Out of Place
There is a fitness of things. We all know it. We feel it, though we may not be able to explain it in words. There is an instinctive judgment about proportion, and social rightness, and personal action. There is a regularity in irregularity. Life is not so tumultuous as it seems. If we could see the action of all the lines of life we should see that beneath all the tumult and uproar, all the eccentricity and irregularity, there is a steady line, direct, inevitable, persistent. It is upon that line that God looks when he talks of progress and the final out-blossoming of all the things he has sown and planted in the earth. There is what is called tendency. It can hardly be measured; it is often imperceptible; it may require whole centuries in order to note the very least progress that that tendency has made. It is in the air, it is in the remoter thought of men, it is in the things which they say to themselves when nobody hears them. It is thus that God leads us on from one point to another, whilst we ourselves imagine that things are irregular and upsidedown and wanting in order and peacefulness. There are two looks: there is the outward and superficial look that sees nothing, and there is the penetrating and spiritual look to which you may trust for a true and profound criticism. There is therefore, I repeat, a fitness of things, a sense of proportion, and colour, and weight, and values. We know one another at once; in a few minutes we soon learn whether the man should be here or there, or elsewhere: there is a spirit in Prayer of Manasseh, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding. There is an order of things which every one must approve. You may talk as much democracy and vulgarity as you please, but there is an order appointed of God, and you cannot upset it. It is not an order based upon mere money. When money is mere money there is nothing so poor on all the earth: nobody wants it, nobody will change it, nobody will trust to it. Money by itself is mockery, imposition, disappointment. There is no order or classification founded upon mere golden sovereigns. It is not an order of dress. Men shine brightly through their clothes. The clothes of a poor man are always radiant, not to the eye of vulgar judgment; but there is something about the man that makes his very cloak shine and glisten as no fuller on earth can whiten it. It is a marvellous process, wholly mysterious, and out of the way of the common run of criticism; but there it Isaiah, and we feel that the man has a right to be at the top. He does not look much, but let him give a judgment, let him utter one sentence, let him put his finger down upon one point in the argument; and at once the primacy is conceded. It is the ghostly, the mental, the spiritual, that rules all things in the long-run.
This order or fitness of things is not merely hereditary. We do not despise that which is hereditary. Because it ought to bring history with it There ought to be a good deal of grey moss on certain names, and grey moss ought to be full of wise writing, it ought to be the treasure-house of experience and character and honour and service. But the fitness of things I refer to now is not founded either upon money or dress, or heredity, or anything that is external. It is a house not made with hands. Hands spoil everything. No man can pluck a flower without killing it. Plucking means killing. You cannot put back the drop of dew on the rose-tip that you shook off just now. That dew will not be handled. How sweet a thing it Isaiah, and beautiful, to know that our hands have done so little! And whatever our hands do time wears out, nature begins to quarrel with at once. You no sooner put the roof upon your house than nature begins to take it off. There is an inner fitness, a spiritual relation and kinship, and when souls that know one another meet, how accidentally soever, they know one another instantly; an introduction would be a dishonour: the introduction comes up from eternity and is stamped upon the face of the occasion. There is a spirit in man.
I could imagine all the bankers in London gathered together with all their gold with them, pile on pile, and quite a snowstorm of financial paper; and I could imagine it being announced to them that Robert Burns, who hardly ever had a sovereign in his life, was at the door, and would be glad to look in if they would allow him. I could imagine all the bankers of London starting to their feet to receive the ploughman. How so? He has a right to such salutation. He has no paper, he has no bullion, but he has written words that make life doubly precious: he has sent angels through the air singing of common things and little things; he makes the house the pleasanter whenever he comes by his songs into it. He would be recognised at once as welcome, and honoured, and honourable. This is also a marvellous thing, that the spirit that is in man bows to spirit. For a time it may bow to the gold, but there are times when it recognises its true kinship, and when it rises and bows itself down again in humble and reverent homage before its own higher kindred. I could imagine all the lords of Great Britain and Ireland assembled under their gilded roof, and I could imagine circumstances under which they would also rise to their feet to welcome a stranger. Let it be announced to them that Beethoven was at the door and would like to come in, and there is not a lord amongst them that would not rise and say, Welcome! Why? He was no peer, he was a poor man. He has been set down even at great royal festivals to sit and dine apart, but he also was so much of a man and a king that when they set him down at the side-table he took up his hat and went out, and left them to dine without him as well as they could; and on other occasions he was called to the chief seat, where he had a right to be. It is mind that must be at the top: beauty of soul, pureness, grandeur of imagination, massiveness of intellect, that must rule; and every other aristocracy must pay tribute to its majesty. There must always be an aristocracy of mind. I do not like the free-and-easy way which I have seen in some countries. I do not care for that broad and vulgar doctrine which says that all men are equal, because I know that is a lie. All men are not equal. There are masters and there are servants, and there must be so to the end of time. I am not now using these words in their ordinary social sense. There are master minds, master thinkers, men who catch the light of the morning first and throw it down upon the valleys. All men are equal?—is the landscape all equal? are the stars all equal? is nature all equal? Why, we must have masters, rulers, kings, and sometimes what we call tyrants; there must be an order or level of mind that must domineer for the time being, and prove its rectitude and harmony with the higher sovereigns after long time, so that we shall salute the dead. We often reserve our encomiums for the dead. We kill them, we crucify them, and then we sing hymns to their memory. We slay the prophets, and the next generation will come and build marble tombs over them, with elaborate epitaphs. But there should be and must be inequality now: it is inevitable, we cannot alter it. There must be class after class, lower and higher; and blessed is that nation the citizens of which can recognise these great distinctions of mind, and moral force, and pay appropriate tribute to them. I have no right to be equal in the presence of a man like Longfellow; a servile mind like mine must bow down at the feet of such a Prayer of Manasseh, and look up to him. We know what he has written, we know what a master of music he was; his words are now part of the air we breathe, and when we see him we do not accost him with some false bald doctrine of "All men are equal, and I will stand in your presence covered." There are not many men who have a right to keep their hats on when Longfellow comes in. And what is true of the one poet is true of poets of our own. I would have therefore an exaltation of mind, genius, character above all things. The pure-minded man should be the sovereign of the age in which he lives.
But the speaker of this parable is no Epictetus, he is no Seneca, he is no mere moralist; he did not hang up these little pictures for the purpose of having them admired as men admire cameos and forget them. He was the Son of God, and therefore there must be even in this parable, simply ethical and social as it appears to be, a gospel element, a sacrificial doctrine and thought and purpose. What is it? Is it true that Christianity is a religion of manners? Certainly Christianity teaches men how to behave themselves; and when a man does not know how to behave himself he is no Christian. But he believes in nine hundred and fifty-nine articles and doctrines and other addenda. So he may do, but he is no Christian if he be not courteous, if he does not know how to behave himself and restrain himself and exhibit excellence of conduct; I do not care if he multiply his beliefs by ten, it is nothing. If he have not charity, love, all-teaching, all-guiding love, he is nothing, and less than nothing. So Christianity is a religion of manners. "Be not weary in well-doing." We misunderstand that word oftentimes. It is not well-doing in the sense of doing well, doing things that are excellent, but doing things that are excellent excellently. The emphasis is on the adverb. A man may do excellent things and do them roughly; a man may preach the gospel in an ungospel tone; a man may bid you welcome to heaven as if he were threatening you with punishment. Literally, the apostle says, Be not weary in courtesy, in good manners, in the civil treatment of one another. A man is not candid because he is brutal. Courtesy does not ask for bluntness to sustain its charter and its dignity. Christianity is therefore, I repeat again and again, a religion of manners, of behaviour, of conduct. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding sit not down in the highest room, but seek out the right place. Never be out of position; and if you have to elect the position always proceed upon the assumption that you are not the best man that is coming to the feast. Christianity insists upon self-knowledge. How honourable are you? How many men are there who are more honourable? Suppose there are fifty men coming to the wedding-feast, who is the most honourable? Blessed is he who says, Not I I must wait until I see all the guests before I can form a judgment; it is my business to wait until all others are in. And depend upon it sooner or later there comes a destiny, a gentle, genial, beautiful, yet inexorable fate, that says, Friend, that is not your place, your place is further up. You cannot keep men back from the places they are destined to occupy. God goes by the fitness of things which he himself has established. You need not edge and elbow and crush your way, in obedience to the vulgar exhortation, Now make your way in the world! Do nothing of the kind. Depend upon it, we are under a fatherly providence, and if you will look back upon your life you will see that you have never forced your way to any real position worth having, but have been led to it; men have heard a voice in the air, saying, This is the man. It is so in statesmanship, and in commerce, and in literature, in journalism, in preaching, in everything. There is a master of ceremonies, an angel of God, a spirit of right that says, You are wanted higher up: or, Sit where you are until you are sent for. God knows where you are, and when he wants you he will not forget you. You are in a little village, and you want to be in a great city, and you are impatient because a man of your bulk almost occupies the whole of the village. Draw yourself in, and wait just where you are, and when God needs you in the great city he will come for you certainly. If you live in this faith, you will have peace, you will have great measure of enjoyment in life. Oh, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, and he will arrange the wedding-table; and when the whole geometric figure is completed, and all the living people are at the table, they will look round and say, Why, this is a mosaic; this is a mosaic not made with hands. How well fitted we are, how admirably thrown together! Yet there was no throwing in it, except in the sense in which the clouds throw their showers upon the thirsty ground. Believe in God, live in God, and know that he knows you better than you can know yourself. You think you could occupy the top seat, but you could not. If you could believe that we should have no fret at home, no chafing, no mortified ambitions, but just that wonderful silence which often says to itself quite inaudibly to others, What is this? I wanted to be otherwhere, and yet I am here; for a time I was in patient, but now I see I would not change my place: all has been ordered wisely; he who is the Master of the feast hath done all things well.
A marvellous Christianity is this for continually—shall we say eternally?—striking the self out of the man. It will not rest until it has got out of you and me every little weight of selfishness that is lying in the most secret part of our hearts. In this very chapter the doctrine is laid down in graphic language:—"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple," What, may I not retain one little atom of my very self? And the gospel says, No. Then what are the terms of acceptance with the higher life? God the Father, God the Song of Solomon, and God the Holy Ghost. The words are at least four in number:—humble himself, deny himself, crucify himself, mortify himself. Are these the terms of entrance? Name them again: Humble, deny, crucify, mortify. Then where am I? Nowhere; killed, slain, the last shred of selfishness crushed: now you are prepared to receive the kingdom of heaven.
An awful word is the word "mortify." What does it literally mean? Make dead. Unless a man make dead himself, he cannot begin to live. You know the term well enough in your deeds of partnership and deeds of arrangement and deeds of settlement—"That he the said A. B. shall be as if dead." You have often written yourselves dead on your legal parchments: that is just what you must do in this entrance into the wedding chamber; you must have no self, no selfishness, no self-idolatry, no self-trust; you must hate your own life; then God can begin to do something with you. Ambition killed the race; wanting the next and higher thing brought us to ruin. That spirit will ruin the Eden of your life, and blight the Eden of your home, and bring you down to disappointment and shame and misery. What you have to do therefore is to get rid of self. "Unless a man deny himself he cannot be my disciple." You say it is necessary for you to live, and God says it is not. There is no need for you to live another moment. A man may say, "I must do something for a living." No; that is atheism; there is not one whit of gospel in that. It is absolutely needless that you or I should live another moment. And if we cannot live without sharp practice, and without injustice, and without taking up the room that belongs to other people we had better not live; it is not life. In some money there is no comfort. Once a man got hold of thirty pieces of silver, fifteen in each hand, and his hands were scorched, and he took it back and could hardly shake it off, and he said, "Take it again, I have betrayed innocent blood!" Why not make the confession and keep the money? You cannot; restoration follows confession. There is some honour in which there is no real sense of dignity; it is a thing of feathers and air and paint and gilt. True honour cometh only from God; it belongs to righteousness and to obedience.
Here then is the great Moralist and the great Teacher, and especially the great Saviour, saying to us by parable and by doctrine, If you want to come into my kingdom one man must be killed. Who is that one man? Yourself. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." We might all find it if we really wanted to do so.
Christ"s Texts As a Preacher
Christ"s way of getting texts—Christ"s private expositions—who was their preacher?—an appeal to all.
Text: "When he marked."— Luke 14:7
Where did Jesus Christ get his texts? We have what we call our textbook, and we go to it in order that we may find passages for the purposes of exposition and application. Where did Jesus Christ, pre-eminently the preacher, get his texts? His sermons were always new, always bright with a light above the brightness of the sun, often tender with a pathos which made his hearers" hearts burn within them. He got some of his texts from the Old Testament, we know. Those texts are given. He was familiar with Moses, with the Psalm, and with the prophets, with the whole ancient Scriptures, and in every line of those venerable writings he found some trace and token of himself. Was there any other book which he read? If Song of Solomon, I should like to know its name, and to have it in my keeping. There was one great book which he read every day; out of that open volume he brought many texts, most startling and most suggestive. That book is not in the British Museum, nor is it in the Bodleian, nor was it burnt in some of the ancient libraries. It is all men"s book, to be had without money and without price. It is written in the largest capitals; the wayfaring Prayer of Manasseh, though a fool, need not err therein; and my purpose in the discourse of this morning is to accompany you in listening to Jesus Christ as he takes some of his texts out of that voluminous and ever-open book.
Let us begin with Luke, chapter14, Luke 14:7 : "And he put forth a parable to them which were bidden, when he marked how they...." The book of daily life was Christ"s great textbook. What every man did gave him a subject; every word he heard started a novel theme. We poor preachers of this nineteenth century often cannot find a text, and say to one another, "What have you been preaching about? I wish I could get hold of another subject or two." Poor professional dunderheads! and the great book of life, joy, sorrow, tragedy, comedy, is open night and day. Jesus Christ put forth a parable, not after he had been shutting himself up for a fortnight, and reading the classic literature of immemorial time, but when he marked how they.... Keep your eyes open if you would preach well—keep your eyes open upon the moving panorama immediately in front of you, omit nothing, see every line and every hue, and hold your ear open to catch every tone, loud and sweet, low and full of sighing, and all the meaning of the masonry of God. Jesus Christ was, in this sense of the term, pre-eminently an extemporaneous speaker, not an extemporaneous thinker. There is no occasion for all your elaborate preparation of words if you have had an elaborate preparation of—yourself. Herein the preacher would do well, not so much to prepare his sermon as to prepare himself, his life, his manhood, his soul. As for the words, let him rule over them, call them like servants to do his behest, and order them to express his regal will.
What sermons our Saviour would have if he stood here now! He would mark how that man came in and tried to occupy two seats all to himself—a cunning fellow, a man who has great skill in spreading his coat out and looking big, so as to deceive a whole staff of stewards. What a sermon he would have evoked on selfishness, on want of nobleness and dignity of temper, how the Lord would have shown him how to make himself half the size, so as to accommodate some poor weak person who has struggled miles to be here, and is obliged to stand. I have been enabled to count the number of pews from the front of the pulpit where the man is. I paused there. My Lord—keener, truer—would have founded a sermon on the ill-behaviour. He would have spoken about us all. He would have known who came here through mere curiosity, who was thinking about finery and amusement, who was shop-keeping even in the church, buying and selling tomorrow in advance; and upon every one of us, preacher and hearers, he would have founded a discourse. Do you wonder now at his graphic, vivid talk? Do you wonder now whence he got his accent? Can you marvel any longer to what he was indebted for his emphasis, his clearness, his directness of speech, his practical exhortation? He put forth a parable when he marked how they—did the marketing, dressed themselves, trained or mistrained their families, went to church for evil purposes, spake hard words about one another, took the disennobling, instead of the elevating, view of their neighbours" work and conversation. The hearers gave that preacher his text, and what they gave he took and sent back again in flame or in blessing. Observe, "when he marked"—when he marked how Beaconsfield went into the Berlin Congress with the island of Cyprus in his pocket; when he marked how ecclesiastical livings are bought and sold in the auction-room; when he marked how his church is broken up into a hundred contending sections; when he marked how envious one preacher is of another, and how anxious to pluck at least one feather out of his cap; when he marked how eloquent men are in gossip and how dumb in prayer—then he opened his mouth in parables which were judgments, and in allegories which filled their guilty hearers with fear.
Now let us listen to him again. In Matthew, chapter13, Matthew 13:2 and Matthew 13:3 : "When great multitudes came to him" what did he do? Mark the divinity of the Man. See where his mastery lay. "He"—I would that every ear might catch this—"He spake many things." It is in such little out-of-the-way touches as these that I see what he was. How to handle a multitude? With one string, with one idea, with one little mean method of attack? No, no. Seeing the multitudinous spectacle, he delivered a multitudinous address. A multitude cannot all be like one man—trained, cultured, critical, right up to the highest point of intellectual perception and moral sympathy. Where you have an almost infinite number of persons, you have a corresponding number of conditions, circumstances, tastes. That speaker is the Divine one who speaks many things, who has not one little drop of dew to let fall upon a host, but a great shower of rich rain, so that every soul may have its own baptism and go home with its own blessing.
A marvellous chapter is that13th of Matthew. What parables are in it—the sower, the woman with the leaven, the tares sown among the wheat, the pearl of great price, and many others. Why so many parables? That everybody might have something. You are sitting there, a well-trained scholar, and you want a continuous, concatenated discourse, culminating in some dazzling and convincing climax. The man next you has hardly put off his shop apron, and his hands still have the shop dust on them, and he wants something to be going on with. And the little child to whom life is a dream, a wonder, a mystery, a dance, half begun yet nearly ended—wants an anecdote, a story, and you say, "Pooh, pooh, nothing but anecdotes; just a string of anecdotes from beginning to end;" and you don"t like anecdotes, and you like logic—strong, persistent, inexorable, relentless logic. The man next you cannot spell logic, and if he could spell it he could hardly pronounce it, and if he could pronounce it he could not define it, and he wants a figure of speech, a little story, a bright parable, truth in a blossom, a gospel in a flower; he could understand that. So when Jesus saw great multitudes come to him, he spake many things; the scholar had a portion of meat, and so had the illiterate, and the little child had its cut of living bread, and the poor creature who was too feeble to lift the water to her lips has it lifted by the hand that gave it. When shall we understand this, and honour this kind of ministry, and when shall we believe that every man had his ministry in the church; the great thinker, and the great parabolist, the man who can tell an anecdote before you have time to object to it, and apply the moral so that you waken up to find that he has been meaning you all the time? I believe that a multitudinous humanity requires a multitudinous tuition, and into the church I welcome every man who can speak one word for his Master; somebody, somewhere, wants that particular word. God bless us, every one.
Now let us be present upon another occasion. You will find the circumstance in the5th chapter of the gospel by Matthew: "When his disciples came unto him, he opened his mouth and taught them." How different from every other discourse. He was then speaking to the church. A poor rude church it was just then; still, it was the nucleus of the visible kingdom of God upon the earth, and the only church which Jesus Christ could then have addressed. "When his disciples came to him, he opened his mouth and taught them, saying"—then came the beatitudes, the exposition of eternal laws, the application of great moral truths, calls to luminousness of character, diligence of service, nobility of temper, non-resistance of evil—to the perfectness of God"s purity. No parable, no story, no anecdote, criticism, doctrine, history, dogma, great principle, solid law, exposition of righteousness, talk that went to the church"s soul; and that is the basis of all doctrine and ethics in the church to this day, and shall be to the end of time.
There ought to be seasons when the church only comes together. Then we should have the richer talk; then we might be led into the inner places, where the mysteries are most sacred and most tender; then we should drink the old, old wine of God. When can this be arranged? There be many charmers that address the ear and call us otherwhere; alas! there ought to be found time when Christians should come together as Christians to read the. small print, to read between the lines, to read the richer, deeper mysteries of the Divine kingdom.
When the disciples came to him he opened his mouth and taught them. It was shepherdly talk, and that leads me to offer this suggestion to you. There is pastoral preaching as well as pastoral visitation. There are some persons who are never content unless the pastor is always visiting them. Personally, I should allow them to enjoy their discontentment; they like it, they would be unhappy if they had nothing to grumble about. There is pastoral preaching, rich revelation of Divine truth, high, elevating treatment of Christian mysteries, and he is the pastor to me who does not come to drink, and smoke, and gossip, and show his littleness, but who, out of a rich experience, meets me with God"s word at every turn and twist and phase of my life, and speaks the something to me that I just then want. See him when he is largest and noblest, catch him in the moods of his inspiration, and do not drag him down to make a hassock of him in the drawing-room. Know you that there is pastoral preaching, talk to the disciples alone, quiet, beauteous, sympathetic, luminous talk, that makes the brain rejoice in a new light, and the heart glow with a more ardent love. May we have more and more such preaching.
Let us be present upon another occasion to find how Jesus got his texts. You will find the incident in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, Matthew 13:3 : "They came unto him privately"—and how he changed his tone. I can see it was the same speaker, but the tone was dropped to the occasion. It is in these modulations of voice that I see what my Lord really was. He comes to me where I am; if I am standing outside alone, when he is passing out of the church, and I say to him, "There was one thing I did not quite understand about the sower and the seed," he will take me to the house and talk to me as earnestly as if I were a thousand men, and as quietly as if I were a bruised reed. Christ is not God to me because of some cunning application of Greek syntax: I do not outwit the Unitarian by some knowledge of Greek punctuation of which he is ignorant: it is not a question of Greek conjugation, and declension, and parsing—it is in these things, his out-of-the-way traits, these secret characteristics, these personal kindnesses, these marvellous reaches over my whole life, that I find what he Isaiah, venerable as eternity, new as the young morning, the ancient of days and the child of Bethlehem.
There are many things that are to be spoken privately about the kingdom of heaven. Herein is the great delicacy and the great difficulty of Christian teaching. You cannot proclaim everything on the house-top. How misunderstood we are when we venture in the pulpit to relate our deepest experience. I dare hardly pray in public. Some earnest and, no doubt, in his own sphere, which I never penetrated, intelligent soul wrote to me from the West of England on a post-card, to know if I really was the bad man I depicted myself in my prayers, for it had quite grieved him. Do I pray here in secret? Am I speaking about one man? Do I not try to be, as it were, your priest and intercessor, gathering up into one broad public address our inmost desires, and confessing our inmost sin? When the minister speaks in public prayer do not ten thousand hearts speak in his voice? Ah me! it is so sad that there are persons who will belittle every occasion, and will not rise to the grandeur and the dignity of the circumstances. Some things must be spoken privately, to the confidential ear, to the one listening heart: we have much of sorrow to tell, and difficulty and doubt, and secret encounter, and it is good to be enabled now and then in private to tell the story, the inner tale, to show what the heart is in its solitude, in its secret realisations of the mystery of life, the mystery of sin, and the mystery of grace. Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written of that private household talk. I would there were more of it—then the household fire would never go out, the household table would never be barren of a feast, Let us be present upon one more occasion. "Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him," we read in the15th chapter of Luke. What was the discourse? In the5th of Matthew we had the disciples coming to him, and he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness;" and now the congregation changes, and the sermon changes. What spake he when the publicans and sinners came for to hear him? Three parables that shall be read and spoken with tears wherever this gospel is preached. About the one lost sheep, about the one lost piece of money, about the one lost prodigal. The chapter that holds the tale of the prodigal son is a chapter the ink of which shall never be dry, the music of which shall never fade. But my object is now not to analyse these parables, but to direct attention to the method of this man"s ministry to show you where and how he got his subjects. Methinks he would sit on the sea-shore or on the mountain-side or in the synagogue, and not know what he was going to preach till he saw the congregation he had to deal with. His disciples came to him and he said, "Blessed." Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him, and he spake three parables about loss and gain, and these parables set forth his gospel and the spirit of its ministry.
What say you to this Man? Give him his due: I like every man to have the palm who honestly wins it. What think you about him? He was but a peasant, he had never been to school, he had no certificate and no prizes and no rabbinical endorsement. He was but carpenter and carpenter"s son: you would not expect much from him. His disciples came unto him, and he delivered a great doctrinal discourse which doctors might have heard and wondered at. When great multitudes came unto him, he spake unto them many things, so that every one in the mass might have something. When the disciples could not quite understand what he said, they came unto him privately, and he sat down in the house and went over all the truth with them, and drove it into their thick heads. When the publicans and sinners came, what did he? He spoke three parables, which he might at the moment have plucked from heaven itself, so beauteous, so musical, so pathetic, so infinitely vivid and true to the life. A few days ago I tried to show you this in particular about that young prodigal. We said: "Now we shall find out what. Jesus Christ really is: he may be able to describe a virtuous Prayer of Manasseh, for he knew nothing about the ways of vice, but how will he describe a rake? We shall have the laugh over him there when he comes to describe a roue, a rake, a spendthrift, a prodigal, a villain. He will make a poor villain, a knock-kneed villain. He will never be able to find the colours that suit a villain." I charge you to tell me, after reading the parable of the prodigal Song of Solomon, if he has not drawn him to the life. Whence hath this Man this wisdom! He who was without sin, on whose fair brow there was no wrinkle wrought by remorse, in whose voice there was no tone or sob of personal penitence, a Man whose feet had never been in the ways of evil for his own purpose, how came he to give you line by line in neutral distance, in blood tints at the front, with eyes that had prodigality in every look—how came he to draw that picture? Give him the credit that is due to him, do not begrudge him; he needed not that any should testify of Prayer of Manasseh, for he knew what was in man.
Now the great practical application of this Isaiah, that you will find in Jesus Christ"s talk, whoever you are, just what you want, just what you most need. What are you? A cunning, long-headed old thinker? Go to Jesus Christ. I have seen such go to him: I have seen how they marvelled as he spoke unto them. Once a deputation of that sort went to wait upon him. They got up a nice little case about a woman and seven husbands—"And the seven husbands died, and last of all the woman died also"—and the Sadducees wanted to know whose wife she would be in the resurrection. The disciples would have shown their folly over that question. Jesus heard their tale out, and he was a, magnificent listener, and when they were done, he said: "Ye do err: you are wrong fundamentally. You do not know your own Scriptures, for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God." And so these long-headed, cunning thinkers came back with their heads a long way down in their necks. They went in, tolerably young men, under fifty: they came out about five hundred years of age. He was a wonderful talker!
What are you? "I am a poor woman who has got all wrong somehow." Go and see him: he knows all the sins, and if you behave aright he will say, "Thy sins which are many"—he does not conceal them—"are all forgiven thee. Begin again, and summer will dawn in thy poor winterbound soul."
What are you? "A thief half-damned." What, just going into hell? "Yes." Say, "Lord, remember me," and though the affairs of eternity are on his brain, he will not forget thee.
What are you? Just a poor little lad, just a wee little lassie, only a little child? Toddle up to him. Go, thread your way through the big folks as they are standing there, and put out a finger, and he will see it and you will be in his arms next moment, and that lift will bring you nearer heaven than ever you will be again on earth.
What are you? "A poor suffering creature, a poor woman with a secret sorrow, with a heavy affliction: my very heart oozing out of me, and nobody to speak to. I live in one of these lanes off Holborn. I just came in here to spend an hour: I did not know much what else to do. My very heart is leaking away, I have no joy in life, I have tried all physicians and curatives and restoratives, and here I am just as bad as ever, perhaps worse." Go to him. I saw a dear old mother go to him in just such a plight as you. She said—I heard her say it just under her breath as women sometimes speak—"If I may but touch the hem of his garment I shall be made whole." I saw the poor creature wriggling her way through the crowd, and when she thought nobody was looking, she just touched the hem of his garment and she stood upright like a tree of the Lord"s right hand planting.
Go. I will go too. I need him, as you do, every day. Sometimes as a Judges, often as a Comforter, always as a Teacher, and the more I need him, the more he is.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 14". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent