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The Mystery of Suffering (for Holy Week)
I have thought that it may lead up to that climax of all endurance which we shall soon be called upon to measure if, on the days of this Holy Week, we consider 'Suffering' under five aspects: 'The Mystery of Suffering,' 'The Consecration of Suffering,' 'The Uses of Suffering,' 'The Joy of Suffering,' and 'The Dignity of Suffering'.
I. Mystery is:
( a ) A necessity. So long as the finite has to do with the Infinite, there must be mystery.
( b ) A boon. It cultivates the two high graces of patience and faith.
( c ) Joy in everything. Half the happiness of the world would be gone if we had not always to do with something beyond it.
II. What a Mystery the Present State of our World is.
( a ) Take a walk through the hospitals.
( b ) See some poor creature, in her wretched hovel, ill and without a friend.
( c ) See that man ready for heaven, yet left there, apparently useless, lying in his agony for years at the gate, before God lets him cross the threshold!
III. But Let us Take the Matter out of its Generalities and Deal with it more Personally.
( a ) There is not one who has not known, or who probably does not know at this moment, some dreadful trouble; or, if he has not any, he knows that he shall have some.
( b ) Now, when suffering of mind or body comes, perhaps the first cry of nature is 'Why? Why all this for me? Am I worse than others?'
( c ) Mystery answers mystery. It is mystery, in great part, for this very end, that you may say 'Why?' and have no answer, no answer but 'Sovereignty! God's own absolute, rightful sovereignty!' 'What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.'
IV. In all your Home-suffering, Leave and Love the Mystery which gives you concord with Jesus, and all His saints. Do not wish to see all. Do not wish to explain all. It will not be half so useful, nor half so good for you, if you ask questions. Take it in the simplicity of its own magnificence. It is so grand to see only God to be lost in God!
God's Goodness to Man (A Harvest Sermon)
We are here to celebrate our Harvest Festival.
I. First, let us think of the propriety of a Harvest Thanksgiving. Can it be that there are some who need to be reminded that these fruits of the earth, around us, of whatever kind, are emblems of the love and might of God; that they tell of God's loving provision for the children of men? These things speak to us of the mysteries of growth. They tell us of the wonders of rain and sunshine, and air and soil. They testify to God's majesty and beneficence.
II. Let us see what God's Word says as to the celebration of a Harvest Thanksgiving. In plain and unmistakable terms we find there God's direct command for keeping the Feast of Harvest. Not the least interesting fact in connexion with this feast is the fact that our Lord Himself we find present upon one occasion at the celebration as it was carried on in His day. The Bible plainly shows us, at all events, that Harvest rejoicings and the duty of giving thanks to God for the earth's produce are as old as man's sojourn in the world.
III. And what should be the tone of our rejoicings? If we present ourselves at services such as this in the same spirit as that in which we might attend a secular concert, or a secular show, merely to be interested and entertained, it is time that we left the Harvest Festival alone altogether. But if the effect is to lift our hearts in real thankfulness to God for His beneficence, or if the Festival is a true expression of our thanks, then we do well to be present.
IV. The harvest and the field offer an immense sphere for the preacher. There is not a phase of life which they, one or other of them, cannot be taken to illustrate. Our Lord frequently and plentifully drew lessons from both, and, as we have seen, drew out from the harvest rejoicings, two of the mightiest object-lessons that ever the world has listened to. All creation speaks of God's goodness. If we receive God's mercies and His bounty in the right spirit, we shall look to Him with loving thankfulness, and a rich sense of safety and security.
The Unlighted Lustre
In the life of Sir Walter Scott by Lockhart, there occurs a remark made by Sir Walter that has often come back to me in quiet moments. A reverend gentleman a Principal from St. Andrews was lamenting that he had never seen Byron, and Scott fell to talk on the beauty of Byron's face. 'Doctor,' he said, 'the prints give you no idea of it; the lustre is there, but it is not lighted up.' I confess that I have been haunted by that sentence, The lustre is there, but it is not lighted up.
I. Think to begin with of this world we dwell in, with all its beauty of hill and stream and sea. From the lights and shadows of the highland moor down to the droop of the birch-tree at the door, there is such a lustre of glory on the world that to some hearts it is a joy for ever. But for centuries men had no eyes for that, the ancient world had little feeling for it all. Again I think of the Bible. It is the same book in every hand and home. Yet to one man the Bible is the Bible, a book of infinite comfort and power and healing, and to another it is just so many printed pages within two covers that are rarely opened. The lustre is there, but it is not lighted up.
II. So much then for the unlighted lustre, and now a few words on how the lustre is kindled; and here I shall confine myself to human life, for that practically embraces all the rest. ( a ) First then, that is one great gain of responsibility: it is one of God's ways of lighting up the lustre. Responsibility develops a man's power, and rouses him into the enthusiasm of activity; it is like the sunlight falling on the seed and making it quicken into leaf and flower. There is a great deal more in you than you give yourself credit for, and this is God's way of lighting up the lustre. ( b ) Then again this is one of the chief offices of love. A love that is base may set a man afire, but a love that is heavenly sets a man ashining. Dante tells us that but for his love of Beatrice, and the illuminating of his whole nature which it brought him, he would never have been moved to write these poems which are the wonder and the warning of the ages. That then, is one of the great offices of love. It comes like a torch to light the lustre up. ( c ) And then this is one of the meanings of conversion that old and noble mismanaged word. Conversion is the lighting up of our lustre with the spark of God's Holy Spirit out of heaven. G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 30.
References. XXXVI. 9. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series), p. 28. P. Brooks, Sermons Preached in an English Church, p. 89. Archbishop Benson, Boy Life, p. 32. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, pp. 292, 311. S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 97. XXXVII. International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 322. XXXVII. 1. Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons (2nd Series), p. 267. XXXVII. 1, 2. H. Windross, The Life Victorious, p. 255. Parker, The Cavendish Pulpit, p. 193. XXXVII. 3. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 257. J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 344. H. Alford, Sermons, p. 213. XXXVII. 3-8. H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii. p. 93.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 36". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12