How to Treat Commotion
Jesus Christ is teaching us how to conduct ourselves in the midst of tremendous commotions. The chapter should be read from Luke 21:5-36 : within that space you hear thunder, and great winds blowing like tempests; you are made familiar with the shock of earthquake and the falling of things supposed to be immovable. There is in very deed what we have termed tremendous commotion, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and great earthquakes, and famines, and pestilences, and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. How are we to conduct ourselves amid all this infinite storm? Can we do anything? Nothing. There are occasions upon which we are taught that we have no strength, and that our strength is to stand still. What man can turn away the whirlwind by a wave of his impotent hand? What skill can control the earthquake, or keep that perpendicular which the Lord has shaken at its root? But may not men have the gift of eloquence under the sting of accusation? If they have that gift they had better hold it in abeyance. The accusation is also a great whirlwind, a tempest let loose. A storm must be left to cry itself to rest. Even cyclones cannot work always: they have their little sweep of madness, and then they pass away as if they begged to be forgiven. What a voice of calmness is this amidst all the storm! The voice could rise to the dignity of the occasion. The speaker shows how energetic he can be in portrayal, description, and representation of elemental war and scenic havoc: now his voice becomes all the tenderer because of its louder tones in the other direction; like whispered love falls the injunction—"Settle it therefore in your hearts "—not to trouble yourselves about your own defence: the case is not yours; you are only representatives, you are only speaking a word which you have heard from heaven; the answer must come whence the word came: God does not give half a blessing, the Lord does not give you a gospel, and then leave you to defend it—he will use you in both instances as an instrument; therefore settle it in your hearts to let God be your strength and refuge. He will know how much you trust him by feeling how much you lean upon him,—"Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." He loves us when we do not keep back so much as one finger that it may work for us in some little skilful way, but when we give ourselves wholly up to him, saying, Lord, undertake for me; I can see nothing, do nothing; I am poor and blind and helpless; I hide myself in thine almightiness,—the roof of that pavilion was never shattered by any storm. Be instruments in the hand of God, and wait for the divine word.
"For I will give you a mouth and Wisdom of Solomon, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." He will give the mouth as well as the wisdom. He will not only give the great lesson in sacred philosophy, but he will shape the lip, and tip with fire the tongue that shall express the divine thought and purpose: it is all of God. We have nothing that we have not received. Do leave room in your lives for the action of your Creator. If you have sketched out anything you are going to say, let it be but a framework within which God can operate in all the sweep of his power and all the radiance of his wisdom. We should pray better if we did not think about it beforehand. We should qualify ourselves to pray by first feeling the depth and agony of our want. Feel the hunger, and the petition will come, in urgent and prevailing words. No man who is in real hunger prepares a speech about it; he has but to open his lips, and he becomes livingly eloquent. All this instruction is part of the larger scheme of education. Jesus Christ knew what was in men, he knew how apt they were to be self-reliant, self-defensive, and how much they would trust to their own craftiness, and to their own choice of words, so that they might resist the enemy. There is only one resistance effectual in the case of the oncoming foe:—"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." We cannot keep these mischievous fingers from some little erection, and some small miracle of self-protection. Why not live nakedly before God? The sword is long and sharp, but it is blunt beside God"s lightning.
Thus trusting upon God, we are to expect the very worst that can come. Some idea of that worst is given in Luke 21:16-18. Looking to the Revised Version we receive at the opening of Luke 21:16 a point of light. In the Authorised Version the first word is "and "; change it into "but"—"But ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends." The emphasis can only be received fully into the mind by reading Luke 21:15 and Luke 21:16 together:—"I will give you a mouth and Wisdom of Solomon, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. But" for all that you shall have trouble enough. How double-sided is the whole economy of God"s ministry amongst men. At the end of Luke 21:15 we thought we had nothing to do and nothing to fear; the paraphrase of the Saviour"s words would be, Keep yourselves perfectly quiet, wait for the living God, plan nothing in the way of self-excuse, mitigation, palliation, defence, rest the whole thing upon your Father, and I will give you a mouth and wisdom which shall confound all your adversaries. There is a happy end. No: but, notwithstanding all this, you Shall have the ground struck from under your feet by the very friends that ought to support you most constantly and lovingly; your own children shall fasten their teeth in your flesh; those that ought to make your reputation their own will pour slanderous words upon your fame. You shall have mouth and eloquence enough, but some of you shall be put to death before you have a chance to open your lips. Could not this Man that gave us mouth and wisdom have caused that we should not have been betrayed? Yes, but that would not have been for our advantage: we only understand one another in times of crisis; we do not know one another in fair weather and in prosperity, in smooth seas and in the middle of golden harvest-fields, where there is plenty for both hands, and where all the birds of heaven seem to have been gathered for our entertainment and delight. Betrayal tests friendship. Real religious conviction tests the household. We must put such verses as15,16 together; and even17 must come in, for it says, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name"s sake." It is easy to be Christian now. Not to be Christian is to lose some measure of social standing; not to name the name of Christ now is to incur the opprobrium of being atheistical and untrustworthy and morally pestilential. There was a time when to be a Christian was to be a martyr, when to be a Christian was to live in darkness and contempt and derision, and ostracism from every fireside that was indicative of the higher respectability.
In Luke 21:18 the Saviour seems to take up the thread of the thought in Luke 21:16. We could have done well without Luke 21:16 and Luke 21:17; every man could have done very well without the storm. Luke 21:18 reads—"But there shall not a hair of your head perish." Change this "but" into "and," then hear the weird music, listen to the paradoxical exhortation—"Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name"s sake. And there shall not an hair of your head perish." Who can understand this talker Christ? We have been deprived of a good deal of meaning by the insertion of this English word "but" in Luke 21:18; now that the revisers have replaced it with "and," although they involve us in a paradox yet they surround us with a new and beauteous morning light:—And ye shall be betrayed... And ye shall be put to death... And ye shall be hated... And there shall not an hair of your head perish. This is the paradox of truth; this is the mysterious eloquence that takes up into its musical thunder all the emphases of human experience and Christian utterance. How can I be betrayed by parents, brethren, kinsfolks, friends, and yet not a hair of my head perish? How can I be hated of all men for my Lord"s sake, and not a hair of my head perish? How can I be put to death, and yet not a hair of my head perish? Here is the exaltation of the larger life over the smaller; here is the elevation of our little roof, hand-made and hand-adorned, into God"s great sky not built with hands, flaming with uncounted lamps. What say you of a man who thus talks? Your house shall be burned down, and you shall not be left without a home. How aggravating is such speech. Every picture on the wall shall be cast into the fire, and you shall not lose one vision of beauty. But I have lost all the pictures! So you have; but you have not lost one hue of colour, one gleam of beauty"s tenderest light. You shall lose every penny you ever possessed, and ye shall be richer than ever. This is the paradoxical talk of Christ. Paul caught the same feeling, he was the victim of the same contagion; for he said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." What shall we say to the paradox that we shall fall down dead and be buried with our mother in the churchyard, and there shall not a hair of our head perish? It is all true. We live our selves into the higher meanings. Poor grammar, willing to lend us what oil it can, and willing to trim our lamps as far as it can, falls back at certain points, and says, You must go to rest on the road alone. So there be in God"s Church those who have suffered the loss of all things that they might gain all things, who have died that they might begin to live, who have ceased their individuality that they might be translated into sympathy with the almightiness of God himself. There have been those who have glorified exceedingly in tribulation also. These are the practical paradoxes that cannot be understood from the outside; they reveal themselves in all the tenderness of their meaning and all the lustre of their wisdom to those who pray without ceasing.
"In your patience possess ye your souls." That cannot be explained as it stands. "Patience" has a meaning that must be dug for as men dig for silver. "Possess" is not the right word there. Say, rather, In your patience, or by your patience, you win your souls, you win your lives, you win yourselves. Patience always wins. "He that endureth unto the end"—one more day—"shall be saved." Many cannot endure, therefore they know not what is meant by the salvation of God: for a time they run well, but they soon give up the race, and fall down dead, where they ought to have prayed some larger and tenderer prayer. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" "In your patience,"—patience means keeping on, persisting; and persisting means sisting through, pushing by, insisting upon progress: it does not mean aggressiveness, it means persisting by submission; it is the mystery of resignation, it is the miracle of union with him who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself unto God wholly,—that is patience. Patience is not languor, indifference, reluctance, unwillingness to work or suffer: patience is continuance in submission. "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek "—O Man of Gethsemane, who but thyself could have said it?—"turn to him the other also." We cannot do it, but thou didst it, and art not thou the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and may we not hide our infirmity in thy majesty? What is "possession"? It does not mean the mere act of holding, it means the act of winning, acquiring by a process, seizing hold upon by right of conquest. You have seen some skilled player, some chief in the tournament, who has a silver cup, and we say to him, "That cup is yours?" and he replies, "Not yet." He has it in possession, but he has not yet won it. He says, "If I succeed in two more encounters the cup will be mine." "But you have it in possession?" "Yes, but possession is not final; there is yet a process of conflict, noble test to be passed through: if I succeed on two more occasions no man can take the cup away from me." Here you have exactly what is meant by possession and winning. The cup is in the possession of the Prayer of Manasseh, but it is not yet his by right; he means to contend for it, and he will be disappointed if he succeed not. That is precisely how it stands with us. You have your souls in possession? Yes. Now win them. Seven years" more fighting. The devil will not let you have one quiet night"s rest if he can help it; he can be quiet, he can be siren-like, he can be seductive, he can be defiant, aggressive, threatening; he can be as an angel of light, he can be "that old serpent," or he can be the roaring lion; but he can never be anything except your enemy. Are not our souls our own now? Partially. They are our own to fight for and to win. In your patience you shall win your life. Have I to fight for my own soul as a man would contend for a prize? That is exactly so: now you know the truth. Yourself! what a mistake you make in thinking of your completeness, and how you boast yourself in the sophistical reasoning when you say, "May I not do what I will with my own?" You have nothing your own; you are not yourself your own yet. We are men that we may fight for our manhood; we are souls that we may escape being beasts; we have a touch of immortality, now fight. This is the talk of Jesus Christ to men who were surrounded by cyclones, whirlwinds, tempests, storms, in the highest degree of violence. What a prize to fight for! We say in our songs that men will fight for hearth and home and liberty. They are chivalrous words, they cannot but touch the heroic nerve in every soul, but the sweeter hymn, the louder thunder psalm is this, Win yourselves, win your souls, take up your poor selves to Christ and say, O Captain of my salvation, I bring myself as prey won by thy sword: bind me to thy chariot wheel.
What a revelation we have in these verses of the character of Christ! He calls himself the Good Shepherd: is there anything shepherdly here? Why, every tone is the tone of a shepherd"s voice. He calls himself the Bread of Life; is there any nourishment here for the soul? Every word is meant to sustain the soul in its most strenuous endeavours at self-conquest and self-perfecting. He is called the Captain of our salvation: is there aught of a captain"s tone here? It is the tone of a general leading on the army to victory. Here is the power of the Church. See it in all these commotions: all evil maddened, all hypocrisy in arms, all vested interests resentful. O Church of the Crucified, thou wilt trouble the world until the devil is cast out! All these details have changed, but the governing principle remains. To the end life will grow and act within the zone of commotion. To that tumult what is to be our relation? Are we to answer wrath by wrath? Are we to hide ourselves as men who are afraid? Or are we to perform the miracle of controlling uproar and vengeance by the dignity of patience? This method is in harmony with the whole spirit of Christ. This method is not worldly; it would not commend itself to men of the world; it is not in harmony with the militarism, the pomp, and the arrogance of cardboard thrones that have nothing to trust to but scarlet and steel, powder and cannon. But to what vulgar ends do vulgar processes inevitably come! The cannon roars, but the sap rises silently in all the anatomy of the forest; the blood that soaks the soldier"s steel feeds no root of corn or flower, but the noiseless dew is secretly working to feed the hungry with bread, and satisfy the tongue that burns with thirst. The army, proud army, mad with resentment or ambition, overwhelms the city in destruction and calls it triumph; but the force we know as gravitation—impalpable, imponderable, invisible—cries not, nor lifts up its voice whilst it holds in perfect sovereignty the empire of the stars. Christ was the Prince of Peace. It was left to him to show how much can be done by quietness, and to show what miracles are possible to patience.
Comfort and Discipline
"And when these things—" What things? Trumpets, and dances, and festivals? What things? They have been named, generally and in detail, so that there need be no difficulty in ascertaining their scope and quality. The things that were to take place were unpleasant things—"Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven "—as if all things had gone mad. Nor were they material phenomena only, such as could be gazed upon from quiet towers, and estimated by geometricians and men skilled in other law and science:—"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name"s sake." So then, all the action did not take place in sun and moon, in earthquake and famine and pestilence; the prophecy came very near to flesh and bone and spirit,—"And ye shall be betrayed"—worst cruelty of all: a blow is not to be named in quality with treachery,—"And he should be betrayed both by parents"—an impossible revulsion of feeling, and yet historically and literally true in every syllable,—"And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name"s sake." And so the dark eloquence rolls on, until we come to the words, "Men"s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." Now Christ adds, "And when these things" [earthquakes, famines, pestilences, darknesses sevenfold] "begin to come to pass, then—" Everything depends upon the point of time. It is no difficult thing to look up on a summer day, to see the light and the verdure, the blossom and the shaking fruit; but to look up when all the heaven is churned by reason of humanly ungovernable violence of action, and to sing as if standing on solid marble and domed by radiant heavens,—what is this but a miracle, God"s supreme miracle of providence and grace? What can these words mean but—Play the man: be strongest when danger is nearest: let the heads that are lifted up be the heads that were bowed down in prayer? No man can look up aright who has not first looked down, with genuine devoutness, self-distrust, and reverent anticipation of seeing that the foot of the ladder is resting on the earth.
There can be no doubt that these words uttered by Jesus Christ refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and there they might be left: but when can Jesus Christ"s words be left at any one point as final? They serve historical purposes, and then take upon themselves new indications; they flame out into omens and signs, and suggestive indications never ripening except intermediately, always having an after harvest, a subsequent revelation and benediction. There can be no doubt that Jesus Christ spoke much about the destruction of Jerusalem. There have been books written full of critical care and learning, which go to show that Jesus Christ has already returned to the earth, has already fulfilled all his prophecies, and has in the destruction of Jerusalem completed the testimony. Some of these books are striking in their method of representing the whole case; their learning, within given bounds, is unquestioned and unquestionable; they are etymological or grammatical books; they are skilful in the analysis and application of terms; but they are false from my point of view. If the universe were a letter these books would be admirable and unanswerable, but the universe is not a letter, it is a thought, a purpose, a beginning; it is something growing. Let men beware how they thrust in the sickle. To thrust in the sickle before the harvest is ripe is to bring back an armful of nothingness. God is a Spirit: therefore never attempt to define him in catechism or standard of orthodox or literal creed. He is the fulness of all things: lay not upon him, therefore, the measuring-line of an alphabet, as if he could be caught within the few inches covered by the frail letters out of which as out of a root we get our daily speech. Unquestionably, much that Jesus Christ said referred to the fall of Jerusalem. Unquestionably, some of the apostles believed that Jesus Christ was coming back almost immediately, and therefore they said—Let them that are married be as if they were not married; do not complete the furrow ripped up by the plough; pay no heed to these things that are round about you,—he will be here presently! Parts of the New Testament can hardly be read intelligibly without coming to the conclusion that the apostles were expecting Christ—to-day, tomorrow, or in the night between. They were right too. That is the only state of mind in which a wise man can live—never knowing what is going to happen, but always believing that something great is going to occur:—Therefore! If all were accomplished at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, then the whole Bible, Old Testament and New, is an exhausted light. But I can admit that very much did happen then, and that Christ in a certain sense came then, and yet that everything has yet to take place on a wider scale, and with fuller meanings. Jesus Christ never ends. He comes, shows himself, departs; comes again, shows himself, vanishes; he always comes, and is always coming. Without, therefore, disputing with men of letters concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, I can accept very much that they say as to criticism: I would endeavour to turn them from criticism to prophecy, to enlarge the literalist into a seer. Occupying this position, I can find in the text lessons of eternal import, suggestions that come upon our immediate life, blessing it as with light and dew, calling our life to discipline, and enriching our life with rarest, sweetest comfort.
"When these things begin to come to pass"— Then appearances are not the measure and value of life. When these things begin to come to pass, common reason would say, All is over; the battle is lost, the foe has conquered; all we have to do is to accept the destiny of despair, and die as quickly as we can. At some points of history we need the strong man more than at others,—some mighty, chivalrous, hardy brother who can say, Now, be men! His voice may be an inspiration, for we thought no one dare speak in darkness so dense, and in the face of violence so ungovernable. Behold, this Man of Nazareth, this teacher sent from God, is calmest when the storm is loudest. It would seem to take a tempest to reveal his real peacefulness of soul: if he had so much as fluttered the battle would have been lost; but as violence came after violence, like billow upon billow, his tranquillity became more evident, and influenced others more like an all-inclusive benediction. Yet we seldom learn much from these things, because we will persist in taking the case into our own hands. We think that if we grow hot the Lord will probably avow our side as his own, and Providence might descend to help us. Some men cannot sit still; some cannot be quiet: if they could but be kept under the influence even of an opiate the universe would feel more contented; but they will Acts, they will run, and stir, and move about, and develop plans, and set up institutions, and if they cannot build a solid house they will do something with tarpaulin. Why will they not love? Why will they not sweetly pray when other speech would be impertinence? Why do we not lie down in the arms of Omnipotence and say, The case is too large for us, dear Lord; we cannot handle these awful materials; but we will sleep in love, and in the morning thou wilt bring back the sun, unshorn of a beam, and we shall get back to our ploughing and our commerce and all our household life because we have lost our fatigue in the embrace and blessing of God. We have nothing to do with appearances; we ought to leave these to the journals of the day that have nothing else to live upon. We are men of faith, men who have found a castle in providence that never can be violated. The face of the saint should never be writhed with a care; it should always be radiant with a sweet, wise confidence.
"When these things begin to come to pass"— Then appearances must be under control. That is the point we have forgotten. When nation rises against nation and kingdom against kingdom, the Former of nations and the Creator of kingdoms must have the whole mystery in his hand. He is manipulating his own systems, and astronomies, and infinities: let him alone. All things are under control, if the Bible doctrine be right, and that it is right has been proved now for thousands of years. The Bible doctrine Isaiah, "The Lord reigneth." May he not sometimes invest himself with clouds and darkness? May he not wear the night as a robe, and go forth to the trumpeting and the drumming of the storm and the tempest, as well as to the quieter music of dawning day and westering sun flooding the whole heaven with purple? "The chariots of God are twenty thou sand"; "the clouds are the dust of his feet"; "On cherub and on cherubim full royally he rides." We have not correctly interpreted the darker sides of nature. When the Lord shaped things, and sent them forth with names, he called one part Day, and another part called he Night. Did he fix an hour at which he would withdraw from the astronomy, and say, The dark time must take care of itself, for I now retire to needed rest? He never uttered such words—God never blasphemed. God never left his providence for a moment in the care of any being; he never vacates the throne. All things, therefore, must be considered as under control, management; they are working together for good: at this moment how violent, how portentous, how impossible of settlement! And yet, another revolution of the wheel, where is the noise, where the storm, where the tempest ye spake of, where the darkness that made you afraid? Gone! What queen is that which presides now—what king?—the Lord. This faith is not sentiment, is not rhetoric, is not poetry, because it comes so down into the soul as to make a man doubly strong; this faith says to a Prayer of Manasseh, Dry your tears, and go forth to battle; lift up your head, and begin to sing; fear not, for the deliverer is coming in his own way, and will arrive at his own time, and will make all things work together for good. It is by this practical action that the Christian faith saves itself from the futile, sometimes malicious, charge of being but a sentiment. It inspires, it invigorates, it makes men; it has made some men forget the weight of the burden in the growing strength of their confidence. Any religion born at Athens or born in Bethlehem that can do this is a religion that the world will never willingly let die.
We must always distinguish between historical providences and personal discipline. Some men are born in rough ages We cannot fix the time of our birth, the period within which our little life shall revolve among the visible stars. It was hard to be born when nation rose against nation and kingdom against kingdom; to be born amid earthquakes and famines and pestilences and fearful sights and great signs: it would have been better to have been born at midnight, with a star to watch the birthplace, and angels to sing the natal Song of Solomon, and quiet shepherds to come and knock at the mother"s door and make inquiry about the child. But we cannot fix the time of our nativity. Circumstances develop men, test their quality, shape their course, call them to their destiny. We cannot overget the fixed environment of life. We may accept it, make the best of it, pray to take hold of it and use it aright; but there it is. It is right that lions should be born in jungles; it would be a misfit if tigers were born in the nursery where the children have their toys and their letters. The ages have been mapped out, and the earthquakes have been set down; every famine and pestilence has been in the counsel and view of God, and all the births that were to take place under circumstances so disturbed have all been matters of the divine providence. What wonder if some men should feel that they have been born a day too late? When they read of what happened when the sea was a battlefield and the land an Aceldama, the soldier starts up in them and says, Why was I not born then? To-day I am dying with dotards, passing the food to toothless lions. But these misfits are not so numerous as one might imagine from those who suppose they could have done better if they had been born last century. They might have done better then; certainly they could hardly do less and worse than now.
What is the inspiring comfort? What is the doctrine that lifts this exhortation above rhetoric, and fixes it amongst the severest realities of history and logic? Jesus Christ explains: he says—You are to be superior to the action of events, because they do not hinder the coming of the Son of man:—"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and glory." That is the comfort. Only that which hinders him can or ought to hinder us. How is the night? Stormy. At what rate drives the wind? A hundred miles an hour or more, and blows from the cold east with intolerable bitterness. Are there any stars alight? Not one. Is all over? From a human point of view, yes, all is over. What is that which breaks through the cloud? It is an image like unto the Son of man. How it brightens, how it enlarges, how it descends; how all things are afraid of it that are hostile to it, and how all praying life leaps to greet that image as if by an instinct of kinship! In that doctrine Christianity stands. If anything can keep back the Son of man from coming in power and great glory, then the case of the Church is lost. But if nothing can happen to hinder Christ, nothing can happen to hinder the Church. When Omnipotence is foiled, then strike your tents, and flee away with the heels of cowards; and let the universe watch those feet as they run, while you are asking for some woman to house the white-livered deserters. So we now interpret Providence as to comfort ourselves and call ourselves to discipline. Song of Solomon, when nation rises against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and great earthquakes are in divers places, and famines, and pestilences, and fearful sights and great signs are all operating, we simply open our eyes and say, Has the sun risen this morning? Yes. Then all is well; if the sun is not hindered, peace will not be hindered. When there is great upset and fear in the land, we have simply to say as Christian men, Are the seasons still revolving? Do seedtime, and summer, and harvest, and winter still appear in the land? Do they come in regular order? Yes. Then be quiet; pray on; you may even sing a little: if the four seasons have not been hindered in their course, have not fled away in fear and lost the path by which they have come these thousands of years to the earth, then pray without ceasing; God is master, the Lord reigneth.
This was the reasoning of Christ:—Because all these things spoken of in the text could not hinder his own advent, therefore men were to lift up their heads, and look up, and know that their redemption was drawing nigh. In that hour all self-dependence was to be renounced:—"Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and Wisdom of Solomon, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." Do not trouble your memory to reckon up dates and facts and circumstances and phenomena that you can shape into a reply; have no words, and thus be more eloquent than if you had charged your memory with all the riches of rhetoric and eloquence. So he says to preachers: If you are only preaching what you have learned in the study, you will never preach: what you have to do is to read the Scriptures, get into the spirit of them, pray night and day as strength will allow, and then stand up and I will do the rest. But men will "prepare" themselves. Self-control is to be exercised:—"In your patience possess ye your souls." [R.V.—"By your patience ye shall win your lives."] In your doing nothing you are doing everything; in a negative position you are achieving affirmative results; in your patience hold ye your souls, keep your souls quiet, and if you have not patience no matter what genius you have. There is a time when virtue is everything; there is another time when grace is larger than virtue. Patience is a grace. Self-culture is to be a law:—"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares." Do not be beasts, do not be mere animals, do not be mere eaters and drinkers, gluttons and winebibbers; let the spirit be larger than the body; live in your soul, and for your soul, and through your soul; then the word "unawares" can never happen in the journal or the diary of the true heart.
Then comes a sublime injunction:—"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." That is what we are called upon to do—to watch. He may come from the east, from the west, from the north, from the south. May he come from the north—that north which never held the sun, but only looked at the south burning with his majesty? Yes, he may come from the north. May he come from the east, whence the cold wind blows? Do not speak of the cold wind. The dawn comes from the east; day is born orientally. Speak no more of the biting wind, but think of the summer dawn. When may he come? Now. How may he come? No man can tell. What should we do? Be ready—be caught on our knees.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 21". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany