye over the multitude, he makes a
rough, rapid calculation, one does not exactly see the data on which
it was based; and he comes to the conclusion, 'Two hundred pennyworth'
(in our English money some L. 7 or L. 8 worth) would give them each a
morsel. And no doubt he thought himself very practical. He was a man
of figures; he believed in what could be put into tables and
statistics. Yes; and like a great many other people of his sort, he
left out one small element in his calculation, and that was Jesus
Christ, and so his answer went creeping along the low levels, dragging
itself like a half-wounded snake, when it might have risen on the
wings of faith into the empyrean, and soared and sung.

So learn that when we have to deal with Christ's working--and when
have we not to deal with Christ's working?--perhaps probabilities that
can be tabulated are not altogether the best bases upon which to rest
our calculations. Learn that the audacity of a faith that expects
great things, though there be nothing visible upon which to build, is
wiser and more prudent than the creeping common-sense that adheres to
facts which are shadows, and forgets that the chief fact is that we
have an Almighty Helper and Friend at our sides.

Still further, among these preliminaries, let us point to the
exhibition of the inadequate resources which Christ, according to the
fuller narrative in the other Evangelists, desired to know. 'There is
a little lad here with five barley loaves'--one per thousand--'and two
small fishes'--insufficient in quantity and very, very common in
quality, for barley bread was the food of the poorest. 'But what are
they among so many?' And Christ says, 'Bring them to Me.'

Christ's preparation for making our poor resources adequate for
anything is to drive home into our hearts the consciousness of their
insufficiency. We need, first of all, to be brought to this, 'All that
I have is this wretched little stock; and what is that measured
against the work that I have to do, and the claims upon me?' Only when
we are brought to that can His great power pour itself into us and
fill us with rejoicing and overcoming strength. The old mystics used
to say, and they said truly: 'You must be emptied of yourself before
you can be filled by God.' And the first thing for any man to learn,
in preparation for receiving a mightier power than his own into his
opening heart, is to know that all his own strength is utter and
absolute weakness. 'What are they among so many?' When we have once
gone right down into the depths of felt impotence, and when our work
has risen before us, as if it were far too great for our poor
strengths which are weaknesses, then we are brought, and only then,
into the position in which we may begin to hope that power equal to
our desire will be poured into our souls.

And so the last of the preparations that I will touch upon is that
majestic preparation for blessing by obedience. 'And Jesus said, Make
the men sit down.' And there they sat themselves, as Mark puts it in
his picturesque way, like so many garden plots--the rectangular
oblongs in a garden in which pot-herbs are grown--on the green grass,
below the blue sky, by the side of the quiet lake. Cannot you fancy
how some of them seated themselves with a scoff, and some with a quiet
smile of incredulity; and some half sheepishly and reluctantly; and
some in mute expectancy; and some in foolish wonder; and yet all of
them with a partial obedience? And says John in the true translation:
'So the men sat down, therefore Jesus took the loaves.' Sit you down
where He bids you, and your mouths will not be long empty. Do the
things He tells you, and you will get the food that you need. Our
business is to obey and to wait, and His business is, when we are
seated, to open His hand and let the mercy drop. So much for the
preparations for this great miracle.

II. Now, in the next place, a word as to the sign itself.

I take two lessons, and two only, out of it. I see in it, first, a
revelation of Christ, as continually through all the ages sustaining
men's physical life. And I see in it, second, a symbol of Christ as
Himself the Bread of Life.

As to the first, there is here, I believe, a revelation of the law of
the universe, of Christ as being through all the ages the Sustainer of
the physical life of men. What was done then once, with the
suppression of certain links in the chain, is done always, with the
introduction of those links. The miraculous moment in the narrative is
not described to us. We do not know where or when there came in the
supernatural power which multiplied the loaves--probably as they
passed from the hand of the Master. But be that as it may, it was
Christ's will that made the provision which fed all these five
thousand. And I believe that the teaching of Scripture is in
accordance with the deepest philosophy, that the one cause of all
physical phenomena is the will of a present God; howsoever that may
usually conform to the ordinary method of working which people
generalise and call laws. The reason why anything is, and the reason
why all things change, is the energy there and then of the indwelling
God who is in all His works, and who is the only Will and Power in the
physical world.

And I believe, further, that Scripture teaches us that that continuous
will, which is the cause of all phenomena and the underlying
subsistence on which all things repose, is all managed and mediated by
Him who from of old was named the Word; 'in whom was life, and without
whom was not anything made that was made.' Our Christ is Creator, our
Christ is Sustainer, our Christ moves the stars and feeds the
sparrows. He was 'before all things, and in Him all things consist.'
He opens His hand--and there is the print of a nail in it--and
'satisfies the desire of every living thing.'

So learn how to think of second causes, and see in this story a
transient manifestation, in unusual form, of an eternal and permanent
fact. Jesus took the loaves and distributed to them that were set
down.

And so, secondly, the miracle is a _sign_--a symbol of Him as the true
Bread and Food of the world. That is the explanation and commentary
which He Himself appends to it in the subsequent part of the chapter,
in the great discourse which is founded upon this miracle.

'I am the Bread of Life.' There is a triple statement by our Lord upon
this subject in the remaining portion of the chapter. He says, 'I am
the Bread of Life.' My personality is that which not only sustains
life when it is given, but gives life to them that feed upon it. But
more than that, 'the bread which I will give,' pointing to some future
'giving' beyond the present moment, and therefore something more than
His life and example, 'is My flesh, which'--in some as yet unexplained
way--'I give for the life of the world.' And that there may be no
misunderstanding, there is a third, deeper, more mysterious statement
still: 'My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.'
Repulsive and paradoxical, but in its very offensiveness and paradox,
proclaiming that it covers a mighty truth, and the truth, brother, is
this, the one Food that gives life to will, affections, conscience,
understanding, to the whole spirit of a man, is that great Sacrifice
of the Incarnate Lord who gave upon the Cross His flesh, and on the
Cross shed His blood, for the life of the world that was 'dead in
trespasses and sins.' Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, and
we feed on the sacrifice. Let your conscience, your heart, your
desires, your anticipations, your understanding, your will, your whole
being feed on Him. He will be cleansing, He will be love, He will be
fruition, He will be hope, He will be truth, He will be righteousness,
He will be all. Feed upon Him by that faith which is the true eating
of the true Bread, and your souls shall live.

And notice finally here, the result of this miracle as transferred to
the region of symbol. 'They did all eat and were filled'; men, women,
children, both sexes, all ages, all classes, found the food that they
needed in the bread that came from Christ's hands. If any man wants
dainties that will tickle the palates of Epicureans, let him go
somewhere else. But if he wants bread, to keep the life in and to stay
his hunger, let him go to this Christ who is 'human nature's daily
food.'

The world has scoffed for nineteen centuries at the barley bread that
the Gospel provides; coarse by the side of its confectionery, but it
is enough to give life to all who eat it. It goes straight to the
primal necessities of human nature. It does not coddle a class, or
pander to unwholesome, diseased, or fastidious appetites. It is the
food of the world, and not of a section. All men can relish it, all
men need it. It is offered to them all.

And more than that; notice the inexhaustible abundance. 'They did all
eat, and were filled.' And then they took up--not 'of the fragments,'
as our Bible gives it, conveying the idea of the crumbs that littered
the grass after the repast was over, but of the 'broken pieces'--the
portions that came from Christ's hands--twelve baskets full, an
immensely greater quantity than they had to start with. 'The gift doth
stretch itself as 'tis received.' Other goods and other possessions
perish with the using, but this increases with use. The more one eats,
the more there is for him to eat. And all the world may live upon it
for ever, and there will be more at the end than there was at the
beginning.

Brethren, why do ye 'spend your money for that which is not bread'?
There is no answer worthy of a rational soul, no answer that will
stand either the light of conscience or the clearer light of the Day
of Judgment. I come to you now, and although my poor words may be but
like the barley bread and the two fishes--nothing amongst all this
gathered audience--I come with Christ in my hands, and I say to you,
'Eat, and your souls shall live.' He will spread a table for you in
the wilderness, and take you to sit at last at His table in His
Kingdom.



'FRAGMENTS' OR 'BROKEN PIECES'

'When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the
fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.'--JOHN vi. 12.

The Revised Version correctly makes a very slight, but a very
significant change in the words of this verse. Instead of 'fragments'
it reads 'broken pieces.' The change seems very small, but the effect
of it is considerable. It helps our picture of the scene by correcting
a very common misapprehension as to what it was which the Apostles are
bid to gather up. The general notion, I suppose, is that the
'fragments' are the crumbs that fell from each man's hands, as he ate,
and the picture before the imagination of the ordinary reader is that
of the Apostles' carefully collecting the _debris_ of the meal from
the grass where it had dropped. But the true notion is that the
'broken pieces which remain over' are the unused portions into which
our Lord's miracle-working hand had broken the bread, and the true
picture is that of the Apostles carefully putting away in store for
future use the abundant provision which their Lord had made, beyond
the needs of the hungry thousands. And that conception of the command
teaches far more beautiful and deeper lessons than the other.

For if the common translation and notion be correct, all that is
taught us, or at least what is principally taught us, is the duty of
thrift and careful economy; whereas the other shows more clearly that
what is taught us is that Jesus Christ always gets ready for His
people something over and above the exact limits of their bare need at
the moment, that He prepares for His poor and hungry dependants in
royal fashion, leaving ever a wide margin of difference between what
would be just enough to keep the life in them, and His liberal
housekeeping. Further, we are taught a lesson of wise husbandry and
economy in the use of that overplus of grace which Christ ministers,
and are instructed that the laws of prudent thrift have as honoured a
place in the management of spiritual as of temporal wealth. 'Gather
up,' says our Lord, 'the pieces which I broke, the large provision
which I made for possible wants. My gifts are in excess of the
requirements of the moment. Take care of them till you need them.'
That is a worthier interpretation of His command than one which merely
sees in it an exhortation to thrifty taking care of the crumbs that
fell from the lips of the hungry eaters.

Looking at this command, then, with this slight alteration of
rendering, and consequent widening of scope, we may briefly try to
gather up the lessons which it obviously suggests.

I. We have that thought, to which I have already referred, as more
strikingly brought out by the slight alteration of translation, which,
by the use of '_broken_ pieces,' suggests the connection with Christ's
_breaking_ the loaves and fishes. We are taught to think of the large
surplus in Christ's gifts over and above our need. Our Lord has
Himself given us a commentary upon this miracle. All Christ's miracles
are parables, for all teach us, on the level of natural and outward
things, lessons that are true in regard to the spiritual world; but
this one is especially symbolical, as indeed are all these recorded in
John's Gospel. And here we have Christ, on the day after the miracle,
commenting upon it in His long and profound discourse upon the Bread
of Life, which plainly intimates that He meant His office of feeding
the hungry crowds, with bread supernaturally increased by the touch of
His hand, to be but a picture and a guide which might lead to the
apprehension of the higher view of Himself as the 'bread of God which
came down from heaven,' feeding and 'giving life to the world' by His
broken body and shed blood.

So that we are not inventing a fanciful interpretation of an incident
not meant to have any meaning deeper than shows on the surface, when
we say that the abundance far beyond what the eaters could make use of
at the moment really represented the large surplus of inexhaustible
resources and unused grace which is treasured for us all in Christ
Jesus. Whom He feeds He feasts. His gifts answer our need, and
over-answer it, for He is 'able to do exceeding abundantly above that
which we ask or think,' and neither our conceptions, nor our
petitions, nor our present powers of receiving, are the real limits of
the illimitable grace that is laid up for us in Christ, and which,
potentially, we have each of us in our hands whenever we lay our hands
on Him.

Oh, dear friends! what you and I have ever had and felt of Christ's
power, sweetness, preciousness, and love is as nothing compared with
the infinite depths of all those which lie in Him. The sea fills the
little creeks along its shore, but it rolls in unfathomed depths,
boundless to the horizon away out there in the mid-Atlantic. And all
the present experience of all Christian people, of what Christ is, is
like the experience of the first settlers in some great undiscovered
continent; who timidly plant a little fringe of population round its
edge and grow their scanty crops there, whilst the great prairies of
miles and miles, with all their wealth and fertility, are lying
untrodden and unknown in the heart of the untraversed continent. The
most powerful telescope leaves nebulae unresolved, which, though they
seem but a dim dust of light, are all ablaze with mighty suns. The
'goodness' which He has 'wrought before the sons of men for them that
fear' Him is, as the Psalmist adoringly exclaims, wondrously 'great,'
but still greater is that which the same verse of the Psalm
celebrates--the goodness which He has 'laid up for them that fear
Him.' The gold which is actually coined and passing from hand to hand,
is but a fraction, a mere scale, as it were, off the surface of the
great uncoined mass of bullion that lies stored in the vaults there.
Christ is a great deal more than any man, or than all men, have yet
found Him to be. 'Gather up the broken pieces'; and see that nothing
of that infinite preciousness of His be lost by us.

II. Then there is another very simple lesson which I draw. This
command suggests for us Christ's thrift (if I may use the word) in the
employment of His miraculous power.

Surely they might have said: 'If thou canst multiply five loaves into
all this abundance, why should we be trudging about, each with a
basket on his back full of bread, when we have with us He whose word
can make it for us at any moment?' Yes, but a law which characterises
all the miraculous, in both the Old and the New Testament, and which
broadly distinguishes Christ's miracles from all the false miracles of
false religions is this, that the miraculous is pared down to the
smallest possible amount, that not one hairsbreadth beyond the
necessity shall be done by miracle; that whatever men can do they
shall do; that their work shall stop as late, and begin again as soon
as possible. Thus, though Christ was going to raise Lazarus, men's
hands had to roll away the stone; and when Christ had raised Lazarus,
men's hands had to loose the napkins from his face. And though Christ
was able to say to the daughter of Jairus, '_Talitha cumi!_' (damsel,
arise!) His next word was: 'Give her something to eat.' Where the
miraculous was needed it was used, and not a hairsbreadth beyond
absolute necessity did it extend.

And so here Christ multiplies the bread, and yet each of the Apostles
has to take a basket, probably some kind of woven wicker-work article
which they would carry for holding their little necessaries in their
peregrinations; each Apostle has to take his basket, and perhaps
emptying it of some of his humble apparel, to fill it with these bits
of bread; for Christ was not going to work miracles where men's thrift
and prudence could be employed.

Nor does He do so now. We live by faith, and our dependence on Him can
never be too absolute. Only laziness sometimes dresses itself in the
garb and speaks with the tongue of faith, and pretends to be truthful
when it is only slothful. 'Why criest thou unto Me?' said God to
Moses, 'speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.' True
faith sets us to work. It is not to be perverted into idle and false
depending upon Him to work for us, when by the use of our own ten
fingers and our own brains, guided and strengthened by His working in
us, we can do the work that is set before us.

III. Still further, there is another lesson here. Not only does the
injunction show us Christ's thrift in the employment of the
supernatural, but it teaches us our duty of thrift and care in the use
of the spiritual grace bestowed upon us.

These men had given to them this miraculously made bread; but they had
to exercise ordinary thrift in the preservation of the supernatural
gift. Christ has been given to you by the most stupendous miracle that
ever was or can be wrought, and if you are Christian people, you have
the Spirit of Christ given to you, to dwell in your hearts, to make
you wise and fair, gentle and strong, and altogether Christlike. But
you have to take care of these gifts. You have to exercise the common
virtues of economy and thrift in your use of the divine gifts as in
your use of the common things of daily life. You have to use wisely
and not waste the Bread of God that came down from heaven, or that
Bread of God will not feed you. You have to provide the basket in
which to carry the unexhausted residue of the divine gift, or you may
stand hungry in the very midst of plenty, and whilst within arm's
length of you there is bread enough and to spare to feed the whole
world.

The lesson of my text, which is most eminently brought out if we adopt
the translation which I have referred to at the beginning of these
remarks, is, then, just this: Christian men, be watchful stewards of
that great gift of a living Christ, the food of your souls, that has
been by miracle bestowed upon you. Such gathering together for future
need of the unused residue of grace may be accomplished by three ways.
First, there must be a diligent use of the grace given. See that you
use to the very full, in the measure of your present power of
absorbing and your present need, the gift bestowed upon you. Be sure
that you take in as much of Christ as you can contain before you begin
to think of what to do with the overplus. If we are not careful to
take what we can, and to use what we need, of Christ, there is little
chance of our being faithful stewards of the surplus. The water in a
mill-stream runs over the trough in great abundance when the wheel is
not working, and one reason why so many Christians seem to have so
much more given to them in Christ than they need is because they are
doing no work to use up the gift.

A second essential to such stewardship is the careful guarding of the
grace given from whatever would injure it. Let not worldliness,
business, cares of the world, the sorrows of life, its joys, duties,
anxieties or pleasures--let not these so come into your hearts that
they will elbow Christ out of your hearts, and dull your appetite for
the true Bread that came down from heaven.

And lastly, not only by use and by careful guarding, but also by
earnest desire for larger gifts of the Christ who is large beyond all
measure, shall we receive more and more of His sweetness and His
preciousness into our hearts, and of His beauty and glory into our
transfigured characters. The basket that we carry, this recipient
heart of ours, is elastic. It can stretch to hold any amount that you
like to put into it. The desire for more of Christ's grace will
stretch its capacity, and as its capacity increases the inflowing gift
greatens, and a larger Christ fills the larger room of my poor heart.

So the lesson is taught us of our prudence in the care and use of the
grace bestowed on us, and we are bidden to cherish a happy confidence
in the inexhaustible resources of Christ, and the continual gift in
the future of even larger measures of grace, which are all ours
already, given to us at the first reception of Him into our hearts,
and only needing our faithfulness to be growingly ours in experience
as they are ours from the first in germ.

IV. Finally, a solemn warning is implied in this command, and its
reason 'that nothing be lost.'

Then there is a possibility of losing the gift that is freely given to
us. We may waste the bread, and so, sometime or other when we are
hungry, awake to the consciousness that it has dropped out of our
slack hands. The abundance of Christ's grace may, so far as you are
profited or enriched by it, be like the unclaimed millions of money
which nobody asks for and that is of use to no living soul. You may be
paupers while all God's riches in glory are at your disposal, and
starving while baskets full of bread broken for us by Christ lie
unused at our sides. Some of us have never tasted the sweetness or
been fed by the nutritiousness of that Bread of God which came down
from heaven. And more marvellous still, there may be some of us, who
having come to Christ hungry and been fed by Him, have ceased to care
for the pure nourishment and taste for the manna, and are turning
again with gross appetite to the husks in the swine's trough.
Negligent Christians! worldly Christians! you who care more for money
and other dainties and delights which perish with the using--backsliding
Christians, who once hungered and thirsted for more of
Christ, and now have no longing for Him--awake to the danger in which
you stand of letting all your spiritual wealth slip through your
fingers; behold the treasures, yet unreached, within your grasp, and
seek to garner and realise them. Gather up the broken pieces which
remain over, lest everything be lost.



THE FIFTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL

'So when they had rowed about five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs, they
see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they
were afraid. 20. But He said unto them, It is I; be not afraid.'--JOHN
vi. 19,20.

There are none of our Lord's parables recorded in this Gospel, but all
the miracles which it narrates are parables. Moral and religious truth
is communicated by the outward event, as in the parable it is
communicated by the story. The mere visible fact becomes more than
semi-transparent. The analogy between the spiritual and the natural
world which men instinctively apprehend, of which the poet and the
orator and the religious teacher have always made abundant use, and
which it has sometimes been attempted, unsuccessfully as I think, to
elevate to the rank of a scientific truth, underlies the whole series
of these miracles. It is the principal if not the only key to the
meaning of this one before us.

The symbolism which regards life under the guise of a voyage, and its
troubles and difficulties under the metaphor of storm and tempest, is
especially natural to nations that take kindly to the water, like us
Englishmen. I do not know that there is any instance, either in the
Old or in the New Testament, of the use of that to us very familiar
metaphor; but the emblem of the sea as the symbol of trouble, unrest,
rebellious power, is very familiar to the writers of the Old
Testament. And the picture of the divine path as in the waters, and of
the divine prerogative as being to 'tread upon the heights of the
sea,' as Job has it, is by no means unknown. So the natural symbolism,
and the Old Testament use of the expressions, blend together, as I
think, in suggesting the one point of view from which this miracle is
to be regarded.

It is found in two of the other Evangelists, and the condensed account
of it which we have in this Gospel, by its omission of Peter's walking
on the water, and of some other smaller but graphic details that the
other Evangelists give us, serves to sharpen the symbolical meaning of
the whole story, and to bring that as its great purpose and
signification into prominence.

We shall, I think, then, best gain the lessons intended to be drawn if
we simply follow the points of the narrative in their order as they
stand here.

I. We have here, first of all, then, the struggling toilers.

The other Evangelists tell us that after the feeding of the five
thousand our Lord 'constrained' His disciples to get into the ship,
and to pass over to the other side. The language implies
unwillingness, to some extent, on their part, and the exercise of
authority upon His. Our Evangelist, who does not mention the
constraint, supplies us with the reason for it. The preceding miracle
had worked up the excitement of the mob to a very dangerous point.
Crowds are always the same, and this crowd thought, as any other crowd
anywhere and in any age would have done, that the prophet that could
make bread at will was the kind of prophet whom they wanted. So they
determined to take Him by force, and make Him a king; and Christ,
seeing the danger, and not desiring that His Kingdom should be
furthered by such unclean hands and gross motives, determined to
withdraw Himself into the loneliness of the bordering hills. It was
wise to divide the little group; it would distract attention; it might
lead some of the people, as we know it did lead them, to follow the
boat when they found it was gone. It would save the Apostles from
being affected by the coarse, smoky enthusiasm of the crowd. It would
save them from revealing the place of His retirement. It might enable
Him to steal away more securely unobserved; so they are sent across to
the other side of the lake, some five or six miles. An hour or two
might have done it, but for some unknown reason they seem to have
lingered. Perhaps they had no special call for haste. The Paschal
moon, nearly full, would be shining down upon the waters; their hearts
and minds would be busy with the miracle which they had just seen. And
so they may have drifted along, not caring much when they reached
their destination. But suddenly one of the gusts of wind which are
frequently found upon mountain lakes, especially towards nightfall,
rose and soon became a gale with which they could not battle. Our
Evangelist does not tell us how long it lasted, but we get a note of
time from St. Mark, who says it was 'about the fourth watch of the
night'; that is between the hours of three and six in the morning of
the subsequent day. So that for some seven or eight hours at least
they had been tugging at the useless oars, or sitting shivering, wet
and weary, in the boat.

Is it not the history of the Church in a nutshell? Is it not the
symbol of life for us all? The solemn law under which we live demands
persistent effort, and imposes continual antagonism upon us; there is
no reason why we should regard that as evil, or think ourselves hardly
used, because we are not fair-weather sailors. The end of life is to
make men; the meaning of all events is to mould character. Anything
that makes me stronger is a blessing, anything that develops my
_morale_ is the highest good that can come to me. If therefore
antagonism mould in me

  'The wrestling thews that throw the world,'

and give me good, strong muscles, and put tan and colour into my
cheek, I need not mind the cold and the wet, nor care for the
whistling of the wind in my face, nor the dash of the spray over the
bows. Summer sailing in fair weather, amidst land-locked bays, in blue
seas, and under calm skies, may be all very well for triflers, but

  'Blown seas and storming showers'

are better if the purpose of the voyage be to brace us and call out
our powers.

And so be thankful if, when the boat is crossing the mouth of some
glen that opens upon the lake, a sudden gust smites the sheets and
sends you to the helm, and takes all your effort to keep you from
sinking. Do not murmur, or think that God's Providence is strange,
because many and many a time when 'it is dark, and Jesus is not yet
come to us,' the storm of wind comes down upon the lake and threatens
to drive us from our course. Let us rather recognise Him as the Lord
who, in love and kindness, sends all the different kinds of weather
which, according to the old proverb, make up the full-summed year.

And then notice how, in this first picture of our text, the symbolism
so naturally lends itself to spiritual meanings, not only in regard to
the tempest that caught the unthinking voyagers, but also in regard to
other points; such as the darkness amidst which they had to fight the
tempest, and the absence of the Master. Once before, they had been
caught in a similar storm on the lake, but it was daylight then, and
Jesus was with them, and that made all the difference. This time it
was night, and they looked up in vain to the green Eastern hills, and
wondered where in their folds He was lurking, so far from their help.
Mark gives us one sweet touch when he tells us that Christ on the
hillside there _saw_ them toiling in rowing, but they did not see Him.
No doubt they felt themselves deserted, and sent many a wistful glance
of longing towards the shore where He was. Hard thoughts of Him may
have been in some of their minds. 'Master, carest Thou not?' would be
springing to some of their lips with more apparent reason than in the
other storm on the lake. But His calm and loving gaze looked down
pitying on all their fear and toil. The darkness did not hide from
Him, nor His own security on the steadfast land make Him forget, nor
his communion with the Father so absorb Him as to exclude thoughts of
them.

It is a parable and a prophecy of the perpetual relation between the
absent Lord and the toiling Church. He is on the mountain while we are
on the sea. The stable eternity of the Heavens holds Him; we are
tossed on the restless mutability of time, over which we toil at His
command. He is there interceding for us. Whilst He prays He beholds,
and He beholds that He may help us by His prayer. The solitary crew
were not so solitary as they thought. That little dancing speck on the
waters, which held so much blind love and so much fear and trouble,
was in His sight, as on the calm mountain-top He communed with God. No
wonder that weary hearts and lonely ones, groping amidst the darkness,
and fighting with the tempests and the sorrows of lift, have ever
found in our story a symbol that comes to them with a prophecy of hope
and an assurance of help, and have rejoiced to know that they on the
sea are beheld of the Christ in the sky, and that 'the darkness hideth
not from' His loving eye.

II. And now turn to the next stage of the story before us. We have the
approaching Christ.

'When they had rowed about five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs,' and so
were just about the middle of the lake, 'they see Jesus walking on the
sea and drawing nigh unto the ship.' They were about half-way across
the lake. We do not know at what hour in the fourth watch the Master
came. But probably it was towards daybreak. Toiling had endured for a
night. It would be in accordance with the symbolism that joy and help
should come with the morning.

If we look for a moment at the miraculous fact, apart from the
symbolism, we have a revelation here of Christ as the Lord of the
material universe, a kingdom wider in its range and profounder in its
authority than that which that shouting crowd had sought to force upon
Him. His will consolidated the yielding wave, or sustained His
material body on the tossing surges. Whether we suppose the miracle as
wrought on the one or the other, makes no difference to its value as a
manifestation of the glory of Christ, and of His power over the
physical order of things. In the latter case there would, perhaps, be
a hint of a power residing in His material frame, of which we possibly
have other phases, as in the Transfiguration, which may be a prophecy
of what lordship over nature is possible to a sinless manhood. However
that may be, we have here a wonderful picture which is true for all
ages of the mighty Christ, to whose gentle footfall the unquiet surges
are as a marble pavement; and who draws near in the purposes of His
love, unhindered by antagonism, and using even opposing forces as the
path for His triumphant progress. Two lessons may be drawn from this.
One is that in His marvellous providence Christ uses all the tumults
and unrest, the opposition and tempests which surround the ship that
bears His followers, as the means of achieving His purposes. We stand
before a mystery to which we have no key when we think of these two
certain facts; first, the Omnipotent redeeming will of God in Christ;
and, second, the human antagonism which is able to rear itself against
that. And we stand in the presence of another mystery, most blessed,
and yet which we cannot unthread, when we think, as we most assuredly
may, that in some mysterious fashion He works His purposes by the very
antagonism to His purposes, making even head-winds fill the sails, and
planting His foot on the white crests of the angry and changeful
billows. How often in the world's history has this scene repeated
itself, and by a divine irony the enemies have become the helpers of
Christ's cause, and what they plotted for destruction has turned out
rather to the furtherance of the Gospel! 'He maketh the wrath of man
to praise Him, and with the residue thereof He girdeth Himself.'

Another lesson for our individual lives is this, that Christ, in His
sweetness and His gentle sustaining help, comes near to us all across
the sea of sorrow and trouble. A more tender, a more gracious sense of
His nearness to us is ever granted to us in the time of our darkness
and our grief than is possible to us in the sunny hours of joy. It is
always the stormy sea that Christ comes across, to draw near to us;
and they who have never experienced the tempest have yet to learn the
inmost sweetness of His presence. When it is night, and it is dark, at
the hour which is the keystone of night's black arch, Christ comes to
us, striding across the stormy waters. Sorrow brings _Him_ near to
_us_. Do you see that sorrow does not drive _you_ away from Him!

III. Then, still further, we note in the story before us the terror
and the recognition.

St. John does not tell us why they were afraid. There is no need to
tell us. They see, possibly in the chill uncertain light of the grey
dawn breaking over the Eastern hills, a Thing coming to them across
the water there. They had fought gallantly with the storm, but this
questionable shape freezes their heart's blood, and a cry, that is
audible above even the howling of the wind and the dash of the waves,
gives sign of the superstitious terror that crept round the hearts of
those commonplace, rude men.

I do not dwell upon the fact that the average man, if he fancies that
anything from out of the Unseen is near him, shrinks in fear. I do not
ask you whether that is not a sign and indication of the deep
conviction that lies in men's souls, of a discord between themselves
and the unseen world; but I ask you if we do not often mistake the
coming Master, and tremble before Him when we ought to be glad?

We are often so absorbed with our work, so busy tugging at the oar, so
anxiously watching the set of current, so engaged in keeping the helm
right, that we have no time and no eyes to look across the ocean and
see who it is that is coming to us through all the hurly-burly. Our
tears fill our eyes, and weave a veil between us and the Master. And
when we do see that there is Something there, we are often afraid of
it, and shrink from it. And sometimes when a gentle whisper of
consolation, or some light air, as it were, of consciousness of His
presence, breathes through our souls, we think that it is only a
phantasm of our own making, and that the coming Christ is nothing more
than the play of our thoughts and imaginations.

Oh, brethren, let no absorption in cares and duties, let no
unchildlike murmurings, let no selfish abandonment to sorrow, blind
you to the Lord who always comes near troubled hearts, if they will
only look and see! Let no reluctance to entertain religious ideas, no
fear of contact with the Unseen, no shrinking from the thought of
Christ as a _Kill-joy_ keep you from seeing Him as He draws near to
you in your troubles. And let no sly, mocking Mephistopheles of doubt,
nor any poisonous air, blowing off the foul and stagnant marshes of
present materialism, make you fancy that the living Reality, treading
on the flood there, is a dream or a fancy or the projection of your
own imagination on to the void of space. He is real, whatever may be
phenomenal and surface. The storm is not so real as the Christ, the
waves not so substantial as He who stands upon them. They will pass
and quieten, He will abide for ever. Lift up your hearts and be glad,
because the Lord comes to you across the waters, and hearken to His
voice: 'It is I! Be not afraid.'

The encouragement not to fear follows the proclamation, 'It is I!'
What a thrill of glad confidence must have poured itself into their
hearts, when once they rose to the height of that wondrous fact!

  'Well roars the storm to those who hear
   A deeper voice across the storm.'

There is no fear in the consciousness of His presence. It is His old
word: 'Be not afraid!' And He breathes it whithersoever He comes; for
His coming is the banishment of danger and the exorcism of dread. So
that if only you and I, in the midst of all storm and terror, can say
'It is the Lord,' then we may catch up the grand triumphant chorus of
the old psalm, and say: 'Though the waters thereof roar and be
troubled, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, yet
I will not fear.' The Lord is with us; the everlasting Christ is our
Helper, our Refuge, and our Strength.

IV. So, lastly, we have here in this story the end of the tempest and
of the voyage.

Our Evangelist does not record, as the others do, that the storm
ceased upon Christ's being welcomed into the little boat. The other
Evangelists do not record, as he does, the completion of the voyage.
'Immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.' The two
things are cause and effect. I do not suppose, as many do, that a
subordinate miracle is to be seen in that last clause of our text, or
that the 'immediately' is to be taken as if it meant that without one
moment's delay, or interval, the voyage was completed; but only, which
I think is all that is needful, that the falling of the tempest and
the calming of the waters which followed upon the Master's entrance
into the vessel made the remainder of the voyage comparatively brief
and swift.

It is not always true, it is very seldom true, that when Christ comes
on board opposition ends, and the haven is reached. But it is always
true that when Christ comes on board a new spirit enters into the men
who have Him for their companion, and are conscious that they have. It
makes their work easy, and makes them 'more than conquerors' over what
yet remains. With what a different spirit the weary men would bend
their backs to the oars once more when they had the Master on board,
and with what a different spirit you and I will set ourselves to our
work if we are sure of His presence. The worst of trouble is gone when
Christ shares it with us. There is a wonderful charm to stay His rough
wind in the assurance that in all our affliction He is afflicted. If
we feel that we are following in His footsteps, we feel that He stands
between us and the blast, a refuge from the storm and a covert from
the tempest. And if still, as no doubt will be the case, we have our
share of trouble and storm and sorrow and difficulty, yet the worst of
the gale will be passed, and though a long swell may still heave, the
terror and the danger will have gone with the night, and hope and
courage and gladness revive as the morning's sun breaks over the still
unquiet waves, and shows us our Master with us and the white walls of
the port glinting in the level beams.

Friends, life is a voyage, anyhow, with plenty of storm and danger and
difficulty and weariness and exposure and anxiety and dread and
sorrow, for every soul of man. But if you will take Christ on board,
it will be a very different thing from what it will be if you cross
the wan waters alone. Without Him you will make shipwreck of
yourselves; with Him your voyage may seem perilous and be tempestuous,
but He will 'make the storm a calm,' and will bring you to the haven
of your desire.



HOW TO WORK THE WORK OF GOD

'Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the
works of God? 29. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work
of God, that ye, believe on Him whom He hath sent.'--JOHN vi. 28, 29.

The feeding of the five thousand was the most 'popular' of Christ's
miracles. The Evangelist tells us, with something between a smile and
a sigh, that 'when the people saw it, they said, This is of a truth
that Prophet that should come into the world,' and they were so
delighted with Him and with it, that they wanted to get up an
insurrection on the spot, and make a King of Him. I wonder if there
are any of that sort of people left. If two men were to come into
Manchester to-morrow morning, and one of them were to offer material
good, and the other wisdom and peace of heart, which of them, do you
think, would have the larger following? We need not cast a stone at
the unblushing, frank admiration that these men had for a Prophet who
could feed them, for that is exactly the sort of prophet that a great
number of us would like best if they spoke out.

So Jesus Christ had to escape from the inconvenient enthusiasm of
these mistaken admirers of His; and they followed Him in their
eagerness, but were met with words which lift them into another region
and damp their zeal. He tries to turn away their thoughts from the
miracle to a far loftier gift. He contrasts the trouble which they
willingly took in order to get a meal with their indifference as to
obtaining the true bread from heaven, and He bids them work for it
just as they had shown themselves ready to work for the other.

They put to Him this question of my text, so strangely blending as it
does right and wrong, 'You have bid us work; tell us how to work? What
must we do that we may work the works of God?' Christ answers, in
words that illuminate their confusions and clear the whole matter,
'This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.'

I. Faith, then, is a work.

You know that the commonplace of evangelical teaching opposes faith to
works; and the opposition is perfectly correct, if it be rightly
understood. But I have a strong impression that a great deal of our
preaching goes clean over the heads of our hearers, because we take
for granted, and they fancy that they understand, the meaning of terms
because the terms themselves are so familiar. And I believe that many
people go to churches and chapels all their lives long, and hear this
doctrine dinned into them, that they are to be saved by faith, and not
by works, and never approach a definite understanding of what it
means.

So let me just for a moment try to clear up the terms of this
apparently paradoxical statement that faith is a work. What do we mean
by faith? What do you mean by saying that you have faith in your
friend, in your wife, in your husband, in your guide? You simply mean,
and we mean, that you trust the person, grasping him by the act of
trust. On trust the whole fabric of human society depends, as well as
in another aspect of the same expression does the whole fabric of
Manchester commerce. Faith, confidence, the leaning of myself on one
discerned to be true, trusty, strong, sufficient for the purpose in
hand, whatever it may be--that, and nothing more mysterious, nothing
further away from daily life and the common emotions which knit us to
one another, is, as I take it, what the New Testament means when it
insists upon faith.

Ah, we all exercise it. You put it forth in certain low levels and
directions. 'The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,' is
the short summary of the happy lives of many, I have no doubt, of my
present hearers. Have you none of that confidence to spare for God? Is
it all meant to be poured out upon weak, fallible, changeful creatures
like ourselves, and none of it to rise to the One in whom absolute
confidence may eternally be fixed?

But then, of course, as we may see by the exercise of the same emotion
in regard to one Another, the under side (as I have been accustomed to
say to you) of this confidence in God or Christ is diffidence of
myself. There is no real exercise of confidence which does not
involve, as an essential part of itself, the going out from myself in
order that I may lay all the weight and the responsibility of the
matter in hand upon Him in whom I trust. And so Christian faith is
compounded of these two elements, or rather, it has these two sides
which correspond to one another. The same figure is convex or concave
according as you look at it from one side or another. If you look at
faith from one side, it rises towards God; if from the other, it
hollows itself out into a great emptiness. And so the under side of
faith is distrust; and he that puts his confidence in God thereby goes
out of himself, and declares that in himself there is nothing to rest
upon.

Now that two-sided confidence and diffidence, trust and distrust,
which are one, is truly a work. It is not an easy one either; it is
the exercise of our own inmost nature. It is an effort of will. It has
to be done by coercing ourselves. It has to be maintained in the face
of many temptations and difficulties. The contrast between faith and
work is between an inward act and a crowd of outward performances. But
the faith which knits me to God is my act, and I am responsible for
it.

But yet it is not a work, just because it is a ceasing from my own
works, and going out from myself that He may enter in. Only remember,
when we say, 'Not by works of righteousness, but by the faith of
Christ,' we are but proclaiming that the inward man must exercise that
act of self-abnegation and confession of its own impotence, and
ceasing from all reliance on anything which it does, whereby, and
whereby alone, it can be knit to God. 'Labour not for the meat that
perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life.... This
is the work of God, that ye believe.' You are responsible for doing
that, or for not doing it.

II. Secondly, faith, and not a multitude of separate acts, is what
pleases God.

Mark the difference between the form of the question and that of the
answer. The people say, 'What are we to do that we may work the
_works_ of God?' Christ answers in the singular: 'This is the _work_.'
They thought of a great variety of observances and deeds. He gathers
them all up into one. They thought of a pile, and that the higher it
rose the more likely they were to be accepted. He unified the
requirement, and He brought it all down to this one act, in which all
other acts are included, and on which alone the whole weight of a
man's salvation is to rest. 'What shall we do that we might work the
works of God?' is a question asked in all sorts of ways, by the hearts
of men all round about us; and what a babble of answers comes! The
priest says, 'Rites and ceremonies.' The thinker says, 'Culture,
education.' The moralist says, 'Do this, that, and the other thing,'
and enumerates a whole series of separate acts. Jesus Christ says,
'One thing is needful.... This is the work of God.' He brushes away
the sacerdotal answer and the answer of the mere moralist, and He
says, 'No! Not _do_; but _trust_.' In so far as that is act, it is the
only act that you need.

That is evidently reasonable. The man is more than his work; motive is
more important than action; character is deeper than conduct. God is
pleased, not by what men do, but by what men are. We must _be_ first,
and then we shall _do_. And it is obviously reasonable, because we can
find analogies to the requirement in all other relations of life. What
would you care for a child that scrupulously obeyed, and did not love
or trust? What would a prince think of a subject who was ostentatious
in acts of loyalty, and all the while was plotting and nurturing
treason in his heart?

If doing separate acts of righteousness be the way to work the works
of God, then no man has ever done them. For it is a plain fact that
every man falls below his own conscience--which conscience is less
scrupulous than the divine law. The worst of us knows a great deal
more than the best of us does; and our lives, universally, are, at the
best, lives of partial effort after unreached attainments of obedience
and of virtue.

But, even supposing that we could perform, far more completely than we
do, the requirements of our own consciences, and conform to the
evident duties of our position and relations, do you think that
without faith we should be therein working the works of God? Suppose a
man were able fully to realise his own ideal of goodness, without any
confidence in God underlying all his acts; do you think that these
would be acts that would please God? It seems to me that, however
lovely and worthy of admiration, looked at with human eyes only, many
lives are, which have nobly and resolutely fought against evil, and
struggled after good, if they have lacked the crowning grace of doing
this for God's sake, they lack, I was going to say, almost everything;
I will not say that, but I will say that they lack that which makes
them acceptable, well-pleasing to Him. The poorest, the most imperfect
realisation of our duty and ideal of conduct which has in it a love
towards God and a faith in Him that would fain do better if it could,
is a nobler thing, I venture to say, in the eyes of Heaven--which are
the truth-seeing eyes--than the noblest achievements of an untrusting
soul. It does not seem to me that to say so is bigotry or narrowness
or anything else but the plain deduction from this, that a man's
relation to God is the deepest thing about him, and that if that be
right, other things will come right, and if that be wrong nothing is
as right as it might be.

Here we have Jesus Christ laying the foundation for the doctrine which
is often said to be Pauline, as if that meant something else than
coming from Jesus Christ. We often hear people say, 'Oh, your
evangelical teaching of justification by faith, and all that, comes
out of Paul's Epistles, not out of Christ's teaching, nor out of
John's Gospel.' Well, there is a difference, which it is blindness not
to recognise, between the seeds of teaching in our Lord's words, and
the flowers and fruit of these seeds, which we get in the more
systematised and developed teaching of the Epistles. I frankly admit
that, and I should expect it, with my belief as to who Christ is, and
who Paul is. But in that saying, 'This is the work of God, that ye
believe on Him whom He hath sent,' is the germ of everything that Paul
has taught us about the works of the law being of no avail, and faith
being alone and unfailing in its power of uniting men to God, and
bringing them into the possession of eternal life. The saying stands
in John's Gospel, and so Paul and John alike received, though in
different fashions, and wrought out on different lines of subsequent
teaching, the germinal impulse from these words of the Master. Let us
hear no more about salvation by faith being a Pauline addition to
Christ's Gospel, for the lips of Christ Himself have declared 'this is
the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.'

III. Thirdly, this faith is the productive parent of all separate
works of God.

The teaching that I have been trying to enforce has, I know, been so
presented as to make a pillow for indolence, and to be closely allied
to immorality. It has been so presented, but it has not been so
presented half as often as its enemies would have us believe. For I
know of but very few, and those by no means the most prominent and
powerful of the preachers of the great doctrine of salvation by faith,
who have not added, as its greatest teacher did: 'Let ours also be
careful to maintain good works for necessary uses.' But the true
teaching is not that trust is a substitute for work, but that it is
the foundation of work. The Gospel is, first of all, Trust; then, set
yourselves to do the works of faith. It works by love, it is the
opening of the heart to the entrance of the life of Christ, and, of
course, when that life comes in, it will act in the man in a manner
appropriate to its origin and source, and he that by faith has been
joined to Jesus Christ, and has opened his heart to receive into that
heart the life of Christ, will, as a matter of course, bring forth, in
the measure of his faith, the fruits of righteousness.

We are surely not despising fruits and flowers when we insist upon the
root from which they shall come. A man may take separate acts of
partial goodness, as you see children in the springtime sticking
daisies on the spikes of a thorn-twig picked from the hedges. But
these will die. The basis of all righteousness is faith, and the
manifestation of faith is practical righteousness. 'Show Me thy faith
by thy works' is Christ's teaching quite as much as it is the teaching
of His sturdy servant James. And so, dear friends, we are going the
shortest way to enrich lives with all the beauties of possible human
perfection when we say, 'Begin at the beginning. The longest way round
is the shortest way home; trust Him with all your hearts first, and
that will effloresce into "whatsoever things are lovely and whatever
things are of good report."' In the beautiful metaphor of the Apostle
Peter, in his second Epistle, Faith is the damsel who leads in the
chorus of consequent graces; and we are exhorted to 'add to our faith
virtue,' and all the others that unfold themselves in harmonious
sequence from that one central source.

If I had time I should be glad to turn for a moment to the light which
such considerations cast upon subjects that are largely occupying the
attention of the Christian Church to-day. I should like to insist
that, before you talk much about applied Christianity, you should be
very sure that in men there _is_ a Christianity to apply. I venture to
profess my own humble belief that in ninety-nine cases out of a
hundred, Christian ministers and churches will do no more for the
social, political, and intellectual and moral advancement of men and
the elevation of the people by sticking to their own work and
preaching this Gospel--'This is the work of God, that ye believe on
Him whom He hath sent.'

IV. Lastly, this faith secures the bread of life.

The bread of life is the starting-point of the whole conversation. In
the widest possible sense it is whatsoever truly stills the hunger of
the immortal soul. In a deeper sense it is the person of Jesus Christ
Himself, for He not only says that He will _give_, but that He _is_
the Bread of Life. And, in the deepest sense of all, it is His flesh
broken for us in His sacrifice on the Cross. That bread is a gift. So
the paradox results which stands in our text--_work_ for the bread
which God will _give_. If it be a gift, that fact determines what sort
of work must be done in order to possess it. If it be a gift, then the
only work is to accept it. If it be a gift, then we are out of the
region of _quid pro quo_; and have not to bring, as Chinese do, great
strings of copper cash that, all added up together, do not amount to a
shilling, in order to buy what God will bestow upon us. If it be a
gift, then to trust the Giver and to accept the gift is the only
condition that is possible.

It is not a condition that God has invented and arbitrarily imposed.
The necessity of it is lodged deep in the very nature of the case. Air
cannot get to the lungs of a mouse in an air-pump. Light cannot come
into a room where all the shutters are up and the keyhole stopped. If
a man chooses to perch himself on some little stool of his own, with
glass legs to it, and to take away his hand from the conductor, no
electricity will come to him. If I choose to lock my lips, Jesus
Christ does not prise open my clenched teeth to put the bread of life
into my unwilling mouth. If we ask, we get; if we take, we get.

And so the paradox comes, that we work for a gift, with a work which
is not work because it is a departure from myself. It is the same
blessed paradox which the prophet spoke when he said, 'Buy ... without
money and without price.' Oh! what a burden of hopeless effort and
weary toil--like that of the man that had to roll the stone up the
hill, which ever slipped back again--is lifted from our shoulders by
such a word as this that I have been poorly trying to speak about now!
'Thou art careful and troubled about many things,' poor soul! trying
to be good; trying to fight yourself, and the world, and the devil.
Try the other plan, and listen to Him saying, 'Give up self-imposed
effort in thine own strength. Take, eat, this is My body, which is
broken for you.'



THE MANNA

'I am that bread of life. 49. Your fathers did eat manna in the
wilderness, and are dead. 50. This is the bread which cometh down from
heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.'--JOHN vi. 48-50.

'This is of a truth that Prophet,' said the Jews, when Christ had fed
the five thousand on the five barley loaves and the two small fishes.
That was the kind of Teacher for them; they were quite unaffected by
the wisdom of His words and the beauty of His deeds, but a miracle
that found food precisely met their wants, and so there was excited an
impure enthusiasm, very unwelcome to Jesus. Therefore He withdrew
Himself from it, and when the people followed Him, all full of
expectation, to get some more loaves and see some more miracles, He
met them with a douche of cold water that cooled their enthusiasm and
flung them back into a critical, questioning mood. They pointed to the
miracle of the manna, and hinted that, if He expected them to accept
Him, He must do as Moses had done, or something like it. Probably
there was a Jewish tradition in existence then to the effect that the
Messiah was to repeat the miracle of the manna. But, at all events,
Christ lays hold of the reference that they put into His hands, and He
said in effect, 'Manna? Yes; I give, and am, the true Manna.'

So this is the third of the instances in this Gospel in which our Lord
pointed to Old Testament incidents and institutions as symbolising
Himself. In the first of them, when He likened Himself to the ladder
that Jacob saw, He claimed to be the Medium of communication between
heaven and earth. In the second of them, when He likened Himself to
the brazen serpent lifted in the camp, He claimed to be the Healer of
a sin-stricken and poisoned world. And now, with an allusion both to
the miracle and to the Jewish demand for the repetition of the manna
sign, He claims to be the true Food for a starving world. So there are
three things in my text: Christ's claim, His requirements, and His
promise; the bread, the eating, the issues.

I. Here is a claim of Christ's.

As I have already said, in the whole wonderful conversation of which I
have selected a portion for my text, there is a double reference to
the miracle of the loaves and of the manna. What our Lord means to
assert for Himself is that which is common to both of these--viz. that
He supplies the great primal wants of humanity, the hunger of the
heart. There may be another reference also, which I just notice
without dwelling upon it. Barley loaves were the coarsest and least
valuable form of bread. They were not only of little worth, but
altogether inadequate to feeding the five thousand. The palates,
unaccustomed to the stinging savours of the garlic and the leeks of
Egypt, loathed the light bread. And so Jesus Christ comes into the
world in lowly form, like the barley loaf or the light bread from
which men whose tastes have been vitiated by the piquant savours of
more earthly nourishment turn away as insipid. And yet He in His
lowliness, He in His savourlessness, is that which meets the deepest
wants of humanity, and is every man's fare because He will be any
man's satisfaction.

But I wish to bring before your notice the wonderful way in which our
Lord, in this great dissertation concerning Himself as the Bread of
Life, gradually unfolds the depths of His meaning and of His offer. He
began with saying that He, the Son of Man, will give to men the bread
that 'endures to everlasting life.' And then when that saying is but
dimly understood, and yet awakes some strange new desires and
appetites in the hearers, and they come to Him and ask, 'Lord,
evermore give us this bread,' He answers them with opening another
finger of His hand, as it were, and showing them a little more of the
treasure that lies in His palm. For He says, 'I _am_ that Bread of
Life.' That is an advance on the previous saying. He gives bread, and
any man that was conscious of possessing some great truth or some
great blessing which, believed and accepted, would refresh and nourish
humanity, might have said the same thing. But now we pass into the
_penumbra_ of a greater mystery: 'I am that Bread of Life.' You cannot
separate what Christ gives from what Christ is. You can take the
truths that another man proclaims, altogether irrespective of him and
his personality. That only disturbs, and the sooner it is got rid of,
the firmer and the purer our possession of the message for which he is
only the medium. You can take Plato's teaching and do as you like with
Plato. But you cannot take Christ's teaching and do as you like with
Christ. His personality is the centre of His gift to the world. 'I am
that Bread of Life.' That He should give it is much; that He should
_be_ it is far more.

And notice how, when He has thus drawn us a little further into the
magic circle of the light, He not only asserts the inseparableness of
His gift from His Person, but also asserts, with a reference, no
doubt, to the manna, 'I am the Bread that came down from heaven.' The
listeners immediately laid hold of that one point, and neglected for
the moment all the rest, and they fixed with a true instinct--although
it was for the purpose of contradicting it--on this central point,
'that came down from heaven.' They said one to the other, 'How can
this man say that He came down from heaven? Is not this Jesus the Son
of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?' So, brethren, as the
manna that descended from above in the dew of the night was to the
bread that was baked in a baker's oven, so is the Christ to the
manhood that has its origin in the natural processes of birth. The
Incarnation of the Son of God, becoming Son of Man for us and for our
salvation, is involved in this great claim. You do not get to the
heart of Christ's message unless you have accepted this as the truth
concerning Him, that 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God,' and that at a definite point in the
long process of the ages, 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt amongst
us.' He will never be 'the Bread of Life' unless He is 'the Bread that
came down from heaven.' For humanity needs that the blue heavens that
bend remote above should come down; and we cannot be lifted 'out of
the horrible pit and the miry clay' unless a Hand from above be
reached down into the depths of our degradation, and lift us from our
lowness. Heaven must come to earth, if earth is to rise to heaven. The
ladder must be let down from above, if ever from the lower levels men
are to ascend thither where at the summit the face of God can be seen.

But that is not all. Our Lord, if I may recur to a former figure, went
on to open another finger of His hand, and to show still more of the
gift. For He not only said, 'the Son of Man gives the bread,' and 'I
am the Bread that came down from heaven,' but He went on to say, in a
subsequent stage of the conversation, 'the Bread that I will give is
My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' Now, notice
that '_will_ give.' Then, though the Word was made flesh, and the
manna came down from heaven, the especial gift of His flesh for the
life of the world was, at the time of His speaking, a future thing.
And what He meant is still more clearly brought out, when we read
other words which are the very climax of this conversation, when He
declares that the condition of our having life in ourselves is our
'eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man.' The
figure is made repulsive on purpose, in order that it may provoke us
to penetrate to its meaning. It was even more repulsive to the Jew,
with his religious horror of touching or tasting anything in which the
blood was. And yet our Lord not only speaks of Himself as the Bread,
but of His flesh and blood as being the Food of the world. The
separation of the two clearly indicates a violent death, and I, for my
part, have no manner of doubt that, in these great words in which our
Lord lays bare the deepest foundations of His claim to be the Food of
humanity, there is couched, in the veiled language which was necessary
at the then stage of His mission, a distinct reference to His death,
as being the Sacrifice on which a hunger-stricken world may feed and
be satisfied.

So here we have, in three steps, the great central truth of the Gospel
set forth in symbolical aspect: the Son that gives, the Son that is,
the Bread of the world, and the death whereby His flesh and blood are
separated and become the nourishment of all sin-stricken souls. I do
not say one word to enforce these claims, but I beseech you deal
fairly with these Gospel narratives, and do not go on picking out of
them bits of Christ's actions or words, which commend themselves to
you, and ignoring all the rest. There is no more reason to believe
that Jesus Christ ever said, 'As ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so to them likewise,' or any other part of that Sermon on
the Mount which some people take as their Christianity, than there is
to believe that He said, 'The bread which I give is My flesh, which I
will give for the life of the world.' Believe it or not, it is not
dealing with the Scripture records as you deal with other historical
records if, for subjective reasons, you brush aside all that
department of our Lord's teaching. And if you do accept it, what
becomes of His 'sweet reasonableness'? What becomes of His meekness
and lowliness of heart? I was going to say what becomes of His sanity,
that He should stand up, a youngish man from Nazareth, in the
synagogue of Capernaum, and should say, 'I, heaven-descended, and
slain by men, am the Bread of Life to the whole world'?

I was going to make another observation, which I must just pass with
the slightest notice, and that is that, taking this point of view and
giving full weight to these three stages of our Lord's progressive
revelation of Himself, we have the answer to the question, What is the
connection between these discourses and the ordinance of the Lord's
Supper? Our modern sacramentarian friends will have it that Jesus
Christ is speaking of the Communion in this chapter. I take it, and I
venture to think it the reasonable explanation, that He is not
speaking about the Communion, but that this discourse and that rite
are dealing with the same truths--the one in articulate words, the
other in equivalent symbols. And so we have not to read into the text
any allusion to the rite, but to see in the text and in the rite the
proclamation of the same thing--viz. that the flesh and the blood of
the Sacrifice for sins is the food on which a sinful and cleansed
world may feed.

II. So, secondly, let me ask you to note our Lord's requirement here.

He carries on the metaphor. 'This is the Bread which cometh down from
heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die.' The eating
necessarily follows from the symbol of the bread, as the designation
of the way by which we all, with our hungry hearts, may feed upon this
Bread of God. I need not remind you that in many a place, and in this
whole context, we find the explanation of the symbol very plainly. In
another part of this conversation we read, under another metaphor
which comes to the same thing, 'He that cometh unto Me shall never
hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. So the eating
and the coming are diverse symbols for the one thing, the believing.
When a man eats he appropriates to himself, and incorporates into his
very being, the food of which he partakes. And when a man trusts
Christ he appropriates to himself, and incorporates into his inmost
being, the very life of Jesus Christ. You say, 'That is mysticism';
but it is the New Testament teaching, that when I trust Christ I get
more than His gifts--I get Himself; that when my faith goes out to Him
it not only rests me on Him, but it brings Him into me, and that food
of the spirit becomes the life, as we shall see, of _my_ spirit.

That condition is indispensable. It is useless to have food on your
table or your plate or in your hand, it does not nourish you there:
you must eat it, and then you gain sustenance from it. Many a hungry
man has died at the door of a granary. Some of us are starving, though
beside us there is 'the Bread of God that came down from heaven.'
Brethren, you must eat, and I venture to put the question to
you--_not_ Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the world's Saviour?
_not_ Do you believe in an Incarnation? _not_ Do you believe in an
Atonement? but Have you claimed your portion in the Bread? Have you
taken it into your own lips? _Crede et manducasti_, said Augustine,
'believe'--or, rather, _trust_--'and thou hast eaten.' Have _you_?

Further, let me remind you that under this eating is included not only
some initial act of faith, but a continuous course of partaking. The
dinner you ate this day last year is of no use for to-day's hunger.
The act of faith done long ago will not bring the Bread to nourish you
now. You must repeat the meal. And very strikingly and beautifully in
the last part of this conversation our Lord varies the word for
eating, and substitutes--as if He were speaking to those who had
fulfilled the previous condition--another one which implies the
ruminant action of certain animals. And that is what Christian men
have to do, to feed over and over and over again on the 'Bread of God
which came down from heaven.' Christ, and especially in and through
His death for us, can nourish and sustain our wills, giving them the
pattern of what they should desire, and the motive for which they
should desire it. Christ, and especially through His death, can feed
our consciences, and take away from them all the painful sense of
guilt, while He sharpens them to a far keener sensitiveness to evil.
Christ, and especially through His death, can feed our understandings,
and unveil therein the deepest truths concerning God and man,
concerning man's destiny and God's mercy. Christ, and especially in
His death, can feed our affections, and minister to love and desire
and submission and hope their celestial nourishment. He is 'the Bread
of God,' and we have but to eat of that which is laid before us.

III. So, lastly, we have here the issues.

'Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.' This
Bread secures that if 'a man eat thereof he shall not die.' The bread
that perishes feeds a life that perishes; but this Bread not only
sustains but creates a life that cannot perish, and, taken into the
spirits of men that are 'dead in trespasses and sins,' imparts to them
a life that has no affinity to evil, and therefore no dread of
extinction.

If 'a man eats thereof he shall not die,' Christ annihilates for us
the mere accident of physical death. That is only a momentary jolt on
the course. That may all be crammed into a parenthesis. 'He shall not
die,' but live the true life which comes from the possession of union
with Him who is the Life. The bread which we eat sustains life; the
Bread which He gives originates it. The bread which we eat is
assimilated to our bodily frame, the Bread which He gives assimilates
our spiritual nature to His. And so it comes to be the only food that
stills a hungry heart, the only food that satisfies and yet never
cloys, which, eating, we are filled, and being filled are made capable
of more, and, being capable of more, receive more. In blessed and
eternal alternation, fruition and desire, satisfaction and appetite,
go on.

'Why do ye spend money for that which is not bread?' You cannot answer
the question with any reasonable answer. Oh, dear friends! I beseech
you, listen to that Lord who is saying to each of us, 'Take, eat, this
is My body, which is broken for you.'



ONE SAYING WITH TWO MEANINGS

'Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then
I go unto Him that sent Me. 34. Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find
Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.'--JOHN vii. 33, 34.

'Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek Me;
and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I
say to you.'--JOHN xiii. 33.

No greater contrast can be conceived than that between these two
groups to whom such singularly similar words were addressed. The one
consists of the officers, tools of the Pharisees and of the priests,
who had been sent to seize Christ, and would fain have carried out
their masters' commission, but were restrained by a strange awe,
inexplicable even to themselves. The other consists of the little
company of His faithful, though slow, scholars, who made a great many
mistakes, and sometimes all but tired out even His patience, and yet
were forgiven much because they loved much. Hatred animated one group,
loving sorrow the other.

Christ speaks to them both in nearly the same words, but with what a
different tone, meaning, and application! To the officers the saying
is an exhibition of His triumphant confidence that their malice is
impotent and their arms paralysed; that when He wills He will _go_,
not be dragged by them or any man, but go to a safe asylum, where foes
can neither find nor follow. The officers do not understand what He
means. They think that, bad Jew as they have always believed Him to
be, He may very possibly consummate His apostasy by going over to the
Gentiles altogether; but, at any rate, they feel that He is to escape
their hands.

The disciples understand little more as to whither He goes, as they
themselves confess a moment after; but they gather from His words His
loving pity, and though the upper side of the saying seems to be
menacing and full of separation, there is an under side that suggests
the possibility of a reunion for them.

The words are nearly the same in both cases, but they are not
absolutely identical. There are significant omissions and additions in
the second form of them. 'Little children' is the tenderest of all the
names that ever came from Christ's lips to His disciples, and never
was heard on His lips except on this one occasion, for parting words
ought to be very loving words. 'A little while I am with you,' but He
does not say, 'And then I go to Him that sent Me.' 'Ye shall seek Me,'
but He does not say, 'And shall not find Me.' 'As I said unto the
Jews, whither I go ye cannot come, so now I say to you,' that little
word 'now' makes the announcement a truth for the present only. His
disciples shall not seek Him in vain, but when they seek they shall
find. And though for a moment they be parted from Him, it is with the
prospect and the confidence of reunion. Let us, then, look at the two
main thoughts here. First, the two 'seekings,' the seeking which is
vain, and the seeking which is never vain; and the two 'cannots,' the
inability of His enemies for evermore to come where He is, and the
inability of His friends, for a little season, to come where He is.

I. The two seekings.

As I have observed, there is a very significant omission in one of the
forms of the words. The enemies are told that they will never find
Him, but no such dark words are spoken to the friends. So, then,
hostile seeking of the Christ is in vain, and loving seeking of Him by
His friends, though they understand Him but very poorly, and therefore
seek Him that they may know Him better, is always answered and
over-answered.

Let me deal just for a moment or two with each of these. In their
simplest use the words of my first text merely mean this: 'You cannot
touch Me, I am passing into a safe asylum where your hands can never
reach Me.'

We may generalise that for a moment, though it does not lie directly
in our path, and preach the old blessed truth that no man with hostile
intent seeking for Christ in His person, in His Gospel, or in His
followers and friends, can ever find Him. All the antagonism that has
stormed against Him and His cause and words, and His followers and
lovers, has been impotent and vain. The pursuers are like dogs chasing
a bird, sniffing along the ground after their prey, which all the
while sits out of their reach on a bough, and carols to the sky. As in
the days of His flesh, His foes could not touch His person till He
chose, and vainly sought Him when it pleased Him to hide from them, so
ever since, in regard to His cause, and in regard to all hearts that
love Him, no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper. They
shall be wrapped, when need be, in a cloud of protecting darkness, and
stand safe within its shelter. Take good cheer, all you that are
trying to do anything, however little, however secular it may appear
to be, for the good and well-being of your fellows! All such service
is a prolongation of Christ's work, and an effluence from His, if
there be any good in it at all; and it is immortal and safe, as is
His. 'Ye shall seek Me and shall not find Me.'

But then, besides that, there is another thought. It is not merely
hostile seeking of Him that is hopeless vain. When the dark days came
over Israel, under the growing pressure of the Roman yoke, and amidst
the agonies of that last siege, and the unutterable sufferings which
all but annihilated the nation, do you not think that there were many
of these people who said to themselves: 'Ah! if we had only that Jesus
of Nazareth back with us for a day or two; if we had only listened to
Him!' Do you not think that before Israel dissolved in blood there
were many of those who had stood hostile or alienated, who desired to
see 'one of the days of the Son of Man,' and did not see it? They
sought Him, not in anger any more; they sought Him, not in penitence,
or else they would have found Him; but they sought Him simply in
distress, and wishing that they could have back again what they had
cared so little for when they had it.

And are there no people listening to me now, to whom these words
apply?--

  'He that will not, when he may,
  When he will it shall be--Nay!'

Although it is (blessed be His name) always true that a seeking heart
finds Him, and whensoever there is the faintest trace of penitent
desire to get hold of Christ's hand it does grasp ours, it is also
true that things neglected once cannot be brought back; that the
sowing time allowed to pass can never return; and that they who have
turned, as some of you have turned, dear friends, all your lives, a
deaf ear to the Christ that asks you to love Him and trust Him, may
one day wish that it had been otherwise, and go to look for Him and
not find Him.

There is another kind of seeking that is vain, an intellectual seeking
without the preparation of the heart. There are, no doubt, some people
here to-day that would say, 'We have been seeking the truth about
religion all our lives, and we have not got to it yet.' Well, I do not
want to judge either your motives or your methods, but I know this,
that there is many a man who goes on the quest for religious
certainty, and looks _at_, if not _for_ Jesus Christ, and is not
really capable of discerning Him when he sees Him, because his eye is
not single, or because his heart is full of worldliness or
indifference, or because he begins with a foregone conclusion, and
looks for facts to establish that; or because he will not cast down
and put away evil things that rise up between him and his Master.

My brother! if you go to look for Jesus Christ with a heart full of
the world, if you go to look for Him while you wish to hold on by all
the habitudes and earthlinesses of your past, you will never find Him.
The sensualist seeks for Him, the covetous man seeks for Him, the
passionate, ill-tempered man seeks for Him; the woman plunged in
frivolities, or steeped to the eyebrows in domestic cares,--these may
in some feeble fashion go to look for Him and they will not find Him,
because they have sought for Him with hearts overcharged with other
things and filled with the affairs of this life, its trifles and its
sins.

I turn for a moment to the seeking that is not vain. 'Ye shall seek
Me' is not on Christ's lips to any heart that loves Him, however
imperfectly, a sentence of separation or an appointment of a sorrowful
lot, but it is a blessed law, the law of the Christian life.

That life is all one great seeking after Christ. Love seeks the absent
when removed from our sight. If we care anything about Him at all, our
hearts will turn to Him as naturally as, when the winter begins to
pinch, the migrating birds seek the sunny south, impelled by an
instinct that they do not themselves understand.

The same law which sends loving thoughts out across the globe to seek
for husband, child, or friend when absent, sets the really Christian
heart seeking for the Christ, whom, having not seen, it loves, as
surely as the ivy tendril feels out for a support. As surely as the
roots of a mountain-ash growing on the top of a boulder feel down the
side of the rock till they reach the soil; as surely as the stork
follows the warmth to the sunny Mediterranean, so surely, if your
heart loves Christ, will the very heart and motive of your action be
the search for Him.

And if you do _not_ seek Him, brother, as surely as He is parted from
our sense you will lose Him, and He will be parted from you wholly,
for there is no way by which a person who is not before our eyes may
be kept near us except only by diligent effort on our part to keep
thought and love and will all in contact with Him; thought meditating,
love going out towards Him, will submitting. Unless there be this
effort, you will lose your Master as surely as a little child in a
crowd will lose his nurse and his guide, if his hand slips from out
the protecting hand. The dark shadow of the earth on which you stand
will slowly steal over His silvery brightness, as when the moon is
eclipsed, and you will not know how you have lost Him, but only be
sadly aware that your heaven is darkened. 'Ye shall seek Me,' is the
condition of all happy communion between Christ and us.

And that seeking, dear brother, in the threefold form in which I have
spoken of it--effort to keep Him in our thoughts, in our love, and
over our will--is neither a seeking which starts from a sense that we
do not possess Him, nor one which ends in disappointment. But we seek
for Him because we already have Him in a measure, and we seek Him that
we may possess Him more abundantly, and anything is possible rather
than that such a search shall be vain. Men may go to created wells,
and find no water, and return ashamed, and with their vessels empty,
but every one who seeks for that Fountain of salvation shall draw from
it with joy. It is as impossible that a heart which desires Jesus
Christ shall not have Him, as it is that lungs dilated shall not fill
with air, or as it is that an empty vessel put out in a rainfall shall
not be replenished. He does not hide Himself, but He desires to be
found. May I say that as a mother will sometimes pretend to her child
to hide, that the child's delight may be the greater in searching and
in finding, so Christ has gone away from our sight in order, for one
reason, that He may stimulate our desires to feel after Him! If we
seek Him hid in God, we shall find Him for the joy of our hearts.

A great thinker once said that he would rather have the search after
truth than the possession of truth. It was a rash word, but it pointed
to the fact that there is a search which is only one shade less
blessed than the possession. And if that be so in regard to any pure
and high truth, it is still more so about Christ Himself. To seek for
Him is joy; to find Him is joy. What can be a happier life than the
life of constant pursuit after an infinitely precious object, which is
ever being sought and ever being found; sought with a profound
consciousness of its preciousness, found with a widening appreciation
and capacity for its enjoyment? 'Ye shall seek Me' is a word not of
evil but of good cheer; for buried in the depth of the commandment to
search is the promise that we shall find.

II, Secondly, let us look briefly at these two 'cannots.'

'Whither I go, ye cannot come,' says He to His enemies, with no
limitation, with no condition. The 'cannot' is absolute and permanent,
so long as they retain their enmity. To His friends, on the other
hand, He says, 'So now I say to you,' the law for to-day, the law for
this side the flood, but not the law for the beyond, as He explains
more fully in the subsequent words: 'Thou canst not follow Me now, but
thou shalt follow Me afterwards.'

So, then, Christ is somewhere. When He passed from life it was not
into a state only, but into a place; and He took with Him a material
body, howsoever changed. He is somewhere, and there friend and enemy
alike cannot enter, so long as they are compassed with 'the earthly
house of this tabernacle.' But the incapacity is deeper than that. No
sinful man can pass thither. Where has He gone? The preceding words
give us the answer. 'God shall glorify Him in Himself.' The prospect
of that assumption into the inmost glory of the divine nature directly
led our Lord to think of the change it would bring about in the
relation of His humble friends to Him. While for Himself He triumphs
in the prospect, He cannot but turn a thought to their lonesomeness,
and hence come the words of our text. He has passed into the bosom and
blaze of divinity. Can I walk there, can I pass into that tremendous
fiery furnace? 'Who shall dwell with the everlasting burnings?' 'Ye
cannot follow Me now.' No man can go thither except Christ goes
thither.

There are deep mysteries lying in that word of our Lords,--'I go to
prepare a place for you.' We know not what manner of activity on His
part that definitely means. It seems as if somehow or other the
presence in Heaven of our Brother in His glorified humanity was
necessary in order that the golden pavement should be trodden by our
feet, and that our poor, feeble manhood should live and not be
shrivelled up in the blaze of that central brightness.

We know not how He prepares the place, but heaven, whatever it be, is
no place for a man unless the Man, Christ Jesus, be there. He is the
Revealer of God, not only for earth, but for heaven; not only for
time, but for eternity. 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,' is
true everywhere and always, there as here. So I suppose that, but for
His presence, heaven itself would be dark, and its King invisible, and
if a man could enter there he would either be blasted with unbearable
flashes of brightness or grope at its noonday as the blind, because
his eye was not adapted to such beams. Be that as it may, 'the
Forerunner is for us entered.' He has gone before, because He knows
the great City, 'His own calm home, His habitation from eternity.' He
has gone before to make ready a lodging for us, in whose land He has
dwelt so long, and He will meet us, who would else be bewildered like
some dweller in a desert if brought to the capital, when we reach the
gates, and guide our unaccustomed steps to the mansion prepared for
us.

But the power to enter there, even when He is there, depends on our
union with Christ by faith. When we are joined to Him, the absolute
'cannot,' based upon flesh, and still more upon sin, which is a
radical and permanent impossibility, is changed into a relative and
temporary incapacity. If we have faith in Christ, and are thereby
drawing a kindred life from Him, our nature will be in process of
being changed into that which is capable of bearing the brilliance of
the felicities of heaven. But just as these friends of Christ, though
they loved Him very truly, and understood Him a little, were a long
way from being ready to follow Him, and needed the schooling of the
Cross, and Olivet, and Pentecost, as well as the discipline of life
and toil, before they were fully ripe for the harvest, so we, for the
most part, have to pass through analogous training before we are
prepared for the place which Christ has prepared for us. Certainly, so
soon as a heart has trusted Christ, it is capable of entering where He
is, and the real reason why the disciples could not come where He went
was that they did not yet clearly know Him as the divine Sacrifice for
theirs and the world's sins, and, however much they believed in Him as
Messiah, had not yet, nor could have, the knowledge on which they
could found their trust in Him as their Saviour.

But, while that is true, it is also true that each advance in the
grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour will bring with it
capacity to advance further into the heart of the far-off land, and to
see more of the King in His beauty. So, as long as His friends were
wrapped in such dark clouds of misconception and error, as long as
their Christian characters were so imperfect and incomplete as they
were at the time of my text being spoken, they could not go thither
and follow Him. But it was a diminishing impossibility, and day by day
they approximated more and more to His likeness, because they
understood Him more, and trusted Him more, and loved Him more, and
grew towards Him, and, therefore, day by day became more and more able
to enter into that Kingdom.

Are you growing in power so to do? Is the only thing which unfits you
for heaven the fact that you have a mortal body? In other respects are
you fit to go into that heaven, and walk in its brightness and not be
consumed? The answer to the question is found in another one--Are you
joined to Jesus Christ by simple faith? The incapacity is absolute and
eternal if the enmity is eternal.

State and place are determined yonder by character, and character is
determined by faith. Take a bottle of some solution in which
heterogeneous substances have all been melted up together, and let it
stand on a shelf and gradually settle down, and its contents will
settle in regular layers, the heaviest at the bottom and the lightest
at the top, and stratify themselves according to gravity. And that is
how the other world is arranged--stratified. When all the confusions
of this present are at an end, and all the moisture is driven off, men
and women will be left in layers, like drawing to like. As Peter said
about Judas with equal wisdom and reticence, 'He went to his own
place.' That is where we shall all go, to the place we are fit for.

God does not slam the door of heaven in anybody's face; it stands wide
open. But there is a mystic barrier, unseen, but most real, more
repellent than cherub and flaming sword, which makes it impossible for
any foot to cross that threshold except the foot of the man whose
heart and nature have been made Christlike, and fitted for heaven by
simple faith in Him.

Love Him and trust Him, and then your life on earth will be a blessed
seeking and a blessed finding of Him whom to seek is joyous effort,
whom to find is an Elysium of rest. You will walk here not parted from
Him, but with your thoughts and your love, which are your truest self,
going up where He is, until you drop 'the muddy vesture of decay'
which unfits you whilst you wear it for the presence-chamber of the
King, and so you will enter in and be 'for ever with the Lord.'



THE ROCK AND THE WATER

'In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried,
saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. 38. He
that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly
shall flow rivers of living water.'--JOHN vii. 37,38.

The occasion and date of this great saying are carefully given by the
Evangelist, because they throw much light on its significance and
importance. It was 'on the last day, that great day of the Feast,'
that 'Jesus stood and cried.' The Feast was that of Tabernacles, which
was instituted in order to keep in mind the incidents of the desert
wandering. On the anniversary of this day the Jews still do as they
used to, and in many a foul ghetto and frowsy back street of European
cities, you will find them sitting beneath the booths of green
branches, commemorating the Exodus and its wonders. Part of that
ceremonial was that on each morning of the seven, and possibly on the
eighth, 'the last day of the Feast,' a procession of white-robed
priests wound down the rocky footpath from the Temple to Siloam, and
there in a golden vase drew water from the spring, chanting, as they
ascended and re-entered the Temple gates where they poured out the
water as a libation, the words of the prophet, 'with joy shall ye draw
water out of the wells of salvation.'

Picture the scene to yourselves--the white-robed priests toiling up
the pathway, the crowd in the court, the sparkling water poured out
with choral song. And then, as the priests stood with their empty
vases, there was a little stir in the crowd, and a Man who had been
standing watching, lifted up a loud voice and cried, 'If any man
thirst, let him come unto _Me_, and drink.' Strange words to say,
anywhere and anywhen, daring words to say there in the Temple court!
For there and then they could mean nothing less than Christ's laying
His hand on that old miracle, which was pointed to by the rite, when
the rock yielded the water, and asserting that all which it did and
typified was repeated, fulfilled, and transcended in Himself, and that
not for a handful of nomads in the wilderness, but for all the world,
in all its generations.

So here is one more instance to add to those to which I have directed
your attention on former occasions, in which, in this Gospel, we find
Christ claiming to be the fulfilment of incidents and events in that
ancient covenant, Jacob's ladder, the brazen serpent, the manna, and
now the rock that yielded the water. He says of them all that they are
the shadow, and the substance is in Him.

I. So then, we have to look, first, at Christ's view of humanity as
set forth here.

You remember the story of how the people in the wilderness, distressed
by that most imperative of all physical cravings, thirst, turned upon
Moses and Aaron and said, 'Why have ye brought us here to die in the
wilderness, where there are neither vines nor pomegranates,' but a
land of thirst and death? Just as Christ, in the former instances to
which we have already referred, selected and pointed to the poisoned
and serpent-stricken camp as an emblem of humanity, and just as He
pointed to the hunger of the men that were starving there, as an
emblem, go here He says: 'That is the world--a congregation of thirsty
men raging in their pangs, and not knowing where to find solace or
slaking for their thirst.' I do not need to go over all the dominant
desires that surge up in men's souls, the mind craving for knowledge,
the heart calling out for love, the whole nature feeling blindly and
often desperately after something external to itself, which it can
grasp, and in which it can feel satisfied. You know them; we all know
them. Like some plant growing in a cellar, and with feeble and
blanched tendrils feeling towards the light which is so far away,
every man carries about within himself a whole host of longing
desires, which need to find something round which they may twine, and
in which they can be at rest.

'The misery of man is great upon him,' because, having these desires,
he misreads so many of them, and stifles, ignores, atrophies to so
large an extent the noblest of them. I know of no sadder tragedy than
the way in which we misinterpret the meaning of these inarticulate
cries that rise from the depths of our hearts, and misunderstand what
it is that we are groping after, when we put out empty, and, alas! too
often unclean, hands, to lay hold on our true good.

Brethren, you do not know what you want, many of you, and there is
something pathetic in the endless effort to fill up the heart by a
multitude of diverse and small things, when all the while the deepest
meaning of aspirations, yearnings, longings, unrest, discontent is,
'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.' Nothing less than
infinitude will satisfy the smallest heart of the humblest and least
developed man. Nothing less than to have all our treasures in one
accessible, changeless Infinity will ever give rest to a human soul.
You have tried a multiplicity of trifles. It takes a great many bags
of coppers to make up L. 1000, and they are cumbrous to carry. Would
it not be better to part with a multitude of goodly pearls, if need
be, in order to have all your wealth, and the satisfaction of all your
desires, in the 'One Pearl of great price'? It is God for whom men are
thirsting, and, alas! so many of us know it not. As the old prophet
says, in words that never lose their pathetic power, 'they have hewn
out for themselves cisterns'--one is not enough--they need many. They
are only cisterns, which hold what is put into them, and they are
'broken cisterns,' which cannot hold it. Yet we turn to these with a
strange infatuation, which even the experience that teaches fools does
not teach us to be folly. We turn _to_ these; and we turn _from_ the
Fountain; the one, the springing, the sufficient, the unfailing, the
exuberant Fountain of living waters. Some of you have cisterns on the
tops of your houses, with a coating of green scum and soot on them,
and do you like that foul draught better than the bright blessing that
comes out of the heart of the rock, flashing and pure?

But not only are these desires misread, but the noblest of them are
stifled. I have said that the condition of humanity is that of thirst.
Christ speaks in my text as if that thirst was by no means universal,
and, alas! it is not, '_If_ any man thirst'; there are some of us that
do not, for we are all so constituted that, unless by continual
self-discipline, and self-suppression, and self-evolution, the lower
desires will overgrow the loftier ones, and kill them, as weeds will
some precious crop. And some of you are so much taken up with
gratifying the lowest necessities and longings of your nature, that
you leave the highest all uncared for, and the effect of that is that
the unsatisfied longing avenges itself, for your neglect of it, by
infusing unrest and dissatisfaction into what else would satisfy the
lowest. 'He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor
he that loveth abundance with increase,' but he that loves God will be
satisfied with less than silver, and will continue satisfied when
decrease comes. If you would suck the last drop of sweetness out of
the luscious purple grapes that grow on earth, you must have the
appetite after the best things, recognised, and ministered to, and
satisfied. And when we are satisfied with God, we shall 'have learnt
in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be self-sufficing.' But, as I
say, the highest desires are neglected, and the lowest are cockered
and pampered, and so the taste is depraved. Many of you have no wish
for God, and no desire after high and noble things, and are perfectly
contented to browse on the low levels, or to feed on 'the husks that
the swine do eat,' whilst all the while the loftiest of your powers is
starving within. Brethren, before we can come to the Rock that yields
the water, there must be the sense of need. Do you know what it is
that you want? Have you any desire after righteousness and purity and
nobleness, and the vision of God flaming in upon the pettinesses and
commonplaces of this life which is 'sound and fury, signifying
nothing,' and is trivial in all its pretended greatness, unless you
have learned that you need God most of all, and will never be at rest
till you have Him?

II. Secondly, note here Christ's consciousness of Himself.

Is there anything in human utterances more majestic and wonderful than
this saying of my text, 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me'? There
He claims to be separate altogether from those whose thirst He would
satisfy. There He claims to be able to meet every aspiration, every
spiritual want, every true desire in this complex nature of ours.
There He claims to be able to do this for one, and therefore for all.
There He claims to be able to do it for all the generations of
mankind, right away down to the end. Who is He who thus plants Himself
in the front of the race, knows their deep thirsts, takes account of
the impotence of anything created to satisfy them, assumes the divine
prerogative, and says, 'I come to satisfy every desire in every soul,
to the end of time'? Yes, and from that day when He stood in the
Temple and cried these words, down to this day, there have been, and
there are, millions who can say, 'We have drawn water from this
fountain of salvation, and it has never failed us.' Christ's audacious
presentation of Himself to the world as adequate to fill all its
needs, and slake all its thirst, has been verified by nineteen
centuries of experience, and there are many men and women all over the
world to-day who would be ready to set to their seals that Christ is
true, and that He, indeed, is all-sufficient for the soul.

Brethren, I do not wish to dwell upon this aspect of our Lord's
character in more than a sentence, but I beseech you to ask yourselves
what is the impression that is left of the character of a man who says
such things, unless He was something more than one of our race? Jesus
Christ, it is as clear as day, in these words makes a claim which only
divinity can warrant Him in making, or can fulfil when it is made. And
I would urge you to consider what the alternative is, if you do not
believe that Jesus Christ here sets Himself forth as the Incarnate
Word of God, sufficient for all humanity. 'I am meek and lowly in
heart'--and His lowliness of heart is proved in a strange fashion, if
He stands up before the race and says, 'If any man thirst, let him
come unto Me and drink.'

III. Note, further, Christ's invitation.

'Let him come ... and drink'--two expressions for one thing. That
invitation sounds all through Scripture, and, perhaps, there was
lingering in our Lord's mind, besides the reference to the rock that
yielded the water, some echo of the words of the second Isaiah: 'Ho!
every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.' 'Nay!' said Christ,
'not to the waters, but to Me.' And then we hear from His own lips the
same invitation addressed to the woman of Samaria, with the difference
that to her, an alien, He pointed only to the natural water in the
well that had been Jacob's, whereas, to these people, the descendants
of the chosen race, He pointed to the miracle in the desert, and
claimed to fulfil that. And on the very last page of Scripture, as it
is now arranged, there stands the echo again of this saying of my
text, 'Let him that is athirst come'--there must be the sense of need,
as I was saying, before there is the coming--'and whosoever will, let
him take of the water of life freely.'

Now, dear friends, beneath these two metaphorical expressions there
lies one simple condition. I put it into three words, which, for the
sake of being easily remembered, I cast into an alliterative form:
approach Christ, appropriate Christ, adhere to Christ.

Approach Christ. You come by faith, you come by love, you come by
communion. And you can come if you will, though He is now on the
throne.

Appropriate Christ. It is vain that the water should be gushing from
the rock there, unless you make it your own by drinking. It must pass
your lips. It must become your personal possession. You must enclose a
piece of the common, and make it your very own. 'He loved _us_, and
gave Himself for _us_'; well and good, but strike out the 'us' and put
in 'me.' 'He loved _me_ and gave Himself for _me_.' The river may be
flowing right past your door, yet your lips may be cracked with
thirst, even whilst you hear the tinkle of its music amongst the
sedges and the pebbles. Appropriate Christ. 'Come ... and drink.'

Adhere to Christ. You were thirsty yesterday: you drank. That will not
slake to-day's thirst, nor prevent its recurrence. And you must keep
on drinking if you are to keep from perishing of thirst. Day by day,
drop by drop, draught by draught, you must drink. According to the
ancient Jewish legend, which Paul in one of his letters refers to,
about this very miracle, you must have the Rock following you all
through your desert pilgrimage, and you must drink daily and hourly,
by continual faith, love, and communion.

IV. We have here not only these points, but a fourth. Christ's
promise.

'He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living
water.' That is one case of the universal law that a man who trusts
Christ becomes like the Christ whom he trusts. Derivatively and by
impartation, no doubt, but still the man who has gone to that Rock, to
the springing fountain as it pushes forth, receives into himself an
inward life by the communication of Christ's divine Spirit, so that he
has in him a fountain 'springing up into life everlasting.' The Book
of Proverbs says, 'The good man shall be satisfied from himself,' but
the good man is only satisfied from himself when he can say, 'I live,
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' and from that better self he will
be satisfied.

So we may have a well in the courtyard, and may be able to bear in
ourselves the fountain of water, and where the divine life of Christ
by His Spirit has through faith been implanted within us, it will come
out from us. There is a question for you Christian people--do any
rivers of living water flow out of you? If they do not, it is to be
doubted whether you have drunk of the fountain. There are many
professing Christians who are like the foul little rivers that pass
under the pavements in Manchester, all impure, and covered over so
that nobody sees them. 'Out of him shall flow rivers of living
water'--that is Christ's way of communicating the blessing of eternal
life to the world--by the medium of those who have already received
it. Christian men and women, if your faith has brought the life into
you, see to it that approaching Christ, and appropriating Christ, and
adhering to Christ, you are becoming assimilated to Christ, and in
your daily life, God's grace fructifying through you to all, are
'become as rivers of water in a dry place, and the shadow of a great
rock in a weary land.'



THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

'... I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk
in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'--JOHN viii. 12.

Jesus Christ was His own great theme. Whatever be the explanation of
the fact, there stands the fact that, if we know anything at all about
His habitual tone of teaching, we know that it was full of Himself. We
know, too, that what He said about Himself was very unlike the
language becoming a wise and humble religious teacher. Both the
prominence given to His own personality, and the tremendous claims He
advances for Himself, are hard to reconcile with any conception of His
nature and work except one,--that there we see God manifest in the
flesh. Are such words as these fit to be spoken by any man conscious
of his own limitations and imperfections of life and knowledge? Would
they not be fatal to any one's pretensions to be a teacher of religion
or morality? They assert that the Speaker is the Source of
illumination for the world; the only Source; the Source for all. They
assert that 'following' Him, whether in belief or in deed, is the sure
deliverance from all darkness, either of error or of sin; and implants
in every follower a light which is life. And the world, instead of
turning away from such monstrous assumptions, and drowning them in
scornful laughter, or rebelling against them, has listened, and
largely believed, and has not felt them to mar the beauty of meekness,
which, by a strange anomaly, this Man says that He has.

Words parallel to these are frequent on our Lord's lips. In each
instance they have some special appropriateness of application, as is
probably the case here. The suggestion has been reasonably made, that
there is an allusion in them to part of the ceremonial connected with
the Feast of Tabernacles, at which we find our Lord present in the
previous chapter. Commentators tell us that on the first evening of
the Feast, two huge golden lamps, which stood one on each side of the
altar of burnt offering in the Temple court, were lighted as the night
began to fall, and poured out a brilliant flood over Temple and city
and deep gorge; while far into the midnight, troops of rejoicing
worshippers clustered about them with dance and song. The possibility
of this reference is strengthened by the note of place which our
Evangelist gives. 'These things spake Jesus in the treasury, as He
taught in the Temple,' for the 'treasury' stood in the same court, and
doubtless the golden lamps were full in sight of the listening groups.
It is also strengthened by the unmistakable allusion in the previous
chapter to another portion of the ceremonial of the Feast, where our
Lord puts forth another of His great self-revelations and demands, in
singular parallelism with that of our text, in the words, 'If any man
thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.' That refers to the custom
during the Feast of drawing water from the fountain of Siloam, which
was poured out on the altar, while the gathered multitude chanted the
old strain of Isaiah's prophecy: 'With joy shall ye draw water out of
the wells of salvation.' It is to be remembered, too, in estimating
the probability of our text belonging to these Temple-sayings at the
Feast, that the section which separates it from them, and contains the
story about the woman taken in adultery, is judged by the best critics
to be out of place here, and is not found in the most valuable
manuscripts. If, then, we suppose this allusion to be fairly probable,
I think it gives a special direction and meaning to these grand words,
which it may be worth while to think of briefly.

The first thing to notice is--the intention of the ceremonial to which
our Lord here points as a symbol of Himself. What was the meaning of
these great lights that went flashing through the warm autumn nights
of the festival? All the parts of that Feast were intended to recall
some feature of the forty years' wanderings in the wilderness; the
lights by the altar were memorials of the pillar of cloud by day and
of fire by night. When, then, Jesus says, 'I am the Light of the
world,' He would declare Himself as being in reality, and to every
soul of man to the end of time, what that cloud with its heart of fire
was in outward seeming to one generation of desert wanderers.

Now, the main thing which _it_ was to these, was the visible vehicle
of the divine presence. 'The Lord went before them in a pillar of a
cloud.' 'The Lord looked through the pillar.' 'The Lord came down in
the cloud and spake with him.' The 'cloud covered the Tabernacle, and
the glory of the Lord appeared.' Such is the way in which it is ever
spoken of, as being the manifestation to Israel in sensible form of
the presence among them of God their King. 'The glory of the Lord' has
a very specific meaning in the Old Testament. It usually signifies
that brightness, the flaming heart of the cloudy pillar, which for the
most part, as it would appear, veiled by the cloud, gathered radiance
as the world grew darker at set of sun, and sometimes, at great crises
in the history, as at the Red Sea, or on Sinai, or in loving communion
with the law-giver, or in swift judgment against the rebels, rent the
veil and flamed on men's eyes. I need not remind you how this same
pillar of cloud and fire, which at once manifested and hid God, was
thereby no unworthy symbol of Him who remains, after all revelation,
unrevealed. Whatsoever sets forth, must also shroud, the infinite
glory. Concerning all by which He makes Himself known to eye, or mind,
or heart, it must be said, 'And there was the hiding of His power.'
The fire is ever folded in the cloud. Nay, at bottom, the light which
is full of glory is therefore inaccessible, and the thick darkness in
which He dwells is but the 'glorious privacy' of perfect light.

That guiding pillar, which moved before the moving people--a cloud to
shelter from the scorching heat, a fire to cheer in the blackness of
night--spread itself above the sanctuary of the wilderness; and 'the
glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.' When the moving Tabernacle
gave place to the fixed Temple, again '_the_ cloud filled the house of
the Lord'; and there--dwelling between the cherubim, the types of the
whole order of creatural life, and above the mercy-seat, that spoke of
pardon, and the ark that held the law, and behind the veil, in the
thick darkness of the holy of holies, where no feet trod, save once a
year one white-robed priest, in the garb of a penitent, and bearing
the blood that made atonement--shone the light of the glory of God,
the visible majesty of the present Deity.

But long centuries had passed since that light had departed. 'The
glory' had ceased from the house that now stood on Zion, and the light
from between the cherubim. Shall we not, then, see a deep meaning and
reference to that awful blank, when Jesus standing there in the courts
of that Temple, whose inmost shrine was, in a most sad sense, empty,
pointed to the quenched lamps that commemorated a departed Shechinah,
and said, 'I am the Light of the world'?

He is the Light of the world, because in Him is the glory of God. His
words are madness, and something very like blasphemy, unless they are
vindicated by the visible indwelling in Him of the present God. The
cloud of the humanity, 'the veil, that is to say, His flesh,' enfolds
and tempers; and through its transparent folds reveals, even while it
swathes, the Godhead. Like some fleecy vapour flitting across the sun,
and irradiated by its light, it enables our weak eyes to see light,
and not darkness, in the else intolerable blaze. Yes! Thou art the
Light of the world, because in Thee dwelleth 'the fulness of the
Godhead bodily.' Thy servant hath taught us the meaning of Thy words,
when he said: 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we
beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth.'

Then, subordinate to this principal thought, is the other on which I
may touch for a moment--that Christ, like that pillar of cloud and
fire, _guides_ us in our pilgrimage. You may remember how emphatically
the Book of Numbers (chap. ix.) dwells upon the absolute control of
all the marches and halts by the movements of the cloud. When it was
taken up, they journeyed; when it settled down, they encamped. As long
as it lay spread above the Tabernacle, there they stayed. Impatient
eyes might look, and impatient spirits chafe--no matter. The camp
might be pitched in a desolate place, away from wells and palm-trees,
away from shade, among fiery serpents, and open to fierce foes--no
matter. As long as the pillar was motionless, no man stirred. Weary
slow days might pass in this compulsory inactivity; but 'whether it
were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the
Tabernacle, the children of Israel journeyed not.' And whenever It
lifted itself up,--no matter how short had been the halt, how weary
and footsore the people, how pleasant the resting-place--up with the
tent-pegs immediately, and away. If the signal were given at midnight,
when all but the watchers slept, or at midday, it was all the same.
There was the true Commander of their march. It was not Moses, nor
Jethro, with his quick Arab eye and knowledge of the ground, that
guided them; but that stately, solemn pillar, that floated before
them. How they must have watched for the gathering up of its folds as
they lay softly stretched along the Tabernacle roof; and for its
sinking down, and spreading itself out, like a misty hand of blessing,
as it sailed in the van!

'I am the Light of the world.' We have in Him a better guide through
worse perplexities than theirs. By His Spirit within us, by that
all-sufficient and perfect example of His life, by the word of His
Gospel, and by the manifold indications of His providence, Jesus
Christ is our Guide. If ever we go astray, it is not His fault, but
ours. How gentle and loving that guidance is, none who have not
yielded to it can tell. How wise and sure, none but those who have
followed it know. He does not say 'Go,' but 'Come.' When He puts forth
His sheep, He goes before them. In all rough places His quick hand is
put out to save us. In danger He lashes us to Himself, as Alpine
guides do when there is perilous ice to get across. As one of the
psalms puts it, with wonderful beauty: 'I will guide thee with Mine
eye'--a glance, not a blow--a look of directing love, that at once
heartens to duty and tells duty. We must be very near Him to catch
that look, and very much in sympathy with Him to understand it; and
when we do, we must be swift to obey. Our eyes must be ever toward the
Lord, or we shall often be marching on, unwitting that the pillar has
spread itself for rest, or idly dawdling in our tents long after the
cloud has gathered itself up for the march. Do not let impatience lead
you to hasty interpretation of His plans before they are fairly
evolved. Many men by self-will, by rashness, by precipitate hurry in
drawing conclusions about what they ought to do, have ruined their
lives. Take care, in the old-fashioned phrase, of 'running before you
are sent.' There should always be a good clear space between the
guiding ark and you, 'about two thousand cubits by measure,' that
there may be no mistakes about the road. It is neither reverent nor
wise to be treading on the heels of our Guide in our eager confidence
that we know where He wants us to go.

Do not let the warmth by the camp-fire, or the pleasantness of the
shady place where your tent is pitched, keep you there when the cloud
lifts. Be ready for change, be ready for continuance, because you are
in fellowship with your Leader and Commander; and let Him say, Go, and
you go; Do this, and you gladly do it, until the hour when He will
whisper, Come; and, as you come, the river will part, and the journey
will be over, and 'the fiery, cloudy pillar,' that 'guided you all
your journey through,' will spread itself out an abiding glory, in
that higher home where 'the Lamb is the light thereof.'

All true following of Christ begins with faith, or we might almost say
that following _is_ faith, for we find our Lord substituting the
former expression for the latter in another passage of this Gospel
parallel with the present. 'I am come a Light into the world, that
whosoever believeth on Me should not walk in darkness.' The two ideas
are not equivalent, but faith is the condition of following; and
following is the outcome and test, because it is the operation, of
faith. None but they who trust Him will follow Him. He who does not
follow, does not trust. To follow Christ, means to long and strive
after His companionship; as the Psalmist says, 'My soul followeth hard
after Thee.' It means the submission of the will, the effort of the
whole nature, the daily conflict to reproduce His example, the
resolute adoption of His command as my law, His providence as my will,
His fellowship as my joy. And the root and beginning of all such
following is in coming to Him, conscious of mine own darkness, and
trustful in His great light. We must rely on a Guide before we accept
His directions; and it is absurd to pretend that we trust Him, if we
do not go as He bids us. So 'Follow thou Me' is, in a very real sense,
the sum of all Christian duty.

That thought opens out very wide fields, into which we must not even
glance now; but I cannot help pausing here to repeat the remark
already made, as to the gigantic and incomprehensible self-confidence
that speaks here. 'Followeth _Me_'; then Jesus Christ calmly proposes
Himself as the aim and goal for every soul of man; sets up His own
doings as an all-sufficient rule for us all, with all our varieties of
temper, character, culture, and work, and quietly assumes to have a
right of precedence before, and of absolute command over, the whole
world. They are all to keep _behind_ Him, He thinks, be they saints or
sages, kings or beggars; and the liker they are to Himself, He thinks,
the nearer they will be to perfectness and life. He puts Himself at
the head of the mystic march of the generations, and, like the
mysterious Angel that Joshua saw in the plain by Jericho, makes the
lofty claim: 'Nay, but as _Captain_ of the Lord's host am I come up.'
Do we admit His claim because we know His Name? Do we yield Him full
trust because we have learned that He is the Light of men since He is
the Word of God? Do we follow Him with loyal obedience, longing love,
and lowly imitation, since He has been and is to us the Saviour of our
souls?

In the measure in which we do, the great promises of this wonderful
saying will be verified and understood by us--'He that followeth Me
shall not walk in darkness.' That saying has, as one may say, a lower
and a higher fulfilment. In the lower, it refers to practical life and
its perplexities. Nobody who has not tried it would believe how many
difficulties are cleared out of a man's road by the simple act of
trying to follow Christ. No doubt there will still remain obscurities
enough as to what we ought to do, to call for the best exercise of
patient wisdom; but an enormous proportion of them vanish like mist
when the sun breaks through, when once we honestly set ourselves to
find out whither the pillared Light is guiding. It is a reluctant
will, and intrusive likings and dislikings, that obscure the way for
us, much oftener than real obscurity in the way itself. It is seldom
impossible to discern the divine will, when we only wish to know it
that we may do it. And if ever it is impossible for us, surely that
impossibility is like the cloud resting on the Tabernacle--a sign that
for the present His will is that we should be still, and wait, and
watch.

But there is a higher meaning in the words than even this promise of
practical direction. In the profound symbolism of Scripture,
especially of this Gospel, 'darkness' is the name for the whole
condition of the soul averted from God. So our Lord here is declaring
that to follow Him is the true deliverance from that midnight of the
soul. There are a darkness of ignorance, a darkness of impurity, a
darkness of sorrow; and in that threefold gloom, thickening to a
darkness of death, are they enwrapt who follow not the Light. That is
the grim, tragical side of this saying, too sad, too awful for our
lips to speak much of, and best left in the solemn impressiveness of
that one word. But the hopeful, blessed side of it is, that the
feeblest beginnings of trust in Jesus Christ, and the first tottering
steps that try to tread in His, bring us into the light. It does not
need that we have reached our goal, it is enough that our faces are
turned to it, and our hearts desire to attain it, then we may be sure
that the dominion of the darkness over us is broken. To follow, though
it be afar off, and with unequal steps, fills our path with increasing
brightness, and even though evil and ignorance and sorrow may thrust
their blackness in upon our day, they are melting in the growing
glory, and already we may give thanks 'unto the Father who hath made
us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who
hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us
into the kingdom of His dear Son.'

But we have not merely the promise that we shall be led by the light
and brought into the light. A yet deeper and grander gift is offered
here: 'He shall have the light of life.' I suppose that means, not, as
it is often carelessly taken to mean, a light which illuminates the
life, but, like the similar phrases of this Gospel, 'bread of life,'
'water of life,'--light which is life. 'In Him was life, and the life
was the light of men.' These two are one in their source, which is
Jesus, the Word of God. Of Him we have to say, 'With Thee is the
fountain of life, in Thy light shall we see light.' They are one in
their deepest nature; the life is the light, and the light the life.
And this one gift is bestowed upon every soul that follows Christ. Not
only will our outward lives be illumined or guided from without, but
our inward being will be filled with the brightness. 'Ye were
sometimes darkness, now are ye light in the Lord.'

That pillar of fire remained apart and without. But this true and
better Guide of our souls enters in and dwells in us, in all the
fulness of His triple gift of life, and light, and love. Within us He
will chiefly prove Himself the Guide of our spirits, and will not
merely cast His beams on the path of our feet, but will fill and flood
us with His own brightness. All light of knowledge, of goodness, of
gladness will be ours, if Christ be ours; and ours He surely will be
if we follow Him. Let us take heed, lest turning away from Him we
follow the will-o'-the-wisps of our own fancies, or the dancing
lights, born of putrescence, that flicker above the swamps, for they
will lead us into doleful lands where evil things haunt, and into
outer darkness. Let us take heed how we use that light of God; for
Christ, like His symbol of old, has a double aspect according to the
eye which looks. 'It came between the camp of the Egyptians and the
camp of Israel, and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave
light by night to these.' He is either a Stone of stumbling or a sure
Foundation, a savour of life or of death, and which He is depends on
ourselves. Trusted, loved, followed, He is light. Neglected, turned
from, He is darkness. Though He be the Light of the world, it is only
the man who follows Him to whom He can give the light of life.
Therefore, man's awful prerogative of perverting the best into the
worst forced Him, who came to be the light of men, to that sad and
solemn utterance: 'For judgment I am come into this world, that they
which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.'



THREE ASPECTS OF FAITH

'Many believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on
Him....'--JOHN viii. 30,31.

The Revised Version accurately represents the original by varying the
expression in these two clauses, retaining 'believed on Him' in the
former, and substituting the simple 'believed Him' in the latter. The
variation in two contiguous clauses can scarcely be accidental in so
careful a writer as the Apostle John. And the reason and meaning of it
are obvious enough on the face of the narrative. His purpose is to
distinguish between more and less perfect acceptance of Jesus Christ.
The more perfect is the former, 'they believed on Him'; the less
perfect is the latter, the simple acceptance of His word on His claim
of Messiahship, which is stigmatised as shallow, and proved to be
transient by the context.

They were 'Jews' which believed, and they continued to be so whilst
they were believing. Now, the word 'Jew' in this Gospel always
connotes antagonism to Jesus Christ; and as for these persons, how
slight and unreliable their adhesion to the Lord is, comes out in the
course of the next few verses; and by the end of the chapter they are
taking up stones to stone Him. So John would show us that there is a
kind of acceptance which may be real, and may be the basis of
something much better hereafter, but which, if it does not grow, rots
and disappears; and he would draw a broad line of distinction between
that and the other mental act, far deeper, more wholesome, more
lasting and vital, which he designates as 'believing _on_ Him.' I take
these words, then, for consideration, not so much to deal with other
thoughts suggested by them, as because they afford me a starting-point
for the consideration of the various phases of the act of believing,
its blessings and its nature, and its relation to its objects, which
are expressed in the New Testament by the various grammatical
connections and constructions of this word.

Now, the facts with which I wish to deal may be very briefly stated.
There are three ways in which the New Testament represents the act of
believing, and its relation to its Object, Christ. These three are,
first, the simple one which appears in the text as 'believed Him.'
Then there is a second, which appears in two forms, slightly
different, but which, for our purpose, may be treated as substantially
the same--'believing on Him.' And then there is a third, which,
literally and accurately translated is, 'believing unto' or 'into
Him.' That phrase is John's favourite one, and rather unfortunately,
though perhaps necessarily, it has been generally rendered by our
translators by the less forcible 'believing in,' which gives the idea
of repose in, but does not give the idea of motion towards. These
three, then, I think, do set forth, if we will ponder them, very large
lessons as to the essence of this act of believing, as to the Object
upon which it fastens, and as to the blessings which flow from it,
which it will be worth our while to consider now. I may cast the whole
into the shape of three exhortations: believe Him, believe on Him,
believe unto Him.

I. First, then, believe Christ.

We accept a man's words when we trust the man. Even if belief, or
faith, is represented in the New Testament, as it very rarely is, as
having for its object the words of revelation, behind that acceptance
of the words lies confidence in the person speaking. And the beginning
of all true Christian faith has in it, not merely the intellectual
acceptance of certain propositions as true, but a confidence in the
veracity of Him by whom they are made known to us--even Jesus Christ
our Lord.

I do not need to insist upon that at any length here--it would take me
away from my present purpose; but what I do wish to emphasise is, that
from the very starting-point, the smallest germ of the most
rudimentary and imperfect faith which knits a soul to Jesus Christ has
Him for its Object, and is thus distinguished from the mere acceptance
of truths which, on other grounds than the authority of the speaker,
may legitimately commend themselves to a man.

Then believe Him. Now, that breaks up into two thoughts, which are all
that I intend to deduce from it now, although many more might be
suggested. The one is this, that the least and the lowest that Jesus
Christ asks from us is the entire and unhesitating acceptance of His
utterances as final, conclusive, and absolutely true. Whatever more
Jesus Christ may be, He is, by His life and words, the Communicator of
divine and certain truth. He is a Teacher, though He is a great deal
more. And whatever more Christian faith may be--and it is a great deal
more--it requires, at least, the frank and full recognition of the
authority of every word that comes from His lips. A Christianity
without a creed is a dream. Bones without flesh are very dry, no
doubt; but what about flesh without bones? An inert, shapeless mass.
You will never have a vigorous and true Christian life if it is to be
moulded according to the fantastic dream of these latter days, which
tells us that we may take Jesus as the Guide of our conduct and need
not mind about what He says to us. 'Believe Me' is His requirement.
The words of His mouth, and the revelations which He has made in the
sweetness of His life, and in all the graciousness of His dealings,
are the very unveiling to man of absolute and final and certain truth.

But then, on the other hand, let us remember that, while all this is
most clear and distinct in the teaching of Scripture, it carries us
but a very short way. We find, in the instance from which we take our
starting-point in this sermon, the broad distinction drawn, and
practically illustrated in the conduct of the persons concerned,
between the simple acceptance of what Christ says, and a true faith
that clings to Him for evermore. And the same kind of disparagement of
the lower process of merely accepting His word is found more than once
in connection with the same phrases. We find, for instance, the two
which are connected in our texts used in a previous conversation
between our Lord and His antagonists. When He says to them, 'This is
the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent,' they
reply, dragging down His claim to a lower level, 'What sign showest
Thou, that we may see, and believe Thee?' He demanded belief _on_
Himself; they answer, 'We are ready to _believe you_, on condition
that we see something that may make the rendering of our belief a
logical necessity for us.'

Let us lay to heart the rudimentary and incomplete character of a
faith which simply accepts the teaching of Jesus Christ, and does no
more. The notion that orthodoxy is Christianity, that a man who does
not contradict the teaching of the New Testament is thereby a
Christian, is a very old and very perilous and very widespread one.
There are many of us who have no better claim to be called Christians
than this, that we never denied anything that Jesus Christ said,
though we are not sufficiently interested in it, I was going to say,
even to deny it. This rudimentary faith, which contents itself with
the acceptance of the truth revealed, hardens into mere formalism, or
liquefies into mere careless indifference as to the very truth that it
professes to believe. There is nothing more impotent than creeds which
lie dormant in our brains, and have no influence upon our lives. I
wonder how many readers of this sermon, who fancy themselves good
Christians, do with their creed as the Japanese used to do with their
Emperor--keep him in a palace behind bamboo screens, and never let him
do anything, whilst all the reality of power was possessed by another
man, who did not profess to be a king at all. Do you think you are
Christians because you would sign thirty-nine or three hundred and
ninety articles of Christianity, if they were offered to you, while
there is not one of them that influences either your thinking or your
conduct? Do not let us have these 'sluggish kings,' with a mayor of
the place to do the real government, but set on the throne of your
hearts the principles of your religion, and see to it that all your
convictions be translated into practice, and all your practice be
informed by your convictions.

This belief in a set of dogmas, on the authority of Jesus Christ,
about which dogmas we do not care a rush, and which make no difference
upon our lives, is the faith about which James has so many hard things
to say; and he ventures upon a parallel that I should not like to
venture on unless I were made bold by his example: 'Thou believest, O
vain man! thou doest well: the devils also believe, and'--better than
you, in that their belief does something for them, they 'believe--and
_tremble_!' But what shall we say about a man who professes himself a
disciple, and neither trembles, nor thrills, nor hopes, nor dreads,
nor desires, nor does any single thing because of his creed? Believe
Jesus, but do not stop there.

II. Believe on Christ.

Now, as I have remarked already, and as many of you know, there is a
slightly different, twofold form of this phrase in Scripture. I need
not trouble you with the minute distinction between the one and the
other. Both forms coincide in the important point on which I wish to
touch. That representation of believing on Christ carries us away at
once from the mere act of acceptance of His word on His authority to
the far more manifestly voluntary, moral, and personal act of reliance
upon Him. The metaphor is expanded in various ways in Scripture, and
instead of offering any thoughts of my own about it, I would simply
ask attention to three of the forms in which it is set forth in the
Old and in the New Testaments.

The first of them, and the one which we may regard as governing the
others, is that found in the words of Isaiah, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a
stone, a sure Foundation'; and, as the Apostle Peter comments, 'He
that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.' There the thoughts
presented are the superposition of the building upon its Foundation,
the rest of the soul, and the rearing of the life on the basis of
Jesus Christ.

How much that metaphor says to us about Him as the Foundation, in all
the aspects in which we can apply that term! He is the Basis of our
hope, the Guarantee of our security, the Foundation-stone of our
beliefs, the very Ground on which our whole life reposes, the Source
of our tranquillity, the Pledge of our peace. All that I think, feel,
desire, wish, and do, ought to be rested upon that dear Lord, and
builded on Him by simple faith. By patient persistence of effort
rearing up the fabric of my life firmly upon Him, and grafting every
stone of it--if I might so use the metaphor--into the bedding-stone,
which is Christ, I shall be strong, peaceful, and pure.

The storm comes, the waters rise, the winds howl, the hail and the
rain 'sweep away the refuge of lies,' and the dwellers in these frail
and foundationless houses are hurrying in wild confusion from one peak
to another, before the steadily rising tide. But he that builds on
that Foundation 'shall not make haste,' as Isaiah has it; shall not
need to hurry to shift his quarters before the flood overtake him;
shall look out serene upon all the hurtling fury of the wild storm,
and the rise of the sullen waters. So, reliance on Christ, and the
honest making of Him the Basis, not of our hopes only, but of our
thinkings and of our doings, and of our whole being, is the secret of
security, and the pledge of peace.

Then there is another form of the same phrase, 'believing on,' in
which is suggested not so much the figure of building upon a
foundation, as of some feeble man resting upon a strong stay, or
clinging to an outstretched and mighty arm. The same metaphor is
implied in the word 'reliance.' We lean upon Christ when, forsaking
all other props, and realising His sufficiency and sweetness, we rest
the whole weight of our weariness and all the impotence of our
weakness upon His strong and unwearied arm, and so are saved. All
other stays are like that one to which the prophet compares the King
of Egypt--the papyrus reed in the Nile stream, on which, if a man
leans, it will break into splinters which will go into his flesh, and
make a poisoned wound. But if we lean on Christ, we lean on a brazen
wall and an iron pillar, and anything is possible sooner than that
that stay shall give.

There is still another form of the metaphor, in which neither building
upon a foundation, nor leaning upon a support which is thought of as
below what rests upon it, are suggested, but rather the hanging upon
something firm and secure which is above what hangs from it. The same
picture is suggested by our word 'dependence.' 'As a nail fastened in
a sure place,' said one of the prophets, 'on Him shall hang all the
glory of His Father's house.'

  'Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.'

The rope lowered over the cliffs supports the adventurous bird-nester
in safety above the murmuring sea. They who clasp Christ's hand
outstretched from above, may swing over the deepest, most vacuous
abyss, and fear no fall.

So, brother, build on Christ, rely on Him, depend on Him, and it shall
not be in vain. But if you will not build on the sure Foundation, do
not wonder if the rotten one gives way. If you will not lean on the
strong Stay, complain not when the weak one crumbles to dust beneath
your weight. And if you choose to swing over the profound depth at the
end of a piece of pack-thread, instead of holding on by an adamantine
chain wrapped round God's throne, you must be prepared for its
breaking and your being smashed to pieces below.

III. The last exhortation that comes out of this comparative study of
these phrases is--Believe into Christ.

That is a very pregnant and remarkable expression, and it can
scarcely, as you see, be rendered into our language without a certain
harshness; but still it is worth while to face the harshness for the
sake of getting the double signification that is involved in it. For
when we speak of believing unto or into Him, we suggest two things,
both of which, apparently, were in the minds of the writers of the New
Testament. One is motion towards, and the other is repose in, that
dear Lord.

So, then, true Christian faith is the flight of the soul towards
Christ. Therein is one of the special blessednesses of the Christian
life, that it has for its object and aim absolutely infinite and
unattainable completeness and glory, so that unwearied freshness,
inexhaustible buoyancy, endless progress, are the dower of every
spirit that truly trusts in Christ. All other aims and objects are
limited, transient, and will be left behind. Every other landmark will
sink beneath the horizon, where so many of our landmarks have sunk
already, and where they will all disappear when the last moment comes.
But we may have, and if we are Christian people we shall have, bright
before us, sufficiently certain of being reached to make our efforts
hopeful and confident, sufficiently certain of never being reached to
make our efforts blessed with endless aspirations, the great light and
love of that dear Lord, to yearn after whom is better than to possess
all besides, and following hard after whom, even in the very motion
there is rest, and in the search there is finding. Religion is the
flight of the soul, the aspiration of the whole man after the
unattainable Attainable--'that I may know Him, and be found in Him.'

Oh, how such thoughts ought to shame us who call ourselves Christians!
Growth, progress, getting nearer to Christ, yearning ever with a great
desire after Him!--do not the words seem irony when applied to most of
us? Think of the average type of sluggish contentment with present
attainments that marks Christian people--tortoises in their crawling
rather than eagles in their flight. And let us take our portion of
shame, and remember that the faith which believes Him, and that which
believes on Him, both need to be crowned and perfected by that which
believes towards Him, of which the motto is, 'Forgetting the things
that are behind, I reach forward to the things that are before.'

But there is another side to this last phase of faith. That true
believing towards or unto Christ is the rest of the soul in Him. By
faith that deep and most real union of the believing soul with Jesus
Christ is effected which may be fitly described as our entrance into
and abode in Him. The believer is as if incorporated into Him in whom
he believes. Indeed, the Apostle ventures to use a more startling
expression than _incorporation_ when he says that 'he that is joined
to the Lord is one Spirit.' If by faith we press towards, by faith we
shall be in, Christ. Faith is at once motion and rest, search and
finding, desire and fruition. The felicity of this last form of the
phrase is its expression of both these ideas, which are united in fact
as in word. A rare construction of the verb _to believe_, with the
simple preposition _in_, coincides with this part of the meaning of
_believing unto_ or _into_, and need not be separately considered.

With this understanding of its meaning, we see how natural is John's
preference for this construction. For surely, if he has anything to
tell us, it is that the true Christian life is a life enclosed, as it
were, in Jesus Christ. Nor need I remind you how Paul, though he
starts from a different point of view, yet coincides with John in this
teaching. For, to him, to be 'in Christ' is the sum of all
blessedness, righteousness, peace, and power. As in an atmosphere, we
may dwell in Him. He may be the strong Habitation to which we may
continually resort. One of the Old Testament words for trusting means
taking refuge, and such a thought is naturally suggested by this New
Testament form of expression. 'I flee unto Thee to hide me.' In that
Fortress we dwell secure.

To be in Jesus, wedded to Him by the conjunction of will and desire,
wedded to Him in the oneness of a believing spirit and in the
obedience of a life, to be thus in Christ is the crown and climax of
faith, and the condition of all perfection. To be in Christ is life;
to be out of Him is death. In Him we have redemption; in Him we have
wisdom, truth, peace, righteousness, hope, confidence. To be in Him is
to be in heaven. We enter by faith. Faith is not the acceptance merely
of His Word, but is the reliance of the soul on Him, the flight of the
soul towards Him, the dwelling of the soul in Him. 'Come, My people,
into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee ... until the
indignation be overpast.'



'NEVER IN BONDAGE'

'We... were never in bondage to any man: how gayest Thou, Ye shall be
made free!'--JOHN viii. 33.

'Never in bondage to any man'? Then what about Egypt, Babylon, Persia,
Syria? Was there not a Roman garrison looking down from the castle
into the very Temple courts where this boastful falsehood was uttered?
It required some hardihood to say, 'Never in bondage to any man,' in
the face of such a history, and such a present. But was it not just an
instance of the strange power which we all have and exercise, of
ignoring disagreeable facts, and by ingenious manipulation taking the
wrinkles out of the photograph? The Jews were perhaps not
misunderstanding Jesus Christ quite so much as these words may
suggest. If He had been promising, as they chose to assume, political
and external liberty, I fancy they would have risen to the bait a
little more eagerly than they did to His words.

But be that as it may, this strange answer of theirs suggests that
power of ignoring what we do not want to see, not only in the way in
which I have suggested, but also in another. For if they had any
inkling of what Jesus meant by slavery and freedom, they, by such
words as these, put away from themselves the thought that they were,
in any deep and inward sense, bondsmen, and that a message of liberty
had any application to them. Ah, dear friends! there was a great deal
of human nature in these men, who thus put up a screen between them
and the penetrating words of our Lord. Were they not doing just what
many of us--all of us to some extent--do: ignoring the facts of their
own necessities, of their own spiritual condition, denying the plain
lessons of experience? Like them, are not we too often refusing to
look in the face the fact that we all, apart from Him, are really in
bondage? Because we do not realise the slavery, are we not indifferent
to the offer of freedom? 'We were never in bondage'; consequently we
add, 'How sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?' So then, my text brings
us to think of three things: our bondage, our ignorance of our
bondage, our consequent indifference to Christ's offer of liberty. Let
me say a word or two about each of these.

First as to--

I. Our bondage.

Christ follows the vain boast in the text, with the calm, grave,
profound explanation of what He meant: 'Whoso committeth sin is the
slave of sin.' That is true in two ways. By the act of sinning a man
shows that he is the slave of an alien power that has captured him;
and in the act of sinning, he rivets the chains and increases the
tyranny. He is a slave, or he would not obey sin. He is more a slave
because he has again obeyed it. Now, do not let us run away with the
idea that when Jesus speaks of sin and its bondage, He is thinking
only, or mainly, of gross outrages and contradictions of the plain law
of morality and decency, that He is thinking only of external acts
which all men brand as being wrong, or of those which law qualifies as
crimes. We have to go far deeper than that, and into a far more inward
region of life than that, before we come to apprehend the inwardness
and the depth of the Christian conception of what sin is. We have to
bring our whole life close up against God, and then to judge its deeds
thereby. Therefore, though I know I am speaking to a mass of
respectable, law-abiding people, very few of you having any knowledge
of the grosser and uglier forms of transgression, and I dare say none
of you having any experience of what it is to sin against human law,
though I do not charge you--God forbid!--with _vices_, and still less
with _crimes_, I bring to each man's conscience a far more searching
word than either of these two, when I say, 'We all have _sinned_ and
come short of the glory of God.' This declaration of the universality
and reality of the bondage of sin is only the turning into plain words
of a fact which is of universal experience, though it may be of a very
much less universal consciousness. We may not be aware of the fact,
because, as I have to show you, we do not direct our attention to it.
But there it is; and the truth is that every man, however noble his
aspirations sometimes, however pure and high his convictions, and
however honest in the main may be his attempts to do what is right,
when he deals honestly with himself, becomes more or less conscious of
just that experience which a great expert in soul analysis and
self-examination made: 'I find a law'--an influence working upon my
heart with the inevitableness and certainty of law--'that when I would
do good, evil is present with me.'

We all know that, whether we regard it as we ought or no. We all say
Amen to that, when it is forced upon our attention. There _is_
something in us that thwarts aspiration towards good, and inclines to
evil.

  'What will but felt the fleshly screen?'

And it is not only a screen. It not only prevents us from rising as
high as we would, but it sinks us so low as to do deeds that something
within us recoils from and brands as evil. Jesus teaches us that he
who commits sin is the slave of sin; that is to say, that an alien
power has captured and is coercing the wrongdoer. That teaching does
not destroy responsibility, but it kindles hope. A foreign foe, who
has invaded the land, may be driven out of the land, and all his
prisoners set free, if a stronger than he comes against him.
Christianity is called gloomy and stern, because it preaches the
corruption of man's heart. Is it not a gospel to draw a distinction
between the evil that a man does, and the self that a man may be? Is
it not better, more hopeful, more of a true evangel, to say to a man,
'Sin dwelleth in you,' than to say, 'What is called sin is only the
necessary action of human nature'? To believe that their present
condition is not slavery makes men hopeless of ever gaining freedom,
and the true gospel of the emancipation of humanity rests on the
Christian doctrine of the bondage of sin.

Let me remind you that freedom consists not in the absence of external
constraints, but in the animal in us being governed by the will, for
when the flesh is free the man is a slave. And it means that the will
should be governed by the conscience; and it means that the conscience
should be governed by God. These are the stages. Men are built in
three stories, so to speak. Down at the bottom, and to be kept there,
are inclinations, passions, lust, desires, all which are but blind
aimings after their appropriate satisfaction, without any question as
to whether the satisfaction is right or wrong; and above that a
dominant will which is meant to control, and above that a conscience.
That is the public men are more and more abasing themselves to the
degradation of ministering to the supposed wishes instead of cutting
dead against the grain of the wishes, if necessary, in order to meet
the true wants, of the people. Wherever some one strong man stands up
to oppose the wild current of popular desires, he may make up his mind
that the charge of being 'a bad citizen, unpatriotic, a lover of the
enemies of the people,' will be flung at him. You Christian men and
women have to face the same calumnies as your Master had. The rotten
eggs flung at the objects of popular execration--if I might use a
somewhat violent figure--turn to roses in their flight. The praises of
good men and the scoffs of loose-living and godless ones are equally
valuable certificates of character. The Church which does not earn the
same sort of opprobrium which attended its Master has probably failed
of its duty. It is good to be called 'gloomy' and 'sour-visaged' by
those whose only notion of pleasure is effervescent immorality; and it
is good to be called intolerant by the crowd that desires us to be
tolerant of vice. So, my friends, I want you to understand that you,
too, have to tread in the Master's steps. The 'imitation of Jesus'
does not consist merely in the sanctities and secrecies of communion,
and the blessings of a meek and quiet heart, but includes standing
where He stood, in avowed and active opposition to widespread evils,
and, if need be, in the protesting opposition to popular error. And if
you are called nicknames, never mind! Remember what the Master said,
'They shall bring you before kings and magistrates'--the tribunal of
the many-headed is a more formidable judgment-bench than that of any
king--'and it shall turn to a testimony for you.'

II. Now, secondly, this name is the witness to what I venture to call,
for want of a better term, the originality of Jesus Christ.

It bears witness to the dim feeling which onlookers had that in Him
was a new phenomenon, not to be accounted for by birth and descent, by
training and education, or by the whole of what people nowadays call
environment. He did not come out of these circumstances. This is not a
regulation pattern type of Jew. He is 'a Samaritan.' That is to say,
He is unlike the people among whom He dwells; and betrays that other
influences than those which shaped them have gone to the making of
Him.

That is one of the most marked, outstanding, and important features in
the teaching and in the character of Jesus Christ, that it is
absolutely independent of, and incapable of being accounted for by,
anything that He derived from the circumstances in which He lived. He
was a Jew, and yet He was not a Jew. He was not a Samaritan, and yet
He was a Samaritan. He was not a Greek, and yet He was one. He was not
a Roman, nor an Englishman, nor a Hindoo, nor an Asiatic, nor an
African; and yet He had all the characteristics of these races within
Himself, and held them all in the ample sweep of His perfect Manhood.

If we turn to His teaching we find that, whilst no doubt to some
extent it is influenced in its forms by the necessities of its
adaptation to the first listeners, there is a certain element in it
far beyond anything that came from Rabbis, or even from prophets and
psalmists. Modern Christian scholarship has busied itself very much in
these days with studying Jewish literature, so far as it is available,
in order to ascertain how far it formed the teaching, or mind, of
Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth. There is a likeness, but the likeness
only serves to make the unlikeness more conspicuous. And I, for my
part, venture to assert that, whilst the form of our Lord's teaching
may largely be traced to the influences under which He was brought up,
and whilst the substance of some parts of it may have been anticipated
by earlier Rabbis of His nation, the crowd that listened to Him on the
mountain top had laid their fingers upon the more important fact when
they 'wondered at His teaching,' and found the characteristic
difference between it, and that of the men to whom they had listened,
in the note of authority with which He spoke. Jesus never argues, He
asserts; He claims; and in lieu of all arguments He gives you His own
'Verily! verily! I say unto you.'

Thus not only in its form, but in its substance, in its lofty
morality, in its spiritual religion, in its revelation of the Father
and the Fatherhood for all men, Christ's teaching as teaching stands
absolutely alone.

If we turn to His character, the one thing that strikes us is that
about it there is nothing of the limitations of time or race which
stamp all other men. He is not good after the fashion of His age, or
of any other age; He is simply embodied and perfect Goodness. This
Tree has shot up high above the fences that enclose the grove in which
it grows, and its leaf lasts for ever.

Run over, in your mind, other great names of heroes, saints, thinkers,
poets; they all bear the stamp of their age and circumstances, and the
type of goodness or the manner of thought which belonged to these.
Jesus Christ alone stands before men absolutely free from any of the
limitations which are essential in the case of every human excellence
and teacher. And so He comes to us with a strange freshness, with a
strange closeness; and nineteen centuries have not made Him fit less
accurately to our needs than He did to those of the generation amidst
which He condescended to live. Thickening mists of oblivion wrap all
other great names as they recede into the past; and about the loftiest
of them we have to say, 'This man, having served his generation, fell
on sleep, and saw corruption.' But Jesus Christ lasts, because there
is nothing local or temporary about His teaching or His character.

Now this peculiar originality, as I venture to call it, of Christ's
character is a very strong argument for the truthful accuracy of the
picture drawn of Him in these four Gospels. Where did these four men
get their Christ? Was it from imagination? Was it from myth? Was it
from the accidental confluence of a multitude of traditions? There is
an old story about a painter who, in despair of producing a certain
effect of storm upon the sea, at last flung his wet sponge at the
canvas, and to his astonishment found that it had done the very thing
he wanted. But wet sponges cannot draw likenesses; and to allege that
these four men drew such a picture, in such compass, without anybody
sitting for it, seems to me about the most desperate hypothesis that
ever was invented. If there were no Christ, or if the Christ that was,
was not like what the Gospels paint Him as being, then the authors of
these little booklets are consummate geniuses, and their works stand
at the very top of the imaginative literature of the world. It is more
difficult to account for the Gospels, if they are not histories, than
it is to account for the Christ whom they tell us of if they are.

And then, further, there is only one key to the mystery of this
originality. Christ is perfect man, high above limitations, and owing
nothing to environment, because He is the Son of God. I would as soon
believe that grass roots, which for years, in some meadow, had brought
forth, season after season, nothing but humble green blades, shot up
suddenly into a palm tree, as I would believe that simple natural
descent brought all at once into the middle of the dull succession of
commonplace and sinful men this radiant and unique Figure. Account for
Christ, all you unbelievers! The question of to-day, round which all
the battle is being fought, is the person of Jesus Christ. If He be
what the Gospels tell us that He is, there is nothing left for the
unbeliever worth a struggle. 'What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is
He?' The Jews said, 'Thou art a Samaritan!' We say, 'Thou art the
Christ; the Son of the living God!'

III. Lastly, the name bears witness to Christ's universality.

I presume that, in addition to what seemed His hostility to what was
taken to be true Judaism, another set of facts underlay the name--viz.
those which indicated His kindly relations with the people whom it was
every good Jew's pleasant duty to hate with all his heart. The story
of the Samaritan woman in John's Gospel, the parable of the good
Samaritan, the incident of the grateful leper, who was a Samaritan,
the refusal to allow the eager Apostles to bring down fire from heaven
to consume inhospitable churls in a Samaritan village, were but
outstanding specimens of what must have been a characteristic of His
whole career not unknown to His enemies. So they argued, 'If you love
our enemies you must hate us; and you must be one of them,' thereby
distorting, but yet presenting, what is the great glory of Christ's
Gospel, and of Christ Himself, that He belongs to the world; and that
His salvation, the sweep of His love, and the power of His Cross, are
meant for all mankind.

That universality largely arises from the absence of the limitations
of which I have already spoken sufficiently. Because He belongs to no
one period as regards His character, He is available for all periods
as regards His efficacy. Because His teaching is not dyed in the hues
of any school or of any age or of any cast of thought, it suits for
all mankind. This water comes clear from the eternal rock, and has no
taint of any soil through which it has flowed. Therefore the thirsty
lips of a world may be glued to it, and drink and be satisfied. His
one sacrifice avails for the whole world.

But let me remind you that universality means also individuality, and
that Jesus Christ is the Christ for all men because He is each man's
Christ. The tree of life stands in the middle of the garden that all
may have equal access to it. Is this universal Christ yours; thine?
That is the question. Make Him so by putting out your hand and
claiming your share in Him, by casting your soul upon Him, by trusting
your all to Him, by listening to His word, by obeying His commands, by
drinking in the fulness of His blessing. You can do so if you will. If
you do not, the universal Christ is nothing to you. Make Him thine,
and be sure that the sweep of His love and the efficacy of His
sacrifice embrace and include thee. He is the universal Christ;
therefore He is the only Christ; 'neither is there salvation in any
other.' Through Him all men, each man, thou, must be saved. Without
Him all men, every man, thou, can not be saved. Take Him for yours,
and you will find that each who possesses Him, possesses Him
altogether, and none hinders the other in his full enjoyment of 'the
bread of God which came down from heaven.'



ONE METAPHOR AND TWO MEANINGS

'I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night
cometh when no man can work.'--JOHN ix. 4.

'The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off
the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.'--ROMANS
xiii. 12.

The contrast between these two sayings will strike you at once. Using
the same metaphors, they apply them in exactly opposite directions. In
the one, life is the day, and the state beyond death the night; in the
other, life is the night, and the state beyond death the day.
Remarkable as the contrast is, it comes to be still more so if we
remember the respective speakers. For each of them says what we should
rather have expected the other to say. It would have been natural for
Paul to have given utterance to the stimulus to diligence caused by
the consciousness that the time of work was brief; and it would have
been as natural for Jesus, who, as we believe, came from God, from the
place of the eternal supernal glory, to have said that life here was
night as compared with the illumination that He had known. But it is
the divine Master who gives utterance to the common human
consciousness of a brief life ending in inactivity, and it is the
servant who takes the higher point of view.

So strange did the words of my first text seem as coming from our
Lord's lips, that the sense of incongruity seems to have been the
occasion of the remarkable variation of reading which the Revised
Version has adopted when it says '_We_ must work the works of Him that
sent Me.' But that thought seems to me to be perfectly irrelevant to
our Lord's purpose in this context, where He is vindicating His own
action, and not laying down the duty of His servants. He is giving
here one of these glimpses, that we so rarely get, into His own inmost
heart. And so we have to take the sharp contrast between the Master's
thought and the servant's thought, and to combine them, if we would
think rightly about the present and the future, and do rightly in the
present.

I. Let me ask you to look at the Master's thought about the present
and the future.

As I have already said, our Lord gives utterance here to the very
common, in fact, universal human consciousness. The contrast between
the intense little spot of light and the great ring of darkness round
about it; between 'the warm precincts of the cheerful day' and the
cold solitudes of the inactive night has been the commonplace and
stock-in-trade of moralists and thoughtful men from the beginning; has
given pathos to poetry, solemnity to our days; and has been the ally
of base as well as of noble things. For to say to a man, 'there are
twelve hours in the day of life, and then comes darkness, the
blackness that swallows up all activity,' may either be made into a
support of all lofty and noble thoughts, or, by the baser sort, may
be, and has been, made into a philosophy of the 'Let us eat and drink,
for to-morrow we die' kind; 'Gather ye roses while ye may'; 'A short
life and a merry one.' The thought stimulates to diligence, but it
does nothing to direct the diligence. It makes men work furiously, but
it never will prevent them from working basely. 'Whatsoever thy hand
findeth to do, do it with thy might,' is a conclusion from the
consideration that 'there is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device
in the grave whither we go,' but what the hand should find to do must
be settled from altogether different considerations.

Our Lord here takes the common human point of view, and says, 'Life is
the time for activity, and it must be the more diligent because it is
ringed by the darkness of the night.' What precisely does our Lord
intend by His use of that metaphor of the night? No figures, we know,
run upon all-fours. The point of comparison may be simply in some one
feature common to the two things compared, and so all sorts of
mischief may be done by trying to extend the analogy to other
features. Now, there are a great many points in which day and night
may respectively be taken as analogues of Life and Death and the state
beyond death. There is a 'night of weeping'; there is a 'night of
ignorance.' But our Lord Himself tells us what is the one point of
comparison which alone is in His mind, when He says, 'The night
cometh, when no man can work.' It is simply the night as a season of
compulsory inactivity that suggests the comparison in our text. And so
we have here the presentation of that dear Lord as influenced by the
common human motive, and feeling that there was work to be done which
must be crowded into a definite space, because when that space was
past, there would be no more opportunity for the work to be done.

Look at how, in the words of my first text, we have, as I said, a
glimpse into His inmost heart. He lets us see that all His life was
under the solemn compulsion of that great _must_ which was so often
upon His lips, that He felt that He was here to do the Father's will,
and that that obligation lay upon Him with a pressure which He neither
could, nor would if He could, have got rid of.

There are two kinds of 'musts' in our lives. There is the unwelcome
necessity which grips us with iron and sharpened fangs; the needs-be
which crushes down hopes and dreams and inclinations, and forces the
slave to his reluctant task. And there is the 'must' which has passed
into the will, into the heart, and has moulded the inmost desire to
conformity with the obligation which no more stands over against us as
a taskmaster with whip and chain, but has passed within us and is
there an inspiration and a joy. He that can say, as Jesus Christ in
His humanity could, and did say: 'My meat'--the refreshment of my
nature, the necessary sustenance of my being--'is to do the will of my
Father'; that man, and that man alone, feels no pressure that is pain
from the incumbency of the necessity that blessedly rules His life.
When 'I will' and 'I choose' coincide, like two of Euclid's triangles
atop of one another, line for line and angle for angle, then comes
liberty into the life. He that can say, not with a knitted brow and an
unwilling ducking of his head to the yoke, 'I must do it,' but can
say, 'Thy law is within my heart,' that is the Christlike, the free,
the happy man.

Further, our Lord here, in His thoughts of the present and the future,
lets us see what He thought that the work of God in the world was. The
disciples looked at the blind man sitting by the wayside, and what he
suggested to them was a curious, half theological, half metaphysical
question, in which Rabbinical subtlety delighted. 'Who did sin, this
man or his parents?' They only thought of talking over the theological
problem involved in the fact that, before he had done anything in this
world to account for the calamity, he was _born_ blind. Jesus Christ
looked at the man, and He did not think about theological cobwebs.
What was suggested to Him was to fight against the evil and abolish
it. It is sometimes necessary to discuss the origin of an evil thing,
of a sorrow or a sin, in order to understand how to deal with and get
rid of it. But unless that is the case, our first business is not to
say, 'How comes this about?' but our business is to take steps to make
it cease to come about. Cure the man first and then argue to your
heart's content about what made him blind, but cure him first. And so
Jesus Christ taught us that the meaning of the day of life was that we
should set ourselves to abolish the works of the devil, and that the
work of God was that we should fight against sin and sorrow, and in so
far as it was in our power, abolish these, in all the variety of their
forms, in all the vigour of their abundant growth. Sorrow and sin are
God's call to every one of His sons and daughters to set themselves to
cast them out of His fair creation; and 'the day' is the opportunity
for doing that.

Our Lord here, as I have already suggested, shows us very touchingly
and beautifully, how entirely He bore our human nature, and had
entered into our conditions, in that He, too, felt that common human
emotion, and was spurred to unhasting and yet unresting diligence by
the thought of the coming of the night. I suppose that although we
have few chronological data in this Gospel of John, the hour of our
Lord's death was really very near at that time. He had just escaped
from a formidable attempt upon His life. 'They took up stones to stone
Him, but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way,' is the
statement which immediately precedes the account of His meeting with
this blind man. And so under the pressure, perhaps, of that immediate
experience which revealed the depths of hatred that was ready for
anything against Him, He gives utterance to this expression: 'If it be
the case that the time is at hand, then the more need that, Sabbath
day as it is, I should pause here.' Though the multitude were armed
with stones to stone Him, He stopped in His flight because there was a
poor blind man there whom He felt that He needed to cure. Beautiful it
is, and drawing Him very near to us,--and it should draw us very near
to Him--that thus He shared in that essentially human consciousness of
the limitation of the power to work, by the ring of blackness that
encircled the little spot of illuminated light.

But some will say, 'How is it possible that such a consciousness as
this should really have been in the mind of Jesus Christ?' 'Did He not
know that His death was not to be the end of His work? Did He not
know, and say over and over again, in varying forms, that when He
passed from earth, it was not into inactivity? Is it not the very
characteristic of His mission that it is different from that of all
other helpers and benefactors and teachers of the world, in that His
death stands in the very middle of His work, and that on the one side
of it there is activity, and on the other side of it there is still,
and in some sense loftier and greater, activity?' Yes; all that is
perfectly true, and I do not for a moment believe that our Lord was
forgetting that the life on the earth was but the first volume of His
biography, and of the records of His deeds, and that He contemplated
them, as He contemplated always, the life beyond, as working in and on
and over and through His servants, even unto the end of the world.

But you have only to remember the difference between the earthly and
the heavenly life of the Lord fully to understand the point of view
that He takes here. The one is the basis of the other; the one is the
seedtime, the other is the harvest. The one has only the limited years
of the earthly life, in which it can be done; the other has the
endless years of Eternity, through which it is to be continued. And if
any part of that earthly life of the Lord had been void of its duty,
and of its discharge of the Father's will, not even He, amidst the
blaze of the heavenly glory, could have thereafter filled up the tiny
gap. All the earthly years were needed to be filled with service, up
to the great service and sacrifice of the Cross, in order that upon
them might be reared the second stage and phase of His heavenly life.
With regard to the one, He said on the Cross, 'It is finished.' But
when He died He passed not into the night of inactivity, but into the
day of greater service. And that higher and heavenly form of His work
continues, and not until 'the kingdoms of this world are become the
kingdoms of our God and of His Christ,' and the whole benefit and
effect of His earthly life are imparted to the whole race of man, will
it be said, 'It is done,' and the angels of heaven proclaim the
completion of His work for man. But seeing that that work has its
twofold forms, Jesus, like us, had to be conscious of the limitations
of life, and of the night that followed the day.

II. And now turn, in the second place, to the servant's thought.

As I have already pointed out, it is the precise reversal of the
other. What to Christ is 'day' to Paul is 'night.' What to Christ is
'night' to Paul is 'day.' Now the first point that I would make is
this, that the future would never have been 'day' to Paul if Jesus had
not gone down into the darkness of the 'night.' I have said that there
was only one point of comparison in our Lord's mind between night and
death. But we may venture to extend the figure a little, and to say
that the Light went into the 'valley of the shadow of Death,' and lit
it up from end to end. The Life went into the palace of Death, and
breathed life into all there. There is a great picture by one of the
old monkish masters, on the walls of a Florentine convent, which
represents the descent of Jesus to that dim region of the dead. Around
Him there is a halo of light that shines into the gloomy corridor, up
which the thronging patriarchs and saints of the Old Dispensation are
coming, with outstretched hands of eager welcome and acceptance, to
receive the blessing. Ah! it is true, 'the people that walked in
darkness have seen a great Light; and to them that dwelt in the region
of the shadow of death, unto them hath the Light shined.' Christ the
Light has gone down into the darkness, and what to Him was night He
has made for us day. Just as Scripture all but confines the name of
_death_ to Christ's experience upon the Cross, and by virtue of that
experience softens it down for the rest of us into the blessed image
of _sleep_, so the Master has turned the night of death into the
dawning of the day.

Further, to the servant the brightness of that future day dimmed all
earth's garish glories into darkness. It was because Paul saw the
Beyond flaming with such lustre that the nearer distance to him seemed
to have sunk into gloom. Just as a man or other object between you and
the western sky when the sun is there will be all dark, so earth with
heaven behind it becomes a mere shadowy outline. The day that is
beyond outshines all the lustres and radiances of earth, and turns
them into darkness. You go into a room out of blazing tropical
sunshine, and it is all gloom and obscurity. He whose eyes are fixed
on the day that is to come will find that here he walks as one in the
night.

And the brightness of that day, as well as the darkness of the present
night, directed the servant as to what he should be diligent in. Since
it is true that 'the day is at hand,' let us put on the armour of
light, and dress ourselves in garb fitting for it. Since it is true
that 'the night is far spent' let us put off the works of darkness.

III. And so that brings me to the last point, and that is the
combination of the Master's and the servant's thought, and the effect
that it should produce upon us.

It is not enough either for our hearts or our minds that we should say
'the night cometh when no man can work.' Life is day, but it is night
also. Death is night but it is dawning as well. We cannot understand
either the present or the future unless we link them together. That
death which is the cessation of activity in one aspect, is, for
Christ's servants, as truly as for Christ, the beginning of an
activity in a higher and nobler form. I do not believe in a heaven of
rest, meaning by that, inaction; I still less believe in a death which
puts an end to the activity of the human spirit. I believe that this
world is our school, our apprenticeship, the place where we learn our
trade and exercise our faculties, where we paint the picture, as it
were, which we offer when we desire to be admitted to the great guild
of artists, and according to the result of which, in the eye of the
Judge, is our place hereafter. What the Germans call 'proof
pieces'--that is the meaning of life. And though 'the night cometh
when no man can work,' the day cometh when the characters we have made
ourselves here, the habits we have cultivated and indulged in, the
capacities we have exercised, and the set and drift of all our
activity upon earth, will determine the work that we get to do there.

So then, stereoscoping these two thoughts, we get the solid image that
results from them both. And it teaches us not only diligence, and thus
supplies stimulus, but it determines the direction of our diligence,
and thus supplies guidance. We ought to be misers of our time and
opportunities. Jesus Christ said, 'I must work the work of Him that
sent Me while it is day; the night cometh.' How much more ought you
and I to say so? And some of us ought very specially to say it, and to
feel it, because the hour when we shall have to lay down our tools is
getting very near, and the shadows are lengthening. If you had been in
the fields in these summer evenings during the last few days, you
would have seen the haymakers at work with more and more diligence as
the evening drew on darker and darker. Dear friends, some of us are at
the eleventh hour. Let us fill it with diligent work. The night
cometh.

But my texts not only stimulate to diligence, but they direct the
diligence. If it be that there is a day beyond, and that Christ's folk
are 'the children of the day,' then 'let us not sleep as do others,
but let us watch and be sober.' We have to cast ourselves on Him as
our Saviour, to love Him as our Lord and Friend, to take Him as our
Pattern and our Guide, our Help, our Light, and our Life. And then we
shall neither be deceived by life's garish splendours nor oppressed by
its gloom and its sorrow; we shall neither shrink from that last
moment, as a night of inaction, nor be too eager to cast off the
burden of our present work, but we shall cheerfully toil at what will
prepare us for 'the day,' and the bell at night that rings us out of
mill and factory will not be unwelcome, for it will ring us in to
higher work and nobler service. The transition will be like one of
those summer nights in the Arctic circle, when the sun does not dip.
Through a little thin film of less light we shall pass into the
perfect day, where 'the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light
thereof,' and 'there shall be no more night.'



THE SIXTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL--THE BLIND MADE TO SEE, AND THE
SEEING MADE BLIND

'When Jesus had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of
the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7. And said unto him, Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam, (which is by
interpretation, Sent). He went his way, therefore, and washed, and
came seeing.'--JOHN ix. 6, 7.

The proportionate length at which this miracle and its accompanying
effects are recorded, indicates very clearly the Evangelist's idea of
their relative importance. Two verses are given to the story of the
miracle; all the rest of the chapter to its preface and its issues. It
was a great thing to heal a man that was blind from his birth, but the
story of the gradual illumination of his spirit until it came to the
full light of the perception of Christ as the Son of God, was far more
to the Evangelist, and ought to be far more to us than giving the
outward eye power to discern the outward light.

The narrative has a prologue and an epilogue, and the true point of
view from which to look at it is found in the solemn words with which
our Lord closes the incident. 'For judgment am I come into this world,
that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be
made blind.'

So then the mere sign, important as it is, is the least thing that we
have to look at in our contemplations now.

I. We have here our Lord unveiling His deepest motives for bestowing
an unsought blessing.

It is remarkable, I think, that out of the eight miracles recorded in
this Gospel, there is only one in which our Lord responds to a request
to manifest His miraculous power; the others are all spontaneous.

In the other Gospels He heals sometimes because of the pleading of the
sufferer; sometimes because of the request of compassionate friends or
bystanders; sometimes unasked, because His own heart went out to those
that were in pain and sickness. But in John's Gospel, predominantly we
have the Son of God, who acts throughout as moved by His own deep
heart. That view of Christ reaches its climax in His own profound
words about His own laying down of His life: 'I came forth from the
Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go
unto the Father.' So, not so much influenced by others as deriving
motive and impulse and law from Himself, He moves upon earth a
fountain and not a reservoir, the Originator and the Beginner of the
blessings that He bears.

And that is the point of view from which most strikingly the prologue
of our narrative sets forth His action in the miracle here. 'As Jesus
passed by,' says the story, 'He saw a man which was blind from his
birth.' He fixes His eye upon him. No cry from the blind man's lips
draws Him. He sits there unconscious of the kind eyes that were
fastened upon him. The disciples stand at Christ's side, and have no
share in His feelings. They ask Him to do nothing. To them the blind
man is--what? A theological problem. No trace of pity touches their
hearts. They do not even seem to have reckoned upon or expected
Christ's miraculous intervention. And that is a very remarkable
feature in the Gospels. At all events, they evidently do not expect it
here; but all that the sight of this lifelong sufferer does in them is
to raise a question, 'Who did sin; he or his parents?' Perhaps they do
not quite see to the bottom of the alternative that they are
suggesting; and we need not trouble ourselves to ask whether there was
a full-blown notion of the pre-existence of the man's soul in their
minds as they ask the question. Perhaps they remembered the impotent
man to whom our Lord said, 'Go and sin no more lest a worse thing come
unto thee.' And they may have thought that they had His sanction to
the doctrine--as old as Job's friends--that wherever there was great
suffering there must first have been great sin.

That is all that the sight of sorrow does for some people. It leads to
censorious judgments, or to mere idle and curious speculations. Christ
lets us see what it did for Him, and what it is meant to do for us.
'Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but he is born blind
that the works of God may be made manifest in him.' That is to say,
human sorrow is to be looked at by us as an opportunity for the
manifestation through us of God's mercy in relieving and stanching the
wounds through which the lifeblood is ebbing away. Do not stand coldly
curious or uncharitably censorious. Do not make miserable men
theological problems, but see in them a call for service. See in them
an opportunity for letting the light of God, so much of it as is in
you, shine from you, and your hands move in works of mercy.

And then the Master goes on to state still more distinctly the law
which dominated His life, and which ought to dominate ours: 'I must
work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night cometh
when no man can work.' Then poor men's misery is an occasion for the
love of God manifesting itself. Yes. But the love of God manifests
itself through human media, through persons; and if we adopt the
reading of these words which you will find in the Revised Version, and
instead of saying '_I_ must work,' read '_We_ must work,' then we have
Christ extending the law which ruled over His own life to all His
followers, and making it supremely obligatory and binding upon each of
us. He for His part, as I have said, moves through this Gospel as the
Son of God, whose mercy, and all whose doings are self-originated. But
the other side of that is that He moves through this Gospel in the
humble attitude of filial obedience, ever recognising that the
Father's will is supreme in His life; and that He is bound, with an
obligation in which He rejoices, to do the will of Him that sent Him.
The consciousness of a mission, the sense of filial obedience, the
joyful surrender and harmonising of the will of the Son with the will
of the Father; these things were the secret of the Master's life.

And coupled with them, even in Him there was the consciousness that
time was short; and although beyond the Cross and the grave there
stretched for Him an eternity in which He would work for the blessing
of the world, yet the special work which He had to do, while wearing
the veil and weakness of flesh, had but few days and hours in which it
could be done. Therefore, as we ought to do, He worked under the
limitations of mortality, and recognised in the brevity of life
another call to eager and continuous service.

These were His motives which, in common with Him, we may share. But He
adds another in which we have no share; and declares the unique
consciousness which ever stirred Him to His self-manifesting and
God-manifesting acts: 'As long as I am in the world I am the Light of
the world.'

Thus, moved by sorrow, recognising in man's misery the dumb cry for
help, seeing in it the opportunity for the manifestation of the higher
mercy of God; taking all evil to be the occasion for a brighter
display of the love and the good which are divine; feeling that His
one purpose upon earth was to crowd the moments with obedience to the
will, and with the doing of the works of Him that sent Him; and
possessing the sole and strange consciousness that from His person
streams out all the light which illuminates the world--the Christ
pauses before the unconscious blind man, and looking upon the poor,
useless eyeballs, unaware how near light and sight stood, obeys the
impulse that shapes His whole life, 'and when He had spoken _thus_,'
proceeds to the strange cure.

II. So we come, in the next place, to consider Christ as veiling His
power under material means.

There is only one other instance in the Gospels where a miracle is
wrought in the singular fashion which is here employed, namely, the
healing of the deaf-mute recorded in Mark's Gospel, where, in like
manner, our Lord makes clay of the spittle, and anoints the ears of
the deaf man with the clay. The variety of method in our Lord's
miracles serves important purposes, as teaching us that the methods
are nothing, and that He moved freely amongst them all, the real cause
in every case being one and the same, the bare forth-putting of His
will; and teaching us further that in each specific case there were
reasons in the moral and religious condition of the persons operated
upon for the adoption of the specific means employed, which we of
course have no means of discovering. There is here, first then,
healing by material means. The clay had no power of healing; the water
of Siloam had no power of healing. The thing that healed was Christ's
will, but He uses these externals to help the poor blind man to
believe that he is going to be healed. He condescends to drape and
veil His power in order that the dim eye, unaccustomed to the light,
may look upon that shadowed representation of it when it could not
gaze upon the pure brightness; as an eye may look upon a shaded lamp
which could not bear its brilliance unsoftened and naked.

This healing by material means in order to accommodate Himself to the
weak faith which He seeks to evoke, and to strengthen thereby, is
parallel, in principle, to His own Incarnation, and to His appointment
of external rites and ordinances. Baptism, the Lord's Supper, a
visible Church, outward means of worship, and so on, all these come
under that same category. There is no life nor power in them except
His will works through them, but they are crutches and helps for a
weak and sense-bound faith to climb to the apprehension of the
spiritual reality. It is not the clay, it is not the water, it is not
the Church, the ordinances, the outward worship, the form of prayer,
the sacrament--it is none of these things that have the healing and
the grace in them. They are only ladders by which we may ascend to
Him. So let us neither presumptuously antedate the time when we shall
be able to do without them--the Heaven in 'which there is no
Temple'--nor grovellingly and superstitiously elevate them to a place
of importance and of power in the Christian life which Christ never
meant them to fill. He heals through material means; the true source
of healing is His own loving will.

Further, He heals at a distance. We have here a parallel with the
story of the nobleman's son at Capernaum, which we have already
considered. There, too, we have the same phenomenon, the healing power
sent forth from the Master, and operating far away from His corporeal
personal presence. This was a test of faith, as the use of the clay
had been a help to faith. Still He works His healing from afar,
because to Him there is neither near nor far. In His divine ubiquity,
that Son of Man, who in His glorified manhood is at the right hand of
God the Father Almighty, is here and everywhere where there are
weakness and suffering that turn to Him; ready to help, ready to bless
and heal. 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'

Our Evangelist sees in the very name of that fountain in which the man
washed, a symbol which is not to be passed by. 'Go, wash in the Pool
of Siloam,' which, says John, 'is by interpretation, _Sent._' We have
heard already about the Pool of Siloam in this section of the Gospel.
In Chapter vii. we read, 'In the last day, that great day of the
Feast, Jesus stood and said, "If any man thirst let him come to Me and
drink."' These words were probably spoken on the last day of the Feast
of Tabernacles, on which one part of the ceremonial was the drawing,
with exuberant rejoicing, of water from the Pool of Siloam, and
bearing it up to the Temple. In these words Christ pointed to that
fountain which rises 'fast by the oracles of God,' and wells up from
beneath the hill, that on which the Temple is built, as being a symbol
of Himself.

And here the Evangelist would have us suppose that, in like manner,
the very name which the fountain bore (whether as being an outgush
from beneath the Temple rock, or whether as being the gift of God) as
applicable to Himself. The lesson to be learned is that the fountain
in which we have to be cleansed 'from sin and from uncleanness,' whose
waters are the lotion that will give eyesight to the blind, the true
'fountain of perpetual youth,' which men have sought for in every
land, is Christ Himself. In Him we have the welling forth of the heart
of God, the water of life, the water of gladness, the immortal stream
of which 'whoso drinketh shall never thirst,' and which, touching the
blind eyeballs, washes away obscuration and gives new power of vision.

III. Then, still further, we have here our Lord suspending healing on
obedience.

'Go and wash.' As He said to the impotent man: 'Stretch forth thine
hand'; as He said to the paralytic in this Gospel: 'Take up thy bed
and walk'; so here He says, 'Go and wash.' And some friendly hand
being stretched out to the blind man, or he himself feeling his way
over the familiar path, he comes to the pool and washes, and returns
seeing.

There is a double lesson there, on which I have no need to dwell.
There is, first, the general truth that healing is suspended by Christ
on compliance with His conditions. He does not simply say to any man,
Be whole. He could and did say so sometimes in regard to bodily
healing. But He cannot do so as regards the cure of our blind souls.
To the sin-sick and sin-blinded man He says, 'Thou shalt be whole,
if'--or 'I will make thee whole, provided that'--what?--provided that
thou goest to the fountain where He has lodged the healing power. The
condition on which sight comes to the blind is compliance with
Christ's invitation, 'Come to Me; trust in Me; and thou shalt be
whole.'

Then there is a special lesson here, and that is, Obedience brings
sight. 'If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.'
Are there any of you groping in darkness, compassed about with
theological perplexities and religious doubts? Obey what you know. Do
what you see clearly you ought to do. Bow your wills to the recognised
truth. He who has turned all his knowledge into action will get more
knowledge as soon as he needs it. 'Go and wash; and he went, and came
seeing.'

IV. And now, lastly, we have here our Lord shadowing His highest work
as the Healer of blind souls.

It is impossible for me to enter upon that wonderfully dramatic and
instructive narrative which follows the account of the miracle, and
describe the controversies between the sturdy, quick-witted, candid,
blind man, and the narrow, bitter Pharisees. But just notice one or
two points.

The two parties are evidently represented as types of two contrasted
classes. The blind man stands for an example of honest ignorance,
knowing itself ignorant, and not to be coaxed or frightened or in any
way provoked to pretending to knowledge which it does not possess;
firmly holding by what it does know, and because conscious of its
little knowledge, therefore waiting for light and willing to be led.
Hence he is at once humble and sturdy, docile and independent, ready
to listen to any voice which can really teach, and formidably quick to
prick with wholesome sarcasm the inflated claims of mere official
pretenders. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are sure that they know
everything that can be known about anything in the region of religion
and morality, and in their absolute confidence of their absolute
possession of the truth, in their blank unconsciousness that it was
more than their official property and stock-in-trade, in their
complete incapacity to discern the glory of a miracle which
contravened ecclesiastical proprieties and conventionalities, in their
contempt for the ignorance which they were responsible for and never
thought of enlightening, in their cruel taunt directed against the
man's calamity, and in their swift resort to the weapon of
excommunication of one whom it was much easier to cast out than to
answer, are but too plain a type of a character which is as ready to
corrupt the teachers of the Church as of the synagogue.

One cannot but notice how constantly the phrase 'We know' occurs. The
parents of the man use it thrice. The Pharisees have it on their lips
in their first interview with him: 'We know that this man is a
sinner.' He answers, declining to affirm anything about the character
of the Man Jesus, because he, for his part, 'knows not,' but standing
firmly by the solid reality which he 'knows,' in a very solid fashion,
that his eyes have been opened. So we have the first encounter between
knowledge which is ignorant, and ignorance which knows, to the
manifest victory of the latter. Again, in the second round, they try
to overbear the man's cool sarcasm with their vehement assertion of
knowledge that God spake to Moses, but by the admission that even
their knowledge did not reach to the determination of the question of
the origin of Jesus' mission, lay themselves open to the sudden thrust
of keen-eyed, honest humility's sharp rapier-like retort. 'Herein is a
marvellous thing,' that you _Know-alls_, whose business it is to know
where a professed miracle-worker comes from, 'know not from whence He
is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes.' 'Now we know' (to use your own
words) 'that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper
of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.'

Then observe how, on both sides, a process is going on. The man is
getting more and more light at each step. He begins with 'a Man which
is called Jesus.' Then he gets to a 'prophet,' then he comes to 'a
worshipper of God, and one that does His will.' Then he comes to, 'If
this man were not of God,' in some very special sense, 'He could do
nothing.' These are his own reflections, the working out of the
impression made by the fact on an honest mind; and because he had so
used the light which he had, therefore Jesus gives him more, and finds
him with the question, 'Dost thou believe on the Son of God?' Then the
man who had shown himself so strong in his own convictions, so
independent, and hard to cajole or coerce, shows himself now all
docile and submissive, and ready to accept whatever Jesus says: 'Lord,
who is He, that I might believe on Him?' That was not credulity. He
already knew enough of Christ to know that he ought to trust Him. And
to his docility there is given the full revelation; and he hears the
words which Pharisees and unrighteous men were not worthy to hear:
'Thou hast both _seen_ it is He that talketh with thee.' Then
intellectual conviction, moral reliance, and the utter prostration and
devotion of the whole man bow him at Christ's feet. 'Lord, I believe;
and He worshipped Him.'

There is the story of the progress of an honest, ignorant soul that
knew itself blind, into the illumination of perfect vision.

And as he went upwards, so steadily and tragically, downwards went the
others. For they had light and they would not look at it; and it
blasted and blinded them. They had the manifestation of Christ, and
they scoffed and jeered at it, and turned their backs upon it, and it
became a curse to them; falling not like dew but like vitriol on their
spirits, blistering, not refreshing.

Therefore Christ pronounces their fate, and sums up the story in the
solemn two-edged sentence: 'For judgment am I come into the world,
that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be
made blind.'

The purpose of His coming is not to judge, but to save. But if men
will not let Him save, the effect of His coming will be to harm.
Therefore, His coming will separate men into two parts, as a magnet
will draw all the iron filings out of a heap and leave the brass. He
comes not to judge, but His coming does judge. He is set for the rise
or for the fall of men, and is 'a discerner of the thoughts and
intents of the heart.'

Light has a twofold effect. It is torture to the diseased eye; it is
gladdening to the sound one. Christ is the light, as He is also both
the power of seeing and the thing seen. Therefore, it cannot but be
that His shining upon men's hearts shall judge them, and shall either
enlighten or darken.

We all have eyes--the organs by which we may see 'the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God.' We have all blinded ourselves by our
sin. Christ is come to show us God, to be the light by which we see
God, and to strengthen and restore our faculty of seeing Him. If you
welcome Him, and take Him into your hearts, He will be at once light
and eyesight to you. But if you turn away from Him He will be
blindness and darkness to you. He comes to pour eyesight on the blind,
but He comes therefore also, most assuredly, to make still blinder
those who do not know themselves to be blind, and conceit themselves
to be clear-sighted. 'I thank Thee, Father, that Thou hast hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.'

They who see themselves to be blind, who know themselves to be
ignorant, the lowly who recognise their sinfulness and misery and
helplessness, and turn in their sore need to Christ, will be led by
paths of growing knowledge and blessedness to the perfect day where
their strengthened vision will be able to see light in the blaze which
to us now is darkness. They who say 'I see,' and know not that they
are miserable and blind, nor hearken to His counsel to 'anoint their
eyes with eye salve that they may see,' will have yet another film
drawn over their eyes by the shining of the light which they reject,
and will pass into darkness where only enough of light and of eyesight
remain to make guilt. Jesus Christ is for us light and vision. Trust
to Him, and your eyes will be blessed because they see God. Turn from
Him and Egyptian darkness will settle on your soul. 'To him that hath
shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that which he hath
shall be taken away.'



THE GIFTS TO THE FLOCK

'... By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and
out, and find pasture.'--JOHN x. 9.

One does not know whether the width or the depth of this marvellous
promise is the more noteworthy. Jesus Christ presents Himself before
the whole race of man, and declares Himself able to deal with the
needs of every individual in the tremendous whole. 'If _any man_'--no
matter who, where, when.

For all noble and happy life there are at least three things needed:
security, sustenance, and a field for the exercise of activity. To
provide these is the end of all human society and government. Jesus
Christ here says that He can give all these to every one.

The imagery of the sheep and the fold is still, of course, in His
mind, and colours the form of the representation. But the substance is
the declaration that, to any and every soul, no matter how ringed
about with danger, no matter how hampered and hindered in work, no
matter how barren of all supply earth may be, He will give these, the
primal requisites of life. 'He shall be saved, and shall go in and
out, and find pasture.'

Now I only wish to deal with these three aspects of the blessedness of
a true Christian life which our Lord holds forth here as accessible to
us all: security, the unhindered exercise of activity, and sustenance
or provision.

I. First, then, in and through Christ any man may be saved.

I take it that the word 'saved' here is rather used with reference to
the imagery of the parable than in its full Christian sense of
ultimate and everlasting salvation, and that its meaning in its
present connection might perhaps better be set forth by the rendering
'safe' than 'saved.' At the same time, the two ideas pass into one
another; and the declaration of my text is that because, step by step,
conflict by conflict, in passing danger after danger, external and
internal, Jesus Christ, through our union with Him, will keep us safe,
at the last we shall reach eternal and everlasting salvation. 'He will
save us' by the continual exercise of His protecting power, 'into His
everlasting kingdom.' There is none other shelter for men's
defenceless heads and naked, soft, unarmed bodies except only the
shelter that is found in Him. There are creatures of low grade in the
animal world which have the instinct, because their own bodies are so
undefended and impotent to resist contact with sharp and penetrating
substances, that they take refuge in the abandoned shells of other
creatures. You and I have to betake ourselves behind the defences of
that strong love and mighty Hand if ever we are to pass through life
without fatal harm.

For consider that, even in regard to outward dangers, union with Jesus
Christ defends and delivers us. Suppose two men, two Manchester
merchants, made bankrupt by the same commercial crisis; or two
shipwrecked sailors lashed upon a raft; or two men sitting side by
side in a railway carriage and smashed by the same collision. One is a
Christian and the other is not. The same blow is altogether different
in aspect and actual effect upon the two men. They endure the same
thing externally, in body or in fortune. The outward man is similarly
affected, but the man is differently affected. The one is crushed, or
embittered, or driven to despair, or to drink, or to something or
other to soothe the bitterness; the other bows himself with 'It is the
Lord! Let Him do what seemeth Him good.'

So the two disasters are utterly different, though in form they may be
the same, and he that has entered into the fold by Jesus Christ is
safe, not _from_ outward disaster--that would be but a poor thing--but
_in_ it. For to the true heart that lives in fellowship with Jesus
Christ, Sorrow, though it be dark-robed, is bright-faced, soft-handed,
gentle-hearted, an angel of God. 'By Me if any man enter in, he shall
be safe.'

And further, in our union with Jesus Christ, by simple faith in Him
and loyal submission and obedience, we do receive an impenetrable
defence against the true evils, and the only things worth calling
dangers. For the only real evil is the peril that we shall lose our
confidence and be untrue to our best selves, and depart from the
living God. Nothing is evil except that which tempts, and succeeds in
tempting, us away from Him. And in regard to all such danger, to
cleave to Christ, to realise His presence, to think of Him, to wear
His name as an amulet on our hearts, to put the thought of Him between
us and temptation as a filter through which the poisonous air shall
pass, and be deprived of its virus, is the one secret of safety and
victory.

Real gift of power from Jesus Christ, the influx of His strength into
our weakness, of some portion of the Spirit of life that was in Him
into our deadness, is promised, and the promise is abundantly
fulfilled to all men who trust Him when their hour of temptation
comes. As the dying martyr, when he looked up into heaven, saw Jesus
Christ 'standing at the right hand of God' ready to help, and, as it
were, having started from His eternal seat on the Throne in the
eagerness of His desire to succour His servant, so we may all see, if
we will, that dear Lord ready to succour us, and close by our sides to
deliver us from the evil in the evil, its power to tempt. If we could
carry that vision into our daily life, and walk in its light, when
temptation rings us round, how poor all the inducements to go away
from Him would look!

There is a power in the remembrance of Jesus to slay every wicked
thought; and the things that tempt us most, that most directly appeal
to our worst sides, to our sense, our ambition, our pride, our
distrust, our self-will, all these lose their power upon us, and are
discovered in their emptiness and insignificance, when once this
thought flashes across the mind--Jesus Christ is my Defence, and Jesus
Christ is my Pattern and my Companion.

Oh, brother! do not trust yourself out amongst the pitfalls and snares
of life without Him. If you do, the real evil of all evils will seize
you for its own; but keep close to that dear Lord, and then 'there
shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy
dwelling.' The hidden temptation thou wilt pass by without being
harmed; the manifest temptation thou wilt trample under foot. 'Thou
shalt not be afraid for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor
for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.' Hidden known temptations
will be equally powerless; and in the fold into which all pass by
faith in Christ thou shalt be safe. And so, kept safe from each danger
and in each moment of temptation, the aggregate and sum of the several
deliverances will amount to the everlasting salvation which shall be
perfected in the heavens.

Only remember the condition, 'By Me if any man enter in.' That is not
a thing to be done once for all, but needs perpetual repetition. When
we clasp anything in our hands, however tight the initial grasp,
unless there is a continual effort of renewed tightening, the muscles
become lax, and we have to renew the tension, if we are to keep the
grasp. So in our Christian life it is only the continual repetition of
the act which our Lord here calls 'entering in by Him' that will bring
to us this continual exemption from, and immunity in, the dangers that
beset us.

Keep Christ between you and the storm. Keep on the lee side of the
Rock of Ages. Keep behind the breakwater, for there is a wild sea
running outside; and your little boat, undecked and with a feeble hand
at the helm, will soon be swamped. Keep within the fold, for wolves
and lions lie in every bush. Or, in plain English, live moment by
moment in the realising of Christ's presence, power, and grace. So,
and only so, shall you be safe.

II. Now, secondly, note, in Jesus Christ any man may find a field for
the unrestricted exercise of his activity.

That metaphor of 'going in and out' is partly explained to us by the
image of the flock, which passes into the fold for peaceful repose,
and out again, without danger, for exercise and food; and is partly
explained by the frequent use, in the Old Testament and in common
conversation, of the expression 'going out and in' as the designation
of the two-sided activity of human life. The one side is the
contemplative life of interior union with God by faith and love; the
other, the active life of practical obedience in the field of work
which God provides for us. These two are both capable of being raised
to their highest power, and of being discharged with the most
unrestricted and joyous activity, on condition of our keeping close to
Christ, and living by the faith of Him.

Note, then, 'He shall go in.' That comes first, though it interferes
with the propriety of the metaphor, since the previous words already
contemplate an initial 'entering in by Me, the Door.' That is to say,
that, given the union with Jesus Christ by faith, there must then, as
the basis of all activity, follow very frequent and deep inward acts
of contemplation, of faith, and aspiration, and desire. You must go
into the depths of God through Christ. You must go into the depths of
your own souls through Him. You must become accustomed to withdraw
yourselves from spreading yourselves out over the distractions of any
external activity, howsoever imperative, charitable, or necessary, and
live alone with Jesus, 'in the secret place of the Most High.' It is
through Him that we have access to the mysteries and innermost shrine
of the Temple. It is through Him that we draw near to the depths of
Deity. It is through Him that we learn the length and breadth and
height and depth of the largest and loftiest and noblest truths that
concern the spirit. It is through Him that we become familiar with the
inmost secrets of our own selves. And only they who habitually live
this hidden and sunken life of solitary and secret communion will ever
do much in the field of outward work. Christians of this generation
are far too much accustomed to live only in the front rooms of the
house, that look out upon the street; and they know very little--far
too little for their soul's health, and far too little for the
freshness of their work and its prosperity--of that inward life of
silent contemplation and expectant adoration, by which all strength is
fed. Do not keep all your goods in the shop windows, and have nothing
on your shelves but dummies, as is the case with far too many of us
to-day. Remember that the Lord said first, 'He shall go in,' and
unless you do you will not be 'saved.'

But then, further, if there have been, and continue to be, this
unrestricted exercise through Christ of that sweet and silent life of
solitary communion with Him, then there will follow upon that an
enlargement of opportunity, and power for outward service such as
nothing but emancipation by faith in Him can ever bring. Howsoever, by
external circumstances, you and I may be hampered and hindered,
however often we may feel that if something outside of us were
different, the development of our active powers would be far more
satisfactory, and we could do a great deal more in Christ's cause, the
true hindrance lies never without, but within; and it is only to be
overcome by that plunging into the depths of fellowship with Him. And
then, if we carry with us into the field of work, whether it be the
commonplace, dusty, tedious, and often repulsive duties of our
monotonous business; or whether it be the field of more distinctly
unselfish and Christian service--if we carry with us into all places
where we go to labour, the sweet thought of His presence, of His
example, of His love, and of the smile that may come on His face as
the reward of faithful service, then we shall find that external
labour, drawing its pattern, its motive, its law, and the power for
its discharge, from communion with Him, is no more task-work nor
slavery; and even 'the rough places will be made smooth, and the
crooked things will be made straight,' and distasteful work will be
made at least tolerable, and hard burdens will be lightened, and the
things that are 'seen and temporal' will shimmer into transparency,
through which will shine out the things that are 'unseen and eternal.'

Some of us are constitutionally made to prefer the one of these forms
of Christian activity; some of us to prefer the other. The tendencies
of this generation are far too much to the latter, to the exclusion of
the former. It is hard to reconcile the conflicting claims, and I know
of no better way to hit the just medium than by trying to keep
ourselves always in touch with Jesus Christ, and then outward labour
of any sort, whether for the bread that perishes or for His kingdom
and righteousness, will never become so absorbing but that in it we
may have our hearts in heaven, and the silent hour of communion with
Him will never be so prolonged as to neglect outward duties. There was
a demoniac boy in the plain, and therefore it was impossible to build
tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration. But the disciples that
had not climbed the Mount were all impotent to cast out the demoniac
boy. We, if we keep near to Jesus Christ, will find that through Him
we can 'go in and out,' and in both be pursuing the one uniform
purpose of serving and pleasing Him. So shall be fulfilled in our
cases the Psalmist's prayer, that 'I may dwell in the house of the
Lord all the days of ray life, to behold His beauty, and to inquire in
His Temple.'

III. Lastly, in Jesus Christ any man may receive sustenance. 'They
shall find pasture.'

The imagery of the sheep and the fold is still, of course, present to
the Master's mind, and shapes the form in which this great promise is
set forth.

I need only remind you, in illustration of it, of two facts, one, that
in Jesus Christ Himself all the true needs of humanity are met and
satisfied. He is 'the Bread of God that came down from heaven to give
life to the world.' Do I want an outward object for my intellect? I
have it in Him. Does my heart feel with its tendrils, which have no
eyes at the ends of them, after something round which it may twine,
and not fear that the prop shall ever rot or be cut down or pulled up?
Jesus Christ is the home of love in which the dove may fold its wings
and be at rest. Do I want (and I do if I am not a fool) an absolute
and authoritative command to be laid upon my will; some one 'whose
looks enjoin, whose lightest words are spells'? I find absolute
authority, with no taint of tyranny, and no degradation to the
subject, in that Infinite Will of His. Does my conscience need some
strong detergent to be laid upon it which shall take out the stains
that are most indurated, inveterate, and ingrained? I find it only in
the 'blood that cleanseth from all sin.' Do my aspirations and desires
seek for some solid and substantial and unquestionable and
imperishable good to which, reaching out, they may be sure that they
are not anchoring on cloudland? Christ is our hope. For all this
complicated and craving commonwealth that I carry within my soul,
there is but one satisfaction, even Jesus Christ Himself. Nothing else
nourishes the whole man at once, but in Him are all the constituents
that the human system requires for its nutriment and its growth in
every part. So in and through Christ we find 'pasture.'

But beyond that, if we are knit to Him by simple and continual faith,
love, and obedience, then what is else barrenness becomes full of
nourishment, and the unsatisfying gifts of the world become rich and
precious. They are nought when they are put first, they are much when
they are put second.

I remember when I was in Australia seeing some wretched cattle trying
to find grass on a yellow pasture where there was nothing but here and
there a brown stalk that crumbled to dust in their mouths as they
tried to eat it. That is the world without Jesus Christ. And I saw the
same pasture six weeks after, when the rains had come, and the grass
was high, rich, juicy, satisfying. That is what the world may be to
you, if you will put it second, and seek first that your souls shall
be fed on Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will what is else water
be turned by His touch and blessing into wine that shall fill the
great jars to the brim, and be pronounced by skilled palates to be the
good wine. 'I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high
mountains of Israel shall their fold be. There shall they lie in a
good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of
Israel.'



THE GOOD SHEPHERD

'I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. 15.
As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My
life for the sheep.'--JOHN x. 14,15.

'I am the Good Shepherd.' Perhaps even Christ never spoke more
fruitful words than these. Just think how many solitary, wearied
hearts they have cheered, and what a wealth of encouragement and
comfort there has been in them for all generations. The little child
as it lays itself down to sleep, cries--

  'Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,
  Bless Thy little lamb to-night,'

and the old man lays himself down to die murmuring to himself, 'Though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil,
for Thou art with me.' 'I am the Good Shepherd.' No preaching can do
anything but weaken and dilute the force of such words, and yet,
though in all their sweet, homely simplicity they appeal to every
heart, there are great depths in them that are worth pondering, and
profound thoughts that need some elucidation.

There are three points to be noticed--First, the general force of the
metaphor, and then the two specific applications of it which our Lord
Himself makes.

I. First of all, then, let me say a few words as to the general
application of the metaphor. The usual notion of these words confines
itself to the natural meaning, and runs out into very true, but
perhaps a little sentimental, considerations, laying hold of what is
so plain on the very surface that I need not spend any time in
speaking about it. Christ's pattern is my law; Christ's providence is
my guidance and defence--which in the present case means Christ's
companionship--is my safety, my sustenance--which in the present case
means that Christ Himself is the bread of my soul. The Good Shepherd
exercises care, which absolves the sheep from care, and in the present
case means that my only duty is meek following and quiet trust. 'I am
the Good Shepherd'--here is guidance, guardianship, companionship,
sustenance--all responsibility laid upon His broad shoulders, and all
tenderness in His deep heart, and so for us simple obedience and quiet
trust.

Another way by which we get the whole significance of this symbol is
by noticing how the idea is strengthened by the word that accompanies
it. Christ does not say 'I am a Shepherd,' but He says, 'I am _the
good_ Shepherd.' At first sight that word 'good' is interpreted, as I
have said, in a kind of sentimental, poetic way, as expressing our
Lord's tenderness and love and care; but I do not think that is the
full meaning here. You find up and down this Gospel of St. John
phrases such as, 'I am the true bread,' 'I am the true vine,' and the
meaning of the word that is here translated 'good' is very nearly
parallel with that idea. The true bread, the true vine, the true
Shepherd--which comes to this, to use modern phraseology, that Jesus
Christ, in His relation to you and me, fulfils all that in figure and
shadow is represented to the meditative eye by that lower relationship
between the material shepherd and his sheep. That is the picture, this
the reality. There is another point to be made clear, and that is,
that whilst the word 'good' is perhaps a fair enough representation of
that which is employed by our Lord, there is a special force and
significance attached to the original, which is lost in our Bible. I
do not know that it could have been preserved; but still it is
necessary to state it. The expression here is the one that is
generally rendered 'fair,' or 'lovely,' or 'beautiful,' and it belongs
to the genius of that wonderful tongue in which the New Testament is
written that it has a name for moral purity, considered as being
lovely, the highest goodness, and the serenest beauty, which was what
the old Greeks taught, howsoever little they may have practised it in
their lives. And so here the thought is that _the_ Shepherd stands
before us, the realisation of all which that name means, set forth in
such a fashion as to be infinitely lovely and perfectly fair, and to
draw the admiration of any man who can appreciate that which is
beautiful, and can admire that which is of good report.

There is another point still in reference to this first view of the
text. Our Lord not only declares that He is the reality of which the
earthly shepherd is the shadow, and that He as such is the flawless,
perfect One, but that He alone is the reality. 'I am the Good
Shepherd; in Me and in Me alone is that which men need.' And that
leads me to another point which must just be mentioned, that we shall
not reach the full meaning of these great words without taking into
account the history of the metaphor in the Old Testament. Christ gives
a second edition of the figure, and we are to remember all that went
before. 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want'; 'Thou leddest Thy
people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.' These are but
specimens of a continuous series of utterances in the old Revelation
in which Jehovah Himself is the Shepherd of mankind; and there is also
another class of passages of which I will quote one or two. 'He shall
feed His flock like a shepherd, and carry them in His arms.' 'Awake, O
sword, against the Man who is my fellow; smite the Shepherd, and the
sheep shall be scattered.' There were, we should remember, two streams
of representation, according to the one of which God Himself was the
Shepherd of Israel, and according to the other of which the Messiah
was the Shepherd; and here, as I believe, Jesus lays His hand on both
the one and the other, and says: 'They are Mine, and they testify of
Me.' So sweet, so gracious are the words, that we lose the sense of
the grandeur of them, and need to think before we are able to
understand how great and immense the claim that is made here upon our
faith, and that this Man stands before us and arrogates to Himself the
divine prerogative witnessed from of old by psalmist and prophet, and
says that for Him were meant the prophecies of ancient times that
spake of a human shepherd, and asserts that all the sustenance, care,
authority, command, which the emblem suggests meet in Him in perfect
measure.

II. Now let us turn to the two special points which our Lord
emphasises here, as being those in which His relation as the Good
Shepherd is most conspicuously given. The language of my text runs: 'I
am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the
Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.' Our Western ways fail
to bring out the full meaning of the emblem; but all Eastern
travellers tell us what a strange bond of sympathy and loving regard,
and docile recognition, springs up between the shepherd and his sheep
away there in the Eastern pastures and deserts; and how he knows every
one, though to a stranger's eye they are so like each other; and how
even the dumb instincts and the narrow intelligence of the silly sheep
recognise the shepherd, and will not be deceived by shepherd's
garments worn to deceive, and will not follow the voice of a stranger.

But we must further note that Christ lays hold of the dumb instincts
of the animal, as illustrating, at the one end of the scale, the
relation between Him and His followers, and lays hold of the communion
between the Father and the Son at the other end of the scale, as
illustrating the same thing. 'I know My sheep.' That is a knowledge
like the knowledge of the shepherd, a bond of close intimacy. But He
does not know them by reason of looking at them and thinking about
them. It is something far more blessed than that. He knows me because
He loves me; He knows me because He has sympathy with me, and I know
Him, if I know Him at all, by my love, and I know Him by my sympathy,
and I know Him by my communion. A loveless heart does not know the
Shepherd, and unless the Shepherd's heart was all love He would not
know His sheep. The Shepherd's love is an individualised love. He
knows His flock as a flock because He knows the units of it, and we
can rest ourselves upon the personal knowledge, which is personal love
and sympathy, of Jesus Christ. 'And My sheep know Me'--not by force of
intellect, not by understanding certain truths, all-important as that
may be, but by having our hearts harmonised in Him, and our spirits
put into sympathy and communion with Him. 'They know Me,' and rest
comes with the knowledge; 'they know Me,' and in that knowing is the
best answer to all doubt and fear. They are exposed to danger, but in
the fold they can go quietly to rest, for they know that He is at the
door watching through all dangers.

III. Turn for a moment to the last point, 'I lay down My life for the
sheep.' I have said that our Western ways fail to bring out fully the
element of the metaphor which refers to the kind of sympathy between
the shepherd and the sheep; and our Western life also fails to bring
out this other element also. Shepherds in England never have need to
lay down their life for the sheep. Shepherds in Palestine often did,
and sometimes do. You remember David with the lion and the bear, which
is but an illustration of the reality which underlies this metaphor.
So, then, in some profound way, the shepherd's death is the sheep's
safety. First of all, look at that most unmistakable, emphatic--I was
going to say vehement, at any rate, intense--expression of the
absolute voluntariness of Christ's death, 'I lay down My life,' as a
man might strip off a vesture. And this application of the metaphor is
made all the stronger by the words which follow: 'Therefore doth My
Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to
lay it down, and I have power to take it again.' We read, 'Smite the
shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,' but here, somehow or
other, the smiting of the Shepherd is not the scattering but the
gathering of the flock. Here, somehow or other, the dead Shepherd has
power to guard, to guide, to defend them. Here, somehow or other, the
death of the Shepherd is the security of the sheep; and I say to you,
the flock, that for every soul the entrance into the flock of God is
through the door of the dying Christ, who laid down His life for the
sheep, and makes them His sheep who trust in Him.



'OTHER SHEEP'

[Footnote: Preached before the Baptist Missionary Society.]

'Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must
bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock
and one Shepherd.'--JOHN x. 16 (R.V.).

There were many strange and bitter lessons in this discourse for the
false shepherds, the Pharisees, to whom it was first spoken. But there
was not one which would jar more upon their minds, and as they
fancied, on their sacredest convictions, than this, that God's flock
was wider than God's fold. Our Lord distinctly recognises Judaism with
its middle wall of partition as a divine institution, and then as
distinctly carries His gaze beyond it. To His hearers 'this fold,'
their own national polity, held all the flock. Without were dogs, a
doleful land, where 'the wild beasts of the desert met with the wild
beasts of the islands.' And now this new Teacher, not content with
declaring them hirelings, and Himself the only true Shepherd of
Israel, breaks down the hedges and speaks of Himself as the Shepherd
of men. No wonder that they said, 'He hath a devil and is mad.'

During His earthly life our Lord, as we know, confined His own
personal ministry for the most part to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel. Not exclusively so, for He made at least one journey into the
coasts of Tyre and Sidon, teaching and healing; a Syro-Phcenician
woman held His feet, and received her request; and one of His
miracles, of feeding the multitude, was wrought for hungry Gentiles.
But while His work was in Israel, it was for mankind; and while 'this
fold,' generally speaking, circumscribed His toils, it did not confine
His love nor His thoughts. More than once world-wide declarations and
promises broke from His lips, even before the final universal
commission, 'Preach the Gospel to every creature.' 'I, if I be lifted
up, will draw all men unto Me.' 'I am the Light of the world.' These
and other similar sayings give us His lofty consciousness that He has
received 'the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of
the earth for His possession.' Parallel with them in substance are the
words before us, which, for our present purpose, we may regard as
containing lessons from our Lord Himself of how He looked and would
have us look on the heathen world, on His work and ours, and on the
certain issues of both.

I. We have here Christ teaching us how to think of the heathen world.

Observe that His words are not a declaration that all mankind are His
sheep. The previous verses have distinctly defined a class of men as
possessing the name, and the succeeding ones reiterate the definition,
and with equal distinctness exclude another class. 'Ye believe not,
because ye are not My sheep as I said unto you.' His sheep are they
who know Him and are known of Him. Between Him and them there is a
communion of love, a union of life, and a consequent reciprocal
knowledge, which transcends the closest intimacies of earthly life,
and finds its only analogue in that deep and mysterious oneness which
subsists between the Father, who alone knoweth the Son, and the only
begotten Son, who being ever in the bosom of the Father, alone knoweth
Him and revealeth Him to us. 'I know My sheep and am known of Mine; as
the Father knoweth Me and I know the Father. They hear My voice and
follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life.' Such are the
characteristics of that relation between Christ and men by which they
become His sheep. It is such souls as these whom our Lord beholds in
the wasteful wilderness. He is speaking not of a relation which all
men bear to Him by virtue of their creation, but of one which _they_
bear to Him who believe in His name.

Now this interpretation of the words does by no means contradict, but
rather presupposes and rests upon the truth that all mankind come
within the love of the divine heart, that He died for all, that all
may be the subjects of His mediatorial kingdom, recipients of the
offered mercy of God in Christ, and committed to the stewardship of
the missionary Church. Resting upon these truths, the words of our
text advance a step further and contemplate those who 'shall hereafter
believe on Me.' Whether they be few or many is not the matter in hand.
Whether at any future time they shall include all the dwellers upon
earth is not the matter in hand. That every soul of man is included in
the adaptation and intention and offer of the Gospel is not the matter
in hand. But this is the matter in hand, that Jesus Christ in that
moment of lofty elevation when He looked onwards to giving His life
for the sheep, looked outwards also, far afield, and saw in every
nation and people souls that He knew were His, and would one day know
Him, and be led by Him 'in green pastures and beside still waters.'

But where or what were they when He spoke? He does not mean that
already they had heard His voice and were following His steps, and
knew His love, and had received eternal life at His hand. This He
cannot mean, for the plain reason that He goes on to speak of His
'bringing' them and of their 'hearing,' a work yet to be done. It can
only be, then, that He speaks of them thus in the fullness of that
divine knowledge which 'calls things that are not as though they
were.' It is then a prophetic word which He speaks here.

We have only to think of the condition of the civilised heathendom of
Christ's own day in order to feel the force of our text in its primary
application. While the work of salvation was being prepared for the
world in the life and death of our Lord, the world was being prepared
for the tidings of salvation. Everywhere men were losing their faith
in their idols, and longing for some deliverer. Some had become weary
of the hollowness of philosophical speculation, and, like Pilate, were
asking 'What is truth?' whilst, unlike Him, they waited for an answer,
and will believe it when it comes from the lips of the Incarnate
wisdom. Such were the Magi who were led by their starry science to His
cradle, and went back to the depths of the Eastern lands with a better
light than had guided them thither. Such were not a few of the early
Christian converts, who had long been seeking hopelessly for goodly
pearls, and had so been learning to know the worth of the One when it
was offered to them. There were men who had been long sickening with
despair amidst the rottenness of decaying mythologies and corrupting
morals, and longing for some breath from heaven to blow health to
themselves and to the world, and had so been learning to welcome 'the
rushing mighty wind' when it came in power. There were simple souls,
without as well as within the chosen people, waiting for the
Consolation, though they knew not whence it was to come. There were
many who had already learned to believe that 'salvation is of the
Jews,' though they had still to learn that salvation is in Jesus. Such
were that Aethiopian statesman who was poring over Isaiah when Philip
joined him, the Roman centurion at Caesarea whose prayers and alms
came up with acceptance before God, these Greeks of the West who came
to His cross as the Eastern sages to His cradle, and were in Christ's
eyes the advance guard and first scattered harbingers of the flocks
who should come flying for refuge to Him lifted on the Cross, 'like
doves to their windows.' The whole world showed that the fullness of
time had come; and the history of the early years of the Church
reveals in how many souls the process of preparation had been silently
going on. It was like the flush of early spring, when all the buds
that had been maturing and swelling in the cold, burst, and the tender
flowers that had been reaching upwards to the surface in all the hard
winter laugh out in beauty, and a green veil covers all the hedges at
the first flash of the April sun.

Not only these were in our Lord's thoughts when He saw His sheep in
heathen lands. There were many who had no such previous preparation,
but were plunged in all the darkness, nor knew that it was dark. Not
only those wearied of idolatry, and dissatisfied with creeds outworn,
but the barbarous people of Illyricum, the profligates of Corinth,
hard rude men like the jailer at Philippi, and many more were before
His penetrating eye. He who sees beneath the surface, and beyond the
present, beholds His sheep where men can only see wolves. He sees an
Apostle in the blaspheming Saul, a teacher for all generations in the
African Augustine while yet a sensualist and a Manichee, a reformer in
the eager monk Luther, a poet-evangelist in the tinker Bunyan. He sees
the future saint in the present sinner, the angel's wings budding on
many a shoulder where the world's burdens lie heavy, and the new name
written on many a forehead that as yet bears but the mark of the
beast, and the number of His name.

And the sheep whom He sees while He speaks are not only the men of
that generation. These mighty words are world-wide and world-lasting.
The whole of the ages are in His mind. All nations are gathered before
His prophetic vision, even as they shall one day be gathered before
His judgment throne, and in all the countless mass His hand touches
and His love clasps those who to the very end of time shall come to
His call with loving faith, shall follow His steps with glad
obedience.

Thus does Christ look out upon the world that lay beyond the fold. I
cannot stay to do more than refer in passing to the spirit which the
words of our text breathe. There is the lofty consciousness that He is
the Leader and Guide, the Friend and Helper of all, that He stands
solitary in His power to bless. There is the full confidence that the
earth is His to its uttermost border. There is the clear vision of the
sorrowful condition of these heathen people, without a shepherd and
without a fold, wandering on every high mountain and dying in every
thirsty land where there is no water. There are the tenderest pity and
yearning love for them in their extremity. There is the clear
assurance that they will come and be blessed in Him. I pass by all the
other thoughts, which naturally found themselves on these words, in
order to urge the one which is most appropriate to our present
engagement. Let us, dear brethren, take Christ as our pattern in our
contemplations of the heathen world.

He has set us the example of an outgoing look directed far beyond the
limits of the existing churches, far beyond the point of present
achievement. We are but too apt to circumscribe our operative thoughts
and our warm sympathies within the circle of our sight, or of our own
personal associations. Our selfishness and our indolence affect the
objects of our contemplations quite as much as they do the character
of our work. They vitiate both, by making ourselves the great object
of both, and by weakening the force of both in a ratio that increases
rapidly with the increasing distance from that favourite centre. It is
but a subtle form of the same disease which keeps our thoughts penned
within the bounds of any fold, or limited by the progress already
achieved. For us the whole world is the possession of our Lord, who
has died to redeem us. By us the whole ought to be contemplated with
that same spirit of prophetic confidence which filled Him when He
said, 'Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.' To press
onwards, 'forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to
those which are before,' is the only fitting attitude for Christian
men, either in regard to the gradual purifying of their own
characters, or in regard to the gradual winning of the world for
Christ. We ought to make all past successes stepping-stones to nobler
things. The true use of the present is to reach up from it to a
loftier future. The distance beckons; well for us if it do not beckon
us in vain. We have yet to learn the first lesson of our Master's
spirit, as expressed in these words, if we have not become familiar
with the pitying contemplation of the wastes beyond the fold, nor
fixed deep in our minds the faith that the amplitude of its walls will
have to be widened with growing years till it fills the world. The cry
echoes to us from of old, 'Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy
stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left.'
We take the first step to respond to the summons when we make the
'regions beyond' one of the standing subjects of our devout thoughts,
and take heed of supposing that the Church as we know it, has the same
measurement which the man with the golden rod has measured for the
eternal courts of Jerusalem, that shall be the joy of the whole earth.
The very genius of the Gospel is aspiring. It is content with nothing
short of universality for the sweep, and eternity for the duration,
and absolute completeness for the measure, of its bestowments on man.
We should be like men on a voyage of discovery, whose task is felt to
be incomplete until headland after headland that fades in the dim
distance has been rounded and surveyed, and the flag of our country
planted upon it. After each has been passed another arises from the
water, onwards we must go. There is no pause for our thoughts, none
for our sympathy, none for our work, till our keels have visited, and
the 'shout of a King' has been heard on every shore that fills 'the
breadth of Thy land, O Emmanuel!' The limits of the visible community
of Christ's Church to-day are far within the borders to which it must
one day stretch. It is for us, taught by His words, to understand that
we are yet as it were but encamped by Jericho, and at the beginning of
the campaign. Ai and Bethhoron, and many a fight more are before us
yet. The camp of the invaders, when they lay around the city of
palm-trees, with the mountains in front and the Jordan behind, was not
more unlike the settled order of the nation when it filled the land,
than the ranks of Christ's army to-day are to the mighty multitudes
that shall one day name His name, and follow His banner. Let us live
in the future, and lay strongly hold on the distant; for both are our
Lord's, and by so doing we shall the better do our Master's work in
the present, and at hand.

He has set us the example of a _penetrating_ gaze into heathenism,
which reveals beneath its monotonous miseries, the souls that are His.
We ought to look on every field of Christian effort with the assurance
that in it there are some who will hear His voice. As it was when He
came, so it is ever and everywhere. The world is being prepared for
the Gospel. In some broad regions, faith in idolatry is dying out, and
the moral condition of the people is undergoing a slow elevation.
Individuals are being weaned from their gods, they know not how, and
they will not know why till they hear of Christ. He sees in every land
where the Gospel is being taken 'a people prepared for the Lord.' He
sees the gold gleaming in the crevices of the caves, the gems, rough
and unpolished, lying in the matrix. He looks not merely on the great
mass of idolaters, but He sees the single souls who shall hear. It is
for us to look on the same mass with confidence caught from His.
Neither apathetic indifference nor faint-hearted doubt should be
permitted to weaken our hands. The prospect may seem very dark, the
power of the enemy very great, our resources very inadequate; but let
us look with Christ's eye, we shall know that everywhere we may hope
to find a response to our message. Who they may be, we know not. How
many they may be, we know not. How they may be guided by Him, they
know not. But He knows all. We may know that they are there. And as we
cannot tell who they are but only that they are, we are bound to
cherish hopes for all--the most degraded and outcast of our race. We
have no right to give up any field or any man as hopeless. Christ's
sheep will be found coming out of the midst of wolves and goats.
Darkness may cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but if we
look upon it as Christ did, and as He would have us to look, we shall
see lights flickering here and there in the obscurity, which shall
burst out into a blaze. The prophetic eye, the boundlessly hopeful
heart, the strong confidence that in every land where He is preached
there will be those who shall hear--these are what He gives us when He
says, 'Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.'

There is one other thought connected with these words which may be
briefly referred to. It is that even now, in all lands where the
Gospel has been preached, there are those whom Christ has received,
although they have no connection with His visible Church.

There are many goats within the fold. There are many sheep without it.
Even in lands where the Gospel has long been preached, we do not
venture to identify profession by Church fellowship with living union
with Christ. Much more is this true of our missionary efforts, and the
apparent converts whom they make. The results that appear are no
measure of the results that have actually been accomplished. We often
hear of men who had caught up some stray word in a Bengali
market-place, or received a tract by the roadside from some passing
missionary, and who, having carried away the seed in their hearts, had
long been living as Christians remote from all churches and unknown by
any. We can easily conceive that timidity in some cases, and distance
in others, swell the ranks of these secret disciples. Though they
follow not the footsteps of the flock, the Shepherd will lead them in
their solitude. There will be many more names in the Lamb's book of
life, depend upon it, than ever are written on the roll-calls of our
churches, or in missionary statistics. The shooting-stars that yearly
fill our sky are visible to us for a moment, when their orbit passes
into the lighted heavens, and then they disappear in the shadow of the
earth. But astronomers tell us that they are always there though to us
they seem to blaze but for a moment. We cannot see them, but they move
on their darkling path and have a sun round which they circle. So be
sure that in many heathen lands there are believing souls, seen by us
but for an instant and then lost, who yet fill their unseen place, and
move obedient round the Sun of Righteousness. Their names on earth are
dark, but when the manifestation of the sons of God shall come, they
shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for
ever and ever. Our work has results beyond our knowledge now. When the
Church, the Lamb's wife, shall lift up her eyes at the end of the
days, prophecy tells us that she shall wonder to see her thronging
children, whom she had never known till then, and will say, 'Who hath
begotten me these? Behold I was left alone. These, where had they
been?' These were God's hidden ones, nourished and brought up beyond
the pale of the outward Church, but brought at last to share her
triumph, and to abide at her side. 'Other sheep I have, which are not
of this fold.'

What confidence then, what tender pity, what hope should fill our
minds when we look on the heathen world! We must never be contented
with present achievements. We are committed to a task which cannot end
till all the world hears the joyful sound and is blessed by walking in
the light of His countenance. When the great Roman Catholic
missionary, the Apostle of the East, was lying on his dying bed among
the barbarous people whom he loved, his passing spirit was busy about
his work, and, even in the article of death, while the glazing eye saw
no more clearly and the ashen lips had begun to stiffen into eternal
silence, visions of further conquests flashed before him, and his last
word was 'Amplius'--_Onward_! It ought to be the motto of the
missionary work of us, who boast a purer faith, to carry to the
heathen and to fire our own souls. If ever we are tempted to repose,
to despondency, to rest and be thankful when we number up our work and
our converts, let us listen to His voice as it speaks in that supreme
hour when He beheld the vision of the Cross, and beyond it that of a
gathered world: 'Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.'

We have here--

II. Christ teaching us how to think of His work and ours.

'Them also I must bring.' A necessity is laid upon Him, which springs
at once from that divine work which is the law of His life, and from
His own love and pity. The means for accomplishing this necessary work
are implied in the context, as in other parallel Scriptural sayings,
to be His propitiatory death. The instrumentality employed is not only
His own personal agency on earth, nor only His throned rule on the
right hand of God with power over the Spirit of holiness, but also the
work of His Church, and His work through them. Of that He is mainly
speaking when He says, 'Them also I must bring.' Here, then, are some
truths which ought to underlie and shape as well as animate our
efforts for heathenism.

And first, remember that the same sovereign necessity which was laid
on Him presses on us.

The 'Spirit of life' which was in Christ had its 'law,' which was the
will of God. That shaped all His being, and He set us the example of
perfectly clear recognition of, and perfect obedience to it, from the
first moment when He said, 'I must be about My Father's business,' to
the last, when He sighed forth, 'Father, into Thy hands I commit My
spirit.' Hence the frequent sayings setting forth His work as
determined by an imperative 'must,' which, whether it be alleged in
reference to some apparently small or to some manifestly great thing
in His life, is always equally imperative, and whether it seem to be
based on the need for the fulfilment of some prophetic word, or on the
proprieties and congruities of sonship, reposes at last on the will of
God. His final words on the Passover night, before he went out to
Gethsemane in the moonlight, contain the influence which moulded His
whole earthly life, 'As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.'

And this divine will constitutes for Him the deepest ground of the
necessity in the case before us. The eternal counsels of God had
willed that 'all the ends of the earth should see the salvation of the
Lord'; therefore, whatever the toils and the pains, the loss and the
death, He, whose meat and drink was to do the will of Him that sent
Him, must give Himself to the task, nor rest till, one by one, the
weary wanderers are brought back on His shoulders and folded in His
love.

In all which, let us remember, Jesus Christ is our pattern, not in His
work for the salvation of men, but in the spirit in which He did His
work. The solemn law of duty before which He bowed His head is a law
for us also. The authoritative imperative which He obeyed has power
over us. If we would have our lives holy and strong, wise and good, we
must have 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, making us
free from the law of sin and death,' for the obedience to the higher
law enfranchises from slavery to the lower, and all other authority
ceases over us when we are Christ's men. We are bound to service
directed to the same end as His--even the salvation of the world. The
same voice which says to Him, 'I will give Thee for a light to the
Gentiles,' says to us, 'Ye are My witnesses, and My servant whom I
have chosen.' The same Will which hath constituted Him the anointed
Prophet, says of us, 'Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no
harm.' We are redeemed that we may show forth God's praises. Not for
ourselves alone, nor for purposes terminating in our own personal
acceptance with God, or the perfecting of our own characters,
priceless as these are, but for ends which affect the world has God
had mercy on us. We are bought with a price that we may be the
servants of God. We have received that we may give forth,

  'God doth with us, as we with torches do,
  Not light them for themselves.'

'Arise, shine, for thy light is come.'

This missionary work of ours, then, is not one that can be taken up
and laid down at our own pleasure. It is no excrescence, or accidental
outgrowth of the Church's life. We are all too apt to think of it as
an extra, a kind of work of supererogation, which those may engage in
who have a liking that way, and which those who do not care about it
may leave alone, and no harm done. When shall we come to feel deeply,
constantly, practically, that it must be done, and that we are sinning
when we neglect it? Dear brethren, have we laid on our hearts and
consciences the solemn weight of that necessity which moulded His
life? Have we felt the awful power of God's plainly spoken will,
driving us to this task? Do we know anything of that spirit which
hears ever-pealing in our ears that awful commandment, 'Go, go to all
the world, preach, preach the Gospel to every creature?' God commands
us to take the trumpet, and if we would not soil our souls with gross
and palpable sin, we must set it to our lips and sound an alarm, that
by His grace shall wake the sleepers, and make the hoary walls of the
robber-city that has afflicted the earth for so many weary
millenniums, rock to their fall, that the redeemed of the Lord may
pass over and set the captives free.

If we felt this as we ought, surely our consecration would be more
complete, and our service more worthy. A clear conviction of God's
will pointing the path for us, is, in all things, a wondrous help to
vigorous action, to calmness of heart, and thus to success. In this
mighty work, it would brace us for larger efforts, and fit us for
larger results. It would simplify and deepen our motives, and thus
evolve from them nobler deeds and purer sacrifices. To all objections
from so-called prudence, to all calculations from sparse results, to
all cavils of onlookers who may carp and seek to hinder, we should
have one all-sufficient answer. It is not for us to bandy arguments on
such points as these. We care nothing for difficulties, for
discouragements, for cost. We may think about these till we lose all
the manly chivalry of Christian character, like the Apostle who gazed
on the white crests of the angry breakers flashing in the pale
moonlight, till he forgot who stood on the storm, and began to sink in
his great fear. A nobler spirit ought to be ours. The toil is sore,
the sacrifices many, and the yield seems small. Be it so! To all such
thoughts we have one answer--Oh! that we felt more its solemn
power!--such is the will of God. We are doing as we are bid, and we
mean to go on. 'Them also must I bring,' says the Master. 'Necessity
is laid upon me, yea, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel,' echoes
the Apostle. Let us, in the consecration of resolved hearts, and in
trembling obedience to the divine will, add our choral Amen, and in
the face of all the paralysing suggestions of our own selfishness, and
all the tempting voices of worldly wisdom and unbelieving scornfulness
that would stay our enterprise, let us fling back the grand old
answer, 'Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God, judge ye, for we cannot but speak the things which
we have seen and heard.'

We must not forget, however, that it was no abhorrent toil to which
Christ reluctantly consented. But in this case, as always with Him,
the words of prophecy were true, 'I delight to do Thy will.' The
schism between law and choice had no existence for Him; and when He
says that He must bring the wandering sheep into the fold, He means
not more because of God's will than because of His own yearning desire
to pour out the treasures of His mercy.

So it ought to be with us. Our missionary work should not be degraded
beneath the level of duty indeed, but neither should it be left on
that level. We ought not only to be led to it by a power without, but
impelled by an energy within. If we would be like our Master, we must
know the necessity arising from our own heart's promptings, which
leads us to work for Him. He has very imperfectly caught the spirit of
the Gospel who has never felt the word as a fire in his bones, making
him weary of forbearing. If we only take to this work because we are
bid, and without sympathy for men, and longing desire to bring them
all to Him who has blessed us, we may almost as well leave it alone.
We shall do very little good to anybody, to ourselves little, to the
world less. That our own hearts may teach us this necessity, we must
live near our Master, and know His grace for ourselves. In proportion
as we do, we shall be eager to proclaim it, and not stand idling in a
corner of the market-place, till some unmistakable order sends us into
the vineyard, but go for the relief of our own feelings. 'This is a
day of good tidings, and we cannot hold our peace,' said the poor
lepers in the camp to one another. The same feeling that we must tell
the good news just because we know it, and it will make our brethren
glad, is part of the Christian character. A blessed necessity, then,
is laid upon us. A blessed work is given us, which brings with it at
once the joy of obedience to our Father's will, and the joy of
gratifying a deep instinct of our nature. 'Them also must I bring,'
said the Saviour, because He loved men. 'To me who am less than the
least of all saints, is this _grace_ given, that I should preach among
the Gentiles the unsearchable riches,' echoes the Apostle. Let us live
in the light of our Lord's eye, and drink deep of His spirit, till the
talk becomes a grace and privilege, not a burden, and till silence and
idleness in His cause shall be felt to be impossible, because it would
be violence to our own feelings, and the loss of a great joy as well
as sin against our Father's will.

Consider again, by what means the sheep are to be brought to Christ?
The context distinctly answers the question. There His propitiatory
death is emphatically set forth as the power by which it is to be
accomplished. The verse before our text says, 'I lay down My life for
the sheep'; that after our text says, 'Therefore doth My Father love
Me, because I lay down My life.' It is the same connection of means
and end as appears in the wonderful words with which He received the
Greeks who came up to the feast, and heard the great truth, for want
of which their philosophy and art came to nothing. 'Except a corn of
wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone'--'I, if I be
lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto Me.'

Yes, brethren! the Cross of Christ, and it alone, gathers men into a
unity; for it alone draws men to Christ. His death, as our
propitiation, effects such a change in the aspects of the divine
government, and in the incidence of the divine justice, that 'we who
were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.' His death, as the
constraining motive of life in the hearts which receive it, draws them
away from their own ways by the cords of love, and binds them to Him.
His death is His purchase of the gifts of that divine Spirit for the
rebellious, who now convinces the world and endows the Church, 'till
we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ.' The First Begotten from the dead is therefore the prince of
all the kings of the earth, and He so rides among the nations as to
bring the world to Himself. The philosophy of history lies in the
words, 'Other sheep I have, them also I must bring.'

Christian missions abundantly prove that the Cross and the
proclamation of the Cross have this power, and that nothing else has.
It is not the ethics of Christianity, nor the abstract truths which
may be deduced from its story, but it is the story of the suffering
Redeemer that gives it its power over human hearts, in all conditions,
and climates, and stages of culture. The magnetism of the Cross alone
is mighty enough to overcome the gravitation of the soul to sin and
the world. We hear much nowadays about a new reformation which is to
be effected on Christianity, by purifying it of its historical facts
and of its repulsive sacrificial aspect. When this is done, and the
pure spiritual ideas are disengaged from their fleshly garb, then, we
are told, will be the apotheosis and glorification of Christ. This
will be the real lifting up from the earth; this will draw all men.
Aye, and when this is done what will be left? Christianity will be
purified back again into a vague Deism, which one would have thought
had proved itself toothless and impotent, centuries ago.
Spiritualising will turn out to be very like evaporating, the residuum
will be a miserably unsatisfactory something, near akin to nothing,
and certainly incapable either of firing its disciples with a desire
to spread their faith, if we may call it so by courtesy, or of drawing
men to itself. A Christianity without a Sacrifice on the altar will be
a Christianity without worshippers in the Temple. The King of Kings
who rides forth conquering is clothed in a vesture dipped in blood.
The Christian Emperor saw in the heavens the Cross, with the legend:
'In this sign thou shalt conquer!' It is an emblem true for all time.
The Cross is the power unto salvation. The races scattered on the
earth have often sought to make for themselves a rallying-point, and
their attempts at union have become Babels, centres of repulsion and
confusion. God has given us the Centre, the Tree of life in the midst.
The crucified Saviour is the Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an
ensign for the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and resting
beneath the shadow of the Cross be at peace. 'I, if I be lifted up
from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.'

Once more our Lord teaches us here to identify the work of the Church
with His own. What His servants do for Him He does, for from Him they
derive the power to do it, and from Him comes the blessing which makes
it effectual. He works in us, He works with us, He works for us. He
works in us. We have the grace of His Spirit to touch our hearts and
sanctify us for service. He puts it into the wills and desires of His
Church to consecrate themselves to the task. He teaches them sympathy
and self-devotion. He breathes world-wide aspirations into them. He
raises up men to go forth. He works _with_ us, helping our weakness,
enlightening our ignorance, directing our steps, giving power to the
student at his dry task of grammar and dictionary, being mouth and
wisdom to them that speak in His name, touching the hearts of them
that hear. In our basket He puts the seed-corn; the furrows of the
field He makes soft with showers, and when it is sown He blesses the
springing thereof. He works for us, opening doors among the nations,
ordering the courses of providence, and holding His hand around His
servants, so that they are immortal till their work is done; and can
ever lift up thankful voices to Him who leads them joyful captives at
His own triumphal car, as it rolls on its stately march, scattering
the sweet odours of His name wherever the long procession sweeps
through the world. We neither go a warfare at our own charges, nor in
our own might. He will fight with us, and He will pay us liberally at
the last. When we count up our own resources, do not we often leave
Christ out of the reckoning? Do we not measure our strength against
the enemies', and forget that one weak man, plus Christ, is always in
the majority? 'It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of My Father
which speaketh in you.' 'I laboured, yet not I, but the grace of God
which was with me.' So helped, so inspired, we are wrong to despond;
we are wrong not to expect great things and attempt great things; we
are wrong not to dare, we are wrong to do the work of the Lord
negligently. Let us feel that Christ's work is ours, and we shall be
bowed beneath the solemnity of the thought, shall accept joyfully the
necessity. Let us feel that our work is Christ's, and we shall rejoice
in infirmity that His power may rest upon us, shall bid adieu to
faint-hearted fears, and be sure that then it must prosper. 'Arise, O
Lord! plead Thine own cause.' Not unto us, O Lord! not unto us, but to
Thy name give glory.

'The Lord ascended into Heaven and sat on the right hand of God, and
they went everywhere preaching the word.' It seems a strange contrast
between the rest of the Lord, sitting in sublime expectancy of
conscious power til His enemies become His footstool, and the toils of
His scattered disciples. It is like that moment which the genius of the
great painter has caught in an immortal work, when Jesus in rapt
communion with the mighty dead, and crowned with the accepting word
from Heaven, floated transfigured above the Holy Mount, while below
His disciples wrestled impotently with the demon that would not be
cast out. But it is not really contrast. He has not so parted the
toils as that His are over ere ours begin. He has not left His Church
militant to bear the brunt of the battle while the Captain of the
Lord's host only watches the current of the heady fight--like Moses
from the safe mountain. The Evangelist goes on to tell us that the
Lord also was working with them and sharing their toils, lightening
their burdens, preparing for them successes on earth, and a rest like
His when He shall gird Himself and serve them. Thus, the first time
that the heavens opened again to mortal eyes after they closed on His
ascending form, was to show Him to the martyr in the council chamber,
not sitting careless or restful, but _standing_ at the right hand of
God, to intercede for, to strengthen, to receive and glorify His dying
servant. He goes with us where we go, and through our works and gifts
and prayers, through our proclamation of the Cross, He worketh His
will, and shall finally accomplish that great necessity laid upon Him
by the Father's counsels, and upon us by His commandment, and to be
effected by His death, that He should die, not for that nation only,
but also that He should gather together in one the children of God who
are scattered abroad.

We have here--

III. Our Lord teaching us how to think of the certain issues of His
work and ours.

'They shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one
Shepherd.' We may regard these words as embracing two things; a nearer
issue, namely, the response that will always attend His call; and a
more remote, namely, the completion of His work. There is, of course,
a very blessed sense in which the latter words are true now, and have
been ever since Paul could say to those who had been aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, 'He hath made both one. Now, therefore, ye are
no more foreigners but fellow-citizens with the saints.' But the fold
which now exists, limited in numbers, with its members but partially
conscious of their unity, and surrounded by those who follow hireling
shepherds, does not exhaust these great words. They shall not be
accomplished till that far-off future have come.

But for the present we have the predictions of the former clause,
'They shall hear My voice.' What manner of expectations does it teach
us to cherish? It seems to speak not of universal reception of
Christ's message, but of some as hearing and some as forbearing. It
teaches us to look for divers results attending our missionary work.
There will always be a Dionysius the Areopagite, the woman Lydia, the
kindly barbarians, the conscience-stricken jailer. There will always
be the scoffers, who mock when they hear of 'Jesus and the
resurrection'; the hesitating who compound with conscience by
promising to hear again of this matter, the fierce opponents who
invoke constituted authorities or mob violence to crush the message.

Again, the words seem to contemplate a long task. There is nothing
about the rate at which His Kingdom shall spread, not a syllable to
answer inquiries as to when the end shall come. The whole tone of the
language suggests the idea that bringing back the sheep is to take a
long time, and to cost many a tedious journey into the wilderness. Not
a sudden outburst, but a slow kindling of the flame, is what our Lord
teaches us here to expect.

But while thus calm in tone and moderate in expectation, the words
breathe a hope as confident as it is calm, as clear as it is moderate.
There will always be a response. His voice shall never be lifted up in
the snow-storm or lonely hillsides only to be blown back into His own
ears, unheard and unheeded. Be they few or many, they shall hear. Be
the toil longer or shorter, more or less severe, it shall not be in
vain.

And to these expectations we shall do wisely if we attune ours. Omit
from your hopes what your Lord has omitted from His promises; do not
ask what He has not told. Do not wonder if you encounter what He met,
for the disciple is not greater than his Master, and only if they have
kept My saying will they keep yours also. But, on the other hand,
expect as much as He has prophesied; accept it when it comes as the
fruit of His work, not of yours, and build a firm faith that your
labour shall not be in vain on these calm and prescient words.

So much for the course of the kingdom. And what of the end? One by one
the sheep have been brought, at last they are all gathered in, not a
hoof left behind. The stars steal singly into their places in the
heavens as the darkness deepens, and He 'bringeth them forth by
number,' until at the noon of night the sky is crowded with their
lights, and 'for that He is great in power, not one faileth.' What
expectations are we here taught to cherish then of the final issue?

Mark, to begin with, that there is implied the ultimate universality
of His dominion and sole supremacy of His throne. There is to be but
one Shepherd, and over all the earth a great unity of obedience to
Him. Here is the knell of all authority that does not own Him, and the
subordination of all that does. The hirelings, the blind guides, that
have misled and afflicted humanity for so many weary ages, shall be
all sunk in oblivion. The false gods shall be discrowned, and lie
shattered on their temple-sill, and there shall be no worshippers to
care for or to try to repair their discomfiture. Bow your heads before
Him, thinkers who have led men on devious paths and spoken but a
partial truth and a wisdom all confused with foolishness! Lower your
swords before Him, warriors who have builded your cities on blood and
led men like sheep to the slaughter! He is more glorious and excellent
than the mountains of prey. Cast your crowns before Him, princes and
all judges of the earth, for He is King by right of the crown of
thorns! This is the Lord of all--Teacher, Leader, Ruler of all men.
All other names shall be forgotten but His shall abide. If they have
been shepherds who would not come in by the door, a ransomed world
shall rejoice over their fall with the ancient hymn, 'Other gods
beside Thee have had dominion over us; they are dead, they shall not
live, Thou hast destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.'
If they have been subject to the chief Shepherd and ensamples to the
flock, they will rejoice to decrease before His increase, and having
helped to bring the Bride to the Bridegroom, will gladly stand aside
and be forgotten in the perfect love that enters into full fruition at
the last. Then when none contest nor intercept the reverential
obedience that the whole world brings to Him, shall be fulfilled the
firm promise which declared long ago: 'I will set up one Shepherd over
them, and He will feed them and be their Shepherd.'

Mark again the blessed nature of the relation between Christ and all
men which is here foretold. From of old, the shepherd has been in all
nations the emblem of kingly power, of leadership of every sort. How
often the fact has contradicted the symbol let history tell. But with
Jesus the reality does not only contradict, but even transcends, the
tender old comparison. He rules with a gentle sway. His sceptre is no
rod of iron, but the shepherd's crook, and the inmost meaning of its
use is that it may 'comfort' us, as David learned to feel. There
gather round the metaphor all thoughts of merciful guidance, of tender
care, of a helping arm when we are weak, of a loving bosom where we
are carried when we are weary. It speaks of a seeking love that roams
over every high hill till it finds, and of a strong shoulder that
bears us back when He has found. It tells of sweet hours of rest in
the hot noontide by still waters, of ample provision for all the
soul's longings in green pastures. It speaks of footsteps that go
before, in which men may follow and find them ways of pleasantness. It
speaks of gentle callings by name which draw the heart. It speaks of
defence when lion and bear come ravening down, and of safe couching by
night when the silent stars behold the sleeping sheep and the wakeful
shepherd. He Himself gives its highest significance to the emblem, in
the words of this great discourse, when He fixes on His knowledge, His
calling of His sheep, His going before them, His giving His life for
them. Such are the gracious blessings which here He teaches us to
think of as possessed in the happy days that shall be, by all the
world.

And, on the other hand, the symbol speaks of confiding love in the
hearts of men, of a great peacefulness of meek obedience stilling and
gladdening their wills, of the consciousness of His perfect love, and
the knowledge of all His gracious character, of sweet answering
communion with Him, of safety from all enemies, of freedom, of
familiar passage in and out to God. Thus knit together shall be the
one fold and the one Shepherd. 'They shall feed in the ways, and their
pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor
thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them, for He that hath
mercy on them shall feed them, even by the springs of water shall He
guide them.'

Mark again what a vision is here given of the relations of men with
one another.

They are to be all gathered into a peaceful unity. They are to be one
because they all hearken to one voice. It is to be observed that our
Lord does not say, as our English Bible makes Him say, that there is
to be one fold. He drops that word of set purpose in the latter clause
of our text, and substitutes for it another, which may perhaps be best
rendered flock. Why this change in the expression? Because, as it
would seem, he would have us learn that the unity of that blessed
future time is not to be like the unity of the Jewish Church, a formal
and external one. That ancient polity was a fold. It held its members
together by outward bonds of uniformity. But the universal Church of
the future is to be a flock. It is to be really and visibly one. But
it is to be so, not because it is hemmed in by one enclosure, but
because it is to be gathered round one Shepherd. The more closely they
are drawn to Him, the more near will they be to each other. The centre
in which all the radii meet keeps them all in their places. 'We being
many are one bread, for we are all partakers of that one bread.' In
the ritual of the Old Covenant, the great golden candlestick with its
seven branches stood in the court of the Temple, emblem of the formal
oneness of the people, which was meant to be the light of the Lord to
a dark world. In the vision of the New Covenant, the seer in Patmos
beheld not the one lamp with its branches, but the seven golden
candlesticks, which were made into a holier and a freer unity because
the Son of Man walked in their midst--emblem of the oneness in
diversity of the peoples, who were sometimes darkness, but shall one
day be light in the Lord. There may continue to be national
distinctions. There may or there may not be any external unity. But at
all events our Lord turns away our thoughts from the outward to the
inward, and bids us be sure that though the folds be many the flock
shall be one, because they shall all hear and follow Him.

The words, however, suggest for us the blessed thought of the peaceful
relations that shall then subsist among men. The tribes of the earth
shall couch beside each other like the quiet sheep in the fold, and
having learned of His great meekness, they shall no more bite nor
devour one another. Alas! alas! the words seem too good to be true.
They seem long, long of coming to pass. Ever since they were spoken
the old bloody work has been going on, and the old lusts of the human
heart have been busy sowing the dragon's teeth that shall spring up in
wars and fightings. In savage lands warfare rages on, ceaseless,
ignoble, unrecorded, and seemingly purposeless as that of animalcules
in a drop of water. On civilised soil, men, who love the same Christ
and worship Him in the same tongue, are fronting each other at this
hour. The war of actual swords, and the war of conflicting creeds, and
the jostling of human selfishness in the rough road of life, are all
around us, and their seeds are within ourselves. The race of men do
not live like folded sheep, rather like a flock of wolves, who first
run over and then devour their weaker fellows.

But here is a fairer hope, and it will be fulfilled when all evil
thoughts, and all selfish desires, and all jealous grudgings shall
vanish from men's hearts, as unclean spirits at cockcrow, and shall
leave them, self-forgetful, yielding of their own prerogatives,
desirous of no other man's, abhorrent of inflicting, and patient of
receiving wrong. There will be no fuel then to blow into sulphurous
flame, though all the blasts from hell were to fan the embers. But
peace and concord shall be in all men, for Christ shall be in all.
National distinctions may abide, but national enmities--the oldest and
deepest, shall disappear. There shall still be Assyria, and Egypt, and
Israel, but their former relation will be replaced by a bond of amity
in their common possession of Him who is our peace. 'In that day shall
Israel be the third with Egypt, and with Assyria, even a blessing in
the midst of the land, whom the Lord shall bless, saying, Blessed be
Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine
inheritance.' God be thanked! that though we see, and our fathers have
seen, so much that seems to contradict our hopes of a peaceful world,
and though to-day the hell-hounds of war are baying over the earth,
and though nowhere can we see signs even of the approach of the
halcyon time, yet we can wait for the vision, knowing that it will come
at the appointed time, when

  'No war or battle's sound
  Is heard the world around,
  The idle spear and shield are high uphung;
  The trumpet speaks not to the armed throng,
  And Kings sit still, with awful eye,
  As if they surely knew their Sovereign Lord was by.'

Such are the thoughts which our Lord would teach us as to the present
and as to the future of our missionary work. For the one, moderate
expectations of success, not unchequered by disappointment, and a
brave patience in long toil. For the other, hopes which cannot be too
glowing, and a faith which cannot be too obstinate. The one is being
fulfilled in our own and our brethren's experience even now; we may be
therefore all the more sure that the other will be so in due time. If
we look with Christ's eyes, we shall not be depressed by the apparent
unbroken surface of heathenism but see, as He did, everywhere souls
that belong to Him, who may and must be won; we shall joyfully embrace
the work which He has given us to do; we shall arm ourselves against
the discouragements of the present, by living much in the past at the
foot of the Cross, till we catch the true image of the Saviour's love,
and much in the future in the midst of the ransomed flock, till we too
behold the roses blossoming in the wilderness, the bright waters
covering all the dry places in the desert, and the families of men
sitting, clothed and in their right mind, at the feet of Jesus.

Our missionary work is the pure and inevitable result of a belief in
these words of my text. Can a man believe that Christ has other sheep
for whom He died because He must bring them in, whom He will bring in
because He died, and _not_ work according to his power in the line of
the divine purposes? The missionary spirit is but the Christian spirit
working in one particular direction. Missionary societies are but one
of the authentic outcomes of Christian principles, as natural as
holiness of life, or the act of prayer.

To secure, then, a more vigorous energy in such work, we need chiefly
what we need for all Christian growth--namely, more and deeper
communion with Christ, a more vivid realisation of His grace and love
for ourselves. And then we need that, under the double stimulus of His
love and of His commandment--which at bottom are one--our minds should
be more frequently occupied with this subject of Christian missions.
Most of us know too little about the matter to feel very much. And
then we need that we should more seriously reflect upon the facts in
relation to our own personal responsibility and duty. You complain of
the triteness of such appeals as this sermon. Brethren, have you ever
tried that recipe for freshening up well-worn truths, namely, thinking
about them in connection with the simplest, most important of all
questions--what, then, ought I to do in view of these truths? Am I
exaggerating when I say, that not one-half of the professing
Christians of our day give an hour in the year to pondering that
question, with reference to missionary work? Oh! dear friends, see to
it that you live in Christ for yourselves, and then see to it that you
think His thoughts about the heathen world, till your pity is stirred
and your mind braced to the firm resolve that you too will work the
works of Christ and bring in the wanderers.

We have had as large results as Christ has led us to expect, and far
larger than we deserved. Christian missions are yet in their
infancy--alas! that it should be so. But in these seventy years since
they may be said to have begun, what wonderful successes have been
achieved. We are often told that we have done nothing. Is it so? The
plant has been got together, methods of working have been
systematised, mistakes in some measure corrected. We have spent much
of our time in learning how to work, and that process is by no means
over yet. But with all these deductions, which ought fairly to be
made, how much has been accomplished? The Bible has been put into the
languages of seven hundred millions of men. The beginnings of a
Christian literature have been supplied for five-sixths of the world.
Half a million of professed converts have been gathered in, or as many
as there were at the end of the first century, after about the same
number of years of labour, and with apostles for missionaries and
miracles for proof. And if these still bear on their ankles the marks
of the fetters, and limp as they walk, or cannot see very clearly at
first, it is no more than might be expected from their long darkness
in the prison-house, and it is no more than Paul had to contend with
at Ephesus and Corinth.

Every church that has engaged in the toil has shared in the blessing,
and has its own instances of special prosperity. We have had Jamaica;
the London Missionary Society, Madagascar, and the South Seas; the
Wesleyans, Fiji; the Episcopal Societies, Tinnevelly; the American
brethren, Burmah, and the Karens. Some of the ruder mythologies have
been so utterly extirpated that the children of idolaters have seen
the gods whom their fathers worshipped for the first time in the
British Museum. While over those more compact and scientific systems
which lie like an incubus on mighty peoples, there has crept a
sickening consciousness of a coming doom, and they already half own
their conqueror in the Stronger One than they.

  'They feel from Judah's land
  The dreaded Infant's hand.'

'Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, the idols are upon the beasts.'
Surely God has granted us success enough for our thankful confidence,
more than enough for our deserts. I repeat it, it is as much as He
promised, as much as we had any right to expect, and it is a vast deal
more than any other system of belief or of no belief, any of your
spiritualised Christianities, or still more intangible creeds has ever
managed, or ever thought of trying. To those who taunt us with no
success, and who perhaps would not dislike Christian missions so much
if they disliked Christian truth a little less, we may very fairly and
calmly answer--This rod has budded at all events; do you the same with
your enchantments.

But the past is no measure of the future. From the very nature of the
undertaking the ratio of progress increases at a rapid rate. The first
ten years of labour in India showed twenty-seven converts, the seventh
ten showed more than twenty-seven thousand. The preparation may be as
slow as the solemn gathering of the thunder-clouds, as they
noiselessly steal into their places, and slowly upheave their grey
billowing crests; the final success may be as swift as the lightning
which flashes in an instant from one side of the heavens to the other.
It takes long years to hew the tunnel, to 'make the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain,' and then smooth and fleet the great power
rushes along the rails. To us the cry comes, 'Prepare ye in the desert
an highway for our God.' The toil is sore and long, but 'the glory of
the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.' The
Alpine summits lie white and ghastly in the spring sunshine, and it
seems to pour ineffectual beams on their piled cold; but by slow
degrees it is silently loosening the bands of the snow, and after a
while a goat's step, as it passes along a rocky ledge, or a breath of
wind will move a tiny particle, and in an instant its motion spreads
over a mile of mountain side, and the avalanche is rushing swifter and
mightier at every foot down to the valley below, where it will all
turn into sweet water, and ripple glancing in the sunshine. Such is
our work. It may seem very hopeless, and be mostly unobservable in
surface results, but it is very real for all that. The conquering
impulse, for which our task may have been to prepare the way, will be
given, and then we shall wonder to see how surely the kingdom was
coming, even when we observed it not.

Ye have need of patience, and to feed your patience, ye have need of
fellowship with Christ, of faith in His promises, of sympathy with His
mind. God has given us, dear brethren, special reason for renewed
consecration to this service in the blessings which have during the
year terminated our anxieties and crowned our work for our own
Society. But let us not dwell upon what has been done. These successes
are brooks by the way at which we may drink--nothing more. We ought to
be like shepherds in the lonely mountain glens, who see in the
fast-falling snow and the bitter blast a summons to the hillside, and
there all the night long wherever the drift lies deepest and the wind
bites the most sharply, search the most eagerly for the poor half-dead
creatures, and as they find each, bear it back to the safe shelter,
nor stay behind to count the rescued, nor to rest their weariness, for
all the bright light in the cottage and the blackness without, but
forth again on the same quest, till all the Master's sheep have been
rescued from the white death that lay treacherous around, and are
sleeping at peace in His folds. A mighty Voice ought ever to be
sounding in our ears, 'Other sheep I have,' and the answer of our
hearts and of our lives should be, 'Them also, O Lord! will I try to
bring.' Not till the far-off issue is accomplished shall we have a
right to rest, and then we, with all those He has helped us to gather
to His side, shall be among that flock, whom He who is at once Lamb
and Shepherd, our Brother and our Lord, our Sacrifice and King, 'shall
feed and lead by living fountains of waters,' in the sweet pastures of
the upper world, where there are no ravening wolves, nor false guides
to terrify and bewilder His flock any more at all for ever.



THE DELAYS OF LOVE

'Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had
heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same
place where He was.'--JOHN xi. 5, 6.

We learn from a later verse of this chapter that Lazarus had been dead
four days when Christ reached Bethany. The distance from that village
to the probable place of Christ's abode, when He received the message,
was about a day's journey. If, therefore, to the two days on which He
abode still after the receipt of the news, we add the day which the
messengers took to reach Him and the day which He occupied in
travelling, we get the four days since which Lazarus had been laid in
his grave. Consequently the probability is that, when our Lord had the
message, the man was dead. Christ did not remain still, therefore, in
order to work a greater miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead than
He would have done by healing, but He stayed--strange as it would
appear--for reasons closely connected with the highest well-being of
all the beloved three, and _because_ He loved them.

John is always very particular in his use of that word 'therefore,'
and he points out many a subtle and beautiful connection of cause and
effect by his employment of it. I do not know that any of them are
more significant and more full of illumination with regard to the ways
of divine providence than the instance before us. How these two
sisters must have looked down the rocky road that led up from Jericho
during those four weary days, to see if there were any signs of His
coming. How strange it must have appeared to the disciples themselves
that He made no sign of movement, notwithstanding the message. Perhaps
John's scrupulous carefulness in pointing out that His love was
Christ's reason for His quiescence may reflect a remembrance of the
doubts that had crept over the minds of himself and his brethren
during these two days of strange inaction. The Evangelist will have us
learn a lesson, which reaches far beyond the instance in hand, and
casts light on many dark places.

I. Christ's delays are the delays of love.

We have all of us, I suppose, had experience of desires for the
removal of bitterness or sorrows, or for the fulfilment of
expectations and wishes, which we believed, on the best evidence that
we could find, to be in accordance with His will, and which we have
been able to make prayers out of, in true faith and submission, which
prayers have had to be offered over and over and over again, and no
answer has come, It is part of the method of Providence that the
lifting away of the burden and the coming of the desires should be a
hope deferred. And instead of stumbling at the mystery, or feeling as
if it made a great demand upon our faith, would it not be wiser for us
to lay hold of that little word of the Apostle's here, and to see in
it a small window that opens out on to a boundless prospect, and a
glimpse into the very heart of the divine motives in His dealings with
us?

If we could once get that conviction into our hearts, how quietly we
should go about our work! What a beautiful and brave patience there
would be in us, if we habitually felt that the only reason which
actuates God's providence in its choice of times of fulfilling our
desires and lifting away our bitterness is our own good! Nothing but
the purest and simplest love, transparent and without a fold in it,
sways Him in all that He does. Why should it be so difficult for us to
believe this? If we were more in the way of looking at life, with all
its often unwelcome duty, and its arrows of pain and sorrow, and all
the disappointments and other ills that it is heir to, as a
discipline, and were to think less about the unpleasantness, and more
about the purpose, of what befalls us, we should find far less
difficulty in understanding that His delay is born of love, and is a
token of His tender care.

Sorrow is prolonged for the same reason as it was sent. It is of
little use to send it for a little while. In the majority of cases,
time is an element in its working its right effect upon us. If the
weight is lifted, the elastic substance beneath springs up again. As
soon as the wind passes over the cornfield, the bowing ears raise
themselves. You have to steep foul things in water for a good while
before the pure liquid washes out the stains. And so time is an
element in all the good that we get out of the discipline of life.
Therefore, the same love which sends must necessarily protract, beyond
our desires, the discipline under which we are put. If we thought of
it, as I have said, more frequently as discipline and schooling, and
less frequently as pain and a burden, we should understand the meaning
of things a great deal better than we do, and should be able to face
them with braver hearts, and with a patient, almost joyous, endurance.

If we think of some of the purposes of our sorrows and burdens, we
shall discern still more clearly that time is needed for accomplishing
them, and that, therefore, love must delay its coming to take them
away. For example, the object of them all, and the highest blessing
that any of us can obtain, is that our wills should be bent until they
coincide with God's, and that takes time. The shipwright, when he gets
a bit of timber that he wants to make a 'knee' out of, knows that to
mould it into the right form is not the work of a day. A will may be
_broken_ at a blow, but it will take a while to _bend_ it. And just
because swiftly passing disasters have little permanent effect in
moulding our wills, it is a blessing, and not an evil, to have some
standing fact in our lives, which will make a continual demand upon us
for continually repeated acts of bowing ourselves beneath His sweet,
though it may seem severe, will. God's love in Jesus Christ can give
us nothing better than the opportunity of bowing our wills to His, and
saying, 'Not mine, but Thine be done.' If that is why He stops on the
other side of Jordan, and does not come even to the loving messages of
beloved hearts, then He shows His love in the sweetest and the
loftiest form. So, dear friends, if you carry a lifelong sorrow, do
not think that it is a mystery why it should lie upon your shoulders
when there are omnipotence and an infinite heart in the heavens. If it
has the effect of bending you to His purpose, it is the truest token
of His loving care that He can send. In like manner, is it not worth
carrying a weight of unfulfilled wishes, and a weariness of
unalleviated sorrows, if these do teach us three things, which are one
thing--faith, endurance, prayerfulness, and so knit us by a threefold
cord that cannot be broken, to the very heart of God Himself?

II. This delayed help always comes at the right time.

Do not let us forget that Heaven's clock is different from ours. In
our day there are twelve hours, and in God's a thousand years. What
seems long to us is to Him 'a little while.' Let us not imitate the
shortsighted impatience of His disciples, who said, 'What is this that
He saith, A little while? We cannot tell what He saith.' The time of
separation looked so long in anticipation to them, and to Him it had
dwindled to a moment. For two days, eight-and-forty hours, He delayed
His answer to Mary and Martha, and they thought it an eternity, while
the heavy hours crept by, and they only said, 'It's very weary, He
cometh not, they said.' How long did it look to them when they had got
Lazarus back?

The longest protraction of the fulfilment of the most yearning
expectation and fulfilled desire will seem but as the winking of an
eyelid when we get to estimate duration by the same scale by which He
estimates it, the scale of Eternity. The ephemeral insect, born in the
morning and dead when the day fades, has a still minuter scale than
ours, but we should not think of regulating our estimate of long and
short by it. Do not let us commit the equal absurdity of regulating
the march of His providence by the swift beating of our timepieces.
God works leisurely because God has eternity to work in.

The answer always comes at the right time, and is punctual though
delayed. For instance, Peter is in prison. The Church keeps praying
for him; prays on, day after day. No answer. The week of the feast
comes. Prayer is made intensely and fervently and continuously. No
answer. The slow hours pass away. The last day of his life, as it
would appear, comes and goes. No answer. The night gathers; prayer
rises to heaven. The last hour of the last watch of the last night
that he had to live has come, and as the veil of darkness is thinning,
and the day is beginning to break, 'the angel of the Lord shone round
about him.' But there is no haste in his deliverance. All is done
leisurely, as in the confidence of ample time to spare, and perfect
security. He is bidden to arise quickly, but there is no hurry in the
stages of his liberation. 'Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals.' He
is to take time to lace them. There is no fear of the quaternion of
soldiers waking, or of there not being time to do all. We can fancy
the half-sleeping and wholly-bewildered Apostle fumbling at the
sandal-strings, in dread of some movement rousing his guards, and the
calm angel face looking on. The sandals fastened, he is bidden to put
on his garments and follow. With equal leisure and orderliness he is
conducted through the first and the second guard of sleeping soldiers,
and then through the prison gate. He might have been lifted at once
clean out of his dungeon, and set down in the house many were gathered
praying for him. But more signal was the demonstration of power which
a deliverance so gradual gave, when it led him slowly past all
obstacles and paralysed their power. God is never in haste. He never
comes too soon nor too late. 'The Lord shall help them, and that right
early.' Sennacherib's army is round the city, famine is within the
walls. To-morrow will be too late. But to-night the angel strikes, and
the enemies are all dead men. So God's delay makes the deliverance the
more signal and joyous when it is granted. And though hope deferred
may sometimes make the heart sick, the desire, when it comes, is a
tree of life.

III. The best help is not delayed.

The principle which we have been illustrating applies only to one
half--and that the less important half--of our prayers and of Christ's
answers. For in regard to spiritual blessings, and our petitions for
fuller, purer, and diviner life, there is no delay. In that region the
law is not 'He abode still two days in the same place,' but 'Before
they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.'
If you have been praying for deeper knowledge of God, for lives liker
His, for hearts more filled with the Spirit, and have not had the
answer, do not fall back upon the misapplication of such a principle
as this of my text, which has nothing to do with that region; but
remember that the only reason why good people do not immediately get
the blessings of the Christian life for which they ask lies in
themselves, and not at all in God. 'Ye have not, because ye ask not.
Ye ask and have not, because'--not because He delays, but because--'ye
ask amiss,' or because, having asked, you get up from your knees and
go away, not looking to see whether the blessing is coming down or
not.

Ah! there is a sad amount of lying and hypocrisy in prayers for
spiritual blessings. Many petitioners do not want to have them. They
would not know what to do with them if they got them. They make the
requests because their fathers did so before them, and because these
are the right kind of things to say in a prayer. Such prayers get no
answers. If a man prays for some spiritual enlargement, and then goes
out into the world and lives clean contrary to his prayers, what right
has he to say that God delays His answers? No, He does not delay His
answers, but we push back His answers, and the gift that _is_ given we
will not take. Let us remember that the two halves of the divine
dealings are not regulated by the same principle, though they be
regulated by the same motive; and that the love which often delays for
our good, in regard to the desires that have reference to outward
things, is swift as the lightning to answer every petition which moves
within the circle of our spiritual life.

'Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye stand praying, believe that'
then and there 'ye receive them'; and the undelaying God will take
care that 'you shall have them.'



CHRIST'S QUESTION TO EACH

_For the Young_


'... Believest then this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord.'--JOHN
xi. 26, 27.

As each of these annual sermons which I have preached for so long
comes round, I feel more solemnly the growing probability that it may
be the last. Like a man nearing the end of his day's work, I want to
make the most of the remaining moments. Whether this is the last
sermon of the sort that I shall preach or not, it is certainly the
last of the kind that some of you will hear from me, or possibly from
any one.

So, dear friends, I have felt that neither you nor I can afford to
waste this hour in considering subjects of secondary interest,
appropriate as some of them might be. I wish to come to the main point
at once, and to press upon you all, and especially on the younger
portion of this audience, the question of your own personal religion.

The words of my text, as you will probably remember, were addressed by
our Lord to Martha, as she was writhing in agony over her dead
brother. Christ proclaims, with singular calmness and majesty, His
character and work as the Resurrection and the Life, and then seeks to
draw her from her absorbing sorrow to an effort of faith which shall
grasp the truths He proclaims. He flashes out this sudden question,
like the swift thrust of a gleaming dagger. It is a demand for
credence to His assertion--on His bare word--tremendous as that
assertion is. And nobly was the demand met by the as swift,
unfaltering answer, 'Yea, Lord,' I believe in Thee, and so I believe
in Thy word.

Now, friends, Jesus Christ is putting the same question to each of us.
And I pray that our answers may be Martha's.

I. Note, first, the significance of the question.

'This.' What is _this_? The answer will tell us what are the central
essential facts, faith in which makes a Christian. Of course the form
in which our Lord's previous utterance was cast was coloured by the
circumstances under which He spoke, and was so shaped as to meet the
momentary exigency. But whilst thus the form is determined by the fact
that He was speaking to a heart wrung by separation, and as a
preliminary to a mighty act of resurrection, the essential truths
which are so expressed are those which, as I believe, constitute the
fundamental truths of Christianity--the very core and heart of the
Gospel.

Turn, then, but for a moment, to what immediately precedes my text.
Our Lord says three things. First, He asserts His supernatural
character and divine relation to life: 'I am the Resurrection and the
Life.' Next, He declares that it is possible for Him to communicate to
dying and to dead men a life which triumphs over death, and laughs at
change, and persists through the superficial experience which we
christen by the name of Death, unaffected, undiminished, as some sweet
spring might gush up in the heart of a salt, solitary sea. And then He
declares that the condition on which He, the Life-giver, gives of His
immortal life to dying men, is their trust in Him. These three--His
character and work, the gifts of which His hands are full, and the way
by which the gifts may be appropriated by us men--these three are, as
I take it, the central facts of Christianity. 'Believest thou this?'

The question comes to us all; and in these days of unsettlement it is
well to have some clear understanding of what is the 'irreducible
minimum' of Christian teaching. I take it that it lies here. There are
two opposite errors which, like all opposite errors, are bolted
together, and revolve round a common centre. The one of them is the
extreme conservative tendency which regards every pin and bolt of the
tabernacle as if it were equally sacred with the altar and the ark.
And the other is the tendency which christens itself 'liberal and
progressive,' and which is always ready to exchange old lamps, though
they have burnt brightly in the past, for new ones that are as yet
only glittering metal and untried. In these days, when it is a
presumption against any opinion, that our fathers believed it (an
error into which young people are most prone to fall), and when, by
the energy of contradiction, that error has evoked, and is evoking,
the opposite exaggeration that adheres to all that is traditional, to
all that has been regarded as belonging to the essentials of the
Christian faith, and so is fearful, trembling for the Ark of God when
there is no need, let us fall back upon these great words of the
Master, and see that the things which constitute the living heart of
His message and gift to the world are neither more nor less than these
three: the supernatural Christ, the life which He imparts, and the
condition on which He bestows it. 'Believest thou this?' If you do,
you need take very little heed of the fluctuations of contemporary
opinion as to other matters, valuable and important as these may be in
their place; and may let men say what they will about disputed
questions--about the method by which the vehicle of revelation has
been created and preserved, about the regulation of the external forms
of the Church, about a hundred other things that men often lose their
tempers and spoil their Christianity by fighting for, and fall back
upon the great central verity, a Christ from above, the Giver of Life
to all that put their trust in Him.

Let me expand this question for you. 'We all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God'--'believest thou this?' 'We must all appear
before the judgment-seat of Christ'--'believest thou this?' 'God so
loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth on Him should not perish'--'believest thou this?' 'The Son
of Man came... to give His life a ransom for many'--'believest thou
this?' 'Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ'--'believest thou this?' 'Now is Christ risen from
the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept'--'believest
thou this?' 'I go to prepare a place for you'--'believest thou this?'
'Where I am there shall also My servant be'--'believest thou this?'
'So shall we ever be with the Lord'--'believest thou this?' That is
Christianity; and not theories about inspiration, and priesthood, and
sacramental efficacy, or any of the other thorny questions which have,
in the course of ages, started up. Here is the living centre; hold
fast, I beseech you, by it.

Then, again, the significance of this question is in the direction of
making clear for us the way by which men lay hold of these great
truths. The truths are of such a sort as that merely to say, 'Oh yes,
I believe it; it is quite true!' is by no means sufficient. If a man
tells me that two parallel lines produced ever so far will never meet,
I say, 'Yes, I believe it'; and there is nothing more to be done or
said. If a man says to me, 'Two and two make four,' I say, 'Yes'; and
there my assent ends. If a man says, 'It is right to do right,' it is
quite clear that the attitude of intellectual assent, which was quite
enough for the other order of statements, is not enough for this one;
and to merely say, 'Oh yes, it is right to do right,' is by no means
the only attitude which we ought to take in regard to such a truth.
And if God comes to me and says, 'Thou art a sinful man, and Jesus
Christ has died for thee; and if thou takest Him for thy Saviour thou
shalt be saved in this life, and saved for ever,' it is just as clear
that no mere acceptance of the saying as a verity exhausts my proper
attitude in reference to it. Or to come to plainer words, no man will
really, and out and out, and adequately, believe this gospel unless he
does a great deal more than assent to it or refrain from contradicting
it.

So I desire to urge this form of the question on you now. Dear
brethren, do you _trust_ in 'this,' which you say you believe? There
is no greater enemy of the Christian faith than the ordinary
lazy--what the philosophers call _otiose_, which is only a grand word
for lazy--assent of the understanding, because men will not take the
trouble to contradict it or think about it.

That is the sort of Christianity which is the Christianity of a good
many church and chapel-goers. They do not care enough about the
subject to contradict the ordinary run of belief. Of all impotent
things there is nothing more impotent than a creed which lies idly in
a man's head, and never has touched his heart or his will. Why, I
should get on a great deal better if I were talking to people that had
never heard anything about the gospel than I have any chance of
getting on with you, who have been drenched with it all your days,
till it goes over you and runs off like water off a duck's back. The
shells that were hurled against the earthworks of Sebastopol broke
away the front surface of the mounds, and then the rubbish protected
the fortifications; and that is what happens with many of my hearers.
You have heard the gospel so often that the _debris_ of your old
hearings is raised between you and me, and my words cannot get at you.
'Believest thou this?'--not in the fashion in which people stand up in
church or chapel and look about them and rattle off the Creed every
Sunday of their lives, and attach not the ghost of an idea to a single
clause of it; but in the sense that the conviction of these truths is
so deep in your hearts that it moves your whole nature to cast
yourselves on Jesus Christ as your Saviour and your all. That is the
belief to which alone the life that is promised here will come. Oh!
brethren, I have no business to ask you the question, and you have no
need to answer it to me! Sometimes good, well-meaning people do a mint
of harm by pushing such questions into the faces of people unprepared.
But take the question into your own hearts, and remember what belief
is, and what it is that you have to believe, and answer according to
its true significance, and in the light of conscience, the solemn
question that I press upon you.

II. Now, secondly, let me ask you to think of what depends upon the
answer.

In the case before us--if I may look back to it for an instant--there
is a very illuminative instance of what did depend upon it. Martha had
to believe that Christ was the Resurrection and the Life as a
condition precedent to her seeing that He was so. For, as He said
Himself before He spoke the mighty word which raised Lazarus, 'Said I
not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the
glory of God?' and so her faith was the condition of her being able to
verify the facts which her faith grasped. Well, let me put that into
plainer words. It is just this--a man gets from Christ what he trusts
Christ to give him, and there is no other way of proving the truth of
His promises than by accepting His promises, and then they fulfil
themselves. You cannot know that a medicine will cure you till you
swallow it. You must first 'taste' before you 'see that God is good.'
Faith verifies itself by the experience it brings.

And what does it bring? I said, all for which a man trusts Christ. All
is summed up in that one favourite word of our Lord as revealed in
this fourth Gospel, which includes in itself everything of blessedness
and of righteousness--life, life eternal. Dear brethren, you and I,
apart from Jesus Christ, are dead in trespasses and sins. The life
that we live in the flesh is an apparent life, which covers over the
true death of separation from God. And you young people, fix this in
your minds at the beginning, it will save you many a heartache, and
many an error--there is nothing worth calling life, except that which
comes to a quiet heart submissive and enfranchised through faith in
Jesus Christ. And if you will trust yourselves to Him, and answer this
question with your ringing 'Yea, Lord!' then you will get a life which
will quicken you out of your deadness; a life which will mould you day
by day into more entire beauty of character and conformity with
Himself; a life which will shed sweetness and charm over dusty
commonplaces, and make sudden verdure spring in dreary, herbless
deserts; a life which will bring a solemn joy into sorrow, a strength
for every duty; which will bring manna in the wilderness, honey from
the rock, light in darkness, and a present God for your sufficient
portion; a life which will run on into the dim glories of eternity,
and know no change but advancement, through the millenniums of ages.

But, dear brethren, whilst thus, on condition of their faith, the door
into all divine and endless blessedness and progress is flung wide
open for men, do not forget the other side of the issues which depend
on this question. For if it is true that Jesus Christ is Life, and the
Source of it, and that faith in Him is the way by which you and I get
it, then there is no escape from the solemn conclusion that to be out
of Christ, and not to be exercising faith in Him, is to be infected
with death, and to be shut up in a charnel-house. I dare not suppress
the plain teaching of Jesus Christ Himself: 'He that hath the Son hath
life; he that hath not the Son hath not life.' The issues that depend
upon the answer to this question of my text may be summed up, if I may
venture to say so, by taking the words of our Lord Himself and
converting them into their opposite. He said, 'He that believeth ...
though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and
believeth on Me shall never die.' That implies, He that believeth
_not_ in Christ, though he were living, yet shall he die, and
whosoever liveth and believeth _not_ shall never live. _These_ are the
issues--the alternative issues--that depend on your answer to this
question.

III. And now, lastly, let me ask you to think of the direct personal
appeal to every soul that lies in this question.

I have dwelt upon two out of the three words of which the question is
composed--'_believest_ thou _this_?' Let me dwell for a moment on the
third of them--'believest _thou_?'

Now that suggests the thought on which I do not need to dwell, but
which I seek briefly to lay upon your hearts and consciences--viz.,
the intensely personal act of your own faith, by which alone Jesus
Christ can be of any use to you. Do not be led away by any vague
notions which people have about the benefits of a Church or its
ordinances. Do not suppose that any sacraments or any priest can do
for you what you have to do in the awful solitude of your own
determining will--put out your hand and grasp Jesus Christ. Can any
person or thing be the condition or channel of spiritual blessing to
you, except in so far as your own individual act of trust comes into
play? You must take the bread with your own hands, you must masticate
it with your own teeth, you must digest it with your own organs,
before it can minister nourishment to your blood and force to your
life. And there is only one way by which any man can come into any
vital and life-giving connection with Jesus Christ, and that is, by
the exercise of his own personal faith.

And remember, too, that as the exercise of uniting trust in Jesus
Christ is exclusively your own affair, so exclusively your own affair
is the responsibility of answering this question. To you alone is it
addressed. You, and only you, have to answer it.

There was once a poor woman who went after Jesus Christ, and put out a
pale, wasted, tremulous finger to touch the hem of His garment. His
fine sensitiveness detected the light pressure of that petitioning
finger, and allowed virtue to go out, though the crowd surged about
Him and thronged Him. No crowds come between you and Jesus Christ. You
and He, the two of you, have, so to speak, the world to yourselves,
and straight to _you_ comes this question, 'Believest _thou_?'

Ah! brethren, that habit of skulking into the middle of the multitude,
and letting the most earnest appeal from the pulpit go diffused over
the audience is the reason why you sit there quiet, complacent,
perhaps wholly unaffected by what I am trying to make a pointed,
individual address. Suppose all the other people in this place of
worship were away but you and I, would not the word that I am trying
to speak come with more force to your hearts than it does now? Well,
think away the world and all its millions, and realise the fact that
you stand in Christ's presence, with all His regard concentrated upon
you, and that to thee individually this question comes from a
gracious, loving heart, which longs that you answer, 'Yea, Lord, I
believe!'

Why should you not? Suppose you said to Him, 'No, Lord, I do not'; and
suppose He said, 'Why do you not?' what do you think you would say
then? You will have to answer it one day, in very solemn
circumstances, when all the crowds will fall away, as they do from a
soldier called out of the ranks to go up and answer for mutiny to his
commanding officer. 'Every one of us shall give an account of
himself,' and the lips that said so lovingly at the grave of Lazarus,
'Believest thou this?' and are saying it again, dear friend, to you,
even through my poor words, will ask it once more. For this is the
question the answer to which settles whether we shall stand at His
right hand or at His left. Say now, with humble faith, 'Yea, Lord!'
and you will have the blessing of them who have not seen, and yet have
believed.



THE OPEN GRAVE AT BETHANY

'Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where
Martha met Him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and
comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went
out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at
His feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother
had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also
weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was
troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They say unto Him, Lord,
come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him!
And some of them said. Could not this Man, which opened the eyes of
the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died! Jesus
therefore again groaning in Himself, cometh to the grave. It was a
cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.
Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this
time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto
her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou
shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the
place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said,
Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I know that Thou
hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it,
that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And when He thus had
spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that
was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his
face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him,
and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen
the things which Jesus did, believed on Him.'--JOHN xi. 30-45.

Why did Jesus stay outside Bethany and summon Martha and Mary to come
to Him? Apparently that He might keep Himself apart from the noisy
crowd of conventional mourners whose presence affronted the majesty
and sanctity of sorrow, and that He might speak to the hearts of the
two real mourners. A divine decorum forbade Him to go to the house.
The Life-bringer keeps apart. His comforts are spoken in solitude. He
reverenced grief. How beautifully His sympathetic delicacy contrasts
with the heartless rush of those who 'were comforting' Mary when they
thought that she was driven to go suddenly to the grave by a fresh
burst of sorrow! If they had had any real sympathy or perception, they
would have stayed where they were, and let the poor burdened heart
find ease in lonely weeping. But, like all vulgar souls, they had one
idea--never to leave mourners alone or let them weep.

Three stages seem discernible in the self-revelation of Jesus in this
crowning miracle: His agitation and tears, His majestic confidence in
His life-giving power now to be manifested, and His actual exercise of
that power.

I. The repetition by Mary of Martha's words, as her first salutation,
tells a pathetic story of the one thought that had filled both
sisters' hearts in these four dreary days. Why had He not come? How
easily He could have come! How surely He could have prevented all this
misery! Confidence in His power blends strangely with doubt as to His
care. A hint of reproach is in the words, but more than a hint of
faith in His might. He does not rebuke the rash judgment implied, for
He knew the true love underlying it; but He does not directly answer
Mary, as He had done Martha, for the two sisters needed different
treatment.

We note that Mary has no such hope as Martha had expressed. Her more
passive, meditative disposition had bowed itself, and let the grief
overwhelm her. So in her we see a specimen of the excess of sorrow
which indulges in the monotonous repetition of what would have
happened if something else that did not happen had happened, and which
is too deeply dark to let a gleam of hope shine in. Words will do
little to comfort such grief. Silent sharing of its weeping and
helpful deeds will do most.

So a great wave of emotion swept across the usually calm soul of
Jesus, which John bids us trace to its cause by 'therefore' (ver. 33).
The sight of Mary's real, and the mourners' half-real, tears, and the
sound of their loud 'keening,' shook His spirit, and He yielded to,
and even encouraged, the rush of feeling ('troubled Himself'). But not
only sympathy and sorrow ruffled the clear mirror of His spirit;
another disturbing element was present. He 'was moved with
indignation' (Rev. Ver. marg.). Anger at Providence often mingles with
our grief, but that was not Christ's indignation. The only worthy
explanation of that strange ingredient in Christ's agitation is that
it was directed against the source of death,--namely, sin. He saw the
cause manifested in the effects. He wept for the one, He was wroth at
the other. The tears witnessed to the perfect love of the man, and of
the God revealed in the man; the indignation witnessed to the recoil
and aversion from sin of the perfectly righteous Man, and of the holy
God manifested in Him. We get one glimpse into His heart, as on to
some ocean heaving and mist-covered. The momentary sight proclaims the
union in Him, as the Incarnate Word, of pity for our woes and of
aversion from our sins.

His question as to the place of the tomb is not what we should have
expected; but its very abruptness indicates effort to suppress
emotion, and resolve to lose no time in redressing the grief. Most
sweetly human are the tears that start afresh after the moment's
repression, as the little company begin to move towards the grave. And
most sadly human are the unsympathetic criticisms of His sacred
sorrow. Even the best affected of the bystanders are cool enough to
note them as tokens of His love, at which perhaps there is a trace of
wonder; while others snarl out a sarcasm which is double-barrelled, as
casting doubt on the reality either of the love or of the power. 'It
is easy to weep, but if He had cared for him, and could work miracles,
He might surely have kept him alive.' How blind men are! 'Jesus wept,'
and all that the lookers-on felt was astonishment that He should have
cared so much for a dead man of no importance, or carping doubt as to
the genuineness of His grief and the reality of His power. He shows us
His pity and sorrow still--to no more effect with many.

II. The passage to the tomb was marked by his continued agitation. But
his arrival there brought calm and majesty. Now the time has come
which He had in view when He left his refuge beyond Jordan; and, as is
often the case with ourselves, suddenly tremor and tumult leave the
spirit when face to face with a moment of crisis. There is nothing
more remarkable in this narrative than the contrast between Jesus
weeping and indignant, and Jesus serene and authoritative as He stands
fronting the cave-sepulchre. The sudden transformation must have awed
the gazers.

He points to the stone, which, probably like that of many a grave
discovered in Palestine, rolled in a groove cut in the rocky floor in
front of the tomb. The command accords with His continual habit of
confining the miraculous within the narrowest limits. He will do
nothing by miracle which can be done without it. Lazarus could have
heard and emerged, though the stone had remained. If the story had
been a myth, he very likely would have done so. Like 'loose him, and
let him go,' this is a little touch that cannot have been invented,
and helps to confirm the simple, historical character of the account.

Not less natural, though certainly as unlikely to have been told
unless it had happened, is Martha's interruption. She must have heard
what was going on, and, with her usual activity, have joined the
procession, though we left her in the house. She thinks that Jesus is
going into the grave; and a certain reverence for the poor remains, as
well as for Him, makes her shrink from the thought of even His loving
eyes seeing them now. Clearly she has forgotten the dim hopes which
had begun in her when she talked with Jesus. Therefore He gently
reminds her of these; for His words (ver. 40) can scarcely refer to
anything but that interview, though the precise form of expression now
used is not found in the report of it (vers. 25-27).

We mark Christ's calm confidence in His own power. His identification
of its effect with the outflashing of the glory of God, and His
encouragement to her to exercise faith by suspending her sight of that
glory upon her faith. Does that mean that He would not raise her
brother unless she believed? No; for He had determined to 'awake him
out of sleep' before He left Peraea. But Martha's faith was the
condition of her seeing the glory of God in the miracle. We may see a
thousand emanations of that glory, and see none of it. We shall see it
if we exercise faith. In the natural world, 'seeing is believing'; in
the spiritual, believing is seeing.

Equally remarkable, as breathing serenest confidence, is the wonderful
filial prayer. Our Lord speaks as if the miracle were already
accomplished, so sure is He: 'Thou heardest Me.' Does this
thanksgiving bring Him down to the level of other servants of God who
have wrought miracles by divine power granted them? Certainly not; for
it is in full accord with the teaching of all this Gospel, according
to which 'the Son can do nothing of Himself,' but yet, whatsoever
things the Father doeth, 'these also doeth the Son likewise.' Both
sides of the truth must be kept in view. The Son is not independent of
the Father, but the Son is so constantly and perfectly one with the
Father that He is conscious of unbroken communion, of continual
wielding of the whole divine power.

But the practical purpose of the thanksgiving is to be specially
noted. It suspends His whole claims on the single issue about to be
decided. It summons the people to mark the event. Never before had He
thus heralded a miracle. Never had He deigned to say thus solemnly,
'If God does not work through Me now, reject Me as an impostor; if He
does, yield to Me as Messiah.' The moment stands alone in His life.
What a scene! There is the open tomb, with its dead occupant; there
are the eager, sceptical crowd, the sisters pausing in their weeping
to gaze, with some strange hopes beginning to creep into their hearts,
the silent disciples, and, in front of them all, Jesus, with the
radiance of power in the eyes that had just been swimming in tears,
and a new elevation in His tones. How all would be hushed in
expectance of the next moment's act!

III. The miracle itself is told in the fewest words. What more was
there to tell? The two ends, as it were, of a buried chain, appear
above ground. Cause and effect were brought together. Rather, here was
no chain of many links, as in physical phenomena, but here was the
life-giving word, and there was the dead man living again. The 'loud
voice' was as needless as the rolling away of the stone. It was but
the sign of Christ's will acting. And the acting of His will, without
any other cause, produces physical effects.

Lazarus was far away from that rock cave. But, wherever he was, he
could hear, and he must obey. So, with graveclothes entangling his
feet, and a napkin about his livid face, he came stumbling out into
the light that dazed his eyes, closed for four dark days, and stood
silent and motionless in that awestruck crowd. One Person there was
not awestruck. Christ's calm voice, that had just reverberated through
the regions of the dead, spoke the simple command, 'Loose him, and let
him go.' To Him it was no wonder that He should give back a life. For
the Christ who wept is the Christ whose voice all that are in the
graves shall hear, and shall come forth.



THE SEVENTH MIRACLE IN JOHN'S GOSPEL--THE
RAISING OF LAZARUS

'And when Jesus thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus,
Come forth. 44. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot
with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin.'--JOHN
xi. 43, 44.

The series of our Lord's miracles before the Passion, as recorded in
this Gospel, is fitly closed with the raising of Lazarus. It crowns
the whole, whether we regard the greatness of the fact, the manner of
our Lord's working, the minuteness and richness of the accompanying
details, the revelation of our Lord's heart, the consolations which it
suggests to sorrowing spirits, or the immortal hopes which it kindles.

And besides all this, the miracle is of importance for the development
of the Evangelist's purpose, in that it makes the immediate occasion
of the embittered hostility which finally precipitates the catastrophe
of the Cross. Therefore the great length to which the narrative
extends.

Of course it is impossible for us to attempt, even in the most cursory
manner, to go over the whole. We must content ourselves with dealing
with one or two of the salient points. And there are three things in
this narrative which I think well worthy of our notice. There is the
revelation of Christ as our Brother, by emotion and sorrow. There is
the revelation of Christ as our Lord by His consciousness of divine
power. There is the revelation of Christ as our Life by His mighty
life-giving word. And to these three points I ask you to turn briefly.

I. First, then, we have here a revelation of Christ as our Brother, by
emotion and sorrow.

This miracle stands alone in the whole majestic series of His mighty
works by the fact that it is preceded by a storm of emotion, which
shakes the frame of the Master, which He is represented by the
Evangelist not so much as suppressing as fostering, and which diverges
and parts itself into the two feelings expressed by His groans and by
His tears. The word which is rendered in our version 'He groaned in
the spirit,' and which is twice repeated in the narrative, is,
according to the investigations of the most careful philological
commentators, expressive not only of the outward sign of an emotion,
but of the nature of it. And the nature of the emotion is not merely
the grief and the sympathy which distilled in tears, but it is
something deeper and other than that. The word contains in it at least
a tinge of the passion of 'indignation' (as it is expressed in the
margin of the Revised Version). What caused the indignation? Cannot we
fancy how there rose up, as in pale, spectral procession before His
vision, the whole long series of human sorrows and losses, of which
one was visible there before Him? He saw, in the one individual case,
the whole _genus_. He saw the whole mass represented there, the ocean
in the drop, and He looked beyond the fact and linked it with its
cause. And as there rose before Him the reality of man's desolation
through sin, and the thought that all this misery, loss, pain,
parting, death, was a contradiction of the divine purpose, and an
interruption of God's order, and that it had all been pulled down upon
men's desperate heads by their own evil and their own folly, there
rose in His heart the anger which is part of the perfectness of
humanity when it looks upon sorrow linked by adamantine chains with
sin.

But the lightning of the wrath dissolved soon into the rain of pity
and of sorrow, and, as we read, 'Jesus wept.' Looking upon the weeping
Mary and the lamenting crowd, and Himself feeling the pain of the
parting from the friend whom He loved, the tears, which are the
confession of human nature that it is passing through an emotion too
deep for words, came to His all-seeing eyes.

Oh! brethren, surely--surely in this manifestation, or call it better,
this revelation of Christ the Lord, expressed in these two
emotions--surely there are large and blessed lessons for us! On them I
can only touch in the lightest manner. Here, for one thing, is the
blessed sign and proof of His true brotherhood with us. This
Evangelist, to whom it was given to tell the Church and the world more
than any of the others had imparted to them of the divine uniqueness
of the Master's person, had also given to him in charge the
corresponding and complementary message--to insist upon the reality
and the verity of His manhood. His proclamation was 'the Word was made
flesh,' and he had to dwell on both parts of that message, showing Him
as the Word and showing Him as flesh. So he insists upon all the
points which emerge in the course of his narrative that show the
reality of Christ's corporeal manhood.

He joins with the others, who had no such lofty proclamation entrusted
to them, in telling us how He was 'bone of our bone, and flesh of our
flesh,' in that He hungered and thirsted and slept, and was wearied;
how He was man, reasonable soul and human spirit, in that He grieved
and rejoiced, and wondered and desired, and mourned and wept. And so
we can look upon Him, and feel that this in very deed is One of
ourselves, with a spirit participant of all human experiences, and a
heart tremulously vibrating with every emotion that belongs to man.

Here we are also taught the sanction and the limits of sorrow.
Christianity has nothing to do with the false Stoicism and the false
religion which is partly pride and partly insincerity, that proclaims
it wrong to weep when God smites. But just as clearly and distinctly
as the story before us says to us, 'Weep for yourselves and for the
loved ones that are gone,' so distinctly does it draw the limits
within which sorrow is sacred and hallowing, and beyond which it is
harmful and weakening. Set side by side the grief of these two poor
weeping sisters, and the grief of the weeping Christ, and we get a
large lesson. They could only repine that something else had not
happened differently which would have made all different. 'If Thou
hadst been here, my brother had not died.' One of the two sits with
folded arms in the house, letting her sorrow flow over her pained
head. Martha is unable, by reason of her grief, to grasp the
consolation that is held out to her; her sorrow has made the hopes of
the future seem to her very dim and of small account, and she puts
away 'Thy brother shall rise again' with almost an impatient sweep of
her hand. 'I know that he will rise in the resurrection at the last
day. But oh! that is so far away, and what I want is present comfort.'
Thus oblivious of duty, murmuring with regard to the accidents which
might have been different, and unfitted to grasp the hopes that fill
the future, these two have been hurt by their grief, and have let it
overflow its banks and lay waste the land. But this Christ in His
sorrow checks His sorrow that He may do His work; in His sorrow is
confident that the Father hears; in His sorrow thinks of the
bystanders, and would bring comfort and cheer to them. A sorrow which
makes us more conscious of communion with the Father who is always
listening, which makes us more conscious of power to do that which He
has put it into our hand to do, which makes us more tender in our
sympathies with all that mourn, and swifter and readier for our
work--such a sorrow is doing what God meant for us; and is a blessing
in so thin a disguise that we can scarcely call it veiled at all.

And then, still further, there are here other lessons on which I
cannot touch. Such, for instance, is the revelation in this emotion of
the Master's, of a personal love that takes individuals to His heart,
and feels all the sweetness and the power of friendship. That personal
love is open to every one of us, and into the grace and the tenderness
of it we may all penetrate. 'The disciple whom Jesus loved' is the
Evangelist who, without jealousy, is glad to tell us that the same
loving Lord took into the same sanctuary of His pure heart, Mary and
Martha, and her brother. That which was given to them was not taken
from him, and they each possessed the whole of the Master's love. So
for every one of us that heart is wide open, and you and I, brethren,
may contract such personal relations to the Master that we shall live
with Christ as a man with his friend, and may feel that His heart is
all ours.

So much for the lessons of the emotions whereby Christ is manifested
to us as our Brother.

II. And now turn, in the next place, and that very briefly, to what
lies side by side with this in the story, and at first sight may seem
strangely contradictory of it, but in fact only completes the idea,
viz. the majesties, calm consciousness of divine power by which He is
revealed as our Lord.

At one step from the agitation and the storm of feeling there comes,
'Take ye away the stone.' And in answer to the lamentations of the
sister are spoken the great and wonderful words, 'Said I not unto thee
that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?' And
He looks back there to the message that had been sent to the sisters
in response to their unspoken hope that He would come, 'This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may
be glorified thereby.' And He shows us that from the first moment,
with the spontaneousness which, as I have already remarked in previous
sermons on these 'signs,' characterises all the miracles of John's
Gospel, 'He Himself knew what He would do,' and in the consciousness
of His divine power had resolved that the dead Lazarus should be the
occasion for the manifestation, the flashing out to the world, of the
glory of God in the life-giving Son.

And then, in the same tone of majestic consciousness, there follows
that thanksgiving _prior_ to the miracle as for the accomplished
miracle. 'I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me, and I knew that Thou
hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it,
that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.' The best commentary
upon these words, the deepest and the fullest exposition of the large
truths that lie in them concerning the co-operation of the Father and
the Son, is to be found in the passage from the fifth chapter of this
Gospel, wherein there is set forth, drawn with the firmest hand, the
clearest lines of truth upon this great and profound subject. 'The Son
does nothing of Himself,' but 'whatsoever the Father doeth, that doeth
the Son likewise.' A consciousness of continual co-operation with the
Almighty Father, a consciousness that His will continually coincides
with the Father's will, that unto Him there comes the power ever to do
all that Omnipotence can do, and that though we may speak of a gift
given and a power derived, the relation between the giving Father and
the recipient Son is altogether different from, and other than the
relation between, the man that asks and the God that bestows. Poor
Martha said, 'I know that even now, whatsoever Thou askest of God He
will give Thee.' She thought of Him as a good Man whose prayers had
power with Heaven. But up into an altogether other region soars the
consciousness expressed in these words as of a divine Son whose work
is wholly parallel with the Father's work, and of whom the two things
that sound contradictory can both be said. His omnipotence is His own;
His omnipotence is the Father's: 'As the Father hath life' and
therefore power in Himself, 'so hath He _given_'--there is the one
half of the paradox--'so hath He given to the Son to have life _in
Himself_'; there is the other. And unless you put them both together
you do not think of Christ as Christ has taught us to think.

III. Lastly, we have here the revelation of Christ as our Life in His
mighty, life-giving word.

The miracle, as I have said, stands high in the scale, not only by
reason of what to us seems the greatness of the fact, though of
course, properly speaking, in miracles there is no distinction as to
the greatness of the fact, but also by reason of the manner of the
working. The voice thrown into the cave reaches the ears of the
sheeted dead: 'Lazarus, come forth!' And then, in words which convey
the profound impression of awfulness and solemnity which had been made
upon the Evangelist, we have the picture of the man with the
graveclothes wrapped about his limbs, stumbling forth; and loving
hands are bidden to take away the napkin which covered his face.
Perhaps the hand trembled as it was put forth, not knowing what awful
sight the veil might cover.

With tenderest reticence, no word is spoken as to what followed. No
hint escapes of the joy, no gleam of the experiences which the
traveller brought back with him from that 'bourne' whence he had come.
Surely some draught of Lethe must have been given him, that his spirit
might be lulled into a wholesome forgetfulness, else life must have
been a torment to him.

But be that as it may, what we have to notice is the fact here, and
what it teaches us as a fact. Is it not a revelation of Jesus Christ
as the absolute Lord of Life and Death, giving the one, putting back
the other? Death has caught hold of his prey. 'Shall the prey be taken
from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered? Yea, the prey shall
be taken from the mighty.' His bare word is divinely operative. He
says to that grisly shadow 'Come!' and he cometh; He says to him 'Go!'
and he goeth. And as a shepherd will drive away the bear that has a
lamb between his bloody fangs, and the brute retreats, snarling and
growling, but dropping his prey, so at the Lord's voice Lazarus comes
back to life, and disappointed Death skulks away to the darkness.

The miracle shows Him as Lord of Death and Giver of Life. And it
teaches another lesson, namely, the continuous persistency of the bond
between Christ and His friend, unbroken and untouched by the
superficial accident of life or death. Wheresoever Lazarus was he
heard the voice, and wheresoever Lazarus was he knew the voice, and
wheresoever Lazarus was he obeyed the voice. And so we are taught that
the relationship between Christ our life, and all them that love and
trust Him, is one on which the tooth of death that gnaws all other
bonds in twain hath no power at all. Christ is the Life, and,
therefore, Christ is the Resurrection, and the thing that we call
death is but a film which spreads on the surface, but has no power to
penetrate into the depths of the relationship between us and Him.

Such, in briefest words, are the lessons of the miracle as a fact, but
before I close I must remind you that it is to be looked at not only
as a fact, but as a prophecy and as a parable.

It is a prophecy in a modified sense, telling us at all events that He
has the power to bid men back from the dust and darkness, and giving
us the assurance which His own words convey to us yet more distinctly:
'The hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear His
voice and shall come forth.' My brother! there be two resurrections in
that one promise: the resurrection of Christ's friends and the
resurrection of Christ's foes. And though to both His voice will be
the awakening, some shall rise to joy and immortality and 'some to
shame and everlasting contempt.' You will hear the voice; settle it
for yourselves whether when He calls and thou answerest thou wilt say,
'Lo! here am I,' joyful to look upon Him; or whether thou wilt rise
reluctant, and 'call upon the rocks and the hills to cover thee, and
to hide thee from the face of Him that sitteth upon the Throne.'

And this raising is a parable as well as a prophecy; for even as
Christ was the life of this Lazarus, so, in a deeper and more real
sense, and not in any shadowy, metaphorical, mystical sense, is Jesus
Christ the life of every spirit that truly lives at all. We are 'dead
in trespasses and sins.' For separation from God is death in all
regions, death for the body in its kind, death for the mind, for the
soul, for the spirit in their kinds; and only they who receive Christ
into their hearts do live. Every Christian man is a miracle. There has
been a true coming into the human of the divine, a true supernatural
work, the infusion into a dead soul of the God-life which is the
Christ-life.

And you and I may have that life. What is the condition? 'They that
hear shall live.' Do you hear? Do you welcome? Do you take that Christ
into your hearts? Is He your Life, my brother?

It is possible to resist that voice, to stuff your ears so full of
clay, and worldliness, and sin, and self-reliance as that it shall not
echo in your hearts. 'The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead
shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and they that hear shall
live,' and obtain to-day 'a better resurrection' than the resurrection
of the body. If you do not hear that voice, then you will 'remain in
the congregation of the dead.'



CAIAPHAS

'And one of them, named Caiaphas being the high priest that same year,
said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is
expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the
whole nation perish not.'--JOHN xi. 49,50.

The resurrection of Lazarus had raised a wave of popular excitement.
Any stir amongst the people was dangerous, especially at the Passover
time, which was nigh at hand, when Jerusalem would be filled with
crowds of men, ready to take fire from any spark that might fall
amongst them. So a hasty meeting of the principal ecclesiastical
council of the Jews was summoned, in order to dismiss the situation,
and concert measures for repressing the nascent enthusiasm. One might
have expected to find there some disposition to inquire honestly into
the claims of a Teacher who had such a witness to His claims as a man
alive that had been dead. But nothing of the sort appears in their
ignoble calculations. Like all weak men, they feel that 'something
must be done' and are perfectly unable to say what. They admit
Christ's miracles: 'This man doeth many miracles,' but they are not a
bit the nearer to recognising His mission, being therein disobedient
to their law and untrue to their office. They fear that any
disturbance will bring Rome's heavy hand down on them, and lead to the
loss of what national life they still possess. But even that fear is
not patriotism nor religion. It is pure self-interest. 'They will take
away _our_ place'--the Temple, probably--'and our nation.' The holy
things were, in their eyes, their special property. And so, at this
supreme moment, big with the fate of themselves and of their nation,
their whole anxiety is about personal interests. They hesitate, and
are at a loss what to do.

But however they may hesitate, there is one man who knows his own
mind--Caiaphas, the high priest. He has no doubt as to what is the
right thing to do. He has the advantage of a perfectly clear and
single purpose, and no sort of restraint of conscience or delicacy
keeps him from speaking it out. He is impatient at their vacillation,
and he brushes it all aside with the brusque and contemptuous speech:
'Ye know nothing at all!' 'The one point of view for us to take is
that of our own interests. Let us have that clearly understood; when
we once ask what is "expedient for us," there will be no doubt about
the answer. This man must die. Never mind about His miracles, or His
teaching, or the beauty of His character. His life is a perpetual
danger to our prerogatives. I vote for death!' And so he clashes his
advice down into the middle of their waverings, like a piece of iron
into yielding water; and the strong man, restrained by no conscience,
and speaking out cynically the thought that is floating in all their
minds, but which they dare not utter, is master of the situation, and
the resolve is taken. 'From that day forth' they determined to put Him
to death.

But John regards this selfish, cruel advice as a prophecy. Caiaphas
spoke wiser things than he knew. The Divine Spirit breathed in strange
fashion through even such lips as his, and moulded his savage
utterance into such a form as that it became a fit expression for the
very deepest thought about the nature and the power of Christ's death.
He did indeed die for that people--thinks the Evangelist--even though
they have rejected Him, and the dreaded Romans _have_ come and taken
away our place and nation--but His death had a wider purpose, and was
not for that nation only, but that also 'He should gather together in
one the children of God that are scattered abroad.'

Let us, then, take these two aspects of the man and his counsel: the
unscrupulous priest and his savage advice; the unconscious prophet and
his great prediction.

I. First, then, let us take the former point of view, and think of
this unscrupulous priest and his savage advice. 'It is expedient for
us that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation perish
not.'

Remember who he was, the high priest of the nation, with Aaron's mitre
on his brow, and centuries of illustrious traditions embodied in his
person; set by his very office to tend the sacred flame of their
Messianic hopes, and with pure hands and heart to offer sacrifice for
the sins of the people; the head and crown of the national religion,
in whose heart justice and mercy should have found a sanctuary if they
had fled from all others; whose ears ought to have been opened to the
faintest whisper of the voice of God; whose lips should ever have been
ready to witness for the truth.

And see what he is! A crafty schemer, as blind as a mole to the beauty
of Christ's character and the greatness of His words; utterly
unspiritual; undisguisedly selfish; rude as a boor; cruel as a
cut-throat; and having reached that supreme height of wickedness in
which he can dress his ugliest thought in the plainest words, and send
them into the world unabashed. What a lesson this speech of Caiaphas,
and the character disclosed by it, read to all persons who have a
professional connection with religion!

He can take one point of view only, in regard to the mightiest
spiritual revelation that the world ever saw; and that is, its bearing
upon his own miserable personal interests, and the interests of the
order to which he belongs. And so, whatever may be the wisdom, or
miracles, or goodness of Jesus, because He threatens the prerogatives
of the priesthood, He must die and be got out of the way.

This is only an extreme case of a temper and a tendency which is
perennial. Popes and inquisitors and priests of all Churches have done
the same, in their degree, in all ages. They have always been tempted
to look upon religion and religious truth and religious organisations
as existing somehow for their personal advantage. And so 'the Church
is in danger!' generally means 'my position is threatened,' and
heretics are got rid of, because their teaching is inconvenient for
the prerogatives of a priesthood, and new truth is fought against,
because officials do not see how it harmonises with their
pre-eminence.

It is not popes and priests and inquisitors only that are examples of
the tendency. The warning is needed by every man who stands in such a
position as mine, whose business it is professionally to handle sacred
things, and to administer Christian institutions and Christian ritual.
All such men are tempted to look upon the truth as their
stock-in-trade, and to fight against innovations, and to array
themselves instinctively against progress, and frown down new aspects
and new teachers of truth, simply because they threaten, or appear to
threaten, the position and prerogatives of the teachers that be.
Caiaphas's sin is possible, and Caiaphas's temptation is actual, for
every man whose profession it is to handle the oracles of God.

But the lessons of this speech and character are for us all.
Caiaphas's sentence is an undisguised, unblushing avowal of a purely
selfish standpoint. It is not a common depth of degradation to stand
up, and without a blush to say: 'I look at all claims of revelation,
at all professedly spiritual truth, and at everything else, from one
delightfully simple point of view--I ask myself, how does it bear upon
what I think to be to my advantage?' What a deal of perplexity a man
is saved if he takes up that position! Yes! and how he has damned
himself in the very act of doing it! For, look what this absorbing and
exclusive self-regard does in the illustration before us, and let us
learn what it will do to ourselves.

This selfish consideration of our own interests will make us as blind
as bats to the most radiant beauty of truth; aye, and to Christ
Himself, if the recognition of Him and of His message seems to
threaten any of these. They tell us that fishes which live in the
water of caverns come to lose their eyesight; and men that are always
living in the dark holes of their own selfishly absorbed natures,
they, too, lose their spiritual sight; and the fairest, loftiest,
truest, and most radiant visions (which are realities) pass before
their eyes, and they see them not. When you put on regard for
yourselves as they do blinkers upon horses, you have no longer the
power of wide, comprehensive vision, but only see straight forward
upon the narrow line which you fancy to be marked out by your own
interests. If ever there comes into the selfish man's mind a truth, or
an aspect of Christ's mission, which may seem to cut against some of
his practices or interests, how blind he is to it! When Lord Nelson
was at Copenhagen, and they hoisted the signal of recall, he put his
telescope up to his blind eye and said, 'I do not see it!' And that is
exactly what this self-absorbed regard to our own interests does with
hundreds of men who do not in the least degree know it. It blinds them
to the plain will of the Commander-in-chief flying there at the
masthead. 'There are none so blind as those who will not see'; and
there are none who so certainly will not see as those who have an
uneasy suspicion that if they do see they will have to change their
tack. So I say, look at the instance before us, and learn the lesson
of the blindness to truth and beauty which are Christ Himself, which
comes of a regard to one's own interests.

Then again, this same self-regard may bring a man down to any kind and
degree of wrongdoing. Caiaphas was brought down by it, being the
supreme judge of his nation, to be an assassin and an accomplice of
murderers. And it is only a question of accident and of circumstances
how far that man will descend who once yields himself up to the
guidance of such a disposition and tendency. We have all of us to
fight against the developed selfishness which takes the form of this,
that, and the other sin; and we have all of us, if we are wise, to
fight against the undeveloped sin which lies in all selfishness.
Remember that if you begin with laying down as the canon of your
conduct, 'It is expedient for me,' you have got upon an inclined plane
that tilts at a very sharp angle, and is very sufficiently greased,
and ends away down yonder in the depths of darkness and of death, and
it is only a question of time how far and how fast, how deep and
irrevocable, will be your descent.

And lastly, this same way of looking at things which takes 'It is
expedient' as the determining consideration, has in it an awful power
of so twisting and searing a man's conscience as that he comes to look
at evil and never to know that there is anything wrong in it. This
cynical high priest in our text had no conception that he was doing
anything but obeying the plainest dictates of the most natural
self-preservation when he gave his opinion that they had better kill
Christ than have any danger to their priesthood. The crime of the
actual crucifixion was diminished because the doers were so
unconscious that it was a crime; but the crime of the process by which
they had come to be unconscious--Oh how that was increased and
deepened! So, if we fix our eyes sharply and exclusively on what makes
for our own advantage, and take that as the point of view from which
we determine our conduct, we may, and we shall, bring ourselves into
such a condition as that our consciences will cease to be sensitive to
right and wrong; and we shall do all manner of bad things, and never
know it. We shall 'wipe our mouths and say: "I have done no harm."'
So, I beseech you, remember this, that to live for self is hell, and
that the only antagonist of such selfishness, which leads to
blindness, crime, and a seared conscience, is to yield ourselves to
the love of God in Jesus Christ and to say: 'I live, yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me.'

II. And now turn briefly to the second aspect of this saying, into
which the former, if I may so say, melts away. We have the unconscious
prophet and his great prediction.

The Evangelist conceives that the man who filled the office of high
priest, being the head of the theocratic community, was naturally the
medium of a divine oracle. When he says, 'being the high priest _that
year_, Caiaphas prophesied,' he does not imply that the high priestly
office was annual, but simply desires to mark the fateful importance
of that year for the history of the world and the priesthood. 'In that
year' the great 'High Priest for ever' came and stood for a moment by
the side of the earthly high priest--the Substance by the shadow--and
by His offering of Himself as the one Sacrifice for sin for ever,
deprived priesthood and sacrifice henceforward of all their validity.
So that Caiaphas was in reality the last of the high priests, and
those that succeeded him for something less than half a century were
but like ghosts that walked after cock-crow. And what the Evangelist
would mark is the importance of 'that year,' as making Caiaphas ever
memorable to us. Solemn and strange that the long line of Aaron's
priesthood ended in such a man--the river in a putrid morass--and that
of all the years in the history of the nation, 'in that year' should
such a person fill such an office!

'Being high priest he prophesied.' And was there anything strange in a
bad man's prophesying? Did not the Spirit of God breathe through
Balaam of old? Is there anything incredible in a man's prophesying
unconsciously? Did not Pilate do so, when he nailed over the Cross,
'This is the King of the Jews,' and wrote it in Hebrew, and in Greek,
and in Latin, conceiving himself to be perpetrating a rude jest, while
he was proclaiming an everlasting truth? When the Pharisees stood at
the foot of the Cross and taunted Him, 'He saved others, Himself He
cannot save,' did they not, too, speak deeper things than they knew?
And were not the lips of this unworthy, selfish, unspiritual,
unscrupulous, cruel priest so used as that, all unconsciously, his
words lent themselves to the proclamation of the glorious central
truth of Christianity, that Christ died for the nation that slew Him
and rejected Him, nor for them alone, but for all the world? Look,
though but for a moment, at the thoughts that come from this new view
of the words which we have been considering.

They suggest to us, first of all, the twofold aspect of Christ's
death. From the human point of view it was a savage murder by forms of
law for political ends: Caiaphas and the priests slaying Him to avoid
a popular tumult that might threaten their prerogatives, Pilate
consenting to His death to avoid the unpopularity that might follow a
refusal. From the divine point of view it is God's great sacrifice for
the sin of the world. It is the most signal instance of that solemn
law of Providence which runs all through the history of the world,
whereby bad men's bad deeds, strained through the fine network, as it
were, of the divine providence, lose their poison and become
nutritious and fertilising. 'Thou makest the wrath of men to praise
Thee; with the residue thereof Thou girdest Thyself.' The greatest
crime ever done in the world is the greatest blessing ever given to
the world. Man's sin works out the loftiest divine purpose, even as
the coral insects blindly build up the reef that keeps back the
waters, or as the sea in its wild, impotent rage, seeking to overwhelm
the land, only throws upon the beach a barrier that confines its waves
and curbs their fury.

Then, again, this second aspect of the counsel of Caiaphas suggests
for us the twofold consequences of that death on the nation itself.
This Gospel of John was probably written after the destruction of
Jerusalem. By the time that our Evangelist penned these words, the
Romans _had_ come and taken away their place and their nation. The
catastrophe that Caiaphas and his party had, by their short-sighted
policy, tried to prevent, had been brought about by the very deed
itself. For Christ's death was practically the reason for the
destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. When 'the husbandmen said,
Come! let us kill Him, and seize on the inheritance,' which is simply
putting Caiaphas's counsel into other language, they thereby deprived
themselves of the inheritance. And so Christ's death was the
destruction and not the salvation of the nation.

And yet, it was true that He died for that people, for every man of
them, for Caiaphas as truly as for John, for Judas as truly as for
Peter, for all the Scribes and the Pharisees that mocked round His
Cross, as truly as for the women that stood silently weeping there. He
died for them all, and John, looking back upon the destruction of his
nation, can yet say, 'He died for that people.' Yes! and just because
He did, and because they rejected Him, His death, which they would not
let be their salvation, became their destruction and their ruin. Oh!
brethren, it is always so! He is either 'a savour of life unto life,
or a savour of death unto death!' 'Behold! I lay in Zion for a
foundation, a tried Stone.' Build upon it and you are safe. If you do
not build upon it, that Stone becomes 'a stone of stumbling and a rock
of offence.' You must either build upon Christ or fall over Him; you
must either build _upon_ Christ, or be crushed to powder _under_ Him.
Make your choice! The twofold effect is wrought ever, but we can
choose which of the two shall be wrought upon us.

Lastly, we have here the twofold sphere in which our Lord's mighty
death works its effects.

I have already said that this Gospel was written after the fall of
Jerusalem. The whole tone of it shows that the conception of the
Church as quite separate from Judaism was firmly established. The
narrower national system had been shivered, and from out of the dust
and hideous ruin of its crushing fall had emerged the fairer reality
of a Church as wide as the world. The Temple on Zion--which was but a
small building after all--had been burned with fire. It was _their_
place, as Caiaphas called it. But the clearing away of the narrower
edifice had revealed the rising walls of the great temple, the
Christian Church, whose roof overarches every land, and in whose
courts all men may stand and praise the Lord. So John, in his home in
Ephesus, surrounded by flourishing churches in which Jews formed a
small and ever-decreasing element, recognised how far the dove with
the olive-branch In its mouth flew, and how certainly that nation was
only a little fragment of the many for whom Christ died.

'The children of God that were scattered abroad' were all to be united
round that Cross. Yes! the only thing that unites men together is
their common relation to a Divine Redeemer. That bond is deeper than
all national bonds, than all blood-bonds, than community of race, than
family, than friendship, than social ties, than community of opinion,
than community of purpose and action. It is destined to absorb them
all. All these are transitory and they are imperfect; men wander
isolated notwithstanding them all. But if we are knit to Christ, we
are knit to all who are also knit to Him. One life animates all the
limbs, and one life's blood circulates through all the veins. 'So also
is Christ.' We are one in Him, in whom all the body fitly joined
together maketh increase, and in whom all the building fitly framed
together groweth. If we have yielded to the power of that Cross which
draws us to itself, we shall have been more utterly alone, in our
penitence and in our conscious surrender to Christ, than ever we were
before. But He sets the solitary in families, and that solemn
experience of being alone with our Judge and our Saviour will be
followed by the blessed sense that we are no more solitary, but
'fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.'

That death brings men into the _family_ of God. He will 'gather into
one the scattered children of God.' They are called children by
anticipation. For surely nothing can be clearer than that the doctrine
of all John's writings is that men are not children of God by virtue
of their humanity, except in the inferior sense of being made by Him,
and in His image as creatures with spirit and will, but _become_
children of God through faith in the Son of God, which brings about
that new birth, whereby we become partakers of the Divine nature. 'To
as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of
God, even to them that believe on His name.'

So I beseech you, turn yourselves to that dear Christ who has died for
us all, for us each, for me and for thee, and put your confidence in
His great sacrifice. You will find that you pass from isolation into
society, from death into life, from the death of selfishness into the
life of God. Listen to Him, who says: 'Other sheep I have which are
not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear My
voice: and there shall be one flock' because there is 'one Shepherd.'



LOVE'S PRODIGALITY CENSURED AND
VINDICATED

'Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where
Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There
they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them
that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of
spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His
feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the
ointment. Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's
son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three
hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared
for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare
what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day
of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with
you; but Me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew
that He was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that
they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead. But the
chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;
because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed
on Jesus.'--JOHN xii. 1-11.

Jesus came from Jericho, where He had left Zacchaeus rejoicing in the
salvation that had come to his house, and whence Bartimaeus, rejoicing
in His new power of vision, seems to have followed Him. A few hours
brought Him to Bethany, and we know from other Evangelists what a
tension of purpose marked Him, and awed the disciples, as He pressed
on before them up the rocky way. His mind was full of the struggle and
death which were so near. The modest village feast in the house of
Simon the leper comes in strangely amid the gathering gloom; but, no
doubt, Jesus accepted it, as He did everything, and entered into the
spirit of the hour. He would not pain His hosts by self-absorbed
aloofness at the table. The reason for the feast is obviously the
raising of Lazarus, as is suggested by his being twice mentioned in
verses 1 and 2.

Our Lord had withdrawn to Ephraim so immediately after the miracle
that the opportunity of honouring Him had not occurred. It was a brave
tribute to pay Him in the face of the Sanhedrim's commandment (ch. xi.
57). This incident sets in sharpest contrast the two figures of Mary,
the type of love which delights to give its best, and Judas, the type
of selfishness which is only eager to get; and it shows us Jesus
casting His shield over the uncalculating giver, and putting meaning
into her deed.

I. In Eastern fashion, the guests seem to have all been males, no
doubt the magnates of the village, and Jesus with His disciples. The
former would have become accustomed to seeing Lazarus, but Christ's
immediate followers would gaze curiously on him. And how he would gaze
on Jesus, whom he had probably not seen since the napkin had been
taken from his face. The two sisters were true to their respective
characters. The bustling, practical Martha had perhaps not very fine
or quickly moved emotions. She could not say graceful things to their
benefactor, and probably she did not care to sit at His feet and drink
in His teaching; but she loved Him with all her heart all the same,
and showed it by serving. No doubt, she took care that the best dishes
were carried to Jesus first, and, no doubt, as is the custom in those
lands, she plied Him with invitations to partake. We do Martha less
than justice if we do not honour her, and recognise that her kind of
service is true service. She has many successors among Christ's true
followers, who cannot 'gush' nor rise to the heights of His loftiest
teaching, but who have taken Him for their Lord, and can, at any rate,
do humble, practical service in kitchen or workshop. Their more
'intellectual' or poetically emotional brethren are tempted to look
down on them, but Jesus is as ready to defend Martha against Mary, if
she depreciates her, as He is to vindicate Mary's right to her kind of
expression of love, if Martha should seek to force her own kind on her
sister. 'There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.'

Mary was one of the unpractical sort, whom Martha is very apt to
consider supremely useless, and often to lose patience with. Could she
not find something useful to do in all the bustle of the feast? Had
she no hands that could carry a dish, and no common sense that could
help things on? Apparently not. Every one else was occupied, and how
should she show the love that welled up in her heart as she looked at
Lazarus sitting there beside Jesus? She had one costly possession, the
pound of perfume. Clearly it was her own, for she would not have taken
it if Lazarus and Mary had been joint owners. So, without thinking of
anything but the great burden of love which she blessedly bore, she
'poured it on His head' (Mark) and on His feet, which the fashion of
reclining at meals made accessible to her, standing behind Him, True
love is profuse, not to say prodigal. It knows no better use for its
best than to lavish it on the beloved, and can have no higher joy than
that. It does not stay to calculate utility as seen by colder eyes. It
has even a subtle delight in the very absence of practical results,
for the expression of itself is the purer thereby. A basin of water
and a towel would have done as well or better for washing Christ's
feet, but not for relieving Mary's full heart. Do we know anything of
that omnipotent impulse? Can we complacently set our givings beside
Mary's?

II. Judas is the foil to Mary. His sullen, black selfishness,
stretching out hands like talons in eagerness to get, makes more
radiant, and is itself made darker by, her shining deed of love.
Goodness always rouses evil to self-assertion, and the other
Evangelists connect Mary's action with Judas's final treachery as part
of its impelling cause. They also show that his specious objection, by
its apparent common sense and charitableness, found assent in the
disciples. Three hundred pence worth of good ointment wasted which
might have helped so many poor! Yes, and how much poorer the world
would have been if it had not had this story! Mary was more
utilitarian than her censors. She served the highest good of all
generations by her uncalculating profusion, by which the poor have
gained more than some few of them might have lost.

Judas's criticism is still repeated. The world does not understand
Christian self-sacrifice, for ends which seem to it shadowy as
compared with the solid realities of helping material progress or
satisfying material wants. A hundred critics, who do not do much for
the poor themselves, will descant on the waste of money in religious
enterprises, and smile condescendingly at the enthusiasts who are so
unpractical. But love knows its own meaning, and need not be abashed
by the censure of the unloving.

John flashes out into a moment's indignation at the greed of Judas,
which was masquerading as benevolence. His scathing laying bare of
Judas's mean and thievish motive is no mere suspicion, but he must
have known instances of dishonesty. When a man has gone so far in
selfish greed that he has left common honesty behind him, no wonder if
the sight of utterly self-surrendering love looks to him folly. The
world has no instruments by which it can measure the elevation of the
godly life. Mary would not be Mary if Judas approved of her or
understood her.

III. Jesus vindicates the act of His censured servant. His words fall
into two parts, of which the former puts a meaning into Mary's act, of
which she probably had not been aware, while the latter meets the
carping criticism of Judas. That Jesus should see in the anointing a
reference to His burying, pathetically indicates how that near end
filled His thoughts, even while sharing in the simple feast. The clear
vision of the Cross so close did not so absorb Him as to make Him
indifferent either to Mary's love or to the villagers' humble
festivity. However weighed upon, His heart was always sufficiently at
leisure from itself to care for His friends and to defend them. He
accepts every offering that love brings, and, in accepting, gives it a
significance beyond the offerer's thought. We know not what use He may
make of our poor service; but we may be sure that, if that which we
can see to is right--namely, its motive,--He will take care of what we
cannot see to--namely, its effect,--and will find noble use for the
sacrifices which unloving critics pronounce useless waste.

'The poor always ye have with you.' Opportunities for the exercise of
brotherly liberality are ever present, and therefore the obligation to
it is constant. But these permanent duties do not preclude the
opportunities for such special forms of expressing special love to
Jesus as Mary had shown, and as must soon end. The same sense of
approaching separation as in the former clause gives pathos to that
restrained 'not always.' The fact of His being just about to leave
them warranted extraordinary tokens of love, as all loving hearts know
but too well. But, over and above the immediate reference of the
words, they carry the wider lesson that, besides the customary duties
of generous giving laid on us by the presence of ordinary poverty and
distresses, there is room in Christian experience for extraordinary
outflows from the fountain of a heart filled with love to Christ. The
world may mock at it as useless prodigality, but Jesus sees that it is
done for Him, and therefore He accepts it, and breathes meaning into
it.

'Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there
shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of
her.' The Evangelist who records that promise does not mention Mary's
name; John, who does mention the name, does not record the promise. It
matters little whether our names are remembered, so long as Jesus beam
them graven on His heart.



A NEW KIND OF KING

'On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they
heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm-trees,
and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of
Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when He had
found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter
of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. These
things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was
glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him,
and that they had done these things unto Him. The people therefore
that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised
him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met
Him, for that they heard that He had done this miracle. The Pharisees
therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing!
behold, the world is gone after Him. And there were certain Greeks
among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came
therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired
him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth
Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus, and Jesus answered
them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be
glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall
into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth
forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that
hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any
man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My
servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.'--JOHN
xii. 12-26.

The difference between John's account of the entry into Jerusalem and
those of the Synoptic Gospels is very characteristic. His is much
briefer, but it brings the essentials out clearly, and is particular
in showing its place as a link in the chain that drew on the final
catastrophe, and in noting its effect on various classes.

'The next day' in verse 12 was probably the Sunday before the
crucifixion. To understand the events of that day we must try to
realise how rapidly, and, as the rulers thought, dangerously,
excitement was rising among the crowds who had come up for the
Passover, and who had heard of the raising of Lazarus. The Passover
was always a time when national feeling was ready to blaze up, and any
spark might light the fire. It looked as if Lazarus were going to be
the match this time, and so, on the Saturday, the rulers had made up
their minds to have him put out of the way in order to stop the
current that was setting in, of acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah.

They had already made up their minds to dispose of Jesus, and now,
with cynical contempt for justice, they determined to 'put Lazarus
also to death.' So there were to be two men who were to 'die for the
people.' Keeping all this wave of popular feeling in view, it might
have been expected that Jesus would, as hitherto, have escaped into
privacy, or discouraged the offered homage of a crowd whose Messianic
ideal was so different from His.

John is mainly concerned in bringing out two points in his version of
the incident. First, he tells us what we should not have gathered from
the other Evangelists, that the triumphal procession began in
Jerusalem, not in Bethany. It was the direct result of the ebullition
of enthusiasm occasioned by the raising of Lazarus. The course of
events seems to have been that 'the common people of the Jews' came
streaming out to Bethany on the Sunday to gape and gaze at the risen
man and Him who had raised him, that they and some of those who had
been present at the raising went back to the city and carried thither
the intelligence that Jesus was coming in from Bethany next day, and
that then the procession to meet Him was organised.

The meaning of the popular demonstration was plain, both from the palm
branches, signs of victory and rejoicing, and from the chant, which is
in part taken from Psalm cxviii. The Messianic application of that
quotation is made unmistakable by the addition, 'even the King of
Israel.' In the Psalm, 'he that cometh in the name of Jehovah,' means
the worshipper drawing near to the Temple, but the added words divert
the expression to Jesus, hail Him as the King, and invoke Him as
'Saviour.' Little did that shouting crowd understand what sort of a
Saviour He was. Deliverance from Rome was what they were thinking of.

We must remember what gross, unspiritual notions of the Messiah they
had, and then we are prepared to feel how strangely unlike His whole
past conduct Jesus' action now was. He had shrunk from crowds and
their impure enthusiasm; He had slipped away into solitude when they
wished to come by force to make Him a King, and had in every possible
way sought to avoid publicity and the rousing of popular excitement.
Now He deliberately sets Himself to intensify it. His choice of an ass
on which to ride into Jerusalem was, and would be seen by many to be,
a plain appropriation to Himself of a very distinct Messianic
prophecy, and must have raised the heat of the crowd by many degrees.
One can fancy the roar of acclaim which hailed Him when He met the
multitude, and the wild emotion with which they strewed His path with
garments hastily drawn off and cast before Him.

Why did He thus contradict all His past, and court the smoky
enthusiasm which He had hitherto damped? Because He knew that 'His
hour' had come, and that the Cross was at hand, and He desired to
bring it as speedily as might be, and thus to shorten the suffering
that He would not avoid, and to finish the work which He was eager to
complete. The impatience, as we might almost call it, which had marked
Him on all that last journey, reached its height now, and may indicate
to us for our sympathy and gratitude both His human longing to get the
dark hour over and His fixed willingness to die for us.

But even while Jesus accepted the acclamations and deliberately set
Himself to stir up enthusiasm, He sought to purify the gross ideas of
the crowd. What more striking way could He have chosen of declaring
that all the turbulent passions and eagerness for a foot-to-foot
conflict with Rome which were boiling in their breasts were alien to
His purposes and to the true Messianic ideal, than that choosing of
the meek, slow-pacing ass to bear Him? A conquering king would have
made his triumphal entry in a chariot or on a battle-horse. This
strange type of monarch is throned on an ass. It was not only for a
verbal fulfilment of the prophecy, but for a demonstration of the
essential nature of His kingdom, that He thus entered the city.

John characteristically takes note of the effects of the entry on two
classes, the disciples and the rulers. The former remembered with a
sudden flash of enlightenment the meaning of the entry when the Cross
and the Resurrection had taught them it. The rulers marked the popular
feeling running high with bewilderment, and were, as Jesus meant them
to be, made more determined to take vigorous measures to stop this
madness of the mob.

The second incident in this passage contrasts remarkably with the
first, and yet is, in one aspect, a continuation of it. In the former,
Jesus brought into prominence the true nature of His rule by His
choosing the ass to carry Him, so declaring that His dominion rested,
not on conquest, but on meekness. In the latter, He reveals a yet
deeper aspect of His work, and teaches that His influence over men is
won by utter self-sacrifice, and that His subjects must tread the same
path of losing their lives by which He passes to His glory. The
details of the incident are of small importance as compared with that
great and solemn lesson; but we may note them in a few words. The
desire of a few Greeks to see Him was probably only a reflection of
the popular enthusiasm, and was prompted mainly by curiosity and the
characteristic Greek eagerness to see any 'new thing.' The addressing
of the request to Philip is perhaps explained by the fact that he 'was
of Bethsaida of Galilee,' and had probably come into contact with
these Greeks in the neighbouring Decapolis, on the other side of the
lake. Philip's consultation of his fellow-townsman, Andrew, who is
associated with him in other places, probably implies hesitation in
granting so unprecedented a request. They did not know what Jesus
might say to it. And what He did say was very unlike anything that
they could have anticipated.

The trivial request was as a narrow window through which Jesus'
yearning spirit saw a great expanse--nothing less than the coming to
Him of myriads of Gentiles, the 'much fruit' of which He immediately
speaks, the 'other sheep' whom He 'must bring.' The thought must have
been ever present to Him, or it would never have leaped to utterance
on such an occasion. The little window shows us, too, what was
habitually in His mind and heart. He, as it were, hears the striking
of the hour of His glorification; in which expression the ideas of His
being glorified by drawing men to the knowledge of His love, and of
the Cross being not the lowest depth of His humiliation, but the
highest apex of His glory--as it is always represented in this
Gospel--seemed to be fused together.

The seed must die if a harvest is to spring from it. That is the law
for all moral and spiritual reformations. Every cause must have its
martyrs. No man can be fruit-bearing unless he sacrifices himself. We
shall not 'quicken' our fellows unless we 'die,' either literally or
by the not less real martyrdom of rigid self-crucifixion and
suppression.

But that necessity is not only for Apostles or missionaries of great
causes; it is the condition of all true, noble life, and prescribes
the path not only for those who would live for others, but for all who
would truly live their own lives. Self-renunciation guards the way to
the 'tree of life.' That lesson was specially needed by 'Greeks,' for
ignorance of it was the worm that gnawed the blossoms of their trees,
whether of art or of literature. It is no less needed by our
sensuously luxurious and eagerly acquisitive generation. The world's
war-cries to-day are two--'Get!' 'Enjoy!' Christ's command is,
'Renounce!' And in renouncing we shall realise both of these other
aims, which they who pursue them only, never attain.

Christ's servant must be Christ's follower: indeed service is
following. The Cross has aspects in which it stands alone, and is
incapable of being reproduced and makes all repetition needless. But
it has also an aspect in which it not only _may_, but _must_, be
reproduced in every disciple. And he who takes it for the ground of
his trust only, and not as the pattern of his life, has need to ask
himself whether his trust in it is genuine or worth anything. Of
course they who follow a leader will arrive where the leader has gone,
and though our feet are feeble and our progress devious and slow, we
have here His promise that we shall not be lost in the desert, but,
sustained by Him, will reach His side, and at last be where He is.



AFTER CHRIST: WITH CHRIST

'If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall
also My servant be.'--John xii. 26.

Our Lord was strangely moved by the apparently trivial incident of
certain Greeks desiring to see Him. He recognised and hailed in them
the first-fruits of the Gentiles. The Eastern sages at His cradle, and
these representatives of Western culture within a few hours of the
Cross, were alike prophets. So, in His answer to their request, our
Lord passes beyond the immediate bearing of the request, and
contemplates it in its relation to the future developments of His
work. And the thought that the Son of Man is now about to begin to be
glorified, at once brings Him face to face with the fact which must
precede the glory, viz., His death.

That great law that a higher life can only be reached by the decay of
the lower, of which the Cross is the great instance, He illustrates,
first, by an example from Nature, the corn of wheat which must die ere
it brings forth fruit. Then He declares that this is a universal law,
'He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in
this world shall keep it unto life eternal.' And then He declares that
this universal law, which has its adumbration in Nature, and applies
to all mankind, and is manifested in its highest form on the Cross, is
the law of the Christian discipleship. 'If any man serve Me, let him
follow Me,' and, as a consequence, 'where I am, there shall also My
servant be.'

In two clauses He covers the whole ground of the present and the
future. Many thinkers and teachers have tried to crystallise their
systems into some brief formula which may stick in the memory and be
capable of a handy application. 'Follow Nature,' said ancient sages,
attaching a nobler meaning to the condensed commandment than its
modern repeaters often do; 'Follow duty,' say others; 'Follow _Me_'
says Christ. That is enough for life. And for all the dim regions
beyond, this prospect is sufficient, 'Where I am, there shall also My
servant be.' One Form towers above the present and the future, and
they both derive their colouring and their worth from Him and our
relation to Him. 'To follow'--that is the condensed summary of life's
duty. 'To be with'--that is the crystallising of all our hopes.

I. The all-sufficient law for life.

'If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.' Everything is smelted down
into that; and there you have a sufficient directory for every man's
every action.

Now although it has nothing to do with my present purpose, I can
scarcely avoid pausing, just for a moment, to ask you to consider the
perfect uniqueness of such an utterance as that. Think of one Man
standing up before all mankind, and coolly and deliberately saying to
them, 'I am the realised Ideal of human conduct; I am Incarnate
Perfection; and all of you, in all the infinite variety of condition,
culture, and character, are to take Me for your pattern and your
guide.' The world has listened, and the world has not laughed nor been
angry. Neither indignation nor mockery, which one might have expected
would have extinguished such absurdity, has waited upon Christ's
utterance. I have no time to dwell on this; it is apart from my
purpose, but I would ask you fairly to consider how strange it is, and
to ask how it is to be accounted for, that a Man said that, and that
the wisest part of the world has consented to take Him at His own
valuation; and after such an utterance as that, yet calls Him 'meek
and lowly of heart.'

But I pass away from that. What does He mean by this commandment,
'Follow Me'? Of course I need not remind you that it brings all duty
down to the imitation of Jesus Christ. That is a commonplace that I do
not need to dwell upon, nor to follow out into the many regions into
which it would lead us, and where we might find fruitful subjects of
contemplation; because I desire, in a sentence or two, to insist upon
the special form of following which is here enjoined. It is a very
grand thing to talk about the imitation of Christ, and even in its
most superficial acceptation it is a good guide for all men. But no
man has penetrated to the depths of that stringent and
all-comprehensive commandment who has not recognised that there is one
special thing in which Christ is to be our Pattern, and that is in
regard to the very thing in which we think that He is most unique and
inimitable. It is His Cross, and not His life; it is His death, and
not His virtues, which He is here thinking about, and laying it upon
all of us as the encyclopaedia and sum of all morality that we should
be conformed to it. I have already pointed out to you in my
introductory remarks the force of the present context. And so I need
not further enlarge upon that, nor vindicate my declaration that
Christ's death is the pattern which is here set before us. Of course
we cannot imitate that in its effects, except in a very secondary and
figurative fashion. But the spirit that underlay it, as the supreme
Example of self-sacrifice, is commended to us all as the royal law for
our lives, and unless we are conformed thereto we have no right to
call ourselves Christ's disciples. To die for the sake of higher life,
to give up our own will utterly in obedience to God, and in the
unselfish desire to help and bless others, that is the _Alpha_ and the
_Omega_ of discipleship. It always has been so and always will be so.
And so, dear brethren, let us lay it to our own hearts, and make very
stringent inquiry into our own conduct, whether we have ever come
within sight of what makes a true disciple--viz., that we should be
'conformable unto His death.'

Now our modern theology has far too much obscured this plain teaching
of the New Testament, because it has been concerned--I do not say too
much, but too exclusively, concerned--in setting forth the other
aspect of Christ's death, by which it is what none of ours can ever
even begin to be, the sacrifice for a world's sin. But, mind, there
are two ways of looking at Christ's Cross. You must begin with
recognising it as the basis of all your hope, the power by which you
are delivered from sin as guilt, habit, and condemnation. And then you
must take it, if it is to be the sacrifice and atonement for your
sins, for the example of your lives, and mould yourselves after it.
'If any man serve Me, let him follow Me,' and here is the special
region in which the following is to be realised: 'He that loveth his
life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life shall keep it unto
life eternal.'

Now, further, let me remind you that this brief, crystallised
commandment, the essence of all practical godliness and Christianity,
makes the blessed peculiarity of Christian morality. People ask what
it is that distinguishes the teaching of the New Testament in regard
to duty, from the teaching of lofty moralists and sages of old. Not
the specific precepts, though these are, in many cases, deeper. Not
the individual commandments, though the perspective of human
excellences and virtues has been changed in Christianity, and the
gentler and sweeter graces have been enthroned in the place where the
world's morality has generally set the more ostentatious ones; the
hero is, roughly speaking, the world's type, the saint is the New
Testament's. But the true characteristic of Christian teaching as to
conduct lies in this, that the law is in a Person, and that the power
to obey the law comes from the love of the Person. All things are
different; unwelcome duties are made less repulsive, and hard tasks
are lightened, and sorrows are made tolerable, if only we are
following Him. You remember the old story in Scottish history of the
knight to whom was entrusted the king's heart; how, beset by the bands
of the infidels, he tossed the golden casket into the thickest of
their ranks and said, 'Go on, I follow thee'; and death itself was
light when that thought spurred his steed forward.

And so, brethren, it is far too hard a task to tread the road of duty
which our consciences command us, unless we are drawn by Him Who is
before us there on the road, and see the shining of His garments as He
sets His face forward, and draws us after Him. It is easy to climb a
glacier when the guide has cut with his ice-axe the steps in which he
sets his feet, and we may set ours. The sternness of duty, and the
rigidity of law, and the coldness of 'I ought,' are all changed when
duty consists in following Christ, and He is before us on the rocky
and narrow road.

This precept is all-sufficient. Of course it will be a task of wisdom,
of common sense, of daily culture in prudence and other graces; to
apply the generalised precept to the specific cases that emerge in our
lives. But whilst the application may require a great many subordinate
by-laws, the royal statute is one, and simple, and enough. 'Follow
Me.' Is it not a strange thing--it seems to me to be a perfectly
unique thing, inexplicable except upon one hypothesis--that a life so
brief, of which the records are so fragmentary, in which some of the
relationships in which we stand had no place, and which was lived out
in a world so utterly different from our own, should yet avail to be a
guide to men, not in regard to specific points, so much as in regard
to the imperial supremacy in it of these motives--Even Christ pleased
not Himself; 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.'

And so, brethren, take this sharp test and apply it honestly to your
own lives, day by day, in all their _minutiae_ as well as in their
great things. 'If any man _serve_ Me,' how miserably that Christian
'service' has been evacuated of its deepest meaning, and
superficialised and narrowed! 'Service'--that means people getting
into a building and singing and praying. Service--that means acts of
beneficence, teaching and preaching and giving material or spiritual
helps of various kinds. These things have almost monopolised the word.
But Christ enlarges its shrivelled contents once more, and teaches us
that, far above all specifically so-called acts of religious worship,
and more indispensable than so-called acts of Christian activity and
service, lies the self-sacrificing conformity of character to Him. 'If
any man serve Me,' let him sing and praise and pray? Yes; 'If any man
serve Me,' let him try to help other people, and in the service of man
do service to Me? Yes; but deeper than all, and fundamental to the
others, 'If any man serve Me, let him _follow_ Me'--Is that _my_
discipleship? Let each one of us professing Christians ask himself.

II. We have here the all-sufficient hope for the future.

I know few things more beautiful than the perfectly _naive_ way in
which the greatest of thoughts is here set forth by the simplest of
figures. If two men are walking on the same road to a place, the one
that is in front will get there first, and his friend that is coming
up after him will get there second, if he keeps on; and they will be
united at the end, because, one after the other, they travel the road.
And so says Christ: 'Of course, if you follow Me, you will join Me;
and where I am, there shall also My servant be.' The implications of a
Christian life, which is true following of Christ here, necessarily
led to the confidence that in that future there will be union with
Him. That is a deep thought, which might afford material for much to
be said, but on which I cannot dwell now.

I remarked at an early stage of this sermon how singular it was that
our Lord should present Himself as the Pattern for all human
excellence. Is it not even more singular that He should venture to
present His own companionship as the sufficient recompense for every
sorrow, for every effort, for all pain, for all pilgrimage? To be with
Him, He thinks, is enough for any man and enough for all men. Who did
He think Himself to be? What did _He_ suppose His relation to the rest
of us to be, who could thus calmly suggest to the world that the only
thing that a heart needed for blessedness was to be beside Him? And we
believe it, too little as it influences our lives. 'To be with Christ'
is 'very much better'; better than all beneath the stars; better than
all on this side eternity.

What does our Lord mean by this all-sufficient hope? We know very
little of that dim region beyond, but we know that until He comes
again His departed servants are absent from the body. And, in our
sense of the word, there can be no _place_ for spirits thus free from
corporeal environment. And so place, to-day at all events for the
departed saints, and in a subordinate degree all through eternity,
even when they are clothed with a glorified body, must be but a symbol
of state, of condition, of spiritual character. 'Where I am there
shall My servant be,' means specially '_What I_ am, _that_ shall My
servant be.' This perfect conformity to that dear Lord, whose
footsteps we have followed; assimilation there, which is the issue of
imitation here, though broken and imperfect, this is the hope that may
gladden and animate every Christian heart.

To be with Him is to be like Him, and therefore to be conscious of His
presence in some fashion so intimate, so certain, as that all our
earthly notions of presence, derived from the juxtaposition of
corporeal frames, are infinite distance as compared with it. That is
what my text dimly shadows for us. We know not how that union, which
is to be as close as is possible while the distinction of personality
is retained, may be accomplished. But this we know, that the
coalescence of two drops of mercury, the running together of two drops
of water, the blending of heart with heart here in love, are distance
in comparison with the complete union of Christ and of the happy soul
that rests in Him, as in an atmosphere and an ocean. Oh, brethren! it
is not a thing to talk about; it is a thing to take to our hearts, and
in silence to be thankful for; 'absent from the body; present with the
Lord.'

And is that not enough? The ground of it is enough. 'If we believe
that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus
will God bring with Him.' That future companionship is guaranteed to
the Christian man by the words of Incarnate Truth, and by the
resurrection of his Lord. The ground of it is enough, and the contents
are enough--enough for faith; enough for hope; enough for peace;
enough for work; and eminently enough for comfort.

Ah! there are many other questions that we would fain ask, but to
which there is no reply; but as the good old rough music of one of the
eighteenth-century worthies has it, we have sufficient.

  'My knowledge of that life is small,
  The eye of faith is dim;
  But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
  And I shall be with Him.'

'It is enough for the disciple that he be as' (that is, with) 'his
Master.' So let us take that thought to our hearts and animate
ourselves with it, for it is legitimate for us to do so. That one hope
is sufficient for us all.

Only let us remember that, according to the teaching of my text, the
companionship that blesses the future is the issue of following Him
now. I know of no magic in death that is able to change the direction
in which a man's face is turned. As he is travelling and has
travelled, so he will travel when he comes through the tunnel, and out
into the brighter light yonder. The line of a railway marked upon a
map may stop at the boundaries of the country with which the map is
concerned, but it is clearly going somewhere, and in the same
direction. You want the other sheet of the map in order to see whither
it is going. That is like your life. The map stops very abruptly, but
the line does not stop. Take an unfinished row of tenements. On the
last house there stick out bricks preparatory to the continuation of
the row. And so our lives are, as it were, studded over with
protuberances and preparations for the attachment thereto of a 'house
not made with hands,' and yet conformed in its architecture to the row
that we have built. The man that follows will attain. For life, the
all-sufficient law is, _after Christ_; for hope, the all-sufficient
assurance is, _with Christ_.



THE UNIVERSAL MAGNET

'I, if I be lifted up ... will draw all men unto Me.'--JOHN xii. 32.

'Never man spake like this Man,' said the wondering Temple officials
who were sent to apprehend Jesus. There are many aspects of our Lord's
teaching in which it strikes one as unique; but perhaps none is more
singular than the boundless boldness of His assertions of His
importance to the world. Just think of such sayings as these: 'I am
the Light of the world'; 'I am the Bread of Life'; 'I am the Door'; 'A
greater than Solomon is here'; 'In this place is One greater than the
Temple.' We do not usually attach much importance to men's estimate of
themselves; and gigantic claims such as these are generally met by
incredulity or scorn. But the strange thing about Christ's loftiest
assertions of His world-wide worth and personal sinlessness is that
they provoke no contradiction, and that the world takes Him at His own
valuation. So profound is the impression that He has made, that men
assent when He says, 'I am meek and lowly in heart,' and do not answer
as they would to anybody else, 'If you were, you would never have said
so.'

Now there is no more startling utterance of this extraordinary
self-consciousness of Jesus Christ than the words that I have used for
my text. They go deep down into the secret of His power. They open a
glimpse into His inmost thoughts about Himself which He very seldom
shows us. And they come to each of us with a very touching and strong
personal appeal as to what we are doing with, and how we individually
are responding to, that universal appeal on which He says that He is
exercising.

I. So I wish to dwell on these words now, and ask you first to notice
here our Lord's forecasting of the Cross.

A handful of Greeks had come up to Jerusalem to the Passover, and they
desired to see Jesus, perhaps only because they had heard about Him,
and to gratify some fleeting curiosity; perhaps for some deeper and
more sacred reason. But in that tiny incident our Lord sees the first
green blade coming up above the ground which was the prophet of an
abundant harvest; the first drop of a great abundance of rain. He
recognises that He is beginning to pass out from Israel into the
world. But the thought of His world-wide influence thus indicated and
prophesied immediately brings along with it the thought of what must
be gone through before that influence can be established. And he
discerns that, like the corn of wheat that falls into the ground, the
condition of fruitfulness for Him is death.

Now we are to remember that our Lord here is within a few hours of
Gethsemane, and a few days of the Cross, and that events had so
unfolded themselves that it needed no prophet to see that there could
only be one end to the duel which he had deliberately brought about
between Himself and the rulers of Israel. So that I build nothing upon
the anticipation of the Cross, which comes out at this stage in our
Lord's history, for any man in His position might have seen, as
clearly as He did, that His path was blocked, and that very near at
hand, by the grim instrument of death. But then remember that this
same expression of my text occurs at a very much earlier period of our
Lord's career, and that if we accept this Gospel of John, at the very
beginning of it He said, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up'; and that that
was no mere passing thought is obvious from the fact that midway in
His career, if we accept the testimony of the same Gospel, He used the
same expression to cavilling opponents when He said: 'When ye have
lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He.' And so at
the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of His career the same
idea is cast into the same words, a witness of the hold that it had
upon Him, and the continual presence of it to His consciousness.

I do not need to refer here to other illustrations and proofs of the
same thing, only I desire to say, as plainly and strongly as I can,
that modern ideas that Jesus Christ only recognised the necessity of
His death at a late stage of His work, and that like other reformers,
He began with buoyant hope, and thought that He had but to speak and
the world would hear, and, like other reformers, was disenchanted by
degrees, are, in my poor judgment, utterly baseless, and bluntly
contradicted by the Gospel narratives. And so, dear brethren, this is
the image that rises before us, and that ought to appeal to us all
very plainly; a Christ who, from the first moment of His consciousness
of Messiahship--and how early that consciousness was I am not here to
inquire--was conscious likewise of the death that was to close it. 'He
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,' and likewise for
_this_ end, 'to give His life a ransom for the many.' That gracious,
gentle life, full of all charities, and long-suffering, and sweet
goodness, and patience, was not the life of a Man whose heart was at
leisure from all anxiety about Himself, but the life of a Man before
whom there stood, ever grim and distinct away on the horizon, the
Cross and _Himself_ upon it. You all remember a well-known picture
that suggests the 'Shadow of Death,' the shadow of the Cross falling,
unseen by Him, but seen with open eyes of horror by His mother. But
the reality is a far more pathetic one than that; it is this, that He
came on purpose to die.

But now there is another point suggested by these remarkable words,
and that is that our Lord regarded the Cross of shame as exaltation or
'lifting up.' I do not believe that the use of this remarkable phrase
in our text finds its explanation in the few inches of elevation above
the surface of the ground to which the crucified victims were usually
raised. That is there, of course, but there is something far deeper
and more wonderful than that in the background, and it is this in
part, that that Cross, to Christ's eyes, bore a double aspect. So far
as the inflicters or the externals of it were concerned, it was
ignominy, shame, agony, the very lowest point of humiliation. But
there was another side to it. What in one aspect is the _nadir_, the
lowest point beneath men's feet, is in another aspect the _zenith_,
the very highest point in the bending heaven above us. So throughout
this Gospel, and very emphatically in the text, we find that we have
the complement of the Pauline view of the Cross, which is, that it was
shame and agony. For our Lord says, 'Now the hour is come when the Son
of Man shall be glorified.' Whether it is glory or shame depends on
what it was that bound Him there. The reason for His enduring it makes
it the very climax and flaming summit of His flaming love. And,
therefore, He is lifted up not merely because the Cross is elevated
above the ground on the little elevation of Calvary, but that Cross is
His throne, because there, in highest and sovereign fashion, are set
forth His glories, the glories of His love, and of the 'grace and
truth' of which He was 'full.'

So let us not forget this double aspect, and whilst we bow before Him
who 'endured the Cross, despising the shame,' let us also try to
understand and to feel what He means when, in the vision of it, He
said, 'the hour is come that the Son of Man shall be glorified.' It
was meant for mockery, but mockery veiled unsuspected truth when they
twined round His pale brows the crown of thorns, thereby setting forth
unconsciously the everlasting truth that sovereignty is won by
suffering; and placed in His unresisting hand the sceptre of reed,
thereby setting forth the deep truth of His kingdom, that dominion is
exercised in gentleness. Mightier than all rods of iron, or sharp
swords which conquerors wield, and more lustrous and splendid than
tiaras of gold glistening with diamonds, are the sceptre of reed in
the hands, and the crown of thorns on the head, of the exalted,
because crucified, Man of Sorrows.

But there is still another aspect of Christ's vision of His Cross, for
the 'lifting up' on it necessarily draws after it the lifting up to
the dominion of the heavens. And so the Apostle, using a word kindred
with that of my text, but intensifying it by addition, says, 'He
became obedient even unto the death of the Cross, wherefore God also
hath highly lifted Him up.'

So here we have Christ's own conception of His death, that it was
inevitable, that it was exaltation even in the act of dying, and that
it drew after it, of inevitable necessity, dominion exercised from the
heavens over all the earth. He was lifted up on Calvary, and because
He was lifted up He has carried our manhood into the place of glory,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So much for the
first point to which I would desire to turn your attention.

II. Now we have here our Lord disclosing the secret of His attractive
power.

'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.' That
'if' expresses no doubt, it only sets forth the condition. The Christ
lifted up on the Cross is the Christ that draws men. Now I would have
you notice the fact that our Lord thus unveils, as it were, where His
power to influence individuals and humanity chiefly resides. He speaks
about His death in altogether a different fashion from that of other
men, for He does not merely say, 'If I be lifted up from the earth,
this story of the Cross will draw men,' but He says, 'I will' do it;
and thus contemplates, as I shall have to say in a moment, continuous
personal influence all through the ages.

Now that is not how other people have to speak about their deaths, for
all other men who have influenced the world for good or for evil,
thinkers and benefactors, and reformers, social and religious, all of
them come under the one law that their death is no part of their
activity, but terminates their work, and that thereafter, with few
exceptions, and for brief periods, their influence is a diminishing
quantity. So one Apostle had to say, 'To abide in the flesh is more
needful for you,' and another had to say, 'I will endeavour that after
my decease ye may keep in mind the things that I have told you'; and
all thinkers and teachers and helpers glide away further and further,
and are wrapped about with thicker and thicker mists of oblivion, and
their influence becomes less and less.

The best that history can say about any of them is, 'This man, having
served his generation by the will of God, fell on sleep.' But that
other Man who was lifted on the Cross saw no corruption, and the death
which puts a period to all other men's work was planted right in the
centre of His, and was itself part of that work, and was followed by a
new form of it which is to endure for ever.

The Cross is the magnet of Christianity. Jesus Christ draws men, but
it is by His Cross mainly, and that He felt this profoundly is plain
enough, not only from such utterances as this of my text, but, to go
no further, from the fact that He has asked us to remember only one
thing about Him, and has established that ordinance of the Communion
or the Lord's Supper, which is to remind us always, and to bear
witness to the world, of where is the centre of His work, and the fact
which He most desires that men should keep in mind, not the
graciousness of His words, not their wisdom, not the good deeds that
He did, but 'This is My body broken for you ... this cup is the New
Testament in My blood.' A religion which has for its chief rite the
symbol of a death, must enshrine that death in the very heart of the
forces to which it trusts to renew the world, and to bless individual
souls.

If, then, that is true, if Jesus Christ was not all wrong when He
spoke as He did in my text, then the question arises, what is it about
His death that makes it the magnet that will draw all men? Men are
drawn by cords of love. They may be driven by other means, but they
are drawn only by love. And what is it that makes Christ's death the
highest and noblest and most wonderful and transcendent manifestation
of love that the world has ever seen, or ever can see? No doubt you
will think me very narrow and old-fashioned when I answer the
question, with the profoundest conviction of my own mind, and, I hope,
the trust of my own heart. The one thing that entitles men to
interpret Christ's death as the supreme manifestation of love is that
it was a death voluntarily undertaken for a world's sins.

If you do not believe that, will you tell me what claim on your heart
Christ has because He died? Has Socrates any claim on your heart? And
are there not hundreds and thousands of martyrs who have just as much
right to be regarded with reverence and affection as this Galilean
carpenter's Son has, unless, when He died, He died as the Sacrifice
for the sins of the whole world, and for yours and mine? I know all
the pathetic beauty of the story. I know how many men's hearts are
moved in some degree by the life and death of our Lord, who yet would
hesitate to adopt the full-toned utterance which I have now been
giving. But I would beseech you, dear friends, to lay this question
seriously to heart, whether there is any legitimate reason for the
reverence, the love, the worship, which the world is giving to this
Galilean young man, if you strike out the thought that it was because
He loved the world that He chose to die to loose it from the bands of
its sin. It may be, it is, a most pathetic and lovely story, but it
has not power to draw all men, unless it deals with that which all men
need, and unless it is the self-surrender of the Son of God for the
whole world.

III. And now, lastly, we have here our Lord anticipating continuous
and universal influence.

I have already drawn attention to the peculiar fullness of the form of
expression in my text, which, fairly interpreted, does certainly imply
that our Lord at that supreme moment looked forward, as I have already
said, to His death, not as putting a period to His work, but as being
the transition from one form of influence operating upon a very narrow
circle, to another form of influence which would one day flood the
world. I do not need to dwell upon that thought, beyond seeking to
emphasise this truth, that one ought to feel that Jesus Christ has a
living connection now with each of us. It is not merely that the story
of the Cross is left to work its results, but, as I for my part
believe, that the dear Lord, who, before He became Man, was the Light
of the World, and enlightened every man that came into it, after His
death is yet more the Light of the World, and is exercising influence
all over the earth, not only by conscience and the light that is
within us, nor only through the effects of the record of His past, but
by the continuous operations of His Spirit. I do not dwell upon that
thought further than to say that I beseech you to think of Jesus
Christ, not as One who died for our sins only, but as one who lives
to-day, and to-day, in no rhetorical exaggeration but in simple and
profound truth, is ready to help and to bless and to be with every one
of us. 'It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who
is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for
us.'

But, beyond that, mark His confidence of universal influence: 'I
_will_ draw all men.' I need not dwell upon the distinct adaptation of
Christian truth, and of that sacrifice on the Cross, to the needs of
all men. It is the universal remedy, for it goes direct to the
universal epidemic. The thing that men and women want most, the thing
that _you_ want most, is that your relation with God shall be set
right, and that you shall be delivered from the guilt of past sin,
from the exposure to its power in the present and in the future.
Whatever diversities of climate, civilisation, culture, character the
world holds, every man is like every other man in this, that he has
'sinned and come short of the glory of God.' And it is because
Christ's Cross goes direct to deal with that condition of things that
the preaching of it is a gospel, not for this phase of society or that
type of men or the other stage of culture, but that it is meant for,
and is able to deliver and to bless, every man.

So, brethren, a universal attraction is raying out from Christ's
Cross, and from Himself to each of us. But that universal attraction
can be resisted. If a man plants his feet firmly and wide apart, and
holds on with both hands to some staple or holdfast, then the drawing
cannot draw. There is the attraction, but he is not attracted. You
demagnetise Christianity, as all history shows, if you strike out the
death on the Cross for a world's sin. What is left is not a magnet,
but a bit of scrap iron. And you can take yourself away from the
influence of the attraction if you will, some of us by active
resistance, some of us by mere negligence, as a cord cast over some
slippery body with the purpose of drawing it, may slip off, and the
thing lie there unmoved.

And so I come to you now, dear friends, with the plain question, What
are you doing in response to Christ's drawing of you? He has died for
you on the Cross; does that not draw? He lives to bless you; does that
not draw? He loves you with love changeless as a God, with love warm
and emotional as a man; does that not draw? He speaks to you, I
venture to say, through my poor words, and says, 'Come unto Me, and I
will give you rest'; does that not draw? We are all in the bog. He
stands on firm ground, and puts out a hand. If you like to clutch it,
by the pledge of the nail-prints on the palm, He will lift you from
'the horrible pit and the miry clay, and set your feet upon a rock.'
God grant that all of us may say, 'Draw us, and we will run after
Thee'!



THE SON OF MAN

'... Who is this Son of Man?'--JOHN xii. 34.

I have thought that a useful sermon may be devoted to the
consideration of the remarkable name which our Lord gives to
Himself--'the Son of Man.' And I have selected this instance of its
occurrence, rather than any other, because it brings out a point which
is too frequently overlooked, viz. that the name was an entirely
strange and enigmatical one to the people who heard it. This question
of utter bewilderment distinctly shows us that, and negatives, as it
seems to me, the supposition which is often made, that the name 'Son
of Man,' upon the lips of Jesus Christ, was equivalent to Messiah.
Obviously there is no such significance attached to it by those who
put this question. As obviously, for another reason, the two names do
not cover the same ground; for our Lord sedulously avoided calling
Himself the Christ, and habitually called Himself the Son of Man.

Now one thing to observe about this name is that it is never found
upon the lips of any but Jesus Christ. No man ever called him the Son
of Man whilst He was upon earth, and only once do we find it applied
to Him in the rest of Scripture, and that is on the occasion on which
the first martyr, Stephen, dying at the foot of the old wall, saw 'the
heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'
Two other apparent instances of the use of the expression occur, both
of them in the Book of Revelation, both of them quotations from the
Old Testament, and in both the more probable reading gives 'a Son of
Man,' not '_the_ Son of Man.'

One more preliminary remark and I will pass to the title itself. The
name has been often supposed to be taken from the remarkable prophecy
in the Book of Daniel, of one 'like a son of man,' who receives from
the Ancient of Days an everlasting kingdom which triumphs over those
kingdoms of brute force which the prophet had seen. No doubt there is
a connection between the prophecy and our Lord's use of the name, but
it is to be observed that what the prophet speaks of is not 'the Son,'
but 'one _like_ a son of man'; or in other words, that what the
prophecy dwells upon is simply the manhood of the future King in
contradistinction to the bestial forms of Lion and Leopard and Bear,
whose kingdoms go down before him. Of course Christ fulfils that
prediction, and is the 'One like a son of man,' but we cannot say that
the title is derived from the prophecy, in which, strictly speaking,
it does not occur.

What, then, is the force of this name, as applied to Himself by our
Lord?

First, we have in it Christ putting out His hand, if I may say so, to
draw us to Himself--identifying Himself with us. Then we have, just as
distinctly, Christ, by the use of this name, in a very real sense
distinguishing Himself from us, and claiming to hold a unique and
solitary relation to mankind. And then we have Christ, by the use of
this name in its connection with the ancient prophecy, pointing us
onward to a wonderful future.

I. First then, Christ thereby identifies Himself with us.

The name Son of Man, whatever more it means, declares the historical
fact of His Incarnation, and the reality and genuineness, the
completeness and fullness, of His assumption of humanity. And so it is
significant to notice that the name is employed continually in the
places in the Gospels where especial emphasis is to be placed, for
some reason or other, upon our Lord's manhood, as, for instance, when
He would bring into view the depth of His humiliation. It is this name
that He uses when He says: 'Foxes have holes and the birds of the air
have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.' The
use of the term there is very significant and profound; He contrasts
His homelessness, not with the homes of men that dwell in palaces, but
with the homes of the inferior creatures. As if He would say, 'Not
merely am I individually homeless and shelterless, but I am so because
I am truly a man, the only creature that builds houses, and the only
creature that has not a home. Foxes have holes, anywhere they can
rest, the birds of the air have,' not as our Bible gives it, 'nests,'
but 'roosting-places, any bough will do for them. All living creatures
are at home in this material universe; I, as a Representative of
humanity, wander a pilgrim and a sojourner.' We are all restless and
homeless; the creatures correspond to their environment. We have
desires and longings, wild yearnings, and deep-seated needs, that
'wander through eternity'; the Son of Man, the representative of
manhood, 'hath not where to lay His head.'

Then the same expression is employed on occasions when our Lord
desires to emphasise the completeness of His participation in all our
conditions. As, for instance, 'the Son of Man came eating and
drinking,' knowing the ordinary limitations and necessities of
corporeal humanity; having the ordinary dependence upon external
things; nor unwilling to taste, with pure and thankful lip, whatever
gladness may be found in man's path through the supply of natural
appetites.

And the name is employed habitually on occasions when He desires to
emphasise His manhood as having truly taken upon itself the whole
weight and weariness of man's sin, and the whole burden of man's
guilt, and the whole tragicalness of the penalties thereof, as in the
familiar passages, so numerous that I need only refer to them and need
not attempt to quote them, in which we read of the Son of Man being
'betrayed into the hands of sinners'; or in those words, for instance,
which so marvellously blend the lowliness of the Man and the lofty
consciousness of the mysterious relation which He bears to the whole
world; 'The Son of Man came, not to be ministered unto, but to
minister, and to give His life a ransom for the many.'

Now if we gather all these instances together (and they are only
specimens culled almost at random), and meditate for a moment on the
Name as illuminated by such words as these, they suggest to us, first,
how truly and how blessedly He is 'bone of our bone, and flesh of our
flesh.' All our human joys were His. He knew all human sorrow. The
ordinary wants of human nature belonged to Him; He hungered, He
thirsted, and was weary; He ate and drank and slept. The ordinary
wants of the human heart He knew; He was hurt by hatred, stung by
ingratitude, yearned for love; His spirit expanded amongst friends,
and was pained when they fell away. He fought and toiled, and sorrowed
and enjoyed. He had to pray, to trust, and to weep. He was a Son of
Man, a true man among men. His life was brief; we have but fragmentary
records of it for three short years. In outward form it covers but a
narrow area of human experience, and large tracts of human life seem
to be unrepresented in it. Yet all ages and classes of men, in all
circumstances, however unlike those of the peasant Rabbi who died when
he was just entering mature manhood, may feel that this man comes
closer to them than all beside. Whether for stimulus for duty, or for
grace and patience in sorrow, or for restraint in enjoyment, or for
the hallowing of all circumstances and all tasks, the presence and
example of the Son of Man are sufficient. Wherever we go, we may track
His footsteps by the drops of His blood upon the sharp flints that we
have to tread. In all narrow passes, where the briars tear the wool of
the flock, we may see, left there on the thorns, what they rent from
the pure fleece of the Lamb of God that went before. The Son of Man is
our Brother and our Example.

And is it not beautiful, and does it not speak to us touchingly and
sweetly of our Lord's earnest desire to get very near us and to bring
us very near to Him, that this name, which emphasises humiliation and
weakness and the likeness to ourselves, should be the name that is
always upon His lips? Just as, if I may compare great things with
small, some teacher or philanthropist, that went away from civilised
into savage life, might leave behind him the name by which he was
known in Europe, and adopt some barbarous designation that was
significant in the language of the savage tribe to whom he was sent,
and say to them: 'That is my name now, call me by that,' so this great
Leader of our souls, who has landed upon our coasts with His hands
full of blessings, His heart full of love, has taken a name that makes
Him one of ourselves, and is never wearied of speaking to our hearts,
and telling us that it is that by which He chooses to be known. It is
a touch of the same infinite condescension which prompted His coming,
that makes Him choose as His favourite and habitual designation the
name of weakness and identification, the name 'Son of Man.'

II. But now turn to what is equally distinct and clear in this title.
Here we have our Lord distinguishing Himself from us, and plainly
claiming a unique relationship to the whole world.

Just fancy how absurd it would be for one of us to be perpetually
insisting on the fact that he was a man, to be taking that as his
continual description of himself, and pressing it upon people's
attention as if there was something strange about it. The idea is
preposterous; and the very frequency and emphasis with which the name
comes from our Lord's lips, lead one to suspect that there is
something lying behind it more than appears on the surface. That
impression is confirmed and made a conviction, if you mark the article
which is prefixed, _the_ Son of Man. A Son of man is a very different
idea. When He says '_the_ Son of Man' He seems to declare that in
Himself there are gathered up all the qualities that constitute
humanity; that He is, to use modern language, the realised Ideal of
manhood, the typical Man, in whom is everything that belongs to
manhood, and who stands forth as complete and perfect. Appropriately,
then, the name is continually used with suggestions of authority and
dignity contrasting with those of humiliation. 'The Son of Man is Lord
of the Sabbath,' 'The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins'
and the like. So that you cannot get away from this, that this Man
whom the whole world has conspired to profess to admire for His
gentleness, and His meekness, and His lowliness, and His religious
sanity, stood forward and said: 'I am complete and perfect, and
everything that belongs to manhood you will find in Me.'

And it is very significant in this connection that the designation
occurs more frequently in the first three Gospels than in the fourth;
which is alleged to present higher notions of the nature and
personality of Jesus Christ than are found in the other three. There
are more instances in Matthew's Gospel in which our Lord calls Himself
the Son of Man, with all the implication of uniqueness and
completeness which that name carries; there are more even in the
Gospel of the Servant, the Gospel according to Mark, than in the
Gospel of the Word of God, the Gospel according to John. And so I
think we are entitled to say that by this name, which the testimony of
all our four Gospels makes it certain, even to the most suspicious
reader, that Christ applied to Himself, He declared His humanity, His
absolutely perfect and complete humanity.

In substance He is claiming the same thing for Himself that Paul
claimed for Him when he called Him 'the second Adam.' There have been
two men in the world, says Paul, the fallen Adam, with his infantile
and undeveloped perfections, and the Christ, with His full and
complete humanity. All other men are fragments, He is the 'entire and
perfect chrysolite.' As one of our epigrammatic seventeenth-century
divines has it, 'Aristotle is but the rubbish of an Adam,' and Adam is
but the dim outline sketch of a Jesus. Between these two there has
been none. The one Man as God meant him, the type of man, the perfect
humanity, the realised ideal, the home of all the powers of manhood,
is He who Himself claimed that place for Himself, and stepped into it
with the strange words upon His lips, 'I am meek and lowly of heart.'

'Who is this Son of Man?' Ah, brethren! 'who can bring a clean thing
out of an unclean? Not one.' A perfect Son of Man, born of a woman,
'bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,' must be more than a Son of
Man. And that moral completeness and that ideal perfection in all the
faculties and parts of His nature which drove the betrayer to clash
down the thirty pieces of silver in the sanctuary in despair that 'he
had betrayed innocent blood'; which made Pilate wash his hands 'of the
blood of this just person'; which stopped the mouths of the
adversaries when He challenged them to convince Him of sin, and which
all the world ever since has recognised and honoured, ought surely to
lead us to ask the question, 'Who is this Son of Man?' and to answer
it, as I pray we all may answer it, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the living God!'

This fact of His absolute completeness invests His work with an
altogether unique relationship to the rest of mankind. And so we find
the name employed upon His own lips in connections in which He desires
to set Himself forth as the single and solitary medium of all blessing
and salvation to the world--as, for instance, 'The Son of Man came to
give His life a ransom for the many'; 'Ye shall see the heavens
opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of
Man.' He is what the ladder was in the vision to the patriarch, with
his head upon the stone and the Syrian sky over him--the Medium of all
communication between earth and heaven. And that ladder which joins
heaven to earth, and brings all angels down on the solitary watchers,
comes straight down, as the sunbeams do, to every man wherever he is.
Each of us sees the shortest line from his own standing-place to the
central light, and its beams come straight to the apple of each man's
eye. So because Christ is more than a man, because He is _the_ Man,
His blessings come to each of us direct and straight, as if they had
been launched from the throne with a purpose and a message to us
alone. Thus He who is in Himself perfect manhood touches all men, and
all men touch Him, and the Son of Man, whom God hath sealed, will give
to every one of us the bread from heaven. The unique relationship
which brings Him into connection with every soul of man upon earth,
and makes Him the Saviour, Helper, and Friend of us all, is expressed
when He calls Himself the Son of Man.

III. And now one last word in regard to the predictive character of
this designation.

Even if we cannot regard it as being actually a quotation of the
prophecy in the Book of Daniel, there is an evident allusion to that
prophecy, and to the whole circle of ideas presented by it, of an
everlasting dominion, which shall destroy all antagonistic power, and
of a solemn coming for judgment of One like a Son of Man.

We find, then, the name occurring on our Lord's lips very frequently
in that class of passages with which we are so familiar, and which are
so numerous that I need not quote them to you; in which He speaks of
the second coming of the Son of Man; as, for instance, that one which
connects itself most distinctly with the Book of Daniel, the words of
high solemn import before the tribunal of the High Priest. 'Hereafter
shall ye see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and
coming in the glories of heaven'; or as when He says, 'He hath given
Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of Man';
or as when the proto-martyr, with his last words, declared in sudden
burst of surprise and thrill of gladness, 'I see the heavens opened,
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'

Two thoughts are all that I can touch on here. The name carries with
it a blessed message of the present activity and perpetual manhood of
the risen Lord. Stephen does not see Him as all the rest of Scripture
paints Him, _sitting_ at the right hand of God, but _standing_ there.
The emblem of His sitting at the right hand of God represents
triumphant calmness in the undisturbed confidence of victory. It
declares the completeness of the work that He has done upon earth, and
that all the history of the future is but the unfolding of the
consequences of that work which by His own testimony waa finished when
He bowed His head and died. But the dying martyr sees him _standing_,
as if He had sprung to His feet in response to the cry of faith from
the first of the long train of sufferers. It is as if the Emperor upon
His seat, looking down upon the arena where the gladiators are
contending to the death, could not sit quiet amongst the flashing axes
of the lictors and the purple curtains of His throne, and see their
death-struggles, but must spring to His feet to help them, or at least
bend down with the look and with the reality of sympathy. So Christ,
the Son of Man, bearing His manhood with Him,

  'Still bends on earth a Brother's eye,'

and is the ever-present Helper of all struggling souls that put their
trust in Him.

Then as to the other and main thought here in view--the second coming
of that perfect Manhood to be our Judge. It is too solemn a subject
for human lips to say much about. It has been vulgarised, and the
power taken out of it by many well-meant attempts to impress it upon
men's hearts. But that coming is _certain_. That manhood could not end
its relationship to us with the Cross, nor yet with the slow, solemn,
upward progress which bore Him, pouring down blessings, up into the
same bright cloud that had dwelt between the cherubim and had received
Him into its mysterious recesses at the Transfiguration. That He
should come again is the only possible completion of His work.

That Judge is our Brother. So in the deepest sense we are tried by our
Peer. Man's knowledge at its highest cannot tell the moral desert of
anything that any man does. You may judge action, you may sentence for
breaches of law, you may declare a man clear of any blame for such,
but for any one to read the secrets of another heart is beyond human
power; and if He that is the Judge were only a man there would be wild
work, and many a blunder in the sentences that were given. But when we
think that it is the Son of Man that is our Judge, then we know that
the Omniscience of divinity, that ponders the hearts and reads the
motives, will be all blended with the tenderness and sympathy of
humanity; that we shall be judged by One who knows all our frame, not
only with the knowledge of a Maker, if I may so say, as from outside,
but with the knowledge of a possessor, as from within; that we shall
be judged by One who has fought and conquered in all temptations; and
most blessed of all, that we shall be judged by One with whom we have
only to plead His own work and His own love and His Cross that we may
stand acquitted before His throne.

So, brethren, in that one mighty Name all the past, present, and
future are gathered and blended together. In the past His Cross fills
the retrospect: for the future there rises up, white and solemn, His
judgment throne. 'The Son of Man _is_ come to give His life a ransom
for the many'; that is the centre point of all history. The Son of Man
_shall_ come to judge the world; that is the one thought that fills
the future. Let us lay hold by true faith on the mighty work which He
has done on the Cross, then we shall rejoice to see our Brother on the
throne, when the 'judgment is set and the books are opened.' Oh,
friends, cleave to Him ever in trust and love, in communion and
imitation, in obedience and confession, that ye may be accounted
worthy 'to stand before the Son of Man' in that day!



A PARTING WARNING

'Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while is the light among
you. Walk while ye have the light, that darkness overtake you not: and
he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye
have the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons of
light.'--JOHN xii. 35,36 (R.V.).

These are the last words of our Lord's public ministry. He afterwards
spoke only to His followers in the sweet seclusion of the sympathetic
home at Bethany, and amid the sanctities of the upper chamber. 'Yet a
little while am I with you';--the sun had all but set. Two days more,
and the Cross was reared on Calvary, but there was yet time to turn to
the light. And so His divine charity 'hoped all things,' and continued
to plead with those who had so long rejected Him. As befits a last
appeal, the words unveil the heart of Christ. They are solemn with
warning, radiant with promise, almost beseeching in their earnestness.
He loves too well not to warn, but He will not leave the bitterness of
threatening as a last savour on the palate, and so the lips, into
which grace is poured, bade farewell to His enemies with the promise
and the hope that even they may become 'the sons of light.'

The solemnity of the occasion, then, gives great force to the words;
and the remembrance of it sets us on the right track for estimating
their significance. Let us see what lessons for us there may be in
Christ's last words to the world.

I. There is, first, a self-revelation.

It is no mere grammatical pedantry that draws attention to the fact
that four times in this text does our Lord employ the definite
article, and speak of 'the light.' And that that is no mere accident
is obvious from the fact that, in the last clause of our text, where
the general idea of light is all that is meant to be emphatic, the
article is omitted. 'Yet a little while is _the_ light with you; walk
while ye have _the_ light.... While ye have _the_ light, believe in
_the_ light, that ye may be the children of light.'

So then, most distinctly here, in His final appeal to the world, He
draws back the curtain, as it were, takes away the shade that had
covered the lamp, and lets one full beam stream out for the last
impression that He leaves. Is it not profoundly significant and
impressive that then, of all times, over and over again, in the
compass of these short verses, this Galilean peasant makes the
tremendous assertion that He is what none other can be, in a solitary
and transcendent sense, _the_ Light of Mankind? Undismayed by
universal rejection, unfaltering in spite of the curling lips of
incredulity and scorn, unbroken by the near approach of certain
martyrdom, He presents Himself before the world as its Light. Nothing
in the history of mad, fanatical claims to inspiration and divine
authority is to be compared with these assertions of our Lord. He is
the fontal Source, He says, of all illumination; He stands before the
whole race, and claims to be 'the Master-Light of all our seeing.'
Whatsoever ideas of clearness of knowledge, of rapture of joy, of
whiteness of purity, are symbolised by that great emblem, He declares
that He manifests them all to men. Others may shine; but they are, as
He said, 'lights kindled,' and therefore 'burning.' Others may shine,
but they have caught their radiance from Him. All teachers, all
helpers, all thinkers draw their inspiration, if they have any, from
Him, in whom was life, and the Life was the Light of men.

There has been blazing in the heavens of late a new star, that burst
upon astonished astronomers in a void spot; but its brilliancy, though
far transcending that of our sun, soon began to wane, and before long,
apparently, there will be blackness again where there was blackness
before. So all lights but His are temporary as well as derived, and
men 'willing for a season to rejoice' in the fleeting splendours, and
to listen to the teacher of a day, lose the illumination of his
presence and guidance of his thoughts as the ages roll on. But _the_
Light is 'not for an age, but for all time.'

Now, brethren, this is Christ's estimate of Himself. I dwell not on it
for the purpose of seeking to exhaust its depth of significance. In it
there lies the assertion that He, and He only, is the source of all
valid knowledge of the deepest sort concerning God and men, and their
mutual relations. In it lie the assertion that He, and He only, is the
source of all true gladness that may blend with our else darkened
lives, and the further assertion that from Him, and from Him alone,
can flow to us the purity that shall make us pure. We have to turn to
that Man close by His Cross, on whom while He spoke the penumbra of
the eclipse of death was beginning to show itself, and to say to Him
what the Psalmist said of old to the Jehovah whom he knew, and whom we
recognise as indwelling in Jesus: 'With Thee is the fountain of life.
Thou makest us to drink of the river of Thy pleasures. In Thy light
shall we see light.'

So Christ thought of Himself; so Christ would have as to think of Him.
And it becomes a question for us how, if we refuse to accept that
claim of a solitary, underived, eternal, and universal power of
illuminating mankind, we can save His character for the veneration of
the world. We cannot go picking and choosing amongst the Master's
words, and say 'This is historical, and that mythical.' We cannot
select some of them, and leave others on one side. You must take the
whole Christ if you take any Christ. And the whole Christ is He who,
within sight of Calvary, and in the face of all but universal
rejection, lifted up His voice, and, as His valediction to the world,
declared, 'I am the Light of the world.' So He says to us. Oh that we
all might cast ourselves before Him, with the cry, 'Lighten our
darkness, O Lord, we beseech Thee!'

II. Secondly, we have here a double exhortation.

'Walk in the light; believe in the light.' These two sum up all our
duties; or rather, unveil for us the whole fullness of the possible
privileges and blessings of which our relation to that light is
capable. It is obvious that the latter of them is the deeper in idea,
and the prior in order of sequence. There must be the 'belief' in the
light before there is the 'walk' in the light. Walking includes the
ideas of external activity and of progress. And so, putting these two
exhortations together, we get the whole of Christianity considered as
subjective. 'Believe in the light; trust in the light,' and then
'walk' in it. A word, then, about each of these branches of this
double exhortation.

'Trust in the light.' The figure seems to be dropped at first sight;
for it wants little faith to believe in the sunshine at midday; and
when the light is pouring out, how can a man but see it? But the
apparent incongruity of the metaphor points to something very deep in
regard to the spiritual side. We cannot but believe in the light that
meets the eye when it meets it, but it is possible for a man to blind
himself to the shining of this light. Therefore the exhortation is
needed--'Believe in the light,' for only by believing it can you see
it. Just as the eye is the organ of sight, just as its nerves are
sensitive to the mysterious finger of the beam, just as on its
mirroring surface impinges the gentle but mighty force that has winged
its way across all the space between us and the sun, and yet falls
without hurting, so faith, the 'inward eye which makes the bliss' of
the solitary soul, is the one organ by which you and I can see the
light. 'Seeing is believing,' says the old proverb. That is true in
regard to the physical. Believing is seeing, is much rather the way to
put it in regard to the spiritual and divine.

Only as we trust the light do we see the light. Unless you and I put
our confidence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, we have
no adequate knowledge of Him and no clear vision of Him. We must know
that we may love; but we must love that we may know. We must believe
that we may see. True, we must see that we may believe, but the
preliminary vision which precedes belief is slight and dim as compared
with the solidity and the depth of assurance with which we apprehend
the reality and know the lustre of Him whom our faith has grasped. You
will never know the glory of the light, nor the sweetness with which
it falls upon the gazing eye, until you turn your face to that Master,
and so receive on your susceptible and waiting heart the warmth and
the radiance which He only can bestow. 'Believe in the light.' Trust
it; or rather, trust Him who is it. He cannot deceive. This light from
heaven can never lead astray. Absolutely we may rely upon it;
unconditionally we must follow it. Lean upon Him--to take another
metaphor--with all your weight. His arm is strong to bear the burden
of our weaknesses, sorrows, and, above all, our sins. 'While ye have
light, trust the light.'

But then that is not enough. Man, with his double relations, must have
an active and external as well as an inward and contemplative life.
And so our Lord, side by side with the exhortation on which I have
been touching, puts the other one, 'Walk in the light.' Our inward
emotions, however deep and precious, however real the affiance,
however whole-hearted the love, are maimed and stunted, and not what
the light requires, unless there follows upon them the activity of the
walk. What do we get the daylight for? To sit and gaze at it? By no
means; but that it may guide us upon our path and help us in all our
work. And so all Christian people need ever to remember that Jesus
Christ has indissolubly bound together these two phases of our
relation to Him as the light of life-inward and blessed contemplation
by faith and outward practical activity. To walk is, of course, the
familiar metaphor for the external life of man, and all our deeds are
to be in conformity with the Light, and in communion with Him. This is
the deepest designation, perhaps, of the true character of a Christian
life in its external aspect--that it walks in Christ, doing nothing
but as His light shines, and ever bearing along with it conscious
fellowship with Him who is thus the guiding and irradiating and
gladdening and sanctifying life of our lives, '_Walk_ in the light as
He _is_ in the light.' Our days fleet and change; His are stable and
the same. For, although these words which I have quoted, in their
original application refer to God the Father, they are no less true
about Him who rests at the right hand of God, and is one light with
Him. He _is_ in the light. We may approximate to that stable and calm
radiance, even though our lives are passed through changing scenes,
and effort and struggle are their characteristics. And oh! how
blessed, brother, such a life will be, all gladdened by the unsetting
and unclouded sunshine that even in the shadiest places shines, and
turns the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death into solemn
light; teaching gloom to glow with a hidden sun!

But there is not only the idea of activity here, there is the further
notion of progress. Unless Christian people to their faith add work,
and have both their faith and their consequent work in a continual
condition of progress and growth, there is little reason to believe
that they apprehend the light at all. If you trust the light you will
walk in it; and if your days are not in conformity nor in communion
with Him, and are not advancing nearer and nearer to the central
blaze, then it becomes you to ask yourselves whether you have verily
seen at all, or trusted at all, 'the Light of life.'

III. Thirdly, there is here a warning.

'Walk whilst ye have the light, lest the darkness come upon you.' That
is the summing up of the whole history of that stiff-necked and
marvellous people. For what has all the history of Israel been since
that day but groping in the wilderness without any pillar of fire? But
there is more than that in it. Christ gives us this one solemn warning
of what falls on us if we turn away from Him. Rejected light is the
parent of the densest darkness, and the man who, having the light,
does not trust it, piles around himself thick clouds of obscurity and
gloom, far more doleful and impenetrable than the twilight that
glimmers round the men who have never known the daylight of
revelation. The history of un-Christian and anti-Christian Christendom
is a terrible commentary upon these words of the Master, and the cries
that we hear all round us to-day from men who will not follow the
light of Christ, and moan or boast that they dwell in agnostic
darkness, tell us that, of all the eclipses that can fall upon heart
and mind, there is none so dismal or thunderously dark as that of the
men who, having seen the light of Christ in the sky, have turned from
it and said, 'It is no light, it is only a mock sun.' Brethren, tempt
not that fate.

And if Christian men and women do not advance in their knowledge and
their conformity, like clouds of darkness will fall upon them. None is
so hopeless as the unprogressive Christian, none so far away as those
who have been brought nigh and have never come any nigher. If you
believe the light, see that you growingly trust and walk in it, else
darkness will come upon you, and you will not know whither you go.

IV. And lastly, there is here a hope and a promise.

'That ye may be the sons of light.'

Faith and obedience turn a man into the likeness of that in which he
trusts. If we trust Jesus we open our hearts to Him; and if we open
our hearts to Him He will come in. If you are in a darkened room, what
have you to do in order to have it filled with glad sunshine? Open the
shutters and pull up the blinds, and the light will do all the rest.
If you trust the light, it will rush in and fill every crevice and
cranny of your hearts. Faith and obedience will mould us, by their
natural effect, into the resemblance of that on which we lean. As one
of the old German mystics said, 'What thou lovest, that thou dost
become.' And it is blessedly true. The same principle makes Christians
like Christ, and makes idolaters like their gods. 'They that make them
are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them,' says one
of the Psalms. 'They followed after vanity and are become vain,' says
the chronicler of Israel's defections. 'We with unveiled faces
beholding'--or mirroring--'the glory of the Lord, are changed into the
same image.' Trust the light and you become 'sons of the light.'

And so, dear friends, all of us may hope that by degrees, as the
reward of faith and of walking, we still may bear the image of the
heavenly, even here on earth. While as yet we only believe in the
light, we may participate in its transforming power, like some far-off
planet on the utmost bounds of some solar system, that receives faint
and small supplies of light and warmth, through a thick atmosphere of
vapour, and across immeasurable spaces. But we have the assurance that
we shall be carried nearer our centre, and then, like the planets that
are closer to the sun than our earth is, we shall feel the fuller
power of the heat, and be saturated with the glory of the light. 'We
shall see Him as He is'; and then we too 'shall blaze forth like the
sun in the kingdom of our Father.'



THE LOVE OF THE DEPARTING CHRIST

'... When Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out
of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the
world, He loved them unto the end.'--JOHN xiii. 1.

The latter half of St. John's Gospel, which begins with these words,
is the Holy of Holies of the New Testament. Nowhere else do the
blended lights of our Lord's superhuman dignity and human tenderness
shine with such lambent brightness. Nowhere else is His speech at once
so simple and so deep. Nowhere else have we the heart of God so
unveiled to us. On no other page, even of the Bible, have so many
eyes, glistening with tears, looked and had the tears dried. The
immortal words which Christ spoke in that upper chamber are His
highest self-revelation in speech, even as the Cross to which they led
up is His most perfect self-revelation in act.

To this most sacred part of the New Testament my text is the
introduction. It unveils to us gleams of Christ's heart, and does what
the Evangelists very seldom venture to do, viz. gives us some sort of
analysis of the influences which then determined the flow and the
shape of our Lord's love.

Many good commentators prefer to read the last words of my text, 'He
loved them unto the _uttermost_' rather than 'unto the _end_'--so
taking them to express the depth and degree rather than the permanence
and perpetuity of our Lord's love. And that seems to me to be by far
the worthier and the nobler meaning, as well as the one which is borne
out by the usual signification of the expression in other Greek
authors. It is much to know that the emotions of these last moments
did not interrupt Christ's love. It is even more to know that in some
sense they perfected it, giving even a greater vitality to its
tenderness, and a more precious sweetness to its manifestations. So
understood, the words explain for us why it was that in the sanctity
of the upper chamber there ensued the marvellous act of the
foot-washing, the marvellous discourses which follow, and the climax
of all, that High-priestly prayer. They give utterance to a love which
Christ's consciousness at that solemn hour tended to shapen and to
deepen.

So, under the Evangelist's guidance, we may venture to gaze at least a
little way into these depths, and with all reverence to try and see
something at all events of the fringe and surface of the love 'which
passeth knowledge.' 'Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He
should depart out of the world unto the Father, having loved His own
which were in the world, loved them then unto the uttermost.'

My object will be best accomplished by simply following the guidance
of the words before us, and asking you to look first at that love as a
love which was not interrupted, but perfected by the prospect of
separation.

I. It would take us much too far away, however interesting the
contemplation might be, to dwell with any particularity upon our
Lord's consciousness as it is here set forth in that 'He knew that His
hour was come, that He should depart out of the world unto the
Father.' But I can scarcely avoid noticing, though only in a few
sentences, the salient points of that Christ-consciousness as it is
set forth here.

'He knew that His hour was come.' All His life was passed under the
consciousness of a divine necessity laid upon Him, to which He
lovingly and cheerfully yielded Himself. On His lips there are no
words more significant, and few more frequent, than that divine 'I
must!' 'It behoves the Son of Man' to do this, that, and the
other--yielding to the necessity imposed by the Father's will, and
sealed by His own loving resolve to be the Saviour of the world. And
in like manner, all through His life He declares Himself conscious of
the hours which mark the several crises and stages of His mission.
They come to Him and He discerns them. No external power can coerce
Him to any act till the hour come. No external power can hinder Him
from the act when it comes. When the hour strikes He hears the phantom
sound of the bell; and, hearing, He obeys. And thus, at the last and
supreme moment, to Him it dawned unquestionable and irrevocable. How
did He meet it? Whilst on the one hand there was the shrinking of
which we have such pathetic testimony in the broken prayer that He
Himself amended--'Father! save Me from this hour.... Yet for this
cause came I unto this hour,'--there is a strange, triumphant joy,
blending with the shrinking, that the decisive hour is at last come.

Mark, too, the form which the consciousness took--not that now the
hour had come for suffering or death or bearing the sins of the
world--all which aspects of it were nevertheless present to Him, as we
know; but that now He was soon to leave all the world beneath Him and
to return to the Father.

The terror, the agony, the shame, the mysterious burden of a world's
sins were now to be laid upon Him--all these elements are submerged,
as it were, and become less conspicuous than the one thought of
leaving behind all the limitations, and the humiliations, and the
compelled association with evil which, like a burning brand laid upon
a tender skin, was an hourly and momentary agony to Him, and soaring
above them all, unto His own calm home, His habitation from eternity
with the Father, as He had been before the world was. How strange this
blending of shrinking and of eagerness, of sorrow and of joy, of human
trembling consciousness of impending death, and of triumphant
consciousness of the approach of the hour when the Son of Man, even in
His bitterest agony and deepest humiliation, should, paradoxically, be
glorified, and should 'leave the world to go unto the Father'!

We cannot enter with any particularity or depth into this marvellous
and unique consciousness, but it is set forth here--and that is the
point to which especially I desire to turn your attention--as the
basis and the reason for a special tenderness softening His voice, and
taking possession of His heart, as He thought of the impending
separation.

And is that not beautiful? And does it not help us to realise how
truly 'bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh,' and bearing a heart
thrilling with all innocent human emotions that divine Saviour was?
We, too, have known what it is to feel, because of approaching
separation from dear ones, the need for a tenderer tenderness. At such
moments the masks of use and wont drop away, and we are eager to find
some word, to put our whole souls into some look, our whole strength
into one clinging embrace that may express all our love, and may be a
joy to two hearts for ever after to remember. The Master knew that
longing, and felt the pain of separation; and He, too, yielded to the
human impulse which makes the thought of parting the key to unlock the
hidden chambers of the most jealously guarded heart, and let the
shyest of its emotions come out for once into the daylight. So,
'knowing that His hour was come, He loved them unto the uttermost.'

But there is not only in this a wonderful expression of the true
humanity of the Christ, but along with that a suggestion of something
more sacred and deeper still. For surely amidst all the parting scenes
that the world's literature has enshrined, amidst all the examples of
self-oblivion at the last moment, when a martyr has been the comforter
of his weeping friends, there are none that without degradation to
this can be set by the side of this supreme and unique instance of
self-oblivion. Did not Christ, for the sake of that handful of poor
people, first and directly, and for the rest of us afterwards, of
course, secondarily and indirectly, so suppress all the natural
emotions of these last moments as that their absolute absence is
unique and singular, and points onwards to something more, viz. that
this Man who was susceptible of all human affections, and loved us
with a love which is not merely high above our grasp, absolute,
perfect, changeless and divine, but with a love like our own human
affection, had also more than a man's heart to give us, and gave us
more, when, that He might comfort and sustain, He crushed down Himself
and went to the Cross with words of tenderness and consolation and
encouragement for others upon His lips? Knowing all that was lying
before Him, He was neither absorbed nor confounded, but carried a
heart at leisure to love even then 'unto the uttermost.'

And if the prospect only sharpened and perfected, nor interrupted for
one instant the flow of His love, the reality has no power to do aught
else. In the glory, when He reached it, He poured out the same loving
heart; and to-day He looks down upon us with the same Face that bent
over the table in the upper room, and the same tenderness flows to us.
When John saw his Master next, after His Ascension, amidst the glories
of the vision in his rocky Patmos, though His face was as the sun
shineth in his strength, it was the old face. Though His hand bore the
stars in a cluster, it was the hand that had been pierced with the
nails. Though the breast was girded with the golden girdle of
sovereignty and of priesthood, it was the breast on which John's happy
head had lain; and though the 'Voice was as the sound of many waters,'
it soothed itself to a murmur, gentle as that with which the tideless
sea about him rippled upon the silvery sand when He said, 'Fear not
... I am the First and the Last.' Knowing that He goes to the Father,
He loves to the uttermost, and being with the Father, He still so
loves.

II. And now I must, with somewhat less of detail, dwell upon the other
points which this text brings out for us. It suggests to us next that
we have in the love of Jesus Christ a love which is faithful to the
obligations of its own past.

Having loved, He loves. Because He had been a certain thing, therefore
He is and He shall be that same. That is an argument that implies
divinity. About nothing human can we say that because it has been
therefore it shall be. Alas! about much that is human we have to say
the converse, that because it has been, therefore it will cease to be.
And though, blessed be God! they are few and they are poor who have
had no experience in their lives of human hearts whose love in the
past has been such that it manifestly is for ever, yet we cannot with
the same absolute confidence say about one another, even about the
dearest, 'Having loved, he loves.' But we can say so about Christ.
There is no exhaustion in that great stream that pours out from His
heart; no diminution in its flow.

They tell us that the central light of our system, that great sun
itself, pouring out its rays exhausts its warmth, and were it not
continually replenished, must gradually, and even though continually
replenished, will ultimately cease to blaze, and be a dead, cold mass
of ashes. But this central Light, this heart of Christ, which is the
Sun of the World, will endure like the sun, and after the sun is cold,
His love will last for ever. He pours it out and has none the less to
give. There is no bankruptcy in His expenditure, no exhaustion in His
effort, no diminution in His stores. 'Thy mercy endureth for ever';
'Thou hast loved, therefore Thou wilt love' is an inference for time
and for eternity, on which we may build and rest secure.

III. Then, still further, we have here this love suggested as being a
love which has special tenderness towards its own. 'Having loved His
own, He loved them to the uttermost.'

These poor men who, with all their errors, did cleave to Him; who, in
some dim way, understood somewhat of His greatness and His
sweetness--and do you and I do more?--who, with all their sins, yet
were true to Him in the main; who had surrendered very much to follow
Him, and had identified themselves with Him, were they to have no
special place in His heart because in that heart the whole world lay?
Is there any reason why we should be afraid of saying that the
universal love of Jesus Christ, which gathers into His bosom all
mankind, does fall with special tenderness and sweetness upon those
who have made Him theirs and have surrendered themselves to be His?
Surely it must be that He has special nearness to those who love Him;
surely it is reasonable that He should have special delight in those
who try to resemble Him; surely it is only what one might expect of
Him that He should in a special manner honour the drafts, so to speak,
of those who have confidence in Him, and are building their whole
lives upon Him. Surely, because the sun shines down upon dunghills and
all impurities, that is no reason why it should not lie with special
brightness on the polished mirror that reflects its lustre. Surely,
because Jesus Christ loves--Blessed be His name!--the publicans and
the harlots and the outcasts and the sinners, that is no reason why He
should not bend with special tenderness over those who, loving Him,
try to serve Him, and have set their whole hopes upon Him. The rainbow
strides across the sky, but there is a rainbow in every little dewdrop
that hangs glistening on the blades of grass. There is nothing
limited, nothing sectional, nothing narrow in the proclamation of a
special tenderness of Christ towards His own, when you accompany with
that truth this other, that all men are besought by Him to come into
that circle of 'His own,' and that only they themselves shut any out
therefrom. Blessed be His name! the whole world dwells in His love,
but there is an inner chamber in which He discovers all His heart to
those who find in that heart their Heaven and their all. 'He came to
His own,' in the wider sense of the word, and 'His own received Him
not'; but also, 'having loved His own He loved them unto the end.'
There are textures and lives which can only absorb some of the rays of
light in the spectrum; some that are only capable of taking, so to
speak, the violet rays of judgment and of wrath, and some who open
their hearts for the ruddy brightness at the other end of the line. Do
you see to it, brethren, that you are of that inner circle who receive
the whole Christ into their hearts, and to whom He can unfold the
fullness of His love.

IV. And, lastly, my text suggests that love of Christ as being made
specially tender by the necessities and the dangers of His friends.
'He loved His own which were in the world,' and so loving them, 'loved
them to the uttermost.'

We have, running through these precious discourses which follow my
text, many allusions to the separation which was to ensue, and to His
leaving His followers in circumstances of peculiar peril, defenceless
and solitary. 'I come unto Thee, and am no more in the world,' says He
in the final High-priestly prayer, 'but these are in the world. Holy
Father, keep them through Thine own name.' The same contrast between
the certain security of the Shepherd and the troubled perils of the
scattered flock seems to be in the words of my text, and suggests a
sweet and blessed reason for the special tenderness with which He
looked upon them. As a dying father on his deathbed may yearn over
orphans that he is leaving defenceless, so Christ is here represented
as conscious of an accession even to the tender longings of His heart,
when He thought of the loneliness and the dangers to which His
followers were to be exposed.

Ah! It seems a harsh contrast between the Emperor, sitting throned
there between the purple curtains, and the poor athletes wrestling in
the arena below. It seems strange to think that a loving Master has
gone up into the mountain, and has left His disciples to toil in
rowing on the stormy sea of life; but the contrast is only apparent.
For you and I, if we love and trust Him, are with Him 'in the heavenly
places' even whilst we toil here, and He is with us, working with us,
even whilst He 'sitteth at the right hand of God.'

We may be sure of this, brethren, that that love ever increases its
manifestations according to our deepening necessities. The darker the
night the more lustrous the stars. The deeper, the narrower, the
savager, the Alpine gorge, usually the fuller and the swifter the
stream that runs through it. And the more that enemies and fears
gather round about us, the sweeter will be the accents of our
Comforter's voice, and the fuller will be the gifts of tenderness and
grace with which He draws near to us. Our sorrows, dangers,
necessities, are doors through which His love can come nigh.

So, dear friends, we have had experience of sweet and transient human
love; we have had experience of changeful and ineffectual love; turn
away from them all to this immortal, deep heart of Christ's, welling
over with a love which no change can affect, which no separation can
diminish, which no sin can provoke, which becomes greater and tenderer
as our necessities increase, and ask Him to fill your hearts with
that, that you may 'know the length and breadth and depth and height
of that love which passeth knowledge,' and so 'be filled with all the
fullness of God.'



THE SERVANT-MASTER

'Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands,
and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper,
and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself.
After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the
disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was
girded.'--JOHN xiii. 3-5.

It has been suggested that the dispute as to 'which was the greatest,'
which broke the sanctities of the upper chamber, was connected with
the unwillingness of each of the Apostles to perform the menial office
of washing the feet of his companions. They had come in from Bethany,
and needed the service. But apparently it was omitted, and although we
can scarcely suppose that the transcendent act which is recorded in my
text was performed at the beginning of the meal, yet I think we shall
not be wrong if we see in it a reference to the neglected service.

The Evangelist who tells us of the dispute, and does not tell us of
the foot-washing, preserves a sentence which finds its true meaning
only in this incident, 'I am among you as He that serveth.' And
although John is the only recorder of this pathetic incident, there
are allusions in other parts of Scripture which seem to hint at it.
As, for instance, when Paul speaks of 'taking upon Him the form of a
servant'; and still more strikingly when Peter employs the remarkable
word, which he does employ in his exhortation, 'Be ye clothed with
humility.' For the word rendered there 'clothed' occurs only in that
one place in Scripture, and means literally the putting on of a
slave's costume. One can scarcely help, then, seeing in these three
passages to which I have referred echoes of this incident which John
alone preserves to us. And so we get at once a hint of the harmony and
of the incompleteness of the Gospel records.

I. Consider the motives of this act.

Now that is ground upon which the Evangelists very seldom enter. They
tell us what Christ did, but very rarely do they give us any glimpses
into why He did it. But this section of the Gospel is remarkable for
its full and careful analysis of what Christ's impelling motives were
in the final acts of His life. How did John find out why Christ did
this deed? Perhaps he who had 'leaned upon His bosom at supper,' and
was evidently very closely associated with Him, may, in some
unrecorded hour of intimate communion during the forty days between
the Resurrection and the Ascension, have heard from the Master the
exposition of His motives. But more probably, I think, the long years
of growing likeness to his Lord, and of meditation upon the depth of
meaning in the smallest events that his faithful memory recalled,
taught him to understand Christ's purpose and motives. 'The secret of
the Lord is with them that fear Him,' and the liker we get to our
Master and the more we are filled with His Spirit, the more easy will
it be for us to divine the purpose and the motives of His actions,
whether as they are recorded in the Scripture or as they come to us in
the experience of daily life.

But, passing that point, I desire for a moment to fix your attention
on the twofold key to our Lord's action which is given in this
context. There is, first of all, in the first verse of the chapter, a
general exposition of what was uppermost in His mind and heart during
the whole of the period in the upper room. The act in our text, and
the wonderful words which follow in the subsequent chapters, crowned
by that great intercessory prayer, seem to me to be all explained for
us by this first unveiling of His motives. 'When Jesus knew that His
hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father,
having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the
end.'

And then the words of my text, which apply more specifically to the
single incident with which they are brought into connection, tell us
in addition why this one manifestation of Christ's love was given.
'Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that
He was come from God, and went to God.' There, then, are two
explanations of motive, the one covering a wider area than the other,
but both converging on the incident before us.

The first of these is just this--the consciousness of impending
separation moved Christ to a more than ordinarily tender manifestation
of His love. For the rendering which you will find in the margin of
the Revised Version, 'He loved them _to the uttermost_,' seems to me
to be truer to the Evangelist's meaning than the other, 'He loved them
unto the end.' For it was more to John's purpose to tell us that the
shadow of the Cross only brought to the surface in more blessed and
wonderful representation the deep love of His heart, than simply to
tell us that that shadow did not stop its flow. It is much to know
that all through His sorrow He continued to love; it is far more to
know that the sorrow sharpened its poignancy, and deepened its depth,
and made more tender its tenderness.

How near to the man Christ that thought brings us! Do we not all know
the impulse to make parting moments tender moments? The masks of use
and wont drop off; the reticence which we, perhaps wisely, ordinarily
cultivate in regard to our deepest feelings melts away. We yearn to
condense all our unspoken love into some one word, act, look, or
embrace, which it may afterwards be life to two hearts to remember.
And Jesus Christ felt this. Because He was going away He could not but
pour out Himself yet more completely than in the ordinary tenor of His
life. The earthquake lays bare hidden veins of gold, and the heart
opens itself out when separation impends. We shall never understand
the works of Jesus Christ if we do as we are all apt to do, think of
them as having only a didactic and doctrinal purpose. We must remember
that there is in Him the true play of a human heart, and that it was
to relieve His own love, as well as to teach these men their duty,
that he rose from the supper, and prepared Himself to wash the
disciples' feet.

Then, on the other hand, the other motive which is brought by the
Evangelists more immediately into connection with this incident is,
'knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that
He was come from God, and went to God.'

The consciousness of the highest dignity impels to the lowliest
submission. 'All things given into His hands,' means universal and
absolute dominion. 'That He was come from God,' means pre-existence,
voluntary incarnation, an eternal divine nature, and unbroken
communion with the Father. 'That He went to God,' means a voluntary
departure from this low world, and a return to 'His own calm home, His
habitation from eternity.'

And, gathered all together, the phrases imply His absolute
consciousness of His divine nature. It was that that sent Him with the
towel round His loins to wash the foul feet of the pedestrians who had
come by the dusty and hot way from Bethany, and through all the
abominations of an Eastern city, into the upper chamber.

This was He who from the beginning 'was with God, and was God.' This
was He who was the Lord of Death, Victor over the grave. This was He
who by His own power ascended up on high, and reigns on the throne of
the universe to-day. This was He whose breast the same Evangelist had
seen before he wrote his Gospel, 'girded with the golden girdle' of
priesthood and of sovereignty; and holding, in the hands that had laid
the towel on the disciples' feet, the seven stars.

Oh, brethren! if we believed our creeds, how our hearts would melt
with wonder and awe that He who was so high stooped so low! 'Knowing
that He came from God, and went to God,' and that even when He was
kneeling there before these men, 'the Father had given all things into
His hands,' what did He do? Triumph? Show His majesty? Flash His
power? Demand service? 'Girded Himself with a towel and washed His
disciples' feet'!

The consciousness of loftiness does not alone avail to explain the
transcendent lowliness. You need the former motive to be joined with
it, because it is only love which bends loftiness to service, and
turns the consciousness of superiority into yearning to divest oneself
of the superiorities that separate, and to emphasise the emotions
which unite.

II. The detailed completeness of the act.

The remarkable particularity of the account of the stages of the
humiliation suggests the eye-witness. John carried them all in his
mind ineffaceably, and long, long years after that memorable hour we
hear him recalling each detail of the scene. We can see the little
group startled by the disturbance of the order of the meal as He rose
from the table, and the hushed wonder and the open-lipped expectation
with which they watched to see what the next step would be. He rises
from the table and divests Himself of the upper garments which impeded
movement. 'What will He do next?' He takes the basin, standing there
to be ready for washing the apostles' feet, but unused, and not even
filled with water. He fills it Himself, asking none to help Him. He
girds the towel round Him; and then, perhaps, begins with the
betrayer; at any rate, not with Peter.

Cannot you see them, as they look? Do not you feel the solemnity of
the detailed particular account of each step?

And may we not also say that all is a parable, or illustration, on a
lower level, of the very same principles which were at work in the
mightier fact of the greater condescension of His 'becoming flesh and
dwelling among us'? He 'rose from the table,' as He rose from His
place in 'the bosom of the Father.' He disturbed the meal as He broke
the festivities of the heavens. He divested Himself of His garments,
as 'He thought not equality with God a thing to be worn eagerly'; and
'He girded Himself with the towel,' as He put on the weakness of
flesh. Himself He filled the basin, by His own work providing the
means of cleansing; and Himself applied the cleansing to the feet of
those who were with Him. It is all a working out of the same double
motive which drew Him downwards to our earth. The reason why He
stooped, with His hands to wash the disciples' feet, is the same as
the reason why He had hands to wash with--viz., that knowing Himself
to be high over all, and loving all, He chose to become one with us,
that we might become like unto Him. So the details of the act are a
parable of His incarnation and death.

III. And then, still further, note the purpose of the deed.

Now although I have said that we never rightly understand our Lord's
actions if we are always looking for dogmatic or doctrinal purposes,
and thinking of them rather as being lectures, and sometimes rebukes
in act, than as being the outgush of His emotions and His human-divine
nature, yet we have also to take into account their moral and
spiritual lessons. His acts are words and His words are acts. And
although the main and primary purpose of this incident, in so far as
it had any other purpose than to relieve Christ's own love by
manifesting itself, and to comfort the disciples' hearts by the tender
manifestation, was to teach them their duty, as we shall presently
see, yet the special aspect of cleansing, which comes out so
emphatically and prominently in the episode of Peter's refusal, is to
be carried all along through the interpretation of the incident. This
was the reason why Jesus Christ came from heaven and assumed flesh,
and this was the reason why Jesus Christ, assuming flesh, bowed
Himself to this menial office--to make men clean.

I venture to say that we never understand Jesus Christ and His work
until we recognise this as its prominent purpose, to cleanse us from
sin. An inadequate conception of what we need, shallow, superficial
views of the gravity and universality and obstinacy of the fact of
sin, are an impenetrable veil between us and all real understanding of
Jesus Christ. There is no adequate motive for such an astounding fact
as the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God, except the purpose
of redeeming the world. If you do not believe that you--you
individually, and all of us your brethren--need to be cleansed, you
will find it hard to believe in the divinity and atonement of Jesus
Christ. If you have been down into the depths of your own heart, and
found out what tremendous, diabolic power your own evil nature and sin
have upon you, then you will not be content with anything less than
the incarnate God who stoops from heaven to bear the burden of your
sin, and to take it all away. If you want to understand why He laid
aside His garments and took the servile form of our manhood, the
appeal of man's sin to His love and the answer of His Divine
condescension are the only explanation.

Again, let me remind you that there is no cleansing without Christ.
Can you do it for yourselves, do you think? There is an old proverb,
'One hand washes the other.' That is true about stains on the flesh.
It is not true about stains on our spirits. Nobody can do it for us
but Jesus Christ alone. He kneels before us, having the right and the
power to wash us because He has died for us. Kings of England used to
touch for 'the king's evil,' and lay their pure fingers upon feculent
masses of corruption. Our King's touch is sovereign for the corruption
and incipient putrefaction of our sin; and there is no power in heaven
or earth that will make a man clean except the power of Jesus Christ.
It is either Jesus Christ or filthiness.

If I might pass from my text for one moment, I would remind you of the
episode which immediately follows, and suggest that if Jesus Christ is
not cleansing us He is nothing to us. 'If I wash thee not, thou hast
no part in Me.' I know, of course, that it is possible to have
partial, rudimentary, and sometimes reverent conceptions of that Lord
without recognising in Him the great 'Fountain opened for sin and for
uncleanness.' But I am sure of this, that there is no real, living
possession of Jesus Christ such as men's souls need, and such as will
outlast the disintegrating influences of death, unless it be such a
possession of Him as appropriates for its own, primarily, His
cleansing power. First of all He must cleanse, and then all other
aspects of His glory, and gifts of His grace, will pour into our
hearts.

No understanding of Christ, then, without the recognition that
cleansing is the purpose and the vindication of His incarnation and
sacrifice; no cleansing without Christ; no Christ worth calling by the
name without cleansing.

IV. And so, lastly, note the pattern in this act.

You will remember that it is followed by solemn words spoken after He
had taken His garments and resumed His place at the table, in which
there blended, in the most wonderful fashion, the consciousness of
authority, both as Teacher of truth and as Guide of life, and the
sweetest and most loving lowliness. In them Jesus prescribed the
wonderful act of His condescending love and cleansing power as the law
of the Christian life. There are too many of us who profess to be
quite willing to trust to Jesus Christ as the Cleanser of our souls
who are not nearly so willing to accept His Example as the pattern for
our lives; and I would have you note, as an extremely remarkable
point, that all the New Testament references to our Lord as being our
Example are given in immediate connection with His passion. The very
part of His life which we generally regard as being most absolutely
unique and inimitable is the fact in His life which Apostles and
Evangelists select as the one to set before us for our example.

Do you ask if any man can copy the sufferings of Jesus Christ? In
regard to their virtue and efficacy, No. In regard to their motive--in
one aspect, No; in another aspect, Yes. In regard to the spirit that
impelled Him we may copy Him. The smallest trickle of water down a
city gutter will carve out of the mud at its side little banks and
cliffs, and exhibit all the phenomena of erosion on the largest scale,
as the Mississippi does over half a continent, and the tiniest little
wave in a basin will fall into the same curves as the billows of
mid-ocean. You and I, in our little lives, may even aspire to 'do as I
have done to you.'

The true use of superiority is service. _Noblesse oblige_! Bank,
wealth, capacity, talents, all things are given to us that we may use
them to the last particle for our fellows. Only when the world and
society have awakened to that great truth which the towel-girded,
kneeling Christ has taught us, will society be organised on the
principles that God meant.

But, further, the highest form of service is to cleanse. Cleansing is
always dirty work for the cleaners, as every housemaid knows. You
cannot make people clean by scolding them, by lecturing them, by
patronising them. You have to go down into the filth if you mean to
lift them out of it; and leave your smelling-bottles behind; and think
nothing repulsive if your stooping to it may save a brother.

The only way by which we can imitate that example is by, first of all,
participating in it for ourselves. We must, first of all, have the
Cross as our trust, before it can become our pattern and our law. We
must first say, 'Lord! not my feet only, but also my hands and my
head,' and then, in the measure in which we ourselves have received
the cleansing benediction, we shall be impelled and able to lay our
gentle hands on foulness and leprosy; and to say to all the impure,
'Jesus Christ, who hath cleansed _me_, makes _thee_ clean.'



THE DISMISSAL OF JUDAS

'... Then said Jesus unto Judas, That thou doest, do quickly.'--JOHN
xiii. 27.

When our Lord gave the morsel, dipped in the dish, to Judas, only John
knew the significance of the act. But if we supplement the narrative
here with that given by Matthew, we shall find that, accompanying the
gift of the sop, was a brief dialogue in which the betrayer, with
unabashed front, hypocritically said, 'Lord! Is it I?' and heard the
solemn, sad answer, 'Thou sayest!' Two things, then, appealed to him
at the moment: one, the conviction that he was discovered; the other,
the wonderful assurance that he was still loved, for the gift of the
morsel was a token of friendliness. He shut his heart against them
both; and as he shut his heart against Christ he opened it to the
devil. So 'after the sop Satan entered into him.' At that moment a
soul committed suicide; and none of those that sat by, with the
exception of Christ and the 'disciple whom He loved,' so much as
dreamed of the tragedy going on before their eyes.

I know not that there are anywhere words more weighty and wonderful
than those of our text. And I desire to try if I can at all make you
feel as I feel, their solemn signification and force. 'That thou
doest, do quickly.'

I. I hear in them, first, the voice of despairing love abandoning the
conflict.

If I have rightly construed the meaning of the incident, this is the
plain meaning of it. And you will observe that the Revised Version,
more accurately and closely rendering the words of our text, begins
with a '_Therefore_.' 'Therefore said Jesus unto him,' because the die
was cast; because the will of Judas had conclusively welcomed Satan,
and conclusively rejected Christ; therefore, knowing that remonstrance
was vain, knowing that the deed was, in effect, done, Jesus Christ,
that Incarnate Charity which 'believeth all things, and hopeth all
things,' abandoned the man to himself, and said, 'There, then, if thou
wilt thou must. I have done all I can; my last arrow is shot, and it
has missed the target. That then doest, do quickly.'

There is a world of solemn meaning in that one little word 'doest.' It
teaches us the old lesson, which sense is so apt to forget, that the
true actor in man's deeds is 'the hidden man of the heart,' and that
when it has acted, it matters comparatively little whether the mere
tool and instrument of the hands or of the other organs have carried
out the behest. The thing is done before it is done when the man has
resolved, with a fixed will, to do it. The betrayal was as good as in
process, though no step beyond the introductory ones, which could
easily have been cancelled, had yet been accomplished. Because there
was a fixed purpose which could not be altered by anything now,
therefore Jesus Christ regards the act as completed. It is what we
think in our hearts that we are; and our fixed determinations, our
inclinations of will, are far more truly our doings than the mere
consequences of these, embodied in actuality. It is but a poor
estimate of a man that judges him by the test of what he has done.
What he has wanted to do is the true man; what he has attempted to do.
'It was well that it was in thine heart!' saith God to the king who
thought of building the Temple which he was never allowed to rear. 'It
is ill that is in thine heart,' says He by whom actions are weighed,
to the sinner in purpose, though his clean hands lie idly in his lap.
These hidden movements of desire and will that never come to the
surface are our true selves. Look after them, and the deeds will take
care of themselves. Serpent's eggs have serpents in them. And he that
has determined upon a sin has done the sin, whether his hands have
been put to it or no.

But, then, turn for a moment to the other thought that is suggested
here--that solemn picture of a soul left to do as it will, because
divine love has no other restraints which it can impose, and is
bankrupt of motives that it can adduce to prevent it from its madness.
Now I do not believe, for my part, that any man in this world is so
all-round 'sold unto sin' as that the seeking love of God gives him up
as irreclaimable. I do not believe that there are any people
concerning whom it is true that it is impossible for the grace of God
to find some chink and cranny in their souls through which it can
enter and change them. There are no hopeless cases as long as men are
here. But, then, though there may not be so, in regard to the whole
sweep of the man's nature, yet every one of us, over and over again,
has known what it is to come exactly into that position in regard to
some single evil or other, concerning which we have so set our teeth
and planted our feet at such an angle of resistance as that God gives
up dealing with us and leaves us, as He did with Balaam when He
opposed his covetous inclinations to all the remonstrances of Heaven.
God said at last to him 'Go!' because it was the best way to teach him
what a fool he had been in wanting to go. Thus, when we determine to
set ourselves against the pleadings and the beseechings of divine
love, the truest kindness is to fling the reins upon our necks, and
let us gallop ourselves into a sweat and weariness, and then we shall
be more amenable to the touch of the rein thereafter.

Are there any people whom God is teaching obedience to His light
touch, by letting them run their course after some one specific sin?
Perhaps there are. At all events, let us remember that that position
of being allowed to do as we like is one to which we all tend, in the
measure in which we indulge our inclinations, and shut our hearts
against God's pleadings. There is such a thing as a conscience seared
as with a hot iron. They used to say that there were witches' marks on
the body, places where, if you stuck a pin in, there was no feeling.
Men cover themselves all over with marks of that sort, which are not
sensitive even to the prick of a divine remonstrance, rebuke, or
retribution. They 'wipe their mouths and say I have done no harm.' You
can tie up the clapper of the bell that swings on the black rock, on
which, if you drift, you go to pieces. You can silence the Voice by
the simple process of neglecting it. Judas set his teeth against two
things, the solemn conviction that Jesus Christ knew his sin, and the
saving assurance that Jesus Christ loved him still. And whosoever
resists either of these two is getting perilously near to the point
where, not in petulance but in pity, God will say, 'Very well, I have
called and ye have refused. Now go, and do what you want to do, and
see how you like it when it is done. What thou doest, do quickly.' Do
you remember the other word, 'If '_twere_ done when 'tis done, then
'twere well it were done quickly'? But since consequences last when
deeds are past, perhaps you had better halt before you determine to do
them.

II. Now, secondly, I hear in these words the voice of strangely
blended majesty and humiliation.

'What thou doest, do!' Judas thought he had got possession of Christ's
person, and was His master in a very real sense. When lo! all at once
the victim assumes the position of the Lord and commands, showing the
traitor that instead of thwarting and counterworking, he was but
carrying out the designs of his fancied victim; and that he was an
instrument in Christ's hands for the execution of His will. And these
two thoughts, how, in effect, all antagonism, all malicious hatred,
all violent opposition of every sort but work in with Christ's
purpose, and carry out His intention; and how, at the moments of
deepest apparent degradation, He towers, in manifest Majesty and
Masterhood, seem to me to be plainly taught in the word before us.

He uses his foes for the furtherance of His purpose. That has been the
history of the world ever since. 'The floods, O Lord, have lifted up
their voice.' And what have they done? Smashing against the
breakwater, they but consolidate its mighty blocks, and prove that
'the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters.' It has
been so in the past, it is so to-day; it will be so till the end.
Every Judas is unconsciously the servant of Him whom he seeks to
betray; and finds out to his bewilderment that what he meant for a
death-blow is fulfilling the very purpose and will of the Lord against
whom he has turned.

Again, the combination here, in such remarkable juxtaposition, of the
two things, a willing submission to the utmost extremity of shame,
which the treasonous heart can froth out in its malice and, at the
same time, a rising up in conscious majesty and lordship, are
suggested to us by the words before us. That combination of utter
lowliness and transcendent loftiness runs through the whole life and
history of our Lord. Did you ever think how strong an argument that
strange combination, brought out so inartificially throughout the
whole of the Gospels, is for their historical veracity? Suppose the
problem had been given to poets to create and to set in a series of
appropriate scenes a character with these two opposites stamped
equally upon it, neither of them impinging upon the domain of the
other--viz., utter humility and humiliation in circumstance, and
majestic sovereignty and elevation above all circumstances--do you
think that any of them could have solved the problem, though--Aeschylus
and Shakespeare had been amongst them, as these four men
that wrote these four little tracts that we call Gospels have done?
How comes it that this most difficult of literary problems has been so
triumphantly solved by these men? I think there is only one answer,
'Because they were reporters, and imagined nothing, but observed
everything, and repeated what had happened.' He reconciled these
opposites who was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, and
yet the Eternal Son of the Father; and the Gospels have solved the
problem only because they are simple records of its solution by Him.

Wherever in His history there is some trait of lowliness there is by
the side of it a flash of majesty. Wherever in His history there is
some gleaming out from the veil of flesh of the hidden glory of
divinity, there is immediately some drawing of the veil across the
glory. And the two things do not contradict nor confuse, but we stand
before that double picture of a Christ betrayed and of a Christ
commanding His betrayer, and using his treason, and we say, 'The Word
was made flesh, and dwelt among us.'

III. Again, I hear the voice of instinctive human weakness.

'That thou doest, do quickly.' It may be doubtful, and some of you
perhaps may not be disposed to follow me in my remark, but to my ear
that sounds just like the utterance of that instinctive dislike of
suspense and of the long hanging over us of the sword by a hair, which
we all know so well. Better to suffer than to wait for suffering. The
loudest thunder-crash is not so awe-inspiring as the dread silence of
nature when the sky is black before the peal rolls through the clouds.
Many a martyr has prayed for a swift ending of his troubles. Many a
sorrowing heart, that has been sitting cowering under the anticipation
of coming evils, has wished that the string could be pulled, as it
were, and they could all come down in one cold flood, and be done
with, rather than trickle drop by drop. They tell us that the bravest
soldiers dislike the five minutes when they stand in rank before the
first shot is fired. And with all reverence I venture to think that He
who knew all our weaknesses in so far as weakness was not sin, is here
letting us see how He, too, desired that the evil which was coming
might come quickly, and that the painful tension of expectation might
be as brief as possible. That may be doubtful; I do not dwell upon it,
but I suggest it for your consideration.

IV. And then I pass on to the last of the tones that I hear in these
utterances--the voice of the willing Sacrifice for the sins of the
world.

'That thou doest, do quickly.' There is nothing more obvious
throughout the whole of the latter portion of the Gospel narrative
than the way in which, increasingly towards its close, Jesus seemed to
hasten to the Cross. You remember His own sayings: 'I have a baptism
to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.
I am come to cast fire on the earth; would it were already kindled!'
You remember with what a strange air--I was going to use an
inappropriate word, and say, of alacrity; but, at all events, of fixed
resolve--He journeyed from Galilee, in that last solemn march to
Jerusalem, and how the disciples followed, astonished at the unwonted
look of decision and absorption that was printed upon His countenance.
If we consider His doings in that last week in Jerusalem, how he
courted publicity, how He avoided no encounter with His official
enemies, how He sharpened His tones, not exactly so as to provoke, but
certainly so as by no means to conciliate, we shall see, I think, in
it all, His consciousness that the hour had come, and His absolute
readiness and willingness to be offered for the world's sin. He
stretches out His hands, as it were, to draw the Cross nearer to
Himself, not with any share in the weakness of a fanatical aspiration
after martyrdom, but under a far deeper and more wonderful impulse.

Why was Christ so willing, so eager, if I may use the word, that His
death should be accomplished? Two reasons, which at the bottom are
one, answer the question. He thus hastened to His Cross because He
would obey the Father's will, and because He loved the whole
world--you and me and all our fellows. We were each in His heart. It
was because He wanted to save thee that He said to Judas, 'Do it
quickly, that the world's salvation and that man's salvation may be
accomplished.' These were the cords that bound Him to the altar. Let
us never forget that Judas with his treachery, and rulers with their
hostility, and Pilate with his authority, and the soldiers with their
nails, and centurions with their lances, and the grim figure of Death
itself with its shaft, would have been all equally powerless against
Christ if it had not been his loving will to die on the Cross for each
of us.

Therefore, brethren, as we hear this voice, let us discern in it the
tones which warn us of the danger of yielding to inclination and
stifling His rebukes, till He abandons us for the moment in despair;
let us hear in it the pathetic voice of a Brother, who knows all our
weaknesses and has felt our emotions; let us hear the voice of
Sovereign Authority which uses its enemies for its purposes, and is
never loftier than when it is most lowly, whose Cross is His throne of
glory, whose exaltation is His deepest humiliation, and let us hear a
love which, discerning each of us through all the ages and the crowds,
went willingly to the Cross because He willed that He should be our
Saviour.

And seeing that time is short, and the future precarious, and delay
may darken into loss and rejection, let us take these words as spoken
to us in another sense, and hear in them the warning that 'to-day, if
we will hear His voice, we harden not our hearts,' and when He says to
us, in regard to repentance and faith, and Christian consecration and
service, 'That thou doest, do quickly,' let us answer, 'I made haste
and delayed not, but made haste to keep Thy commandments.'



THE GLORY OF THE CROSS

'Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man
glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him,
God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify
Him.'--JOHN xiii. 31, 32.

There is something very weird and awful in the brief note of time with
which the Evangelist sends Judas on his dark errand. 'He ... went
immediately out, and it was night.' Into the darkness that dark soul
went. That hour was 'the power of darkness,' the very keystone of the
black arch of man's sin, and some shadow of it fell upon the soul of
Christ Himself.

In immediate connection with the departure of the traitor comes this
singular burst of triumph in our text. The Evangelist emphasises the
connection by that: '_Therefore_, when he was gone out, Jesus said.'
There is a wonderful touch of truth and naturalness in that
connection. The traitor was gone. His presence had been a restraint;
and now that that 'spot in their feast of charity' had disappeared,
the Master felt at ease; and like some stream, out of the bed of which
a black rock has been taken, His words flow more freely. How intensely
real and human the narrative becomes when we see that Christ, too,
felt the oppression of an uncongenial presence, and was relieved and
glad at its removal! The departure of the traitor evoked these words
of triumph in another way, too. At his going away, we may say, the
match was lit that was to be applied to the train. He had gone out on
his dark errand, and that brought the Cross within measurable distance
of our Lord. Out of a new sense of its nearness He speaks here. So the
note of time not only explains to us why our Lord spoke, but puts us
on the right track for understanding His words, and makes any other
interpretation of them than one impossible. What Judas went to do was
the beginning of Christ's glorifying. We have here, then, a triple
glorification--the Son of Man glorified in His Cross; God glorified in
the Son of Man; and the Son of Man glorified in God. Let us look at
these three thoughts for a few moments now.

I. First, we have here the Son of Man glorified in His Cross.

The words are a paradox. Strange, that at such a moment, when there
rose up before Christ all the vision of the shame and the suffering,
the pain and the death, and the mysterious sense of abandonment, which
was worse than them all, He should seem to stretch out His hands to
bring the Cross nearer to Himself, and that His soul should fill with
triumph!

There is a double aspect under which our Lord regarded His sufferings.
On the one hand we mark in Him an unmistakable shrinking from the
Cross, the innocent shrinking of His manhood expressed in such words
as 'I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till
it be accomplished'; and in such incidents as the agony in Gethsemane.
And yet, side by side with that, not overcome by it, but not
overcoming it, there is the opposite feeling, the reaching out almost
with eagerness to bring the Cross nearer to Himself. These two lie
close by each other in His heart. Like the pellucid waters of the
Rhine and the turbid stream of the Moselle, that flow side by side
over a long space, neither of them blending discernibly with the
other, so the shrinking and the desire were contemporaneous in
Christ's mind. Here we have the triumphant anticipation rising to the
surface, and conquering for a time the shrinking.

Why did Christ think of His Cross as a glorifying? The New Testament
generally represents it as the very lowest point of His degradation;
John's Gospel always represents it as the very highest point of His
glory. And the two things are both true; just as the zenith of our sky
is the nadir of the sky for those on the other side of the world. The
same fact which in one aspect sounds the very lowest depth of Christ's
humiliation, in another aspect is the very highest culminating point
of His glory.

How did the Cross glorify Christ? In two ways. It was the revelation
of His heart; it was the throne of His sovereign power.

It was the revelation of His heart. All his life long He had been
trying to tell the world how much He loved it. His love had been, as
it were, filtered by drops through His words, through His deeds,
through His whole demeanour and bearing; but in His death it comes in
a flood, and pours itself upon the world. All His life long he had
been revealing His heart, through the narrow rifts of His deeds, like
some slender lancet windows; but in His death all the barriers are
thrown down, and the brightness blazes out upon men. All through His
life He had been trying to communicate His love to the world, and the
fragrance came from the box of ointment exceeding precious, but when
the box was broken the house was filled with the odour.

For Him to be known was to be glorified. So pure and perfect was He,
that revelation of His character and glorification of Himself were one
and the same thing. Because His Cross reveals to the world for all
time, and for eternity, too, a love which shrinks from no sacrifice, a
love which is capable of the most entire abandonment, a love which is
diffused over the whole surface of humanity and through all the ages,
a love which comes laden with the richest and the highest gifts, even
the turning of selfish and sinful hearts into its own pure and perfect
likeness, therefore does He say, in contemplation of that Cross which
was to reveal Him for what He was to the world, and to bring His love
to every one of us, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified.'

We can fancy a mother, for instance, in the anticipation of shame, and
ignominy, and suffering, and sorrow, and death which she encounters
for the sake of some prodigal child, forgetting all the ignominy, and
the shame, and the suffering, and the sorrow, and the death, because
all these are absorbed in the one thought: 'If I bear them, my poor,
wandering, rebellious child will know at last how much I loved him.'
So Christ yearns to impart the knowledge of Himself to us, because by
that knowledge we may be won to His love and service; and hence when
He looks forward to the agony, and contumely, and sorrow of the close,
every other thought is swallowed up in this one: 'They will be the
means by which the whole world will find out how deep my heart of love
to it was.' Therefore does He triumph and say, 'Now is the Son of Man
glorified.'

Still further, He regards His Cross as the means of His glorifying,
because it is His throne of saving power. The paradoxical words of our
text rest upon His profound conviction that in His death He was about
to put forth a mightier and diviner power than ever He had manifested
in His life. They are the same in effect and in tone as the great
words: 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.' Now I want
you to ask yourselves one question: In what sense is Christ's Cross
Christ's glorifying, unless His Cross bears an altogether different
relation to His life from what the death of a great teacher or
benefactor ordinarily bears to his? It is impossible that Christ could
have spoken such words as these of my text if He had simply thought of
His death as a Plato or a John Howard might have thought of his, as
being the close of his activity for the welfare of his fellows. Unless
Christ's death has in it some substantive value, unless it is
something more than the mere termination of His work for the world, I
see not how the words before us can be interpreted. If His death is
His glorifying, it must be because in that death something is done
which was not completed by the life, however fair; by the words,
however wise and tender; by the works of power, however restorative
and healing. Here is something more than these present. What more?
This more, that His Cross is the 'propitiation for the sins of the
whole world.' He is glorified therein, not as a Socrates might be
glorified by his calm and noble death; not because nothing in His life
became Him better than the leaving of it; not because the page that
tells the story of His passion is turned to by us as the tenderest and
most sacred in the world's records; but because in that death He
wrestled with and overcame our foes, and because, like the Jewish hero
of old, dying, He pulled down the house which our tyrants had built,
and overwhelmed them in its ruins. 'Now is the Son of Man glorified.'

And so, brethren, there blend, in that last act of our Lord's--for His
death was His act--in strange fashion, the two contradictory ideas of
glory and shame; like some sky, all full of dark thunderclouds, and
yet between them the brightest blue and the blazing sunshine. In the
Cross, Death crowns Him the Prince of Life, and His Cross is His
throne. All His life long He was the Light of the World, but the very
noontide hour of His glory was that hour when the shadow of eclipse
lay over all the land, and He hung on the Cross dying in the dark. At
His 'eventide it was light.' 'He endured the Cross, despising the
shame'; and lo! the shame flashed up into the very brightness of
glory, and the ignominy and the suffering became the jewels of His
crown. 'Now is the Son of Man glorified.'

II. Now let us turn for a moment to the second of the threefold
glorifications that are set forth here: God glorified in the Son of
Man.

The mystery deepens as we advance. That God should be glorified in a
man is not strange, but that He should be so glorified in the eminent
and special fashion which Jesus contemplates here, is strange; and
stranger still when we think that the act in which He was to be
glorified was the death of an innocent Man. If God, in any special and
eminent manner, is glorified in the Cross of Jesus Christ, that
implies, as it seems to me, two things at all events--many more which
I have not time to touch upon, but two things very plainly. One is
that 'God was in Christ,' in some singular and eminent manner. If all
His life was a continual manifestation of the divine character, if
Christ's words were the divine wisdom, if Christ's compassion was the
divine pity, if Christ's lowliness was the divine gentleness, if His
whole human life and nature were the brightest and clearest
manifestation to the world of what God is, we can understand that the
Cross was the highest point of the revelation of the divine nature to
the world, and so was the glorifying of God in Him. But if we take any
lower view of the relation between God and Christ, I know not how we
can acquit these words of our Master of the charge of being a world
too wide for the facts of the case.

The words involve, as it seems to me, not only that idea of a close,
unique union and indwelling of God in Christ, but they involve also
this other: that these sufferings bore no relation to the deserts of
the person who endured them. If Christ, with His pure and perfect
character--the innocency and nobleness of which all that read the
Gospels admit--if Christ suffered so; if the highest virtue that was
ever seen in this world brought no better wages than shame and
spitting and the Cross; if Christ's life and Christ's death are simply
a typical example of the world's treatment of its greatest
benefactors; then, if they have any bearing at all on the character of
God, they cast a shadow rather than a light upon the divine
government, and become not the least formidable of the difficulties
and knots that will have to be untied hereafter before it shall be
clear that God did everything well. But if we can say, 'He hath borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows'; if we can say, 'God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself'; if we can say, that His death was
the death of Him whom God had appointed to live and die for us, and
'to bear our sins in His own body on the tree,' then, though deep
mysteries come with the thought, still we can see that, in a very
unique manner, God is glorified and exalted in His death.

For if the dying Christ be the Son of God dying for us, then the Cross
glorifies God, because it teaches us that the glory of the divine
character is the divine love. Of wisdom, or of power, or of any of the
more 'majestic' attributes of the divine nature, that weak Man,
hanging dying on the Cross, was a strange embodiment; but if the very
heart of the divine brightness be the pure white fire of love; if
there be nothing diviner in God than His giving of Himself to His
creatures; if the highest glory of the divine nature be to pity and to
bestow, then the Cross upon which Christ died towers above all other
revelations as the most awful, the most sacred, the most tender, the
most complete, the most heart-touching, the most soul-subduing
manifestation of the divine nature; and stars and worlds, and angels
and mighty creatures, and things in the heights and things in the
depths, to each of which have been entrusted some broken syllables of
the divine character to make known to the world, dwindle and fade
before the brightness, the lambent, gentle brightness that beams out
from the Cross of Christ, which proclaims--God is love, is pity, is
pardon.

And is it not so--is it not so? Is not the thought that has flowed
from Christ's Cross through Christendom of what our Father in Heaven
is, the highest and the most blessed that the world has ever had? Has
it not scattered doubts that lay like mountains of ice upon man's
heart? Has it not swept the heavens clear of clouds that wrapped it in
darkness? Has it not delivered men from the dreams of gods angry, gods
capricious, gods vengeful, gods indifferent, gods simply mighty and
vast and awful and unspeakable? Has it not taught us that love is God,
and God is love; and so brought to the whole world the true Gospel,
the Gospel of the grace of God? In that Cross the Father is glorified.

III. Now, lastly, we have here the Son of Man glorified in the Father.

The mysteries and the paradoxes seem to deepen as we advance. 'If God
be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall
straightway glorify Him.' Do these words sound to you as if they
expressed no more than the confidence of a good man, who, when he was
dying, believed that he would be accepted of a loving Father, and
would be at rest from his sufferings? To me they seem to say
infinitely more than that. 'He shall also glorify Him in Himself.'
Mark that 'in Himself.' That is the obvious antithesis to what has
been spoken about in the previous clause, a glorifying which consisted
in a manifestation to the external universe, whereas this is a
glorifying within the depths of the divine nature. And the best
commentary upon it is our Lord's own words: 'Father! glorify Thou Me
with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.' We get a
glimpse, as it were, into the very centre of the brightness of God;
and there, walking in that beneficent furnace, we see 'One like unto
the Son of Man.' Christ anticipates that, in some profound and
unspeakable sense, He shall, as it were, be caught up into the
divinity, and shall dwell, as indeed He did dwell from the beginning,
'in the bosom of the Father.' 'He shall glorify Him in Himself.'

But then mark, still further, that this reception into the bosom of
the Father is given to the Son of Man. That is to say, the Man Christ
Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Brother of us all, 'bone of our bone and
flesh of our flesh,' the very Person that walked upon earth and dwelt
amongst us is taken up into the heart of God, and in His manhood
enters into that same glory, which, from the beginning, the Eternal
Word had with God.

And still further, not only have we here set forth, in most wondrous
language, the reception and incorporation, if we may use such words,
into the very centre of divinity, as granted to the Son of Man, but we
have that glorifying set forth as commencing immediately upon the
completion of God's glorifying by Christ upon the Cross. 'He shall
straightway glorify Him.' At the instant then, that He said, 'It is
finished,' and all that the Cross could do to glorify God was done, at
that instant there began, with not a pin-point of interval between
them, God's glorifying of the Son in Himself. It began in that
Paradise into which we know that upon that day He entered. It was
manifested to the world when He 'raised Him from the dead and gave Him
glory.' It reached a still higher point when 'they brought Him near
unto the Ancient of Days,' and ascending up on high, a dominion and a
throne and a glory were given to Him which last now, whilst the Son of
Man sits in the heavens on the throne of His glory, wielding the
attributes of divinity, and administering the laws of the universe and
the mysteries of providence. It shall rise to its highest
manifestation before an assembled world, when He 'shall come in His
glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations.'

This, then, was the vision that lay before the Christ in that upper
room, the vision of Himself glorified in His extreme shame, because
His Cross manifested His love and His saving power; of God glorified
in Him above all other of His acts of manifestation when He died on
the Cross, and revealed the very heart of God; and of Himself
glorified in the Father when, exalted high above all creatures, He
sitteth upon the Father's throne and rules the Father's realm.

And yet from that high, and, to us, inaccessible and all but
inconceivable summit of His elevation, He looks down ready to bless
each poor creature here, toiling and moiling amidst sufferings, and
meannesses, and commonplaces, and monotony, if we will only put our
trust in Him, and love Him, and see the brightness of the Father's
face in Him. He cares for us all; and if we will but take Him as our
Saviour, His all-prevalent prayer, presented within the veil for us,
will certainly be fulfilled at last: 'Father, I will that they also
whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may
behold My glory.'



CANNOT AND CAN

'Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek Me:
and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go ye cannot come; so now I say
to you.'--JOHN xiii. 33.

The preceding context shows how large and black the Cross loomed
before Jesus now, and how radiant the glory beyond shone out to Him.
But it was only for a moment that either of these two absorbed His
thoughts; and with wonderful self-forgetfulness and self-command, He
turned away at once from the consideration of how the near future was
to affect Him, to the thought of how it was to affect the handful of
helpless disciples who had to be left alone. Impending separation
breaks up the fountains of the heart, and we all know the instinct
that desires to crowd all the often hidden love into some one last
token. So here our Lord addresses His disciples by a name that is
never used except this once, 'little children,' a fond diminutive that
not only reveals an unusual depth of tender emotion, but also breathes
a pitying sense of their defencelessness when they are to be left
alone. So might a dying mother look at her little ones.

But the words that follow, at first sight, are dark with the sense of
a final and complete separation. 'Ye shall seek Me'--and not only so,
but He seems to put back His humble friends into the same place as had
been occupied by His bitter foes--'as I said to the Jews, whither I go
ye cannot come; so now I say to you.' There was something that
prevented both classes alike from keeping Him company; and He had to
walk His path both into the darkness and into the glory, alone.

The words apply in their fullness only to the parenthesis of time
whilst He lay in the grave, and the disciples despairingly thought
that all was ended. It was a brief period: it was a revolutionary
moment; and though it was soon to end, they needed to be guarded
against it. But though the words do not apply to the permanent
relation between the glorified Christ and us, His disciples, yet
partly by similarity, and still more by contrast, they do suggest
great Christian blessedness and imperative Christian duties. These
gather themselves mainly round two contrasts, a transitory 'cannot'
soon to be changed into a permanent 'can'; and a momentary seeking,
soon to be converted into a blessed seeking which finds. I now deal
only with the former.

We have here a transitory 'cannot' soon to be changed into a permanent
'can.'

'Whither I go ye cannot come.' Does not one hear a tone of personal
sorrow in that saying? Jesus had always hungered for understanding and
sympathetic companions, and one of His lifelong sorrows had been His
utter loneliness; but He had never, in all the time that He had been
with them, so put out His hand, feeling for some warm clasp of a human
hand to help Him in His struggle, as He did during the hours
terminating with Gethsemane. And perhaps we may venture to say that we
hear in this utterance an expression of Christ's sorrow for Himself
that He had to tread the dark way, and to pass into the brightness
beyond, all alone. He yearned for the impossible human companionship,
as well as sorrowed for the imperfections which made it impossible.

Why was it that they could not 'follow Him now'? The answer to that
question is found in the consideration of whither it was that He went.
When that bright Shekinah-cloud at the Ascension received Him into its
radiant folds, it showed why they could not follow Him, because it
revealed that He went unto the Father, when He left the world. So we
are brought face to face with the old, solemn thought that character
makes capacity for heaven. 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the
Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place?' asked the Psalmist; and a
prophet put the question in a still sharper form, and by the very form
of the question suggested a negative answer--'Who among us shall dwell
with the devouring fire; who among us shall dwell with everlasting
burnings?' Who can pass into that Presence, and stand near God,
without being, like the maiden in the old legend, shrivelled into
ashes by the contact of the celestial fire? 'Holiness' is that
'without which no man shall see the Lord.' And we, all of us, in the
depths of our own hearts, if we rightly understand the voices that
ever echo there, must feel that the condition which is, obviously and
without any need for arguing it, required for abiding with God, and so
going into the glory where Christ is, is a condition which none of us
can fulfil. In that respect the imperfect and immature friends, the
little children, the babes who loved and yet knew not Him whom they
loved, and the scowling enemies, were at one. For they had all of them
the one human heart, and in that heart the deep-lying alienation and
contrariety to God. Therefore Christ trod the winepress alone, and
alone 'ascended up where He was before.'

But let us remember that this 'cannot' was only a transitory cannot.
For we must underscore very deeply that word in my text 'so _now_ I
say to you,' and a moment afterwards, when one of the Apostles puts
the question: 'Why cannot I follow Thee now?' the answer is: 'Thou
canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.' The
text, too, is succeeded immediately by the wonderful parting
consolations and counsels spoken to the disciples, through all of
which there gleams the promise that they will be with Him where He is,
and behold His glory. Set side by side with these sad words of our
Lord in the text, by which He unloosed their clasping hands from Him,
and turned His face to His solitary path, the triumphant language in
which habitually the rest of the New Testament speaks of the Christian
man's relation to Christ. Think of that great passage: 'Ye are come
unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, ... and to
God the Judge of all, ... and to Jesus the Mediator of the new
Covenant.' What has become of the impossibility? Vanished. Where is
the 'cannot'? Turned into a blessed 'can.' And so Apostles have no
scruple in saying, 'Our citizenship is in Heaven,' nor in saying, 'We
sit together with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' The path
that was blocked is open. The impossibility that towered up like a
great black wall has melted away; and the path into the Holiest of all
is made patent by the blood of Christ. For in that death there lies
the power that sweeps away all the impediments of man's sin, and in
that life of the risen, glorified, indwelling Christ there lies the
power which cleanses the inmost heart from 'all filthiness of flesh
and spirit,' and makes it possible for our mortal feet to walk on the
immortal path, and for us, with all our unworthiness, with all our
shrinking, to stand in His presence and not be ashamed or consumed.
'Ye cannot come' was true for a few days. 'Ye can come' is true for
ever; and for all Christian men.

But let us not forget that the one attitude of heart and mind, by
which a poor, sinful man, who dare not draw near to God, receives into
himself the merit and power of the death, and the indwelling power of
the life, of Jesus Christ, is personal faith in Jesus Christ. To trust
Him is to come to Him, and it is represented in Scripture as
conferring an instantaneous fitness for access to God. People pray
sometimes that they may be made 'meet for the inheritance of the
saints in light,' and the prayer is, in a sense, wise and true. But
they too often forget that the Apostle says, in the original
connection of the words which they so quote: 'He _hath_ translated us
from the tyranny of the darkness, and _hath_ made us meet for the
inheritance of the saints in light.' That is to say, whenever a poor
soul, compassed and laden with its infirmity and sin, turns itself to
that Lord whose Cross conquers sin, and whose blood infused into our
veins--the Spirit of whose life granted to us--gives us to partake of
His own righteousness, that moment that soul can tread the path that
brings into the presence of God, and 'has access with confidence by
the faith of Him.' So, brethren, seeing that thus the incapacity may
all be swept away, and that instead of a 'cannot,' which relegates us
to darkness, we may receive a 'can' which leads us into the light, let
us see to it that this communion, which is possible for all Christian
men, is real in our cases, and that we use the access which is given
to us, and dwell for ever in, and with, the Lord.

I have said that the act of faith, by associating a man with Jesus
Christ in the power of His death and of His life, makes any who
exercise it capable of passing into the presence of God. But I would
remind you, too, that to make us more fit for more full and habitual
communion is the very purpose for which all the discipline of our
earthly life, its sorrows and its joys, its tasks and its repose, is
exercised upon us--'He for our profit, that we might be partakers of
His holiness.' Surely if we habitually took that point of view in
reference to our work, in reference to our joys, in reference to our
trials, everything would be different. We are being prepared with
sedulous love, with patient reiteration of 'line upon line, precept
upon precept,' with singularly varied methods but a uniform purpose,
by all that meets us in life, to be more capable of treading the
eternal path into the eternal light. Is that how we daily think of our
own circumstances? Do we bring that great thought to bear upon all
that we, sometimes faithlessly, call mysterious or murmuringly think
of--if we dare not speak our thought--as being cruel and hard? What
does it matter if some precious things be lifted off our shoulders,
and out of our hearts, if their being taken away makes it more
possible for us to tread with a lighter step the path of peace? What
matters it though many things that we would fain keep are withdrawn
from us, if by the withdrawal we are sent a little further forward on
the road that leads to God? As George Herbert says, sorrows and joys
are like battledores that drive a shuttlecock, and they may all 'toss
us to His breast.' In faith, however infantile it may be, there is an
undeveloped capacity, a germ of fitness, for dwelling with God. But
that capacity is meant to be increased, and the little children are
meant to be helped to grow up into full-grown men, 'the measure of the
stature of the fullness of Christ,' by all that comes here to them on
earth. Do you not think we should understand life better, do you not
think it would all be flashed up into new radiance, do you not think
we should more seldom stand bewildered at what we choose to call the
inscrutable dispensations of Providence, if this were the point of
view from which we looked at them all--that they were fitting us for
perpetual abiding with our Father God?

Nor let us forget that there was a transient 'cannot' of another sort.
For 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.' So, as life
is changed when we think of it as helping us toward Him, death is
changed when we think of it as being, if I may so say, the usher in
attendance on the Presence-chamber, who draws back the thin curtain
that separates us from the throne, and takes us by the hands and leads
us into the Presence. Surely if we habitually thought thus of that
otherwise grim chamberlain, we should be willing to put our hands into
His, as a little child will, when straying, into the hands of a
stranger who says, 'Come with me and I will take you home to your
father.' 'As I said unto the Jews ... so now I say to you, whither I
go, ye cannot come.'

Let us press on you and on myself the one thought that comes out of
all that I have been saying, the blessed possibility, which, because
it is a possibility, is an obligation, to use far more than most of us
do, the right of access to the King who is our Father. There are
nobles and corporate bodies, who regard it as one of their chief
distinctions that they have always the right of _entree_ to the court
of the sovereign. Every Christian man has that. And in old days, when
a baron did not show himself at court, suspicion naturally arose, and
he was in danger of being thought disaffected, if not traitorous. Ah!
if you and I were judged according to that law, what would become of
us? We can go when we like. How seldom we do go! We can live in the
heavens whilst our work lies down here. We prefer the low earth to the
lofty sky. 'We are come'--ideally, and in the depths of our nature,
our affinities are there--'unto God, the Judge of all, and to Jesus
the Mediator of the new Covenant.' Are we come? Are we day by day, in
all the pettiness of our ordinary lives, when compassed by hard
duties, weighed upon by sore distress--still keeping our hearts in
heaven, and our feet familiar with the path that leads us to God? 'Set
your affection on things above, where Jesus is, sitting at the right
hand of God.' For there is no 'cannot' for His servants in regard to
their access to any place where He is.



SEEKING JESUS

'... Ye shall seek Me.'--JOHN xiii. 33.

In the former sermon on this verse I pointed out that it, in its
fullness, applies only to the brief period between the crucifixion and
the resurrection, but that, partly by contrast and partly by analogy,
it suggests permanent relations between Christ and His disciples.
These relations were mainly--as I pointed out then--two: there was
that one expressed by the subsequent words of the verse, 'Whither I
go, ye cannot come'--a brief 'cannot,' soon to be changed into a
permanent 'can'; and there was a second, a brief, sad, and vain
seeking, soon to be changed into a seeking which finds. It is to the
latter that I wish to turn now.

'Ye shall seek Me' fell, like the clods on a coffin-lid, with a hollow
sound on the hearts of the Apostles. It comes to us as a permission
and a command and a promise. I do not dwell on that sad seeking, which
was so brief but so bitter. We all know what it is to put out an empty
hand into the darkness and the void, and to grope for a touch which we
know, whilst we grope, that we shall not find. And these poor,
helpless disciples, by their forlorn sense of separation, by their
yearning that brought no satisfaction, by their very listless despair,
were saying, during these hours of agony into which an eternity of
pain was condensed, 'Oh! that He were beside us again!'

That sad seeking ended when He came to them, and 'then were the
disciples glad when they saw the Lord.' But another kind of seeking
began, when 'the cloud received Him out of their sight'; as joyful as
the other was laden with sorrow, as sure to find the object of its
quest as the other was certain to be disappointed. What He said in the
darkness to them, He says in the light to us: What 'I say unto you I
say unto all,' _Seek!_ So now we have to deal with that joyful search
which is sure of finding its object, and is only a little, if at all,
less blessed than the finding itself.

I. Every Christian is, by his very name, a seeker after Christ.

There are two kinds of seeking, one like that of a bird whose young
have been stolen away, which flutters here and there, because it knows
not where that is which it seeks; another, like the flight of the same
bird, when the migrating instinct rises in its little breast, and
straight as an arrow it goes, not because it knows not its goal, but
because it knows it, yonder where the sun is warm and the sky is blue,
and winter is left behind in the cold north. 'Ye shall seek Me' is the
word of promise, which changes the vain search that is ignorant of
where the object of its quest is, into a blessed going out of the
heart towards that which it knows to be the home of its homelessness.
Thus the text brings out the very central blessedness and peculiarity
of the Christian life, that it has no uncertainty in its aims, and
that, instead of seeking for things which may or may not be found, or
if found may or may not prove to be what we dreamt them to be. It
seeks for a Person whom it knows where to find, and of whom it knows
that all its desires will be met in Him. We have, then, on the one
side the multifarious, divergent searchings of man; and on the other
side the one quest in which all these others are gathered up, and
translated into blessedness--the seeking after Jesus Christ.

Men know that they need, if I may so put it, four things: truth for
the understanding, love round which the heart may coil, authority for
the will which may direct and restrain, and energy for the practical
life. But, apart from the quest after Christ, men for the most part
seek these necessary goods in divers objects, and fragmentarily look
for the completion of their desires. But fragments will never satisfy
a man's soul, and they who have to go to one place for truth, and to
another for love, and to another for authority, and to another for
energy, are wofully likely never to find what they search for. They
are seeking in the manifold what can be found only in the One. It is
as if some vessel, full of precious stones, were thrown down before
men, and whilst they are racing after the diamonds, they lose the
emeralds and the sapphires. But the wise concentrate their seekings on
the 'one Pearl of great price,' in whom is truth for the brain, love
for the heart, authority for the will, power for the life, and all
summed in that which is more blessed than all, the Person of the
Brother who died for us, the Christ who lives to fill our hearts for
ever. One sun dims all the stars; and the 'one entire and perfect
Chrysolite' beggars and reduces to fragments 'all the precious things
that thou canst desire.'

To seek Him is the very hall-mark of a Christian, and that seeking
comes to be an earnest desire and effort after more conscious
communion with Him, and a more entire possession of His imparted life
which is righteousness and peace and joy and power. According to the
Rabbis, the manna tasted to each man what each man most desired. The
manifoldness of the one Christ is far more manifold than the
manifoldness of the multiplicity of fragmentary and partial aims which
foolish men perceive.

The ways of seeking are very plain. First of all, we seek if, and in
proportion as, we make the effort to occupy our thoughts and minds,
not with theological dogmas, but with the living Christ Himself. Ah!
brethren, it is hard to do, and I daresay a great many of you are
thinking that it is far harder for you, in the distractions and rush
and conflict of business and daily life, than it is for people like
me, whom you imagine as sitting in a study, with nothing to distract
us. I do not know about that; I fancy it is about equally hard for us
all; but it is possible. I have been in Alpine villages where, at the
end of every squalid alley, there towered up a great, pure, silent,
white peak. That is what our lives may be; however noisome, crowded,
petty the little lane in which we live, the Alp is at the end of it
there, if we only choose to lift our eyes and look. It is possible
that not only 'into the sessions of sweet silent thought,' but into
the rush and bustle of the workshop or the exchange, there may come,
like 'some sweet, beguiling melody, so sweet we know not we are
listening to it,' the thought that changes pettiness into greatness,
that makes all things go smoothly and easily, that is a test and a
charm to discover and to destroy temptation, the thought of a present
Christ, the Lover of my soul, and the Helper of my life.

Again, we seek Him when, by aspiration and desire, we bring Him--as He
is always brought thereby--into our hearts and into our lives. The
measure of our desire is the measure of our possession. Wishing is the
opening of our hearts, but, alas, often we wish and desire, and the
heart opens and nothing enters. Wishes are like the tentacles of some
marine organism waving about in a waste ocean, feeling for the food
that they do not find. But if we open our hearts for Him, that is
simultaneous with the coming of Him to us. 'Ye have not, because ye
ask not.' Do not forget, dear friends, that desire, if it is genuine,
will take a very concrete form and will be prayer. And it is
prayer--by which I do not mean the utterance of words without desire,
any more than I mean desire without the direct casting of it into the
form of supplication--it is prayer that brings Christ into any, and it
is prayer that will bring Him into every, life.

Nor let us forget that there is another way of seeking besides these
two, of looking up to Him through, and in the midst of, all the shows
and trifles of this low life, and the reaching out of our desires
towards Him, as the roots of a tree beneath the soil go straight for
the river. That other way is imitation and obedience. It is vain to
think of Him, and it is unreal to pretend to desire Him, if we are not
seeking Him by treading in the path that He has trod, and which leads
to Him. Imitation and obedience--these are the steps by which we go
straight through all the trivialities of life into the presence of the
Lord Himself. The smallest deflection from the path that leads to Him
will carry us away into doleful wastes. The least invisible cloud that
steals across the sky will blot out half a hemisphere of stars; and we
seek not Christ unless, thinking of Him, and desiring Him, we also
walk in the path in which He has walked, and so come where He is. He
Himself has said that if His servant follows Him, where He is there
shall also His servant be. These things make up the seeking which
ought to mark us all.

I note that--

II. The Christian seeker always finds.

I pointed out in my last sermon the strange identity of our Lord's
words to His humble friends, with those which on another occasion He
used to His bitter enemies. He reminds the disciples of that identity
in the verse from which my text comes: 'As I said to the Jews ... so
now I say to you.' But there was one thing that He said to the Jews
that He did not say to them. To the former He said, 'Ye shall seek Me,
and shall not find Me'; and He did not say that--even for the sad
hours it was not quite true--He did not say that to His followers, and
He does not say it to us.

If we seek we shall find. There is no disappointment in the Christian
life. Anything is possible rather than that a man should desire Christ
and not have Him. That has never been the experience of any seeking
soul. And so I urge upon you what has already been suggested, that
inasmuch as, by reason of His infinite longing to give truth and love
and guidance and energy and His whole Self, to all of us, the amount
of our possession of the power and life of Jesus Christ depends on
ourselves. If you take to the fountain a tiny cup, you will only bring
away a tiny cupful. If you take a great vessel you will bring _it_
away full. As long as the woman in the old story held out her vessels
to the miraculous flow of the oil, the flow continued. When she had no
more vessels to take, the flow stopped. If a man holds a flagon
beneath a spigot with an unsteady hand, half of the precious liquor
will be spilt on the ground. Those who fulfil the conditions, of which
I have already been speaking, may make quite sure that according to
their faith will it be unto them. And if you, dear friend, have not in
your experience the conscious presence of a Christ who is all that you
need, there is no one in heaven or earth or hell to blame for it but
only your own self. 'I have never said to any of the seed of Jacob,
Seek ye My face in vain'; and when the Lord said, 'Ye shall seek Me,'
He was implicitly binding Himself to meet the seeking soul, and give
Himself to the desiring heart.

Remember, too, that this seeking, which is always crowned with
finding, is the only search in which failure is impossible. There is
only one course of life that has no disappointments. We all know how
frequently we are foiled in our quests; we all know how often a prize
won is a bitterer disappointment than a prize unattained. Like a
jelly-fish in the water, as long as it is there its tenuous substance
is lovely, expanded, tinged with delicate violets and blues, and its
long filaments float in lines of beauty. Lay it on the beach, and it
is a shapeless lump, and it poisons and stings. You fish your prize
out of the great ocean, and when you have it, does it disappoint, or
does it fulfil, the raised expectations of the quest? There is One who
does not disappoint. There is one gold mine that comes up to the
prospectus. There is one spring that never runs dry. The more deep our
Christian experience is, the more we shall take the rapturous
exclamation of the Arabian queen to ourselves: 'The half was not told
us!'

And so, lastly, I suggest that--

III. The finding impels to fresh seeking.

The object of the Christian man's quest is Jesus Christ. He is
Incarnate Infinitude; and that cannot be exhausted. The seeker after
Jesus Christ is the Christian soul. That soul is the incarnate
possibility of indefinite expansion and approximation and
assimilation; and that cannot be exhausted. And so, with a Christ who
is infinite, and a seeker whose capacities may be indefinitely
expanded, there can be no satiety, there can be no limit, there can be
no end to the process. This wine-skin will not burst when the new wine
is put into it. Rather like some elastic vessel, as you pour it will
fill out and expand. Possession enlarges, and the more of Christ's
fullness is poured into a human heart, the more is that heart widened
out to receive a greater blessing.

Dear brethren, there is one course of life, and I believe but one, on
which we may all enter with the sure confidence that in the nature of
things, in the nature of Christ, and in the nature of ourselves, there
is no end to growth and progress. Think of the freshness and
blessedness and energy that puts into a life. To have an unattained
and unattainable object, a goal to which we can never come, but to
which we may ever be approximating, seems to me to be the secret of
perpetual joy and of perpetual youthfulness. To say, 'forgetting the
things that are behind, I reach forward unto the things that are
before,' is a charm and an amulet that repels monotony and weariness,
and goes with a man to the very end, and when all other aims and
objects have died down into grey ashes, that flame, like the fabled
lamp in Virgil's tomb, burns clear in the grave, and lights us to the
eternity beyond.

For certainly, if there be neither satiety nor limit to Christian
progress here, there can be no better and stronger evidence that
Christian progress here is but the first 'lap' of the race, the first
_stadium_ of the course, and that beyond that narrow, dark line which
lies across the path, it runs on, rising higher, and will run on for
ever.

  'On earth the broken arc; in heaven the perfect round.'

Seek for what you are sure to find; seek for what will never
disappoint you; seek for what will abide with you for ever. The very
first word of Christ's recorded in Scripture is a question which He
puts to us all: '_What_ seek ye?' Well for us, if like the two to whom
it was originally addressed, we answer, 'We are not seeking a What; we
are seeking a Whom.--Master, where dwellest Thou?' And if we have that
answer in our hearts, we shall receive the invitation which they
received, 'Come and see,'--come and seek. 'Ye shall seek Me' is a
gracious invitation, an imperative command, and a faithful promise
that if we seek we shall find. 'Whoso findeth _Him_ findeth life;
whoso misseth _Him_'--whatever else he has sought and found--'wrongeth
his own soul.'



'AS I HAVE LOVED'

'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I
have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men
know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.'--JOHN
xiii. 34, 35.

Wishes from dying lips are sacred. They sink deep into memories and
mould faithful lives. The sense of impending separation had added an
unwonted tenderness to our Lord's address, and He had designated His
disciples by the fond name of 'little children.' The same sense here
gives authority to His words, and moulds them into the shape of a
command. The disciples had held together because He was in their
midst. Will the arch stand when the keystone is struck out? Will not
the spokes fall asunder when the nave of the wheel is taken away? He
would guard them from the disintegrating tendencies that were sure to
set in when He was gone; and He would point them to a solace for His
absence, and to a kind of substitute for His presence. For to love the
brethren whom they see would be, in some sense, a continuing to love
the Christ whom they had ceased to see. And so, immediately after He
said: 'Whither I go ye cannot come,' He goes on to say: 'Love one
another as I have loved you.'

He called this a 'new commandment,' though to love one's neighbour as
one's self was a familiar commonplace amongst the Jews, and had a
recognised position in Rabbinical teaching. But His commandment
proposed a new object of love, it set forth a new measure of love, so
greatly different from all that had preceded it as to become almost a
new kind of love, and it suggested and supplied a new motive power for
love. This commandment 'could give life' and fulfil itself. Therefore
it comes to us as a 'new commandment'--even to us--and, unlike the
words which preceded it, which we were considering in former sermons,
it is wholly and freshly applicable to-day as in the ages that are
passed. I ask you, first, to consider--

I. The new scope of the new commandment.

'Love one another.' The newness of the precept is realised, if we
think for a moment of the new phenomenon which obedience to it
produced. When the words were spoken, the then-known civilised Western
world was cleft by great, deep gulfs of separation, like the crevasses
in a glacier, by the side of which our racial animosities and class
differences are merely superficial cracks on the surface. Language,
religion, national animosities, differences of condition, and saddest
of all, difference of sex, split the world up into alien fragments. A
'stranger' and an 'enemy' were expressed in one language, by the same
word. The learned and the unlearned, the slave and his master, the
barbarian and the Greek, the man and the woman, stood on opposite
sides of the gulfs, flinging hostility across. A Jewish peasant
wandered up and down for three years in His own little country, which
was the very focus of narrowness and separation and hostility, as the
Roman historian felt when he called the Jews the 'haters of the human
race'; He gathered a few disciples, and He was crucified by a
contemptuous Roman governor, who thought that the life of one
fanatical Jew was a small price to pay for popularity with his
troublesome subjects, and in a generation after, the clefts were being
bridged and all over the Empire a strange new sense of unity was being
breathed, and 'Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free,' male and female,
Jew and Greek, learned and ignorant, clasped hands and sat down at one
table, and felt themselves 'all one in Christ Jesus.' They were ready
to break all other bonds, and to yield to the uniting forces that
streamed out from His Cross. There never had been anything like it. No
wonder that the world began to babble about sorcery, and conspiracies,
and complicity in unnameable vices. It was only that the disciples
were obeying the 'new commandment,' and a new thing had come into the
world--a community held together by love and not by geographical
accidents or linguistic affinities, or the iron fetters of the
conqueror. You sow the seed in furrows separated by ridges, and the
ground is seamed, but when the seed springs the ridges are hidden, no
division appears, and as far as the eye can reach, the cornfield
stretches, rippling in unbroken waves of gold. The new commandment
made a new thing, and the world wondered.

Now then, brethren, do not let us forget that, although to obey this
commandment is in some respects a great deal harder to-day than it was
then, the diverse circumstances in which Christian individuals and
Christian communities are this day placed may modify the form of our
obedience, but do not in the smallest degree weaken the obligation,
for the individual Christian and for societies of Christians, to
follow this commandment. The multiplication of numbers, the cessation
of the armed hostility of the world, the great varieties in
intellectual position in regard to the truths of Christianity,
divergencies of culture, and many other things, are separating forces,
But our Christianity is worth very little, if it cannot master these
separating tendencies, even as in the early days of freshness, the
Christianity that sprang in these new converts' minds mastered the far
more powerful separating tendencies with which they had to contend.

Every Christian man is under the obligation to recognise his kindred
with every other Christian man--his kindred in the deep foundations of
his spiritual being, which are far deeper, and ought to be far more
operative in drawing together, than the superficial differences of
culture or opinion or the like, which may part us. The bond that holds
Christian men together is their common relation to the one Lord, and
that ought to influence their attitude to one another. You say I am
talking commonplaces. Yes; and the condition of Christianity this day
is the sad and tragical sign that the commonplaces need to be talked
about, till they are rubbed into the conscience of the Church as they
never have been before.

Do not let us suppose that Christian love is mere sentiment. I shall
have to speak a word or two about that presently, but I would fain
lift the whole subject, if I can, out of the region of mere unctuous
words and gush of half-feigned emotion, which mean nothing, and would
make you feel that it is a very practical commandment, gripping us
hard, when our Lord says to us, 'Love one another.'

I have spoken about the accidental conditions which make obedience to
this commandment difficult. The real reason which makes the obedience
to it difficult is the slackness of our own hold on the Centre. In the
measure in which we are filled with Jesus Christ, in that measure will
that expression of His spirit and His life become natural to us. Every
Christian has affinities with every other Christian, in the depths of
his being, so as that he is a great deal more like his brother, who is
possessor of 'like precious faith,' however unlike the two may be in
outlook, in idiosyncrasy, and culture and in creed, than he is to
another man with whom he may have a far closer sympathy in all these
matters than he has with the brother in question, but from whom he is
parted by this, that the one trusts and loves and obeys Jesus Christ,
and the other does not. So, for individuals and for churches, the
commandment takes this shape--Go down to the depths and you will find
that you are closer to the Christian man or community which seems
furthest from you, than you are to the non-Christian who seems nearest
to you. Therefore, let your love follow your kinship, and your heart
recognise the oneness that knits you together. That is a revolutionary
commandment; what would become of our present organisations of
Christianity if it were obeyed? That is a revolutionary commandment;
what would become of our individual relations to the whole family who,
in every place, and in many tongues, and with many creeds, call on
Jesus as on their Lord, their Lord and ours, if it were obeyed? I
leave you to answer the question. Only I say the commandment has for
its first scope all who, in every place, love the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is more than that involved in it. The very same principle
which makes this love to one another imperative upon all disciples,
makes it equally imperative upon every follower of Jesus Christ to
embrace in a real affection all whom Jesus so loved as to die for
them. If I am to love a Christian man because he and I love Christ, I
am to love everybody, because Christ loves me and everybody, and
because He died on the Cross for me and for all men. And so one of the
other Apostles, or, at least, the letter which goes by his name, laid
hold on the true connection when, instead of concentrating Christian
affection on the Church, and letting the world go to the devil as an
alien thing, he said: 'Add to your faith,' this, that, and the other,
and 'brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity.' The
particular does not exclude the general, it leads to the general. The
fire kindled upon the hearth gives warmth to all the chamber. The
circles are concentric, and the widest sweep is struck from the same
middle point as the narrow. So the new commandment does not cut
humanity into two halves, but gathers all diversity into one, and
spreads the great reconciling of Christian love over all the
antagonisms and oppositions of earth. Let me ask you to notice--

II. The example of the new commandment, 'As I have loved you.'

That solemn 'as' lifts itself up before us, shines far ahead of us,
ought to draw us to itself in hope, and not to repel us from itself in
despair. 'As I have loved'--what a tremendous thing for a man to stand
up before his fellows, and say, 'Take Me as the perfect example of
perfect love; and let My example--un-dimmed by the mists of gathering
centuries, and un-weakened by the change of condition, and
circumstance, fresh as ever after ages have passed, and
closely-fitting as ever all varieties of human character and
condition--stand before you; the ideal that I have realised, and you
will be blessed in the proportion in which you seek, though you fail,
to realise it!' There is, I venture to believe, only one aspect of
Jesus Christ in which such a setting forth of Himself as the perfect
Incarnation of perfect love is warrantable; and that is found in the
old belief that His very birth was the result of His love, and that
His death was the climax of that love. And if so, we have to turn to
Bethlehem, and the whole life, and the Cross at its end, as being the
Christ-given example and model for our love to our brethren.

What do we see there? I have said that there is too much of mere
sickly sentimentality about the ordinary treatment of this great
commandment, and that I desired to lift it out of that region into a
far nobler, more strenuous, and difficult one. This is what we see in
that life and in that death:--First of all--the activity of love--'Let
_us_ not love in words, but in deed and in truth'; then we see the
self-forgetfulness of love--'Even Christ pleased not Himself'; then we
see the self-sacrifice of love--'Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.' And in these three
points, on which I would fain enlarge if I might, active love,
self-oblivious love, self-sacrificing love, you have the pattern set
for us all. Christian love is no mere sickly maiden, full of
sentimental emotions and honeyed words. She is a strenuous virgin,
girt for service, a heroine ready for dangers, and prepared to be a
martyr if it be needful. Love's language is sacrifice. 'I give thee
myself,' is its motto. And that is the pattern that is set before us
all--'as I have loved you.'

I have tried to show you how the commandment was new in many
particulars, and it is for ever new in this particular, that it is for
ever before us, unattained, and drawing faithful hearts to itself, and
ever opening out into new heroisms and, therefore, blessedness, of
self-sacrifice, and ever leading us to confess the differences, deep,
tragic, sinful, between us and Him who--we sometimes think too
presumptuously--we venture to say is our Lord and Master.

Did you ever see in some great picture gallery a copyist sitting in
front of a Raffaelle, and comparing his poor feeble daub, all out of
drawing, and with little of the divine beauty that the master had
breathed over his canvas, even if it preserved the mere mechanical
outline? That is what you and I should do with our lives: take them
and put them down side by side with the original. We shall have to do
it some day. Had we better not do it now, and try to bring the copy a
little nearer to the masterpiece; and let that 'as I have loved you'
shine before us and draw us on to unattainable heights?

And now, lastly, we have here--

III. The motive power for obedience to the commandment.

That is as new as all the rest. That 'as' expresses the manner of the
love, but it also expresses the motive and the power. It might be
translated into the equivalent 'in the fashion in which,' or it might
be translated into the equivalent 'since--' 'I have loved you.' The
original might bear the rendering, 'that ye also may love one
another.' That is to say, what keeps men from obeying this commandment
is the instinctive self-regard which is natural to us all. There are
muscles in the body which are so constructed that they close tightly;
and the heart is something like one of these sphincter muscles--it
shuts by nature, especially if there has been anything put inside it
over which it can shut and keep it all to itself. But there is one
thing that dethrones Self, and enthrones the angel Love in a heart,
and that is, that into that heart there shall come surging the sense
of the great love 'wherewith I have loved you.' That melts the
iceberg; nothing else will.

That love of Christ to us, received into our hearts, and there
producing an answering love to Him, will make us, in the measure in
which we live in it and let it rule us, love everything and every
person that He loves. That love of Jesus Christ, stealing into our
hearts and there sweetening the ever-springing 'issues of life,' will
make them flow out in glad obedience to any commandment of His. That
love of Jesus Christ, received into our hearts, and responded to by
our answering love, will work, as love always does, a magical
transformation. A great monastic teacher wrote his precious book about
_The Imitation of Christ_. 'Imitation' is a great word,
'Transformation' is a greater. 'We all,' receiving on the mirror of
our loving hearts the love of Jesus Christ, 'are changed into the same
likeness.' Thus, then, the love, which is our pattern, is also our
motive and our power for obedience, and the more we bring ourselves
under its influences, the more we shall love all those who are beloved
by, and lovers of, Jesus.

That is the one foundation for a world knit together in the bonds of
amity and concord. There have been attempts at brotherhood, and the
guillotine has ended what was begun in the name of 'fraternity.' Men
build towers, but there is no cement between the bricks, unless the
love of Christ holds them together, and therefore Babel after Babel
comes down about the ears of its builders. But notwithstanding all
that is dark to-day, and though the war-clouds are lowering, and the
hearts of men are inflamed with fierce passions, Christ's commandment
is Christ's promise; and though the vision tarry, it will surely come.
So even to-day Christian men ought to stand for Christ's peace, and
for Christ's love. The old commandment which we have had from the
beginning, is the new commandment that fits to-day as it fits all the
ages. It is a dream, say some. Yes, a dream; but a morning dream which
comes true. Let us do the little we can to make it true, and to bring
about the day when the flock of men will gather round the one
Shepherd, who loved them to the death, and who has bid them and helped
them to 'love one another as'--and since--'He has loved them.'



QUO VADIS?

'Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now! I will lay
down my life for Thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy
life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not
crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.'--JOHN xiii. 37, 38.

Peter's main characteristics are all in operation here; his eagerness
to be in the front, his habit of blurting out his thoughts and
feelings, his passionate love for his Master, and withal his inability
to understand Him, and his self-confident arrogance. He has broken in
upon Christ's solemn words, entirely deaf to their deep meaning, but
blindly and blunderingly laying hold of one thought only, that Jesus
is departing, and that he is to be left alone. So he asks the
question, 'Lord! thither goest Thou?'--not so much caring about that,
as meaning by his question--'tell me where, and then I will come too';
pledging himself to follow faithfully, as a dog behind his master,
wherever He went.

Our Lord answered the underlying meaning of the words, repeating with
a personal application what He had just before said as a general
principle--'Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shall
follow Me afterwards.' Then followed this noteworthy dialogue.

The whole significance of the incident is preserved for us in the
beautiful legend which tells us how, near the city of Rome, on the
Appian Way, as Peter was flying for his life, he met the Lord, and
again said to Him: 'Lord, whither goest Thou?' The words of the
question, as given in the Vulgate, are the name of the site of the
supposed interview, and of the little church which stands on it. The
Master answered: 'I go to Rome, to be crucified again.' The answer
smote the heart of the Apostle, and turned the cowardly fugitive into
a hero; and he followed his Lord, and went gladly to his death. For it
was that death which had to be accomplished before Peter was able to
follow his Lord.

Now, as to the words before us, I think we shall best gather their
significance, and lay it upon our own hearts, if we simply follow the
windings of the dialogue. There are three points: the audacious
question, the rash vow, and the sad forecast.

I. The audacious question.

As Peter's first question, 'Lord, whither goest Thou?' meant not so
much what it said, as 'I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest;
tell me, that I may'; so the second question, in like manner, is
really not so much a question, 'Why cannot I follow Thee now?' as the
nearest possible approach to a flat contradiction of our Lord. Peter
puts his words into the shape of an interrogation; what he means is,
'Yes, I can follow Thee; and in proof thereof, I will lay down my life
for Thy sake.' The man's persistence, the man's love leading him to
lack of reverence, came out in this (as I have ventured to call it)
audacious question. Its underlying meaning was a refusal to believe
the Master's word. But yet there was in it a nobility of
resolution--broken afterwards, but never mind about that--to endure
anything rather than to be separate from the Lord. Yet, though it was
noble in its motive, but lacking in reverence in its form, there was a
deeper error than that in it. Peter did not know what 'following'
meant, and he had to be taught that first. One of the main reasons why
he could not follow was because he did not understand what was
involved. It was something more than marching behind his Master, even
to a Cross. There was a deeper discipline and a more strenuous effort
needed than would have availed for such a kind of following.

Let us look a little onwards into his life. Recall that scene on the
morning of the day by the banks of the lake, when he waded through the
shallow water, and cast himself, dripping, at his Master's feet, and,
having by his threefold confession obliterated his threefold denial,
was taken back to his Lord's love, and received the permission for
which he had hungered, and which he had been told, in the upper room,
could not 'now' be given: 'Jesus said to him, Follow thou Me.' What a
flood of remembrances must then have rushed over the penitent Peter!
how he must have thought to himself, 'So soon, so soon is the "canst
not" changed into a _canst_! So soon has the "afterwards" come to be
the present!'

And long years after that, when he was an old man, and experience had
taught him what _following_ meant, he shared his privilege with all
the dispersed strangers to whom he wrote, and said to them, with a
definite reference to this incident, and to the other after the
Resurrection, 'leaving us an example, that we (not only, as I used to
think, in my exuberant days of ignorance) should follow in His steps.'

So, brethren, this blundering, loving, audacious question suggests to
us that to follow Jesus Christ is the supreme direction for all
conduct. Men of all creeds, men of no creed, admit that. The

  'Loveliness of perfect deeds,
  More strong than all poetic thought,'

which is set forth in that life constitutes the living law to which
all conduct is to be conformed, and will be noble in proportion as it
is conformed.

_There_ is the great blessing, and solemn obligation, and lofty
prerogative of Christian morality, that for obedience to a precept it
substitutes following a Person, and instead of saying to men 'Be good'
it says to them 'Be Christlike.' It brings the conception of duty out
of the region of abstractions into the region of living realities. For
the cold statuesque ideal of perfection it substitutes a living Man,
with a heart to love, and a hand to help us. Thereby the whole aspect
of striving after the right is changed; for the work is made easier,
and companionship comes in to aid morality, when Jesus Christ says to
us, 'Be like Me; and then you will be good and blessed.' Effort will
be all but as blessed as attainment, and the sense of pressing hard
after Him will be only less restful than the consciousness of having
attained. To follow Him is bliss, to reach Him is heaven.

But in order that this following should be possible, there must be
something done that had not been done when Peter asked, 'Why cannot I
follow Thee now?' One reason why he could not was, as I said, because
he did not know yet what 'following' meant, and because he was yet
unfit for this assimilation of his character and of his conduct to the
likeness of his Lord. And another reason was because the Cross still
lay before the Lord, and until that death of infinite love and utter
self-sacrifice for others had been accomplished, the pattern was not
yet complete, nor the highest ideal of human life realised in life.
Therefore the 'following' was impossible. Christ must die before He
has completed the example that we are to follow, and Christ must die
before the impulse shall be given to us, which shall make us able to
tread, however falteringly and far behind, in His footsteps.

The essence of His life and of His death lies in the two things,
entire suppression of personal will in obedience to the will of the
Father, and entire self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity. And
however there is--and God forbid that I should ever forget in my
preaching that there is--a uniqueness in that sacrifice, in that life,
and in that death, which beggars all imitation, and needs and
tolerates no repetition whilst the world lasts, still along with this,
there is that which is imitable in the life and imitable in the death
of the Master. To follow Jesus is to live denying self for God, and to
live sacrificing self for men. Nothing less than these are included in
the solemn words, 'leaving us'--even in the act and article of death
when He 'suffered for us'--'an example that we should follow His
steps.'

The word rendered 'example' refers to the headline which the
writing-master gives his pupils to copy, line by line. We all know how
clumsy the pothooks and hangers are, how blurred the page with many a
blot. And yet there, at the top of it, stands the Master's fair
writing, and though even the last line on the page will be blotted and
blurred, when we turn it over and begin on the new leaf, the copy will
be like the original, 'and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him
as He is.' 'Thou shalt follow Me afterwards' is a commandment; blessed
be God, it is also a promise. For let us not forget that the
'following' ends in an attaining; even as the Lord Himself