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The Healing of the Leper
These words, spoken to a leper, were the very last words that anyone, save He Who spake them, would have dreamed of saying. Most men, if they had spoken at all, would have bidden him keep his distance; some few might have flung to him a word or two of passing pity; one here and there might have bestowed an alms on him; but not one would even for a moment have thought of saying, 'Be thou clean'. It was left for Jesus to say to the poor wretch at His feet, crying for mercy, 'Be thou clean'. The words might have been words of mere advice to seek the best-known remedies; or words of encouragement to hope for the best; or words of fanaticism, assuming a power to heal, which could only have mocked the misery which it could not remove. But the words on the lips of Jesus were words of real authority, and a mysterious virtue went forth simultaneously with them from the Speaker, and made the leper whole ' Immediately his leprosy was cleansed'.
I. As we listen to His words there rises up before us the outline of a great example to be followed. The words of Jesus not only express the tenderest pity for the sufferer, but likewise His abhorrence of the disease which caused his suffering. When He pronounced deliverance to the sufferer, He likewise pronounced His ban upon the foul disease. 'Be thou clean' means not only 'I abate thy sufferings,' but also 'I hate thy disease'. But what of example can there be to us in this? The mind of Christ is to be the mind of His followers. If it was His mind to wage war upon disease, it is to be the mind of His followers too. If, in His abhorrence of disease, He said those words to the leper, 'Be thou clean,' He means us to say similar words, and it is possible for us to say these words and say them with power.
Every man who refuses to indulge to excess the cravings of his body at the expense of the laws of health; everyone who, by temperance and self-restraint, seeks to defend his body from the attacks of disease; every doctor who studies his science with the view of fighting disease; every community which erects and maintains hospitals to help the poor in their warfare against disease, which attends to drainage, ventilation, and pure water; every landlord who takes good care that his houses are sanitary, and not nests in which disease is bred all these, in their measure and degree, are taking up Christ's words, following His example, and saying, 'Be thou clean'. They are bidding defiance to disease, not with the Almighty power of the Son of God, but with a power that is real and true. They are, like the Master, dealing blows at disease, and in proportion to their self-denial and zeal they will invite His blessing, and succeed. Modern philanthropy and the enthusiasts of sanitary science have learned their best lessons and taken their best watchword from Him, Whom some of them repudiate, Who said, 'Be thou clean'.
II. But when Christ spake those words, He not only pointed out one direction in which He would have us follow His example, He likewise taught us the deep spiritual truths which concern us every one. It was a leper to whom He spake, and leprosy was God's own picture of the soul's disease which He calls by the name of sin. When then Jesus said, 'Be thou clean,' and by His Divine power made the leper clean, it is to us a most blessed revelation of how the cleansing of the soul can be brought about.
III. Remember that it is the cleansing of Repentance which is the one sure guarantee of the cleansing; of Pardon. How do you know that God has forgiven you your sins? You may think it to be true; you may hope it; your stirred emotions may persuade you that it is so; but to know of a certainty that the Divine Voice, 'Be thou clean,' has stopped and healed the disease that was corrupting your whole being, this in the great distinguishing message of the Gospel of our Redeemer, and the conviction that God has cleansed and pardoned you, even you, for the sake of Him Who died for your sins upon the Cross, that is God's unmistakable dominion, and is His gift. The Voice of Christ still says to us, 'Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee'; but He says it upon the one condition which can never be left out of sight, that thou art ready, and willing, and anxious to forsake thy sins; when thy penitence is sincere, and when thou hast placed the sacrifice of thy penitence at the foot of the Cross, then the Voice comes forth, 'Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee'.
Men shrink more from skin diseases than from any others. Jesus could have cured him with a word. There was no need that he should touch him. No need, did I say? There was every need. For no one else would touch him. Of all men a leper, I say, needed to be touched with the hand of love. Spenser says, 'Entire affection hateth nicer hands'. It was not for our master, our brother, our ideal man to draw around him the skirts of his garments, and speak a lofty word of healing that the man might at least be clean before he touched him.
References. VIII. 3. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 173. VIII. 5, 6. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons', vol. i. p. 59. VIII. 5-13. A. E. Killon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 157. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 161. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 184. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 198.
The Ministry of Kindness
I. Jesus Christ, the Healer and Comforter, is our Example. As Christ hath loved us, we ought to love one another. To us as members of the Holy Church, the great Christian Brotherhood, Jesus has committed this ministry of kindness. To His priests the Lord says, 'Give ye them to eat'. A starving world is fed at the Altars of the Church. To every member of the Church is the command given, 'Be kindly affectioned one to another'. Pure religion is defined as leading us to comfort the sick and suffering, the fatherless and widows, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
II. The Christian's Attitude Towards Sinners. The legend of the Holy Grail tells how one of Arthur's knights set forth to seek the mystic chalice of the Last Supper which had disappeared. As the knight left his house he saw a leper at the gate, and scarcely heeding him, cast a small piece of money to him. After long years' vain search in foreign lands, the knight returned, chastened and softened by what he had endured. At his gate he found the same leper, but now he pitied this stricken one, and taking the wooden bowl from the well, gave him water. Then suddenly the common bowl was changed into a shining chalice the Holy Grail, and the leper was no longer visible, but the Lord Jesus stood in his place. 'As ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me!' Do not go about among those who have fallen into sin with stones of reproach, but with words of comfort and of kindness.
III. The Christian's Attitude Towards the Sick and Afflicted. In our times of sorrow and spiritual sickness we need those who are healers, who bring love with them, who are a comfort to us. It has been truly said that many people belie their religion in church by their manners at home. If our religion does not make us gentle, patient, long-suffering in everyday life, it is not true. Let us remember that manners have a great deal to do with Christianity. A disagreeable person has no claim to the character of a Christian.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Notes of Sermons for the Year, pp. 75-80.
Reference. VIII. 7, 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1422.
Some Aspects of Humility As Suggested By the Story of the Centurion (Third Sunday after Epiphany)
Is there anything weak, or mean, or contemptible in that Roman officer, as he is presented to us in our Gospel, seeking help from Jesus for his sick slave? He is head of an important household, but is full of courtesy and consideration for the slaves in it; surely we should say here is an openhanded, courteous, considerate officer and gentleman, and yet his whole attitude towards Jesus is marked by two striking features faith and humility.
I. When our Lord would go with him to his house, he cries out, 'I am not worthy'. Does any one of us look down on him because of his humility? Is it not a robe of honour to him? Men are oftentimes rather flattered than otherwise when they are accused of pride. Poor and rich alike, humility is popular with neither, and yet God's Word teaches us plainly that 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble'.
There is indeed a counterfeit humility, which is most odious, that which is mere hypocrisy and servility, whilst the heart within is full of pride and hatred. To see what humility is, in all its beauty and perfection, you must look to Jesus.
II. The example and history of the centurion suggests some of the aspects of this virtue.
1. Observe how it affects his manner of approach to our Lord. The wondrous truth has come home to him, as it has not yet done to any in Israel, that He is Divine, that the power of the Godhead is His, so that all things obey His word, hence he draws near with the deepest sense of his own unworthiness, even while he casts himself on the love of Jesus.
2. How was it the centurion knew about God at all? It was because humility led him to use every opportunity of hearing truth.
3. Does not the centurion stand forth as essentially a man of action of good and holy work? He is evidently an active soldier from his own words; and more, he is the builder of a synagogue for the worship of God, and the eager seeker after help for one in sickness; and so it is even with true humility, it is not slothful or cowardly, it does not shirk from responsibilities, but whilst it is full of weakness, it leans on the strength of God and makes that its own. The man who begins some work with trust in self is soon daunted by difficulties, and gives up, and turns back. He who begins with distrust of self and trust in God will persevere to the end.
The secret of effort and work which will endure is this utterance of humility,' I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me'.
W. Howell Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 44.
References. VIII. 8. C. H. Parkhurst, A Little Lower than the Angels, p. 39. W. E. Heygate, Plain In tructive Sermons on Holy Communion, p. 53. VIII. 8, 9. A. Macclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 377. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2434. VIII. 8-10. H. W. Webb-Peploe, The Life of Privilege, p. 71. VIII. 8-12. B. Wilberforce, Feeling after Him, p. 40; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 305. VIII. 9. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 37. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 115.
Our Lord witnesses to the special virtues in the spiritual character of this Roman centurion. He had a faith at which our Lord marvelled. He said that it was the greatest faith He had yet found in all His ministry. We may well, therefore, ask ourselves the question, What is faith? 'Faith,' says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen'. Faith is a superior property bestowed by God whereby the truth is apprehended without the evidence of experience or argument proved; it belongs partly to the understanding and partly to the will.
I. Distrust Brought Sin. What was it that induced our first parents to eat of that which was forbidden? It was not altogether the desirableness of the thing itself that was the motive that had to be reckoned with; it was distrust of God, and in that one thought of distrust there lay all the future disobedience of the world. All seems to be centred in that one thought of distrust.
II. Trust Brings Righteousness. Just as in the one thought of distrust there lies every possible sin, so also in the one thought of trust there lies every possible good. Thus we see why the faith of the centurion was accounted unto him for righteousness, because in that one thought of trust there lay all the activity of his service 'Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed'. There is something very practical in that thought that God the Father does accept our trust, and does reckon it to us for righteousness. We are not to be saved so much for the accuracy of our theology, or for the correctness by which we take in our dogmas; but we are to be saved by a simple trust which can be common alike to the ignorant and the learned; to the man and to the child. That which God the Father asks of us is not so much that our lives shall correctly state all the truths concerning Him and His, and that relationship which lies between Him and His; but that we may stammer with our lips, in childlike ignorance perhaps, but still that our lips should be striving to frame and utter, that one word 'Father,' which seems to convey the existence of the immense love of Almighty God.
III. It is the Foundation of all Spiritual Life. We see in the centurion the great example of this virtue, that simple faith and childlike trust in God is the foundation of all true spiritual life. He had probably never seen Christ before, but he was ready to accept Him as the Son of God. It is quite true that faith is the gift of God, but it is a gift which we can in a large measure increase by our own cooperation. We look down the roll of God's saints, whose faith has been the wonder of the world, and we see there representatives of every type of temperament, every class of intellect. We cannot say that faith depends on the natural temperament alone; it depends to a very large extent on our moral training.
IV. It Needs the Discipline of the Will. What is the principal disposing cause of faith? We can learn a lesson from the centurion. In his reply to our Lord there was just one thing brought out, and that is the wonderful state of discipline in which everything connected with him seemed to be. The man seemed to have learnt self-discipline, and we should all of us know the utter hopelessness of attempting to discipline the lives of others without first acquiring power over ourselves. 'I am a man,' he says, 'under authority, having soldiers under me' He was a man who had learnt to obey and to command. Notice his wonderful humbleness he called attention first to the fact that he was a subordinate. Are we not all in the same position? Are we not so much so that we may say 'I am a man under authority' under the authority of God 'and just in proportion as I have learned to recognize His authority, and to obey His laws, so shall I be able to command my will'. These faculties, this power that is given to soul and body, this possibility of good and evil, these thoughts, and words, and deeds as we look upon them and think what a rebellious army they are, and how difficult they are to command, can we not see that our work is to discipline them all? There is only one way in which we are able to get that command strong and clear, and that is by recognizing and obeying a superior authority; by accepting the commands of God and the Church; by obeying the dictates of our own individual conscience.
V. The World to Conquer and Heaven to Win. We have the world to conquer, and we have heaven to win. St John tells us the victory which overcometh the world even our faith. We must lay this foundation first, and then we can go on to learn those other things of hope and love. Step by step we can climb to higher things, faith, hope, and love, the three steps to God, of which St. Paul tells us the greatest is love, yet the foundation on which all the other is to be built is this faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
References. VIII. 9, 10. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 72. VIII. 9-13. W. Hay M. H. Aitken, Mission Sermons (3rd Series), p. 182. VIII. 10. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 85. H. M. Butler, Cambridge Review, 27 Jan. 1886. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 936; vol. xxiv. No. 1422. Outline Sermons to Children, p. 116. W. Hay M. H. Aitken, Mission Sermons, vol. iii. p. 182. F. W. Robertson, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 114. Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii. p. 12. H. Melvill, One Hundred and Fifty Sermons from the Penny Pulpit, vol. ii. Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i. p. 54; vol. ii. p. 262.
Faith the Title for Justification ( easter )
We may humbly, yet confidently say, that where there is true faith, there justification shall be; there it is promised, it is due, it is coming, somehow, some-while. Whether, as the saints of the Old Testament waited, and were not gifted with Gospel justification till Christ's first coming, these faithful souls will be received into the glory and grace of the Church at His second coming; or whether they enter into the kingdom upon death; or whether, by an extraordinary dispensation unknown to us and to themselves, they receive the gift here; or whether in this world their eyes shall at length be opened, and the Church revealed to them, as the true treasure-house of grace and home of refuge to all believers, and they be led to seek it, and renounce the sect of their birth or of their choice any how, they have a title; if they call, they shall be answered if they knock, it shall be opened to them. Who have this true faith we cannot tell, any more than when God rewards it; no, nor what measure of assistance, what power of spiritual influence He gives to those who nevertheless, like the Jews, have not the peculiar gifts and endowments of the Covenant of the Gospel. Yet it is a great comfort to believe that God's favour is not limited to the bounds of His heritage, but that, in the Church or out of the Church, every one that calleth on the name of the Lord with a pure and perfect heart shall be saved.
J. H. Newman.
References. VIII. 11. C. Parsons Reichel, Sermons, p. 320. VIII. 11. C. H. Wright, The Unrecognized Christ, p. 74. B. Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 73. W. E. Barton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 12. VIII. 11, 12. John Wills, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 133. F. D. Maurice, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, vol. iii. p. 59. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 72; see also Church Times, vol. lvii. 1907, p. 117. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. Nos. 39, 40. VIII. 12. F. S. Swindell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 134. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 218. VIII. 13. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 49. R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons (3rd Series), p. 33. H. R. Nevill, Last Sermon. Henry Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 97. H. P. Cronshaw, Sermons for the People, vol. ii. p. 52. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1422. Wace, Gospel and its Witnesses, p. 89. Cox, Expositions, vol. i. p. 199. Maurice, Gospel of Kingdom, p. 126. Trench, Miracles, p. 236. Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i. p. 350; vol. ii. p. 262; vol. ii. p. 551; vol. iii. p. 90. Kingsley, Village, Town, and Country Sermons, No. 4. C. J. Vaughan, Good Words for 1864, p. 482, and in his Plain Words on Christian Living. Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations, vol. vii. p. 292. Hall's Contemplations. Expositor (2nd Series), vol. vi. p. 161. Bruce, Galilean Gospel, p. 146. J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 39. Robertson's Sermons (2nd Series), No. 10. Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii. p. 12. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii. p. 59. Liddon, vol. xxii. p. 97. Bishop Moorhouse, vol. xxix. p. 296. Newman, Parochial Sermons, vol. vi. p. 166. Hook on Miracles, vol. i. p. 158. Girdlestone, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. pp. 101, 117. Cumming, Foreshadows, p. 68. Simeon, Works, vol. xii. p. 354. Roberts, Plain Sermons, vol. i. p. 121. VIII. 14, 15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1836. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 86. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew, I.-VIII. p. 386. VIII. 14-17. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 156. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 194.
It is beyond dispute that when our Lord worked physical cure there was underneath the miracle another purpose. On one occasion He said: 'And that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, take up thy bed and walk'. There our Lord Himself goes out of His way to accentuate the fact that the miracle is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Let us look at the text in that light.
I. Life's Fever. So many people realize nowadays that life is a fever, life is something infectious; there is something in it which seizes hold of a man's body, soul, and spirit, and if he cannot resist, and if the Divine hand does not touch him, he will die of the fever.
a. The voice of history. I look into history, and I find that all men who have spoken truthfully say that life is a fever. We think of the great Roman who said that he had been everything, but that nothing was of the least use. We think of our own great Shakespeare. 'Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow.' There never was a more cheerful man than Charles Dickens, yet he had to write at the end, 'Of all sad dreams life is the saddest'. Where can you find a life more full of joy than Walter Scott's, yet he wrote, 'Years ago my heart was broken, and although the pieces were handsomely put together I shall bear the cracks until I die'. If you take your part in the world's rush and bustle and in life's tragedy the fever will catch you, and it will go hard with you unless Christ touches your hand.
b. The social life. The joys of social life are great, but one thing always strikes me as particularly trying in connexion with it. There is the fuss and fever of life all about one almost before the day has really begun. You are going to see a Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, and all the rest of it. After all, there are a great many things that must be done, and weightier matters of life should come first. If the fever of life once catches you it will spoil you for the best things.
c. In political life. Too often the popular thing to do is to legislate in a panic. Whatever is the latest newspaper scare the cry is: 'Legislate, legislate; remedy this; remedy that!' It is a fever. Legislation is not thought out; it is not considered; it is simply pandering to the cry, 'Something must be done'.
d. Then amusements. What a rush they all are! To get into your day as much as you can crowd and then call it amusement!
e. Finally, there is the religious life. When other people are on the 'go,' that strange feeling that we must rush too comes over us, whatever may be the latest development of religious energy.
II. And its Remedy. The remedy is in the text. Now let me point out one or two ways in which we can follow the text.
a. There is the life of silence. Out of the thirty-three years of our Lord's life thirty were spent in silence. Just imagine what people would say Today. 'You call yourself a teacher, and out of thirty-three years you have spent thirty years in silence! Here are souls to be saved, here are hearts waiting to be mended, and you deliberately go and shut yourself up.' But these thirty years were years of preparation. You and I want more silence. We are always talking, pursuing, doing something. What we need is quiet silence.
b. Association with Nature. Why did Jesus so often go in His boat on the Galilean lake? Why was He always going to those strange, deserted places? Surely because he wished to teach us that Nature was the mantle of God, and that we ought to plunge ourselves among those beautiful things to see that He is speaking to us for everything. In this you will find a rest and a cure for the fever of life.
c. The possession of loyal friends. Is not the power of friendship a wonderful thing? We are told that Jesus loved Lazarus, that He loved St. John, and that He loved the rich young ruler. Why are there so few modern friendships? Because there are so few modern friends. Friendship means sacrifice, devotion, self-deprivation. You know what the French people say about friendship: 'Friendship is love without its wings'. If you had one or two real friends behind you the fever of life would die down; you could hope, you could suffer, you could die if you felt that behind you there was that strong power which St. John felt when He leaned on the Lord's bosom at supper. The modern life has no time for such friendship.
d. A tolerant spirit. Is it not strange that men should be so intolerant? A man complains that another man does this or does that, thinks this or thinks that, goes here or goes there. What is it to thee what thy brethren do? The question is, 'Am I a Pharisee?' not 'Is my brother a Pharisee?' You will find that the most tolerant people are those who are devoted to the highest ideals. There never was but one sinless One, and when the woman, stained with her sin, was brought before Him, He said: 'Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more'. If only you were more tolerant you would not have all that fever of unquiet; you would not look out upon other lives, but would recognize that your business was to live up to your own possibilities.
e. The touch of Christ. But the greatest cure for the fever of life is in the healing touch of the Divine finger. He is with us always in our triumphs, in our failures, in our broken hopes, in all the disillusions that come to us. The Sacred Presence never leaves us. 'I am with you always.'
References. VIII. 16, 17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2124. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 98. VIII. 17. J. W. Diggle, Sermons for Daily Life, p. 27. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 266. E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, p. 130. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 388. VIII. 18. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 58. VIII. 18-23. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 49. VIII. 18-27. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 61. VIII. 19, 20. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 397. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2361. VIII. 19-21. J. Boyd, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 104. VIII. 20. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 99. Caroline Fry, Christ Our Example, p. 83. VIII. 21, 22. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 405. R. Baldwin Brindley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 61. VIII. 22. F. E. Paget, The Living and the Dead, p. 158.
Christ Stilling the Tempest
Ages ago, the man whose hand was as skilful on the harp as it was mighty on the sword and battle-axe, sang thus to it: 'By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer, O God of our salvation, Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea; which by His strength setteth fast the mountains, being girded with power; which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people'. This sublime language was prophetical of the Divine action on the tempest-riven sea of Galilee.
I. The peril of the disciples seemed very real. On the evening of a long day of continuous teaching by the seaside, Jesus beckoned to His disciples to pass over to the other side. They had not been long on the water when its face, which had been calm as a mirror all day, gave signs of agitation and storm. The Sea of Galilee was an inland sea, and, like all inland seas, was subject to violent hurricanes of wind, which rolled unexpectedly down the gorges of the mountains surrounding it, and created a furious tempest on the waters, which frequently engulfed the small craft floating thereon, and caused the sacrifice of many precious lives. Such a tornado now swept over this sea and lashed it into madness. But, apart from natural causes, who raised this fearful storm? Was it an accident one of those effects that seem without a cause? No; there was 'a Divinity' in it. But this storm occurred not as that which fell on the sea, and tossed 'the ship going to Tarshish,' in which. Jonah was fleeing from duty, until 'it was thought to be broken'; the disciples were doing just as Christ; enjoined them; they were in the course of duty, and He was therefore with them; and it was because He was with them that this storm arose. What lessons are here for us!
II. But the Master was asleep. His human nature was exhausted by his Godlike acts; and glad indeed was He to take a piece of sail-cloth for His pillow, while angels spread their broad, white wings over Him., and so fall to sleep. Here is a certain proof of His perfect humanity. Because of such proofs, people, 'in the days of His flesh,' would not believe in His Divinity. If they were to see Him now, as John saw Him on the Isle of Patmos, clothed with a splendour brighter than the sun, and holding in His hand the sceptre of the universe, they would not believe in His humanity (Hebrews 2:9-18 ).
III. The cry of the disciples showed that they realized their peril. St. Matthew says that his disciples awoke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us; we perish!' St. Mark says that their cry was: 'Master, carest Thou not that we perish?' St. Luke has their cry thus: 'Master, Master, we perish!' All the Evangelists record what they heard. A number of the disciples cried one thing, and a number the other; and doubtless all the Gospels are correct. But what fear their cry indicated! The storm was no ordinary one, and their fear corresponded with its fury.
IV. The chiding of the Saviour was full of tenderness. But why chide at all? Was not the fear of the disciples natural, and also inevitable under the circumstances of their great danger? Yes; but they, in the height of their fear, forgot that their Almighty Saviour was on board, and thought only of the raging tempest. His chiding, therefore, was followed immediately by His acting. 'He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.' What a contrast! the sea one moment all storm, as if it had never been otherwise; the next, all calm, as if neither fierce storm nor evening zephyr had ever swept over it! So the wildest tempest hushed by heaven produces the profoundest calm for the believer. The lions' den has often become to him the vestibule of glory the burning fiery furnace the presence-chamber of the Son of God!
V. The marvel of the men may next be noticed. 'What manner of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?' This exclamation evinces their deep feeling. Men who are fearful in the storm should be grateful in the calm. Yet it is not always so: ten lepers were cleansed, one only returned to give thanks; all were glad that they were healed, one only was personally grateful. Gratefulness is sublime, whether felt on sea or on land; it is the virtue which makes heaven musical for ever. 'Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men?' (Psalms 107:21 ).
References. VIII. 23-27. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 119. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 203. Stopford A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 339. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 182. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 412. Jay, Short Discourses, vol. iii. p. 1. J. H. Gurney, Sermons, p. 17. Dean Hook, On the Miracles, vol. ii. p. 207. Isaac Williams, Sermons, vol. i. p. 140. Simeon, Works, vol. xi. p. 292. Dodd, On the Miracles, vol. i. p. 247. Dean Close, Miscellaneous Sermons, vol. ii. p. 253. Trench, Miracles, p. 151. Cox, Expositor's Note-Book, p. 314. Parker,' Christ's Inward Peace Controlling Outward Storms,' Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii. p. 39. George Huntington in Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i. p. 392. Joseph Hughes, ibid. vol. iii. p. 247. G. W. Barrett, ibid. vol. iii. p. 249. Chapman, 'Christ's Supremacy Over Nature,' ibid. vol. iv. p. 411. Bushnell, 'Christ Asleep,' Christ and His Salvation, p. 119. Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrations, vol. vii. p. 308. Mackennal, Congregationalist, 1878, p. 552. Maclaren's Sermons (3rd Series), No. 19. Liddon's University Sermons, vol. ii. p. 165. Dean Vaughan's, Christ the Light of the World. Jacox, Secular Annotations, etc., vol. i. p. 231. Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 95; vol. xviii. p. 398. Beecher, ibid. vol. xxiii. p. 51. A. G. Brown, ibid. vol. xxv. p. 309. Sinai and Palestine, pp. 379, 380. VIII. 24. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 601. J. G. Simpson, Sermons for the People, vol. ii. p. 87. VIII. 25. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 89. VIII. 25, 26. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 111.
The Great Calm
I. The Storm and the Calm a Parable of Life. The disciples were saved from the storm because they cried unto the Lord. So the Church weathers the storm which beats upon it, because of the prayers of the faithful. The Church is tossed and buffeted, like that boat upon the lake, but not overwhelmed. As it was said of the city of Troy 'Conquered, it shall conquer, and overthrown, it shall yet rise again'. There was a great calm! It is the voice of God speaking to our troubled hearts, which alone can calm them.
Men sometimes laugh at religion while the sun shines, but the tempest drives them to their Lord right humbly. When our ship of life sails calmly over smooth seas, we are tempted to forget that Jesus is with us, but when the sudden tempest arises, we say, 'Master, save us, we perish'.
II. Jesus Manifested as the Ruler of the Spirit World. There are some in these days who talk as though the power of evil and of Satan were preeminent, but Satan is not the ruler of this world, he is the master only of those who choose to serve him. People who foolishly and ignorantly dabble with spiritualism, instead of praying to God, fall into this error. The sacrifice of the swine may have been an object lesson to show the awful results of falling into the power of Satan. The swine, as soon as the devils entered into them, became mad and rushed headlong to destruction, the man who allows Satan to take possession of him is no longer himself, but maddened by angry lusts and passions which drive him to ruin.
III. The Choice. The people who saw the miracle of our Lord, and His Divine power manifested, begged Him to depart out of their coasts.
Those men in the Gospel preferred their swine to their Saviour, and there are among us now some who would choose a pig-sty instead of a sanctuary, the foul slavery of sin rther than the glorious freedom of the Son of God.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Notes of Sermons for the Year, pp. 81-86.
It is our duty to be on our guard against panics. Panics are the last infirmity of believing souls. It is, of course, easy to denounce them from the standpoint of a philosophical unconcern as to all religious interests; calmness is a cheap virtue when you have, or when you suppose yourself to have, nothing really at stake. It is not, in this sense, that panics are to be deprecated; the most irrational panic of an unlettered peasant who believes that his creed is in danger, is, beyond all comparison, a nobler thing than the tranquil indifference of a Talleyrand. But panics are to be deprecated, not because they imply a keen interest in the fortunes of religion, but because they betray a certain distrust of the power and living presence of our Lord.
References. VIII. 26. G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 34. W. C. Magee, The Anglican Pulpit of Today, p. 145. A. F. Winnington Ingram, The After-Glow of a Great Reign, p. 15. J. A. Paterson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 266. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v. p. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2852. VIII. 27. D. Strong, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 284. Henry Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 108. G. W. Herbert, Notes of Sermons, p. 39. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1686. VIII. 28 W. H. Ridley, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 162. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 123. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (1st Series), p. 316. VIII. 28-34. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 416. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 218. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 212. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 125. VIII. 29. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons ( 2nd Series), p. 111. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 7. VIII. 34. A. N. Obbard, Plain Sermons, p. 113. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 20. W. G. Horder, ibid. vol. lx. 1901, p. 60. A. N. Obbard, Plain Sermons, p. 113. P. H. Hall, The Brotherhood of Man, p. 141. R. H. McKim, The Gospel in the Christian Year, p. 102. VIII. 58. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. 1896, p. 124. IX. 1. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. pp. 563, 574. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1895, p. 20. IX. 1-8. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 166. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 178.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 8". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20