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Parker's The People's Bible Parker's The People's Bible
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ jpb/ mark-4.html. 1885-95.
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 4". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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The Parable of the Sower
The work of Christ and the general preaching of the Gospel are represented in this simple illustration. From it we learn 1. That a general proclamation is attended by particular results. This is notable, because one would have imagined that any declaration of God's will would have elicited an instantaneous, universal, and satisfactory response. The only difference which could have been supposed would be that each would be striving to excel the other in prompt and reverent obedience. 2. We learn, secondly, that those particular results are not to be attributed to any special arrangement on the part of the sower. The sower went forth to sow the whole field, at the same time, with the same seed, and with the same purpose; with entire impartiality he moved along the courses of the field, and scattered the grain on the right hand and on the left. Looking at the case from his point of view, we might have expected that his labours would have been productive of the most satisfactory results. Sowers cannot control harvests. They may sow well, and be mocked by a lean and withered harvest. This marks not only a limitation of power on the part of man, but on the part of God also in moral operations. No man can be compelled to bring forth fruit unto God. A man may receive the best seed and let it rot; he may live under the most fertilising influences, and yet be barren of all holy fruits. The startling practical reflection suggested by this circumstance is, that men are not saved by having opportunities, but by improving them. It is no light consideration that with God himself for a sower we may be disappointed in the fruitfulness and quality of the harvest. This refutes the sophism, that if the Gospel were properly proclaimed, men would yield to it. The fault is not in the instrumentality. The ministry of Jesus Christ was in certain aspects a failure; there were vast breadths of the field which he sowed with a liberal hand, which bore no trace of his service. The world is not perishing for lack of good preaching. Never was preaching so excellent and so abundant as it is to-day, yet hardly one token of harvest can be seen. We may learn 3. That hearers must themselves supply the conditions of spiritual success. Look at the particulars for illustration: The wayside hearer listens to the word, but understandeth (regardeth) it not, and from want of attention the enemy is suffered to "catch away that which was sown in heart." The condition which this hearer should have brought with him is meditation. The word touched him only by the outside; he gave it no lodgment in his heart, never watered the seed, never protected the fences, never opened his spirit to its power. The seed was good, the soil was bad; the sower was God, the enemy the devil. See how the case stands: the sower is God, the field is the heart, the destroyer is the devil; and in order to disappoint the enemy, the heart must co-operate with God. Take the stony-ground hearer. He listens to the word with gladness. He thinks it a pleasant sound, and while the music is in his ear, he resolves to profit by the Holy Word. What condition is wanting in his case? It is well named "root in himself"; no reality and depth of nature; empty, trifling, unreflecting; easily moved, self-indulgent, pliable; all right in sunshine, but cowardly in darkness; loving the Gospel sound, but lacking courage to endure anything for the Gospel's sake. Such a hearer brings much disappointment to his minister. The starting tear, the responsive gleam, the ready assent, are mistaken by being over-valued by the zealous preacher. No man can live to much purpose who has "no root in himself," nothing upon which even God can work. Mark the possibility of exhausting one's manhood; throwing away, or allowing to die out, the germ which was given to be cultured and expanded into fruitfulness towards God! Think of a man being dead at the roots! The thorny-ground hearer is represented in all congregations: the seed is good, the soil itself even may not be of the worst quality; the man is simply preoccupied; his idea is that life depends entirely upon his own exertions, and he consequently works as if he had no spiritual sources to draw upon. Give him a perpetual Sabbath, and he will be attentive, and perhaps partly religious; but as the working-week begins, the old tyrannous mammon-spirit masters him. There is an influence which seems to be born, or at least revived, every Monday morning, which overpowers the partial religiousness of the Sabbath. It is not to be understood that religious men are exempt from the cares of this world, or even the deceitfulness of riches; they have them all, but the spirit that is in them is greater than the spirit that is in the world, and they thereby overcome.
[The expression "the deceitfulness of riches," is an excellent text for a sermon to the busy. It may also be the foundation of a discourse to young merchants. The deceitfulness is shown in several ways, such, for example, as "I am laying up for a rainy day"; "I care nothing for wealth, except to do good with it"; when I have realised a sufficient sum, I shall spend the remainder in works of benevolence." All these are sophisms. The rainy day may never come; the rich man seldom does as much good as he did when he was not half so wealthy; money likes money, and the difficulty is to know when a man has "sufficient." The subject might then be viewed in a graver aspect, viz.: the power of riches to choke the divine word in man Think of a man selling his aspirations, his faculties, his capacities, selling his soul for gold! This love of money does not come upon a man all at once, but "deceitfully," until a nature which might have been open and generous becomes shrivelled and impenetrable.] Each class of hearers may be specially treated
Wayside: Opportunity given: Opportunity lost: A constantly watchful enemy.
Stony Ground: Impulsiveness: Shallowness: Want of conviction and fortitude.
Thorns: Mental pre-occupation: Thoughtlessness: Worldly-mindedness.
Good Ground: Moral preparation: Earnestness: Visible reward in fruitfulness, which reward is to constitute the most evident proof of the reality of the divine life in the soul.
The whole parable may be used as showing the operation of four powerful influences in human life. (1) The influence of the devil as seen in the wayside hearers. (2) The influence of frivolity as seen in the stony-ground hearers. (3) The influence of worldliness as seen in the thorny-ground hearers. (4) The influence of earnestness as seen in the good-ground hearers.
21. And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
22. For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
23. If any man have ears, to hear, let him hear.
24. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
25. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
The subject is: Christian life viewed as a revelation, a responsibility, and a law.
I. As a revelation: ( a ) It is to be luminous; ( b ) it is to be properly placed in the midst of society. The gospel is a great revealing power. In all truth there is power of exposure and judgment; how, much more in the highest truth of all!
II. As a responsibility: ( a ) Stewardship in doctrine; ( b ) stewardship in action.
III. As a law: ( a ) Usefulness is productiveness; ( b ) indolence is ruin.
The kingdom of Christ is thus shown to be founded on law. Man never becomes more than a subject: Christ never less than a king.
26. And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground:
27. And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how,
28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
29. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
(1) Though the sower sleep after his labour, yet the process of germination goes on night and day. (2) Simple beginnings and practical results may be connected by mysterious processes: "he knoweth not how." There is a point in Christian work where knowledge must yield to mystery. (3) As the work of the sower is assisted by natural processes ("the earth bringeth forth of itself," etc.), so the seed of truth is aided by the natural conscience and aspiration which God has given to all men. (4) The mysteriousness of processes ought not to deter from reaping the harvest. The spiritual labourer may learn from the husbandman.
30. And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
31. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
32. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
(1) Small beginnings may have great endings. ( a ) This should encourage all holy labourers; ( b) this should alarm all wicked men. (2) Vitality more important than magnitude. ( a ) This applies to creeds; ( b ) to church agencies and organisations; ( c ) to a public profession of faith. (3) The least thing in nature a better illustration of divine truth than the greatest object in art. The least of all seeds more fitly represents the kingdom of heaven than the most elaborate of all statuary. The natural flower is a revelation of God, the artificial flower is a proof of the skill of man. It should be noticed that human art is never referred to in the Scripture as illustrating the divine nature and purposes, but continual reference is made to all the works of creation. God illustrates himself by himself.
33. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
34. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
This text may be used as supplying three lessons as to the duties of the Christian teacher. (1) He must adapt himself to his hearers. Are they young? Are they educated? Are they courageous? Are they surrounded by any peculiar circumstances? (2) He must consider his hearers rather than himself. This was Jesus Christ's method. The question should be not what pleases the preacher's taste, but what is most required by the spiritual condition of the people. (3) He must increase his communication of truth and light according to the progress of his scholars. Reticence is power. In teaching children the teacher does not dazzle them by the splendour of his attainments, he adapts the light to the strength of their mental vision. The preacher should always know more of divine truth than the hearer. Christ's method of imparting knowledge is, so far as we can infer, unchanged. He has yet more light to shed upon his word.
35. And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41. And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
(1) The organised Church in peril, Christ and his disciples were all in this tempest. (2) Dangers beset the Church even whilst it is carrying out the express commands of Christ, Jesus himself bade them pass over unto the other side. (3) The spirit of Christ, not the body of Christ, must save the Church in all peril. The sleeping body was in the vessel, but it exercised no influence upon the storm. It is possible to have an embalmed Christ, and yet to have no Christianity. It is also possible to have the letter of Christ's word without the spirit and power of his truth. (4) Jesus Christ answering the personal appeal of the imperilled Church. The power of the servant is often exhausted, exhausted power should betake itself to supplication. (5) All the perils of the Church may be successfully encountered by profound faith in God ( Mar 5:40 ).
The Unknown Quantity In Christ
There was, of course, no doubt upon the mind of the disciples that Jesus Christ was a man, yet there was something about him which very often made them look upon him with surprise and even bewilderment. For a time things would go on in an ordinary course, and then, quite suddenly, Jesus Christ would utter a tone unlike all other tones, and the disciples would be startled by the unusual music. For days together they would be able to look upon his face as the face of a gentle brother, pensive, indeed, and much worn, yet quite human, and most tender. Then, in an unexpected moment, there would come into that brother's face a look, unlike all other looks; a gleam of spiritual light, a flush and colour showing that through his heart there had just passed a wave of more than mortal life, and he would look more like an angel than a man. He was a man; no doubt at all about that; yet there was something about him that there was about nobody else; even when he appeared to be but a common stranger, there was a power in his speech which made men's hearts burn. He was a man, but a man plus , to say the least of it. There was in him an unknown quantity, and it is about this unknown quantity that I propose now to say one or two things that may help our wonder to become reverent and loving homage.
We shall get a bolder and clearer aspect of the whole case if we begin on common ground, and look at it through one or two earthly parallels. Take, for example, a company of poor, uncultivated, unpretending men; let them all be of one sort, all thoroughly familiar with each other; they talk without restraint; all their remarks proceed upon the same low level; all their language is marked by the same commonness or vulgarity. Into this company let a gentleman by some means be introduced; let that gentleman disguise himself by putting on the plainest possible clothing; let him adapt himself with the utmost care to his new circumstances; his one object is to resemble most closely the men whose society he has sought. His own familiar friend would not know him through the disguise he has assumed. Given such a case, that man, by one tone, by one movement of his hand, by one glance, may cause all eyes to be turned upon him in wonder, in suspicion, in anxiety! It is felt there is something about him that there is not about any of the others, he looks plain enough, takes upon himself no airs, sits on a level with the whole company, yet a tone thrilled them, one remark shot through their murky conversation like lightning flashing through darkness. Instantly there is felt to be an unknown quantity among them; they cannot quite recover themselves; there is a stranger in the house, to each other they would fain say, "What manner of man is this?"
Take a very different scene. Here is a company of educated and most polished gentlemen. They speak various languages; they are at home upon every question of the day; their information, standard and current, is considered extensive and profound. Suppose that by some means they should be brought into contact with a man, clothed in the plainest garb, without pretence of bearing, or one outward sign of superiority, yet, when he speaks, he adds to the information of the most learned, to every discussion he contributes something unique, yet obviously pertinent; to the polish of learning he adds the vigour of originality. Precisely the same result would follow in this case as in the other. By so much as he was superior to others, and yet concealed his superiority under an exterior which denoted the utmost lowliness of condition, he would excite and justify the inquiry, "What manner of man is this?"
Now we find that Jesus Christ was constantly puzzling and bewildering men by the action, sometimes subtle and remote, sometimes almost visible and approachable, of an unknown quantity in his nature. He was quite close at hand, yet he could separate himself from men by an immeasurable distance; when familiarity seemed to be completing itself, one look would recall the old reverence and awe; when equality was just about to be established, a single question would prove the depth of men's ignorance, and send them away to learn the merest alphabet of knowledge.
The argument which comes out of the unknown quantity in Christ may take some such shape as this: It was beneficent, and therefore not from beneath; it was intensely spiritual, and therefore not of the earth, earthy; it was wholly self-sacrificial, and therefore different from ordinary human policy and purpose; it set aside canons, traditions, and standards established and valued by men, and therefore claimed a wisdom superior to the ripest wisdom of all human teachers. All this was the more obvious and impressive, because he was without form or comeliness; he was as a root out of a dry ground; he bore the form of a servant; he made himself of no reputation, yet out of him there went virtue which healed the incurable, and light which made the saddest lives take heart again. There was in him more than could be quite concealed. The disguise was most wonderful, yet not altogether complete. The cloud was vast and dense, yet it was pierced now and again by shafts of the supreme glory. What was the meaning of this? We boast that no social humiliation can conceal a gentlemen, through rags and poverty and weakness, there will come signs of gentle blood or noble spirit; be it so, we rejoice in it as one of our most pleasant and gratifying social truths; what if we carry our own reasoning one point higher, and inquire whether, as no disguise can conceal a gentleman, it is possible that any condescension can put God in total eclipse.
We have said that the unknown quantity in Christ was beneficent, and therefore not from beneath. The proof of this is open to any reader, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." "The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." Look at the idea of saving the world! Regard it in what light we may, there is no other idea which can compare with it in point of sublimity of goodness. If we had met with it in any heathen writer, we should have been constrained to point it out as the most marvellous conception of the human mind. The father says, Save the family; the citizen says, Save the city; the patriot says, Save the country. So far good: this is beneficent, this is noble; yet, when these voices have ceased, the Son of man says, Save the world! There is the unknown quantity the subtle, mysterious, inexplicable something, which separates the man from all other men, and causes us to exclaim, "What manner of man is this?"
Observe, with special care, that it is not needful that we should even make a profession of religion in order to know somewhat of the value of this idea of saving a world. We take it merely as an idea; we take it as if we had found it written by an unknown hand in the obscurest of pagan books; we claim for it no sectarian interpretation; we put aside all sectarian interpretation; we put aside all Church mediums of vision as standards of measurement: there stands in its own simplicity the fact that some man, somewhere, at some time, proposed to save the world! To save it, and therefore his heart was full of mercy to save the world, and therefore his mind was as comprehensive as his heart was generous. And this he proposed to do, not when great ideas had become familiar, but when exclusiveness was predominant, when lines hard and fast had mapped off the little provinces of human regard and trust. And more than this: he came into the world to save it; this was his original purpose: it did not gradually lay hold upon him: it was not something that grew imperceptibly, and at last was found to be a ruling passion. It was a complete thought from the first. Sometimes men surprise themselves by the greatness of their achievements: warriors conquer more provinces than they originally intended to attack; inquirers are led from little to much, in carrying out their great schemes; discoverers, travellers, and projectors of all kinds learn the possible from the actual, and by the help of the known grope their way to the unknown: but here is a man who came with a complete plan, who never amended his scheme, who owed nothing to human suggestion a man who at the first said, "I came to save the world," and at the last commanded, "Preach the Gospel to every creature"; and this in the face of opposition the most relentless, and of death the most ignominious. What manner of man is this?
We say that Alexander conquered the world, and then cried because there was not another world to conquer. But Alexander's notion of the world would now excite the smile of a schoolboy. Alexander was as much surprised by his exaggerated successes as were the soldiers whom he led; and lastly, his rapacity can be accounted for on principles neither very profound nor very creditable.
The unknown quantity in Christ was spiritual, and therefore not of the earth, earthy: "My kingdom is not of this world." "Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world." "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "They that worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth." We feel that these words are not earthly: they are ghostly; they are spiritual; they are full of mystery, mystery which would affright us, but that the speaker came to save the world. He reveals himself as a contradiction: he is here, yet he is not here; he is on the earth, yet he is in heaven; he was alone, yet not alone; Mary was his mother, yet before Abraham was, he was; he needed no sword, for more than twelve legions of angels were within call; he revealed the Father; he told men of heavenly things; he spoke of faith as man's supreme power; he treated all earthly things as of less than secondary consideration. How all this involves the presence of an unknown quantity! Whence was this spiritual Christ? How came he to have at his girdle keys which could open invisible kingdoms? Whence his power to give men wider and clearer vision in the empire of truth? How is it that Christ always saw farther than the men who were around him? Why should he have been more at home in the spiritual than in the material? These questions are not to be treated carelessly. In the consideration of so extraordinary a life as Jesus Christ's, they are vital, and every honest student will linger upon their anxious and reverent consideration. Jesus Christ's earthly course as a public worker was intensely excited; yet every day was made serene by "the power of an endless life." There is foam on the stormy billow, but the earth itself flies in silent and tranquil speed through its appointed course, though seas be tempest driven. The volcano shakes with terrible agitation, but its uproar never flutters the peace of the great globe. So in Christ, there was a life within life a mystery, a quantity unknown so that when the storm was angriest, through all the thunder of men's vengeance, he breathed the peculiar benediction of peace: "My peace I give unto you." What manner of man is this? The wonderful conjunction of unequalled trouble and unspeakable peace, seen in the life of Jesus Christ, cannot be figured except by the greatest works of the hand of God: as the fierce wind desolates the forest, maddens the sea, and throws down the fabrics of men, yet never arrests for a moment the velocity of the earth, so the tempests of human opposition, battering with incessant fury upon the life of Christ, never touched the eternal calm of his infinite peace.
The unknown quantity in Christ was wholly self-sacrificial, therefore different from ordinary human policy and purpose. "I lay down my life for the sheep." "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." He constantly moved towards the Cross. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "I am among you as he that serveth." "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." Thus we are taken out of ordinary motives, purposes, and methods. This is altogether a new music. We cannot follow this Man, except we take up a Cross. Herein we see the deep truth of his word "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Never man spoke thus before. Hear him: If you would gain your life, lose it! If you would lose your life, gain it! If you would live, you must die first! If you would be crowned, you must be crucified! What manner of man is this? The severest of his critics has never established a charge of selfishness against Jesus Christ. His self-oblivion and self-expenditure have been left without explanation by the most determined of his opponents. Never did he accept such promotion as men could offer. Never did he consult his own ease at the expense of human suffering. Never did he turn aside that he might escape the Cross. By speaking falsehood he could have avoided humiliation; hypocrisy would have saved him many a frown; hesitation would have helped him out of many a difficulty. Our own selfishness wonders again and again that he did not speak the word of flattery, or tamper with the word of righteousness; yet, though a sentence might have saved him, he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheek to them that plucked off the hair. In a sense deeper than his revilers intended to express, "He saved others, himself he could not save"; he so loved as to be lost in self-forgetfulness!
The unknown quantity in Christ set aside canons, traditions, and standards established and valued by men, and therefore claimed a wisdom superior to the ripest wisdom of all human teachers. "It hath been said by them of old time; but I say unto you." "Ye have heard that it hath been said; but I say unto you." This was his tone throughout. Nor was it a tone of boastfulness. Christ's word was not a word of mere antagonism He never abrogated a truth except by fulfilment, by carrying it to its widest and sublimest applications. "All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?" Jesus taught truth, rather than mere fact; principles, not mere rules; he revealed the universal and the eternal, not merely the local and temporary.
Now look at these suggestions in their unity. The unknown element is of the same quality, so to speak, throughout. It is beneficent, spiritual, self-sacrificial, independent. Not only socially and relatively beneficent, but beneficent up to the point of salvation. Not spiritual, in the limited sense of intellectual, supersensuous, immaterial; it searched the heart, it revealed the invisible, it opened heaven. Not self-sacrificial in the spurious sense of well-calculated periods of self-assertion and self-with-drawment, but self-sacrificial even unto deaths yea, the death of the cross. Not independent in the sense of defiant, self-sufficient, contemptuous, but in the sense of original, complete, omniscient.
Given such a character, to account for it! Say it was a dream: the difficulty is increased rather than diminished by the suggestion. Where is the dreamer? Who was he? Where is the man who had heart enough to dream such beneficence, soul enough to dream such spirituality, will enough to dream such self-sacrifice, wisdom enough to dream such originality? Find the dreamer; name him; account for his supremacy. Remember, you must find not only one dreamer, but many. You must find the dreamers of the most ancient prophecies, as well as of doctrines and theories historically Christian. You must, too, find dreamers whose dreams agree with each other, and dreamers who will unitedly, stubbornly, and lyingly avouch as facts what they know to be mere visions and eccentricities of fancy. Here we touch the moral nerve of the whole system. According to the dream theory, men told lies in order to reveal truth; they divested themselves of all honesty in order to save the world; they said, "Thus saith the Lord," when they knew that they were but relating a day-dream, or depicting a fancy! The moral tone of revelation is the decisive answer to the mythical theory; according to that theory, we are driven to the conclusion that the men who fabricated Christ and Christianity, not only dreamed the sublimest of poems, but the most splendid of falsehoods, and mistook those falsehoods as the very foundations of righteous and noble life. Not only so: they dreamed the lies, and then said to the world, If you believe this, you will suffer for it, you will have trials of cruel mockings and scourgings; yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; you will be stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword: we tell you our dream as a fact, our falsehood as a truth, believe, and your life shall be a daily crucifixion. Nay, more! The dreamers themselves suffered for their dream! They were fed with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction. They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. In every city bonds and afflictions awaited them. They were ready, not to be bound only, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when host upon host of fiercest enemies pressed upon them, they exclaimed, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us." Such were not the men to suffer and die for a lying dream!
Say Jesus Christ was a good man, the best man, the man who realised most perfectly all that is meant by divine inspiration, yet after all was but a man. You aggravate the difficulty unspeakably. Not only have you to account for the most express claim of equality with God, and to explain language infinitely in excess of any inspiration which human capacity could realise or merely human excellence could justify you have a harder task still to accomplish you have a stupendous moral difficulty to overcome. If Jesus Christ was but a man, if there was nothing in him that may not in equal degree be in us, if he was only the perfect type of what any man may become then God gave him an advantage which he has withheld from others, and the want of which occasions us sorrow intolerable, and apprehension the most agonising that can afflict the human mind. He made one perfect man, and left countless millions imperfect; he gave one man inspiration enough to save him from sin, and by withholding that inspiration from others he necessitated their ruin; he showed by one example what he could have made of all men, and yet has entailed upon all men the severest moral degradation and suffering, because something was lacking in the extent of their inspiration!
We find the only satisfactory explanation of the whole mystery of Christ in the facts of revelation. Those facts are many, unique, consistent, sublime. Jesus Christ was the only begotten of the Father: it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell: by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever: Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, Son of God, God the Son, One with the Father, and heir of all things! Take this view of the case, and the solemn mystery becomes filled with light. Standing on this high ground, when men exclaim, "What manner of man is this?" we can answer, Emmanuel! Wonderful! Counsellor! The mighty God! The everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace! There we answer the wonder of the finite with the wisdom of the infinite.
Almighty God, thy riches are unsearchable. The hosts of heaven are thine, so are the gold and the silver and the cattle upon a thousand hills. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. As for thy love it is boundless, and we will say with thy Church in all ages, Thy mercy endureth for ever. We would therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and that we may find grace to help in time of need. Every time is a time of need. We humbly beseech thee therefore to dwell with us. Abide in our heart as in a redeemed and chosen house. Save us in the hour of temptation! Deliver us from all evil influences! Establish our hearts in the love of Christ, that we may never depart from the living God. Grant unto us now to know somewhat of the fulness of thy love, the infinitude of thy nature, the depths of thy heart, the tenderness of thy compassion! May we be filled with amazement, overwhelmed by visions of thy glory, encouraged and strengthened by assurances of thy goodness. We abide near the Cross; we lay our hands upon the one Sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ, Son of man and Son of God. As we look upon him crucified, we say with all our heart, God be merciful unto us sinners! Shed upon us the light above the brightness of the sun. Assure us of thy nearness by the interpretation of thy blessed word to our anxious hearts and inquiring minds. May we see the Lord's beauty, and feel that the Lord's hand is upon us. Unto the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whom we adore as one God, be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, world without end. Amen.