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Almighty God, all things are in thine hand: thou openest thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. We all gather around the table of the Lord, and that which thou dost give us we do gather, and nothing else. We live and move and have our being in thee, yea, when we sin, we turn against thee the souls thou didst create, and the energy thou dost continually inspire. Our blasphemy could not have been but for the power which thou hast given unto us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made: we bless thy name in one breath, and blaspheme thy providence in another. To-day we stand on the mountain top where the sunshine is cloudless and we are all but angels: to-morrow we are in the dark pit and our voice is loudest of all those that are lifted up against thee.
We come now with a psalm of adoration and a song of praise. Thy mercy has been tender, and thy kindness has been loving. Thou hast added one mercy to another, one kindness and love to another, until our whole life is filled with the tokens of thy providence and thy care, and there seems to be no room left for any other sign of thy love. And yet thou wilt find the room because thou hast found the love. Greater things than these shall we see, broader revelations than have yet gladdened our heavens shall flame upon us, and we shall be struck by their infinite lustre, and constrained to praise by all their beauteous light. Guide us into all truth, establish us in faith and in love, give unto us that divine and holy charity which sees further than genius can penetrate.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. We humbly pray thee in the name of the one Priest and Mediator work in us that pureness of heart which can read thy word with intelligence and see thy going in our life and amongst the nations, and hear thee in all the blessed movements of thy providence. Thou hast done wonderful things for us. Our gray hairs shall be venerable witnesses in the court, testifying to thy daily love and thy surprising power and grace, and our young voices shall lift themselves up in sweet melody to say that the Lord is good and the touch of his hand is a daily blessing. Yea, all men and women, the old and the young, and the sick and the strong, the busy and those who spend their lives in leisurely contemplation and wonder, shall conspire to bless thee in one testimony and in one undivided witness. Thou hast been with us in out going out and in our coming in, in our downsitting and in our uprising, on the water and on the land, in the long night and in the bright day, on the hill and in the valley thou hast never forsaken us, though we have often caught our hearts in the act of base truancy, for we have drawn from God and sought a shadow in which he dwelt not. The Lord hear us when we cry for mercy and plead for pardon, and hear in our voice the intercession of his Son, in our desire the beating of Christ's own heart, and behold our poor prayers lifted up and ennobled and made prevalent by the blood of Jesus Christ alone.
Thou knowest what we want and what we need and what is best for us. The Lord have us day by day in his own hand, the Lord open the right door, show the right road, and put around our soul a defence of fire that shall burn the encroaching foe. The Lord's Word dwell in us with such infinite richness that we shall have an answer to every enemy and a solace under every stroke. Thou hast shown some of thy servants great and sore trouble, thou hast bruised their little power, and shaken down their ambitions to the dust, yea thou hast set thy foot upon them as if in scorn and condemnation. Yet there shall be a lifting up for such, for their souls be strong in the love of truth. Come, thou who hast the key of night, and canst open the darkness and shed light upon those who have sat long in trouble and in shadow. Thou hast given unto others great prosperity, so that one day is brighter than another and every succeeding week has added to the greatness of their store. Dost thou intend to curse them with prosperity and to fatten them as oxen for the slaughter? Teach them that thou givest them power to get wealth, and may their prosperity be consecrated to them and be so much added strength to the resources of thy kingdom upon the earth.
The Lord bless the little children amongst us: give them length of days and great delight in the land, quick eyes to see all the beauty and quick ears to hear all the music, and the sensitiveness of heart which shrinks from sin. The Lord sanctify our business and make it prosperous a thousandfold, if it be for our soul's health, or sweep it utterly away if poverty be the right road to heaven.
Comfort all that mourn, visit the sick in their solitude and pain, abolish death, overthrow the ancient visitor and drive him from his stronghold, and enable thy dying saints to say, "O death, where is thy sting?"
We bless thee for all general mercies, mercies in business and in the nation and in the world at large; for the good tidings of the harvest we thank thee grant that the harvest may be well gathered in and stored for the good of the land. God save the Queen, multiply her days manifold, and give her joy in every added year. Direct our leaders, teach our magistrates, guides, and leaders of all kinds, grant power to goodness and break the arm of evil, and suddenly come to thy temple, thou Son of God. Amen.
1. And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
2. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first (not in official primacy) Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother (who with John had been a disciple of the Baptist), James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
3. Philip, and Bartholomew (generally supposed to be the same with Nathanael of Cana in Galilee), Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphæus and Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus;
4. Simon the Canaanite (called Zelotes from having before his conversion belonged to a sect which eventually brought upon Jerusalem its destruction), and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
The Missionary Charge
A light will be thrown upon the first verse of the tenth chapter by recalling the last verse of the ninth. "Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." Is this sentimental? Does the Lord call men only to prayer, or has he some ulterior purpose? Does he encourage them by first asking them to pray, and then when they have prayed themselves into white heat of soul, does he name the practical purpose which he had in view at the beginning? Who could bear to hear all his destiny at once? Who would like to have his destiny thrust upon him with abruptness and suddenness, like the shock of an unexpected thunder-storm? Who would not rather be gently and gradually prepared? This is the infinite statesmanship of Christ. He tells the disciples to pray for labourers. A lame remedy, say you, for the tremendous disease. Wait awhile: when they have prayed well they shall work well. When they have prayed for labourers it shall be revealed to them that they themselves are the labourers! Revelations come to men in prayer; whilst they are praying about others, God suddenly says, " You are the men GO." That is the solution of ten thousand Church difficulties. A rich man I have heard pray that God would be gracious to the poor, and when he was done I have said, "Answer your own prayer." So a man shall pray that the Church be revived, and God says, "Begin in your own heart." Others, again, are praying night and day that God would send forth labourers into his harvest, not knowing that God's plan is that when a man can pray most that labourers may be sent, he himself should herald the way and be the evangelist of heaven.
If this could be brought to bear upon us in all the compass of its meaning and in all the force of its moral purpose, we should have preachers enough, and great ones and astounding ones, and the question would run from camp to camp, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" Think of wise men, men of great capacity and considerable education, meeting together in solemn committee for the purpose of inquiring whether they cannot engage a number of all but incapable persons at eighty pounds a year! I would that some stern, strong man could break in upon their ungodly seclusion, and tell them to rise and go themselves and preach this kingdom.
Wondrous is the wisdom of this carpenter's son. First, he is touched with compassion when he sees the multitudes; then he calls the attention of his disciples to the destitute condition of the innumerable throngs; then he says, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." He is now in his pathetic mood; his tones have a strange melting power in them; he adds, as he only could add, "Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest;" and the men prayed, and as they prayed their faces shone, and strange impulses moved their strength; and when they had marked the culmination of their prayers, he called them to him and said, "Go ye." He bids us add the "Amen" to our own prayers, he bids us carry out our own purposes; when we have wrestled long and strongly at heaven's gate, he says, "Now you are ready; there is fire enough in you; go ye and tell all that I have told you; freely ye have received, freely give." Thus light is cast upon the first verse of the tenth chapter by recalling the pathetic conclusion of the preceding chapter.
"When he had called unto him his twelve disciples." He was always calling these men. At first he called them and said to each, "Follow me." And then he called his twelve disciples again, and again he called unto him his twelve disciples always calling, always creating, always shaping our manhood to new and noble uses, always enlarging the definition of our sphere and ennobling the destiny of our powers. The call of Christ is not once for all. It is a daily interview; the invitation to go nearer to him comes with every sunrise. We have never been so near to Jesus Christ that we cannot be nearer, and the nearer we get the softer is his voice. When we were away, far out on the barren sands, he called unto us as with the blast of a trumpet; then we became more familiar with him, got nearer and nearer to his heart, and he called us to come nearer still, and the nearer we got the less occasion was there for any vocal force on his part, till now he whispers his commands; he breathes upon us with infinitely subdued tenderness his will and purpose so lowly, so sweetly, he seems almost to be consulting us. The great royal voice that was strong as a command is still the same, though it has dropped into a lower key, and gives us the impression that we are being consulted! Strange if such a leader, with such a human ancestry, be but a creature of the dust!
What does he do when they come nearer to him? He gives them power. Can any man amend that arrangement? Call twelve men to duty, and you may but mock their weakness and throw them back upon the humiliating consciousness of their inefficiency; but Jesus Christ, when he called the twelve disciples to him, gave them power. Strange let me say over and over again, until the refrain itself becomes a kind of argument, that he who was only a peasant and a peasant's son should have had this compass of mind and this marvellous sweep of statesmanlike power of getting men together, organizing them, constituting them, investing them, and giving to them, as in great handfuls, the omnipotence of God!
Not only does he give the disciples power, he gives them consolation. This adds a new and beauteous feature to the whole arrangement. We sometimes say, not knowing what we are saying, that if we have a duty to perform the only thing we want is power to do it. That is a narrow and foolish view. Power may be bruised, wounded, baffled, disappointed: sheer, hard, iron strength is not enough; we need encouragement, consolation; we need such reminders of human history as shall embolden us to keep our spirits up, though the wind be high and cold, and all things seem to be set in daily antagonism against us. It is poor living when we are reduced to the dry consciousness of our mere power. When a man can say, "I have power to do this," and works according to his strength, he is tempted into a tone of self-sufficiency, and it may be occasionally a tone of social defiance. But when he knows that he not only has the power to do his duty, but that when he comes back to his Lord and Master, bruised and wounded and quite tired, he will be taken up into the Almighty heart and cheered, and nourished, and encouraged, and blest with the whole baptism of omnipotence; then the tone of defiance is taken out of his voice, and he goes out if the figure be that of a bird, with duty as its body, power and encouragement as the wings with which it flies.
"He gave them power." There are flood times in the progress of the mind; times when men are transported beside and beyond themselves; seasons when we feel equal to the whole occasion of life; periods when we are conscious of such an accession of strength as makes work a pleasure and danger an inspiration. We are all conscious of such times in our life. We say, "Would that these hours would continue, and we should break the mountains in pieces with a threshing instrument of iron having teeth, and should scatter the broken dust upon the mocking wind." Grand hours these of inauguration and coronation, almost of apotheosis. We are lifted up into our deific state, and we set our feet upon all lower things and triumph over them with power not to be measured by human terms. Then we vehemently desire the battle, and are impatient because the trumpet blast that calls us to it is long delayed.
Sometimes God seems to dwell in us as in a tabernacle, which he has specially chosen, and his light gleams out of us to the destruction of all darkness. It is perhaps well that we have not the incessant consciousness of this power, for we might then come to think it was our own. The intermissions of such consciousness may be as much a blessing as is the consciousness itself. It does a man no harm to be speared in the side and to have blood and water let out, or to have the thorn-points crushed into his temples until the blood starts and his life becomes a great agony. These things have deep meanings; their significance is not in the little letter; these are not little rills that run upon the surface they are waters that come up from the hidden rocks. Our weakness has its lesson as well as our strength yea, sometimes we can say, "When I am weak, then am I strong."
"He gave them power." Yet he did not weaken himself. This is the test of original strength. If we have only the oil we have bought we may run short at an unlucky time, and the upshot may be that we are barred out when the bridegroom comes and constitutes his household. "The water that I shall give him," said Christ, "shall be in him a well of living, springing water, and he shall not know when the sun scorches up the streams of the earth. His shall be a perennial flow of divine water." If you have your sermon committed to your memory, and are repeating it like a parrot, and are afraid that you will forget the next paragraph, you are no preacher. If Christ has given you power, the word shall be in you a living, springing water, and it shall flow forth for the refreshment and the cleansing of those who attend your ministry. Take no thought how or what ye shall say. Christianity is not a literary argument, a literary essay, or a forensic success according to human standards and canons; it is a voice that surprises the speaker himself as much as it ever can surprise the hearer, and the accents are taught for the moment and for the moment's uses.
To give power and yet to retain all you give is the mystery of originality. The only natural suggestions that we have of such power, and they, of course, fall infinitely short of the reality, are the sun and the sea. The sun is the same old light that shone upon Eden and warmed its flowers into colour and beauty, and today he shines, unshorn of a beam, always giving, never the less luminous. And the great sea takes into it all the rain clouds, and is not conscious of any accession of water, and allows the evaporation to go on continuously; and yet who can say that the sea has shrunk one hair's breadth? These poor emblems help us to understand what is meant by the ever-giving God, never impoverishing himself by what he bestows. Ask, and it shall be given you; bring with you great petitions; do not stint your prayer, for the word is, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Ye have not because ye ask not, or because ye ask amiss.
What has become of the Church's power? I cannot tell. It is partially, almost wholly, lost. The Church is now prudent, self-regarding, self-admiring, self-protecting, trimming her edges, locking her gates, repairing her walls, talking much within her borders. Where is the old world-shaking power? So far gone down that men mockingly say, "Presently there will be no Church, or there will be a Church without an altar." O for a lamp enkindled by other than human hands! The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; the opportunities were never so broad and so grand as they are today; pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth labourers into his harvest, and whilst you are praying the revelation may be flashed upon your own mind that you have to conclude your prayer by going forth.
Observe the kind of power that Jesus Christ gave his disciples. He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. It was, then, a power to do good. When did Jesus Christ send forth any man with a rod, and with a judgment fire, and with destructive force, concerning anything that had in it the least hopefulness of ever being rescued and saved? The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them; the bruised reed he will not break, the smoking flax he will not quench, the little child he will not reject, the creeping, crawling sinner, that waits till the dusk that he may grope his way in the darkness, shall not be turned aside as a coward, but shall be looked into a new man. If this was Christ's own purpose, it follows as a matter of consequence that the purpose of the Church must be akin to it. It was a beneficent power. Jesus Christ gave his disciples power to relieve human burdens, human distresses, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. He detests their presence; that there should be disease in the creatures he named, that his machinery should have gone wrong, that the joints and valves which he fashioned and connected should have got out of gear, that any creature which he made should say, "My head, my head," or "I am weak," or "I am in pain," or "I am in sorrow," it came not out of the compass of his counsel; an enemy hath done this. It is his wish that we should all be well, without headache, or heartache, or broken joint, or poisoned blood, or reeling brain; we should be strong, grand, massive, royal, and if we are otherwise an enemy hath done it, and he must be found and slain.
It was power, too, that could be easily appreciated. Everybody could test that kind of influence, and the Church must betake itself to this kind of work more and more. The Church should be a hospital, the Church should be a nursery, the Church should be a home of the destitute and a shelter for those who are cast out, the Church should have both hands filled with bread to deal to the hungry; when the Church ceases her more or less impotent and inconclusive speculations, and betakes herself to this beneficent ministry, the world will soon know that the Son of God has come in deed and in power.
Yet the ability which Jesus Christ gave to the twelve men was strictly limited. Men do not understand the whole of their ministry at once. We grow into conceptions of our power and our duty; we begin feebly, externally, we take upon ourselves in the strength of divine grace to fulfil the very smallest occasion, and being faithful in few things, we are afterwards made rulers of many things. Having kept one city well, we have ten cities handed over to our charge. Thou shalt see Rome also: thy ambition shall be satisfied, if thy work is well done inch by inch, and day by day.
The twelve men were not sent forth with any great psychological purpose, to analyse the minds and souls of men and hold high discourse on things recondite and afar from their daily thinking. They were sent forth to do practical work, physical work, work that could be instantly appreciated even by the least enlightened minds. Let us begin where we can: if we cannot preach we can give, if we cannot give we may be able to instruct, if we cannot say much it may be given to our hand to express, in masonry unknown to other men, the sympathy of a fellow feeling.
"The twelve apostles are these." Now look at their names names that do not stand out in history: with one or two exceptions the most of the men named here were obscure. We cannot all have pedestals; we may be apostles though we may not be famous. The whole twelve are named but two or three have any fame that fills the world; the last has an infamy that fills earth and hell; he is always named last. There are some names we are reluctant to breathe, they are only forced out of us that we may make a literal completeness of a statement. And they were men who had no other power. Jesus Christ does not clothe with additional influence men who have already attained a certain height of celebrity and power. It is all his gift: they bring nothing to him, he gives them all. Shall I take my little lamp and say to him, "Lord, this is a lamp of my lighting, if thou canst add. anything to it I shall be pleased"? He will not hear me; he must find the lamp, he must find the fire, he must renew the light; I must live, and move, and have my being in him. He does not supplement me, he creates me.
Perhaps a misconception of this law may have something to do with our spiritual poverty and feebleness. We may have thought that God would eke out our respectability. It may have occurred to us that we may bring fine culture to heaven, and heaven may be only too glad to accept it. O cursed profanity! Yet I dare not say that some of us have not brought our scholarship, or culture, or outward polish, and have expected the Church to be only too thankful to accept such astounding respectability. We must be creations, not improvements; we contribute nothing. "By the grace of God I am what I am" must be the humbling yet ennobling consciousness of every man who would do any real and lasting good in the world.
Thus we have spoken of the gift of power. To what intent the power was given will appear in our next reading. The gift was directly given by the Son of God. Can he be but a man who has such gifts to give? He is more than a man to me; he is my Lord and my God. He invokes no sacred name, he utters no incantation, he mutters from behind no veil of mystery. Seated there, in absolute littleness of simplicity, he conducts the investiture of twelve men with the almightiness of God, within the circle which he describes for their mission. From his own heart as from a quiver he draws the arrows which these men are to shoot. Who was he? Why did not they give him power? How came he to be the origin and fountain of this might? How was it that he always gave and never received?
How this power will be wielded we shall see by-and-by. Perhaps under its exercise the wilderness may blossom as the rose and the sandy places may be green as the fertile meadow.
Almighty God, do thou now come to us, and, according to the necessity of our heart, grant thy blessing unto us every one. We are often weary and often are we disquieted by reason of the length and hardness of the road of life; but thou hast provided for us all that we need as we pass from mile to mile of the dreary sand. We look up unto thee with a look that is meant to be a cry, a prayer, an expectation, and we wait upon thee with a patience that is as sacred and dear as a precious hope. Thou dost not disappoint the eyes that look towards the hills whence all true help cometh. Thou dost surprise those who wait upon thee, but never with the littleness of thy replies, always with the depth and breadth and graciousness of thine infinite answers. Thou dost ask us to open our mouths wide and thou wilt fill them: thou dost evermore encourage us to bring large petitions to thee, for they who cry unto the Omnipotent for help cannot ask too much from the arm that is almighty.
Thy grace is very sweet sweet as honey: yea, sweeter than the honeycomb; and the more the bitterness of our life, the sweeter the solaces of thy love. Enable us to receive thy promises in all the fulness of their meaning, in all their ineffable graciousness, and may no spirit of hesitation or scepticism interpose to hinder our enjoyment of the infinite inheritance of grace which thou hast provided for thy children. We own that we often live in a cloud; many a time we are uncertain of our standing, our senses mislead the soul; we mistake things near for things great, and things in the hand we mistake as precious. Give us the seeing eye, the hearing ear, the true spirit of discernment, that we may look upon things not seen and eternal, and that by the power of an endless life we may triumph in conquest over all the temptations and besetments of time.
Every heart brings its own song, every life is as a censer swung around thine altar today, filled with the incense of a pure offering. The Lord hear every tribute of praise, the Lord himself receive our sacrifice as one that is well pleasing, and return upon us from his broad heavens all the light and grace we need.
If we speak of our sin our tongue shall cleave unto the roof of our mouth, and there shall be no more strength in our joints; we shall tremble and stagger and die before thee. Our sin is blacker than night, our iniquities are more in number than the sands upon the seashore, but we now listen to thy gospel, and it is adapted to all our iniquity. Thine is the gospel to the lost; thine is a cry to those who have gone astray; thy cross, O Man of Sorrows, the wounded of Gethsemane and the dying Man of Golgotha, is lifted up, not for error and infirmity and weakness but for the sin of the world. We are sinners; we say so with bowed heads; we mix no words of defence with our confession; we mourn and lament our iniquities; nor do we seek to mitigate in thy sight the aggravation of our offences. The blood of Jesus Christ thy Son cleanseth from all sin: this is our eternal hope, this is our perpetual joy.
We desire to be led into all truth; dispossess us of every evil spirit, slay utterly with thy sword of light every prejudice and everything in our nature that would hide from us the true shining of thy sun. Help us to love one another, to pity one another's weaknesses, and to magnify one another's virtues.
Where it is possible to clasp hands in the union of intelligent and sincere fellowship may every man eagerly embrace the opportunity of attesting the common brotherhood.
Help us in all the difficulties of life; we will not ourselves meddle with them; we wait the inspiring spirit; we abide the all-illuminating light; we will quiet ourselves in the peace of God. Visit our sick-chambers today, see the father or the mother languishing and dying, the little child bidding a premature farewell to the earth of which it knows nothing. Look upon the families in whose households there is a great shadow, a ghastly spectre, a noise without words to express its awful meaning.
The Lord save every man who is trying to be better and to do better; the Lord send sweet gospels like singing angels into his heart, to cheer him and inspire him with immortal hope.
Lord help us every one; our days are a handful, and they are counted for us by men who reckon numbers; may we remember how small is the span of our life, how little and frail our tenure upon our present earthly existence; and, remembering all these things, and remembering too our all but infinite capacity for doing wrong, may we hasten to the cross, may we all be found at the cross, may our home be at the cross, may the centre of our life be the cross, and God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Review of the Whole Charge
Matthew 10:0 (continued)
A great missionary campaign was proposed: Jesus Christ himself proposed it. Now what was his idea of such a novel campaign? This is the largest thing he has yet attempted, we may therefore naturally expect to gather from it some hint of his intellectual quality. How does he address himself to great undertakings? What was his intellectual energy, what his moral tone, what his propagandist audacity? How will he grip a great occasion? In studying the Temptation we thought we could discover from his answers the quality of his character, as from the devil's questions we formed a deduction as to the devil's nature. Now from this great and luminous Charge, addressed to twelve men in view of a missionary campaign, it is possible we may be able to gather something further concerning the intellectual and moral purpose of the Son of God. To this study I now invite you.
First of all, Jesus Christ sent forth his disciples two and two. That was a shrewd and gracious arrangement. He might have covered double the ground if he had sent them out one by one. It was not his purpose in the outset to cover much ground; he was more careful at the beginning about the men and the strength and utility of their service than about the mere acreage of surface which he was to cover. In due time he will lay his hand upon the whole world; but it is early morning now, the dawn is just beginning to make the eastern sky a little grey, and at the outset he says, "You must go out two and two. The lonely heart is soon discouraged; two are better than one, for if they fall one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him who is alone when he falleth." That was an ancient proverb: it was within the pen of Solomon to write that wise word, and it comes within the range of Jesus Christ's purpose to take up our little common proverbs and to give their religious applications and religious securities.
Not only did Jesus Christ send forth his disciples two and two, but each two made up something like one whole. It was as if he had put together hemispheres, and thus made a complete globe of character and service. Look at the names. Peter and Andrew. Peter, full of fire, daring, passion, enthusiasm, an impetuous man with a strange faculty of leaping and making beginnings of things without any certainty that he would ever continue them to their completion. Andrew his very name is a character, his very name is a certificate. If he be other than a man he will be a living irony, for his name means man, and he was manly in all his conceptions and movements. He was as one who broke up the way with a strong hammer. They will do well together, these two probably they will not fall out by the way.
The next couple James and John. James is elsewhere called a son of thunder a great rousing, violent voice that came in shocks and claps and bursts, and John was idealistic, contemplative; his eyes often settled into a calm, dreamy wonder, and his whole face looking as if his eyes were fastened on God's great eternity. There will be no occasion of difference between two such men; they are well mated. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.
The next couple Simon Zelotes, Simon the zealot, Simon the hot coal, Simon the fervent man, all fire, clothed with zeal as with a garment, and Judas Iscariot, cold, calculating, shrewd, representing the secularistic, administrative, executive side of things. If any man could go with Judas, Simon is the man to accompany him; if Judas can be trusted in any company, it was well to bind him to the fire. If there is purification and disinfection to be had anywhere it is in the red flame so potent is fire.
What think ye of Christ? He did not allow the men to go out two and two just as they pleased, but two and two as he pleased. He setteth the stars in their places; he fixeth the bounds of our habitation; there is a balance in his hand, and he goes into the detail of every economy he administers. The very hairs of your head are all numbered, and he who watches the night lamps of the heavens watches the small birds that fall upon the earth. We may repeat, therefore, that in this arrangement there was at once great shrewdness and great grace. Is it not a fact well attested amongst ourselves that some men ought never to be thrown into association with one another? Each of the men is good, but they ought never to have come into nominal union. They do not understand one another, they are out of sympathy and rapport, they cannot comprehend one another's purposes and impulses, they are, perhaps, too much alike to be agreeable the one to the other, or there may be something about their dissimilarity which does not admit of immediate reconciliation; there is a want of adaptation between the two, and yet the character of each may be excellent. Matches are made in heaven in the widest sense. God knows all about the law of harmonies and companionships, and he is the wise man who waits till the colleague is found in heaven. I ask you, therefore, in the beginning of this study, to estimate this arrangement as affording some illustration of the compass of mind which proposed this great missionary campaign.
The next point which is illustrative of the character of Christ is in the fact that he impoverished the disciples materially, and enriched them to infinitude of redundance spiritually. Never was master so severe with servant as to all material possessions and equipments. Christ's charge was a process of stripping in the first instance. No man was to have two coats or two staves; he was to take neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in his purse; everything that could be taken from a man was stripped from him by the very hand that sent him forth. There was no encouragement on the material side; no bribe, allurement, inducement, or promise was given on the side that was purely secular and worldly. And yet, on the other hand, as to the enrichment of the men, why, all heaven was placed at their disposal spiritually. They were to have inspiration, speech, comfort, at every point; nothing was withheld from them that could give them solace and ennoblement and quietude and the positive triumph of security. He was a statesman, he took a view that was bounded only by horizons, his plan was a firmament. Our little plans are broken arcs of his great circle. We are indebted even for the little arcs we draw to the great circle which he described. Remember there was no missionary society when Jesus Christ uttered this charge; there was nothing to go by; there was no hint in any human mind of such a scheme as this. We must therefore divest ourselves of all the conceptions and prejudices which they have gathered throughout nineteen centuries, and set ourselves at the chronological point of Christ's planning and thinking, if we would rightly estimate his method of spreading a Christian gospel.
In the case of Christ, poverty was to become a kind of holiness. To have two coats was to break a vow, to have two staves was to be suspected of disloyalty, to have a look of having anything of your own was to be brought under the suspicion of distrust in God. Outward grandeur would have clashed with spiritual nobleness and aspiration. To make the case clearer upon that side, Jesus Christ not only stripped the disciples of everything in the form of an encumbrance, but he further depressed the materialistic side by telling them that they would have blows, taunts, insults, scourgings, hatred of all men for his name's sake. This was a tremendous depression of the material side, an infinite discouragement to Judas Iscariot. It is the same today.
What think ye of this Man? We move by making great promises, we inspire by bribing, we encourage by enriching, in a material and physical sense. But Jesus Christ stripped every man of the twelve of everything that looked like encumbrance, or ornament, or personal security, and sent him forth with nothing but God. His kingdom was not of this world, his masonry was not a building up with stone, his purpose was a great spiritual one, and evidently, from this very inception of his plan, he means the spirituality of his kingdom to be distinctly revealed to every eye. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, the kingdom of God is not a material success, the kingdom of heaven is within.
Then look, in the third place, at the kind of homage which he claimed. It was preposterous, if not divine. There was no other name for it than the name that describes its ridiculousness, if it was not a divine claim. Father and mother must go, sister and brother must be surrendered, houses and land must be abandoned, the world reduced to one pair of sandals and one stout staff. "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. He that loveth sister or brother more than me is not worthy of me. Except a man hate his father and his mother in comparison with me, he is not worthy of me. He that taketh not up his cross daily is not worthy of me." He himself was the one inspiration of the disciples, his name the only name they knew or were called upon to breathe; this was the homage he demanded no oath in mere words, no vow spoken into the vacant air, to be lost in its ample spaces, but direct, positive, complete surrender. I do not ask you to form any opinion of the homage itself at this moment, but to form your estimate of a man who, in ordering twelve men to do a work, says that if he is not supreme beyond father, mother, sister, brother, houses, land, any man who professes to do his work does it with hireling fingers, with a mercenary and dishonourable soul.
It was a bold claim, and it was most graphically expressed. This was not the way in which an impostor would have moved; he would have sought by guile, and promise, and. bribe, by all the tricks known to imposture, to have endeared these men to the cause he wished to propagate. But the impostor has no cause which he wishes to propagate except the cause of himself. Jesus Christ had this great cause to propagate the kingdom of heaven, as first seen in the cleansing of the lepers, the healing of the sick, the blessing of the unblest, and the sending of a plentiful rain upon lives that were perishing with thirst.
There was another point in his charge that must reckon in the great argument, and that was the command to avoid all religious mystery, and monasticism, and jugglery, in founding the new kingdom. "What I tell you in darkness or in secrecy, face to face, in this private interview, that speak ye in light, and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." There are no little corners and monastic enclosures and priestly confessional boxes in this great kingdom of Christ. This is no branch of the black art, this is not a question of attainment in priestly mummery and symbolic representation, and things that can be only penetrated and expounded by the initiated and the learned. This is our conception of the kingdom of heaven, and we believe it to be Christ's own, that the Book revealing it is open to everybody, that the Book can now be read in our mother tongue, and that every man is responsible to God directly for the use which he makes of that Book. Herein I rejoice to believe that we have the truth of God. You may know about it as much as I do, if you will attend to it with your whole soul, and study it with your whole affection. I do not believe in any ministerial class; there is no minister that knows more or needs know more than the plainest man in society, except it be by some specialty of intellectual gift, or by some opportunity of closer literal study; but as to all that is essential, substantial, vital, in the gospel, I would as lief you consulted the man who sweeps the floor of the church as consult me in my purely so-called "professional" capacity. I have no profession; if I have not a vocation then I am nothing in life. We are all ministers; some are speaking ministers, some giving ministers, some sick-visiting ministers, some quiet sympathetic ministers, but all the Lord's people are prophets, and we are only in the apostolic succession so long as we succeed to the apostolic spirit and to the apostolic doctrine.
The ministerial class must be put down and discouraged by the true spirit of Christian Protestantism. The ministerial class spirit may become the curse of Christendom. I would have everything done in the light; I would have what is called a "layman" preside at the Lord's Supper as certainly as I would have any minister that ever was garbed in the official clothing of the Church. Go directly to your Bible and to every honest man you can meet, and get light from all quarters, and know ye that the Church does not represent some little secret trick, some art of spiritual conjuring, but is an infinite gospel of love, welcome, hospitality, lo those that are lost.
He was no mean man who delivered this great Charge which we have thus from time to time read and studied. He was a grand man. There is no paltry idea within the whole compass of his Charge. There is no heel that can be wounded in this Achillean address; every word is sublime, and the whole purpose is beneficent. I ask you to call this Man Saviour, Lord, King, Priest, and from this day to say you fall within the inspiration of his charge, and will be the soldiers of his cross. The Church is nothing today if she be not inspired. I will not listen to any toothless old Church that does but mumble a literal creed. The Church must lay her claim upon my attent on by her inspiration, by her power to touch my heart's disease, my life's sharpest pain, my soul's bitterest accusation. Do not let us go forth with symbols and signs and fine traditions, and grandly outlined and highly elaborated faiths and creeds and professions; but let the world feel that we have an answer to all its charges, a reply to all its inquiries
Almighty God, our life is a continual cry unto thee; thine ear is besieged with the prayers of men. We are for ever in want, our experience is a cry to be somewhat more than we already are. This is not discontent, this is the joy of being yet unsatisfied. Thou hast more grace to give, more light to shed, broader and grander revelations thou hast yet to disclose, and we feel the joyous pain of a hunger that is about to eat, and the welcome grateful fire of a thirst that may quench itself in the river of God. May we never be satisfied, may we never be dissatisfied, may we forever be unsatisfied, yearning for more, longing to be more, and to do more, and to see more. Thus may our soul's life be a continual growth, an eternal expansion, a yearning after the infinite, receiving continual answers according to each day's necessity.
We bless thee for a book that is like a store of living seed: let it be planted deeply in the heart's ground, honest and well-prepared, and behold it will rise up in due time a golden harvest, too large for any storage room we have. May the word of Christ thus dwell in us richly, not in the seed only, not in the letter alone, but as a seed that is sown, as a letter that is understood and has grown in all its spiritual blossoming and fruitfulness, and may we thus, in a high and ever widening consciousness of thy presence, grow in grace. Leaving all narrowness and selfishness, all bigotry and exclusiveness, may we know that the end of the commandment is charity, and that we have nothing if we have not love that whatsoever we may have in our head if our hearts be not large enough to encompass the world, we are trees twice dead and plucked up by the roots. Teach us this great lesson; thy Church cannot learn it, thy Church is dead, thy Church has gone astray, we have lost our love, our charity is dead.
We pray thee to receive what we can give of humble praise for all thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses. Thou art always before us and right above us, far beyond our song as the light is far beyond the birds which sing in its lustre. Still we would be praising thee; feeble and halting as our song is we cannot keep it back; when we see thy mercy we must respond to it, when we feel the glow of thy love there must be an answer in our heart, and when speech fails us to set forth infinite fire in cold words, then do we take to singing and making melody in our hearts, the higher speech, the speech which thou dost understand.
We come before thee with every power bruised, with every promise neglected, with every commandment broken, feeble in our knees, and our hands hanging down in impotence, our heads bewildered, and our hearts divided. Behold us in this hospital sick, wounded, diseased, blind, crippled, with nothing to show but our poverty, with nothing to declare but our sin and our penitence; and whilst we mourn our sin, come to us and show us that thy grace has more than provided for us, that the almightiness of God is in excess of the feebleness of man; that where sin abounds grace doth much more abound; that the blackness of our life shall be utterly taken away by the blood which cleanseth from all sin.
Thou knowest what we need. We are getting older we would become better; the days are flying we would write some deeper thing upon them than we have yet inscribed; our opportunities of usefulness are dwindling, and we would arise and work like men who see the sun is going down. The Lord help us in all high purpose, in all noble resolution. The Lord purify us with flames of fire from heaven, and baptise us every day with the Holy Ghost.
Enlarge us, for we are small; kindle a great light in our intelligence, for we trim our lamp with our own fingers, and feed it with our own oil. O, that we might live in the sun, and stand in the very glory of God! Amen.
Matthew 10:5-23 .
5. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans (the Gentile inhabitants of the country between Judea and Galilee. The prohibition is taken off Act 13:46 ) enter ye not:
6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven, is at hand.
8. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received freely give.
9. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses.
10. Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
11. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
12. And when ye come into an house, salute it.
13. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
16. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
18. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
19. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
20. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
23. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come.
The Uses of Inspired Power
We are now studying the charge which Jesus Christ gave to his twelve apostles or disciples, when he sent them upon their first missionary tour. In the charge we found three things Power, Service, and Consolation. "Jesus Christ called unto him his twelve disciples and gave them power." To-day we have to look at the uses to which that power was to be put. Power is another name for duty; the measure of power is the measure of obligation. It was never God's intention that you should take the power which he gave you and enfold it and lay it aside, to be merely kept in its first state which indeed is impossible, for power that is not used declines and dies. This we know in our intellectual education, in all the exercises of life the power which falls into desuetude soon becomes impotence. Whatever power we have, therefore, is meant to be used for the good of others. If we cannot work miracles, we have the power of eloquence, the power of money, the power of sympathy we are clothed not with less power than that with which the early disciples were invested it has another aspect, and in some sense it may be turned to other methods and uses, but essentially it is divine power, and it is meant to be expended for the good of the race. It is not a personal possession or a personal luxury only, it is meant for expenditure, for spreading over the largest possible surface, and for accomplishing the largest usefulness.
What is your power? You can speak a kind word, you can illuminate a dark mystery, you can soothingly touch some bitter distress of the heart, you can utter a hopeful word to the man who is in despair, you can sit down and listen sympathetically to the heart that has a long tale of wonder or of woe or of bitterness to tell. Find out what your particular personal power is, and understand that wherever power is given, duty is implied.
Jesus Christ always used his power beneficially. When all power was given to him in heaven and on earth, how did he employ it? I know of no words more sublime in their moral pathos than the words which he used when he declared that all power was given unto him. He mentioned nothing about destruction. He made no reference to retaliation, he did not say, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth, therefore gather mine enemies together that I may consume them with sudden fire." Pause and hear what he has to say, and tell me if ever logic was surprised into such sequences as in the case of his great speech. "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth go ye therefore." You call the word therefore a logical word, you say it indicates a sequence, and unites what is coming with what is gone. Observe into what wondrous breadths this therefore expands itself. "Go ye therefore and teach." That is the true use of power to educate, to teach, to communicate ideas, to build up a spiritual kingdom, to deliver men from darkness and error and narrowness, and to lift them up into a larger self-hood. Such is the purpose of Christianity, and whilst the Church holds her faith to that intent, whoever speaks against it but wastes his own breath.
Let us now hear what Jesus Christ says to his twelve disciples when he sends them forth. He says in verses nine and ten "Provide neither gold nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves." That is the way to go missioning. That is the way to evangelize the world. He never amended that method, he never said a single word about outfits and guarantees and supports and home refuges in the case of foreign disappointments. It is the method that must be adopted today if Christian men are in earnest. Go to foreign lands with nothing nothing but yourself and God. Do you want to be a missionary to barbarous lands to savage people? Then go at once and tell no one about it "But I cannot pay my passage." Then work it. Pull ropes, carry chains, keep fires work it, or you do not mean to go. "But I must have time to buy an outfit." On what compulsion must you? You are not a missionary. If you had the fire of God burning in you and wanted to go to reclaim the moral wastes of the world, you would be off! You would not need to go and converse with your minister about it, and consult a number of elderly persons concerning it, and to go around certain circumlocutionary paths to come to it we would ask "Where is he?" And by-and-by the answer would come, that Christ had sent you forth, without scrip or purse, or shoes, or coats, or staves. The Church now goes respectably, well equipped the Church now goes to taste the ill-smelling dish of heathenism, and if its nostril be offended by the flavour, it comes home.
That kind of energy, if energy it may be termed, will never conquer the world. If Christ has called you very closely to himself, and has told you to go and be a missionary, then go. The Norwegians are following in this matter the counsel and will of Christ. They went into India and said to the people with whom they came in contact: "We have come to teach you Christianity." "Who sent you?" "Nobody." "What have you to live upon?" "Nothing." "How do you mean to live?" "We mean to do you all the good we can, and we are sure you will not let us starve." "But if we have nothing?" "Then we will have nothing along with you." There was no answer to that argument. The Norwegians meant it, sat down and did it. Now, my young friend, you who are talking about going to be a missionary, why do you not start off on your beneficent journey at once? You may be killed if you touch mechanism; the machinery of the Church is now so complicated that if you do not take care some crank or wheel will catch you, and in you will go, and you will never come out again.
This is exactly how Christ himself came. "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant." Just what I told you now to do take upon you the form of a sailor, work your passage out to the land you want to go to, and Christ will go along with you, and you shall not have gone much over the land till the Son of man be come. He comes in strange ways, in great broad lines, in swiftly expanding consciousness of his presence, by filling the mind with new brightness and the soul with new emotion, and lifting up the life to higher and diviner energies. It is not the case of sending men into Christian cities to speak to the Christian intelligence and the Christian luxury of the age. We are talking to the intelligence, and culture, and wealth, and social influence of the metropolis. That is not the case described in the text. We are men who profess to know the truth and to love it, and we have established amongst ourselves constituted and permanent ministries of the truth. We must, therefore, not apply to ourselves passages, directions, methods, and schemes which were suggested in reference to nations that knew not that Jesus Christ had come.
Jesus Christ, therefore, appears before us as a man who undertakes a great work, upon conditions which cannot be disappointed. He wants only meat, and there is something in human nature that will not let the earnest man starve. The workman is worthy of his meat. Go where you will, earnest man, you shall have bread enough and to spare. Not, perhaps, to day, but to-morrow you will have more than sufficient, and that you can keep for the day that is to follow, or give it away as you please. But you cannot show disinterestedness, the passion of enthusiasm, the divinity of absolute consecration, and be left to starve. There are always kind hearts, open houses, thoughtful minds, liberal hands; God has his elect everywhere out of hell. Our care must be about the truth; God will take care about the bread. If Jesus Christ had set up a missionary scheme with most intricate, and complex, and expensive mechanism it would have come to nothing, but its conditions are so simple, so heroic, so grand and so perfectly exemplified in his own person, that they apply to all times, lands, climes, and social conditions, and national and world-wide necessities.
In sending men forth to their duty, Jesus Christ shows them clearly what they will certainly have to bear. He does not promise them a downy pillow, he does not promise them genteel society, he does not offer to them any social bribe; he says, "You will be like sheep in the midst of wolves, they will fall upon you, break your bones, suck your blood; ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake. The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child, and children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." There is no mistaking the lot of the true Christian evangelist. He has a hard time of it. Goodness is always hateful to evil; the beasts that gather together in the nighttime hate the light you torment them if you turn a sudden blaze upon them, for they hasten and fly, and gnash their teeth, and display animosity and resentment. Goodness can never establish itself anywhere without a battle. Do not suppose that you can lull the enemy to sleep and put up your house, and when you have roofed it, and completed it, and furnished it, can then tell him that it is beyond his strength. The establishment of goodness is a daily battle. You cannot take upon you a new habit without having to fight for every inch of ground you make; you cannot exert yourself to throw off slothfulness or any self-indulgence without having to fight for the end.
What is true in discipline is true in the educational and moral conquest of the world. In proportion as you are free and easy in your methods of going into any company, and taking its similitude and speaking its language, will you have an easy time of it, but if you have a grand programme, a rousing and elevating purpose, you will go as sheep among wolves. Do not imagine that goodness is peaceful. Goodness is controversial. They who "make a desert and call it peace" may never intermeddle with anything that affects the integrity and nobleness of society, and then say that they are living quiet and peaceable lives. Quiet lives they may be, but not peaceful. Peaceful that is a resultant word, it combines many elements and many considerations, and reconciles into one sweet harmony forces which, taken separately, are among the most combatant energies of the universe. Goodness always sends a sword upon the earth, and kindles a fire, and divides families; sets the father against the child and the child against the father, and the brother against the brother, and kindles a great fire upon the earth. We have succeeded now in putting the fire out, and have come to the age of courteous civilities and tender regard for one another's evil habits. The old goodness, heaven's own angel, the Christ-goodness, fought every day, not with a blade of steel but with that keener blade of conviction, enthusiasm, sacrifice, that counted not its life dear unto itself that it might win the battle against evil, and darkness, and corruption.
One would have thought that in sending forth Goodness the angel would have been recognised at once and welcomed with broad and generous hospitality. This historical reception of goodness enables us to answer and destroy a fallacy which is common in modern reasoning. People say, "Show a beautiful example, a beautiful God, a beautiful gospel, and there will be an answer of devotion and homage in every human heart." That has been proved to be false. The example is not enough; men are not saved by spectacles: we need something higher than a spectacular gospel. Men get used to beauty, and theirs is a familiarity which is followed by contempt. There are men amongst us who care nothing for the sunrise; there are men who could gabble in a sunset; there are persons who could chaffer and joke upon the great sea. Understand that surprising miracles of beauty are like surprising miracles of truth men may become so accustomed to them as to let them pass by without recognition or homage.
Goodness has always had a hard time of it. In proportion as the Church becomes luxurious will the Church become feeble. In proportion as the Church says to the world, "Let us compromise this business and say nothing unpleasant to one another, but sit down and enjoy ourselves as far as we can," the Church has disestablished itself in the confidence and esteem of men, and has broken the trust and vow paid before God's heaven. A little persecution and difficulty would do the Church good. We have heard of some preachers who would be mighty speakers if they could only be contradicted in the middle of their discourse, but left to themselves they are inclined to maunder, and halt, and become feeble, and monotonous, and pointless. If an antagonist could arise in the congregation and say. "That is not true," such preachers would become different men, every energy a flame, and the whole voice a thunder sent down from heaven.
It is even so with the Church: we have it so much our own way now, the lines of demarcation are broken up, and the old points indicated by Christ of antagonism, and assault, and aggression are, if not utterly obliterated, so treated as to have lost their accent and their force. Only this morning I was reading the old story of Hannibal one winter in Capua brought about a ruin which the snows of the Alps, the suns of Italy, the treachery of the Gauls, and the prowess of the Romans failed to accomplish. So long as he was a soldier only, stern in discipline, rigorous in his habits, devoted with indivisible strength to his duty, he feared nothing the setting down of his foot was as a battle half won; but the blandishments and enfeeblements of luxurious Capua sucked the strength out of the giant and left him a common man. The Church has gone to Capua, the Church is wintering in luxurious places the grand old Church that wrote human names high up above all other human scrolls, martyrs, heroes, leaders she can now hardly write her name in common ink.
Jesus Christ told his disciples how to treat the cities and towns that rejected the message which they had to convey to them. "Whosoever shall not receive you nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city shake off the dust of your feet." They mistake Christ who suppose that he is soft, indifferent, easily imposed upon, and who can be treated contemptuously without feeling it. We read of the wrath of the Lamb, the fire of love, the indignation of grace God's heart burning like an oven. Jesus Christ here founds his directions upon the grand and indestructible principle which lies at the very base, and forms the very strength, of all high educational purposes. What is that principle? It is that no man has the right to reject truth. He has the power to do it, but not the right. We have liberty to go to perdition, but not the right. You have no right to refuse a just idea, you have no right to shut yourself up in solitude and say, "I will not listen to the ministries of civilization that are going on around me." It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in any day of judgment than for you if you adopt so unrighteous and ignoble a policy. No man has any right to refuse to read a book that will open his eyes and give him wider light than he has yet enjoyed. He may decline a privilege, he cannot thrust from him a right without incurring loss in himself and divine punishment from without. This is not arbitrary doctrine, this is no conception of any individual thinker; all the history of our education and civil progress testifies to the same thing.
What new responsibility this throws upon us! We have not the right to reject truth; we have the right to examine our ministers; we have the right to examine every spirit that comes to us and challenges our attention, we have a right to examine personal credentials and personal authorities, but where any truth is established no man has a right to reject it, and if any man reject a truth, even unwittingly or unintentionally, he shall suffer loss; he himself shall be saved, but very narrowly. If I keep out any part of the sun that can really do my life good, I suffer loss in proportion to the sunlight which I exclude.
Jesus Christ, then, defined the service which his disciples are to perform. In our last address he clothed them with power; today he indicates the field of service, he will next come to us with his sweet consolations and encouragements; he will lower his voice into another key, and speak sweetly to the heart. We saw that it is not enough for a man to have power to do his duty; sheer, dry, hard strength is not enough. The man will come home disappointed; he will not see the result of his labours, and he may cry bitterly for his failure, and it is in that hour of darkness that Jesus Christ will draw him nearer than ever to his hospitable heart, and speak to him in tones of ineffable sweetness the infinite consolations which sustained his own strength when he trod the winepress alone. One remark occurs to me which might have been made under our last discourse, but which might be made appropriately in any connection when speaking of Jesus Christ. In the last verse of the ninth chapter Jesus said, "Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." In the first verse of the tenth chapter we read that Jesus Christ gave his disciples power, and that he sent them forth with his gracious commands. The Lord of the harvest is to be prayed to that he would send forth labourers; Jesus Christ himself sends forth labourers was he Lord of the harvest?
Almighty God, thou hast given unto every day its own light, and to this day of all the seven dost thou often give the brightest light of all. Sometimes thou dost make us glad by the mere power of the light that shines around us, for it touches our stony hearts into music and upon our eyes it sheds the brightness of a new hope. We come to thee this Sabbath day, with all the memories which make it the day blest of heaven and dear to earth. We have seen the Crucified One; we have seen the grave wherein he was laid; we were early at the place of sepulture, and behold he was not there, for he had risen, as all good men must rise, and all good causes that have been smitten and wounded and slain must come up again and behold we have found him, and in his "All-hail" we have stood still to receive his blessing and to hear his instructions.
We have come to thine house today with expectations not easily fulfilled; we have heard of the wondrous things thou hast promised to them that love thee; we have been told that the riches of Christ are unsearchable, we have been given to understand that thy spirit only can reveal the heavenly things to souls prepared for the disclosure, and satisfy our expectation so as to create in it a new expectancy, a wider and brighter hope. Thus do thou satisfy us by always showing us that there is more to be done and more to be received; this satisfaction is the inspiration of our manhood, it is a benediction upon our growth, it lures us by many a gentle compulsion to still stronger endeavour and still more patient endurance and industry.
We bless thee for the corn we have reaped this week: thou hast granted unto the fields plentifulness of produce, and thou hast given our arm strength, and thou hast sharpened our sickle, and we have cut down the golden grain, and we rejoice in the abundance of the provision. Thou hast done great things for us, whereof we are glad. Thou hast filled us with the plenteousness of thine own grace, thou hast established us in a confidence that cannot be shaken, thou hast preserved unto us our friends the old man by the fireside, the little child in the cradle, the busy man full of distress about his daily bread, the mother and the sister we are all here, and behold our psalm is one of homage and adoration to heaven. We will bless the Lord with all musical instruments, we will call upon the very stones of the temple to join us in our loud Hallelujah, for thy mercy has been tender, thy kindness has been loving, thou hast kept our eyes from tears, our soul from death, our feet from falling.
The Lord anoint us every day from heaven as with a new baptism, rekindle every morning the fire upon the altar of our heart, give us increasing delight in the broadening revelations of thy truth, may we obey every indication from heaven of the will and purpose of our Father. Help us to lose our life that we may find it, and save us from the delusion that if we would save our life we must find it of our own strength. The Lord help us to trust his law, to live upon his grace, to answer his calls, then shall there be in our hearts a great peace, and in our eyes a shining light.
Look upon us as we are bowed down here at thy throne. We have come, not to plead against thy law, but to confess that we have broken it. We have not brought our virtues for thy survey, but our vices for thy pardon. We do not boast of our strength, we are humbled by our weakness, and now with the outstretched love of our hearts we grasp the great cross, the cross of Christ, the one and only cross by which men can be saved.
Thou knowest what we are, what we need, what our single pain is, what is the story we dare not tell to human ears, what are the prayers for which there are no words, our heart-yearnings, our deep desires, our solicitudes that are often expressed in sighing and in tears. All these things thou knowest come to us through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Saviour, not according to the narrowness of our prayers, but according to the infinite fulness of thine own love. Amen.
Matthew 10:24-42 .
Christ's Consolation for Workers
Let me call your attention to an instructive fact. All these tender consolations were given beforehand. Jesus Christ did not wait until the disciples returned, bruised and shattered, and then gather them into his heart and heal them, as it were, with his sympathy and blood. Jesus Christ once said, "I will give the multitudes bread, lest they faint by the way." That text gave us a discourse upon the preventive ministry of Christ. He did not wait until the people had actually fainted, and then give them bread: he gave them bread to prevent the fainting. He hath prevented me with his lovingkindness that is to say, he hath run before me to get ready for my weakness and hunger, and ere the blow has been struck the healing has been made ready.
I hold it to be a noteworthy fact that this comfort formed part of the inspiration of the disciples. The comfort was, so to say, part of the capital on which they had to live. If Jesus Christ had been sending forth men to add to the leprosy of the world, to strike thousands more of its inhabitants blind, and to deafen as many as possible, he could not have forewarned his disciples of greater dangers and distresses. "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." How are we to account for this issue? He gave them power against unclean spirits, and he sent the disciples forth to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease, and to preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," and then he added, with an abruptness which must receive some profound explanation, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." Where is the balance between the men and the fate? I repeat, had he sent forth his disciples to break up the world, to diminish its joys, to add to its distresses, he could hardly have painted a more tragical issue. He sent them forth on a beneficent errand, and told them that they should be brought before governors and kings, be cast into prison, be called Beelzebub, and be forsaken and hated of all men for his name's sake. Herein once more is the statesmanship of that wondrous Peasant, and herein do I find his Godhead. Not in the small grammatical clevernesses of the Biblical exegete, but in these disclosures of his shrewdness, of his insight, the penetration that pierced everything, and saw essences and realities, and the vital parts and secrets of all things. Who but himself could have seen that the casting out of devils, the cleansing of lepers, the giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and the preaching of the nearness of a new kingdom could have ended in scourgings and contempt, and hatred and death? But his forecast has been abundantly established by facts.
Jesus Christ knew that there are men who will never allow good to be done, if they can help it, by any method but their own. There are men who would rather see you damned than see you saved by irregular means. They would rather have you lost in what they would term an orthodox manner, than see you saved by a method which to them would seem to be heterodox or heretical. They would like their own little prophecies confirmed; they do not want their conceptions, low as a ceiling, heightened into a sky; they do not want their little conceptions of fellowship, narrow as the walls of a man-built house, widened out until they touch God's horizon.
This was the principle which Jesus Christ proceeded on in delivering his charge. He told his disciples they would everywhere meet the diabolical spirit of sectarianism; they were irregular, they were nomadic, they were persons who had not upon them the usual seal, they did not bear upon their arms the accustomed badge, and though they might have good in their heads, good in their hearts, good in every tone of their speech, they would be hated of all men. Let us beware of the sectarian spirit; it blinds us to the excellences that are beyond our little boundaries; let us say with Paul, "Some preach Christ in one way, some preach him in another; whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached. Therein," said the grand old prisoner, "do I rejoice; yea, and will rejoice." Is the Pauline spirit dead?
As we have read this chapter you must have been struck with the number of times the word therefore recurs. If would seem as if nearly every other verse was a statement of some logical sequence. There is a deep logical sequence in the fact, that as the warning was given beforehand, so the consolation was laid up in store. Jesus Christ set forth the whole case; he told his disciples what to expect alike from man and from God. And this is precisely what he tells every one of his followers today. Jesus Christ regarding him now as nothing more than the greatest of statesmen said to himself, "These poor little children (for they were little better) must be delivered from the peril of surprise. Things must not happen suddenly to immature minds. I must go before them, and give them the outline of the whole course. They must not come back when they have accomplished their journey, expressing any surprise at the greatness of the difficulty. When they do come back it must be with the surprise of joy." To that surprise he sets no period. It is his plan that no man shall ever come back to Christ and say, "Thou didst not tell me half the peril, and thy description of the burning, cutting pain was understated." No; he said, "Ye shall be brought up in the synagogues and scourged there, and the scourge shall cut your flesh and find the bone, and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my name's sake, and ye shall be hated of all men." This was not a Man who tempted a few disciples by vivid pictures highly coloured, and glowing promises. He told them they were going into a black tunnel, and at every step an enemy would endeavour to seize him, but he also said, "In the midst of that dark and terrible valley God's revelations will flame upon you, and many an angel will surprise you into sudden and ecstatic joy." We know the future perfectly well. All its great broad lines are drawn in a manner which cannot be misunderstood trouble and joy, tears and delights, the grave and the bright heaven are all before us not in detail, indeed, for no man knows the hour of his death; it is enough for me that I know I must die; the day and the hour hath no man known they are hidden in heaven. Jesus Christ gives his disciples the infinite consolation of knowing that when they suffer the Master suffers along with them. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" No blow falls upon you that does not also fall upon your Lord and Master. Your tears flow through his eyes. We have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities: he knows what the force of temptation is, for be has felt its entire strain upon his own beating heart. It is something for the private soldier to know that he is fighting side by side with his General; there is something in such companionship that amounts almost to an inspiration. I suffer less when I suffer in certain society. The very pain that would distress me if I were in society that I hold in contempt lifts me up into a new strength when I endure it in association with men whose names are the inspiration of history and the hope of the world. What more could he have said than that "Whoever undervalues you undervalues me: the insult is not meant for you; it is meant for your Master. When they spit upon your face they mean to spit upon mine. They could despise you from a social point of view; from the point of view of rabbinical learning and culture they could hold you in ineffable contempt; but it is through you that they see me: when they scourge you it is upon my flesh that the thong falls?" If the men heard these words right they must have been ennobled for the occasion. In proportion to their love for their Master would be their joy in thinking that they should suffer anything in his name, and afterwards men went out of the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. That was the heroic age of the Church, when men lived in God, and represented the very sun of the divine image.
When we suffer alone we get no advantage out of the suffering we must offend CHRIST; when we think we are suffering alone we go contrary to his whole teaching, for he says, "Whoso receiveth him I send receiveth me: whoso believeth on me, believeth not on me but on him that sent me, As my Father hath sent me even so I send you. He that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God." This is the root out of which all consolation comes. We do not suffer alone; we have a fellow-sufferer. Whenever you are laughed at because of your Christianity, if it be real, simple, true, noble, honest, and healthy, the laugh is at the cross. Whenever you suffer, which few men now do, for your faith's sake, it is not you that suffer the Son of God is crucified afresh and put to an open shame. Let us take care lest we mistake this matter of suffering in Christ's stead. Sometimes we suffer for our errors and not for our truth, for our impertinence and not for our fidelity, for our selfishness and not for the divine breadth of our character-building. If, therefore, we suffer on our own account, I wonder not that the pain should be sharp and intolerable; but in so far as our character and spirit and action are right, and we suffer, it is not we that suffer only; it is the Son of God whose face is smitten and whose heart is bruised.
Jesus Christ goes even further than this, for he connects the whole mission of the Church expressly with the Father. It is God himself that suffers, and it is God that identifies himself with the whole purpose and issue of the Christian economy. When the disciples were speaking in their own defence, Jesus Christ told them, "It is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." "A sparrow," said Christ, "cannot fall to the ground without your Father." So the universe is one: no man can touch the truth without touching the whole kingdom of heaven; no man can injure a single truth without injuring the whole quantity called truth, for the truth is not a question of single filaments and threads, particles and details: the truth is one, indissoluble, and to touch it to the injury of any part of it is to touch it to the pain of its very heart.
The universe is one: some of us worship in one place and some in another; but to God there is no space that can be mapped out in separate localities. He filleth all in all. If you are not against him you are on his side. Therein have I sometimes endeavoured to teach men that though they be not nominally in Christ they may be under the inspiration of his Spirit. Men know not what they do even when they put the Son of God to shame. There is a forgiveness that may follow their blasphemy; there is in heaven a consideration for human ignorance, though that ignorance culminate in the tragedy of Gethsemane and Golgotha. Truth, let me say again and again, is one as the universe is one. There is nothing despicable or contemptible; the fall of the sparrow is watched, and the very hairs of your head are all numbered. God putteth our tears in his bottle, and he writes our names in his book of life. Sacred universe, sensitive universe; if I lift a hand I send a shudder to the stars.
So my whole thought and wish and purpose and prayer what are these but so many vibrations that tell upon lines that do not come within my purview, and that stir influences which I can neither understand nor control? So Jesus Christ identifies himself with his disciples, and identifies himself and his disciples with the Father that is in heaven. It is one Church, one life, one temple, and to touch it at any point is to cause an influence to be felt throughout the whole living faculty. These are not tiny solaces, these are not little plasters for little wounds: these great solaces are redemptions; they enter the very secret place of the life; they do not evaporate in the sun they feed the very soul.
Another consolation you find in the words, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." There is where so many of us may fail: we endure a little while; the seed springs up speedily, and because there is no deepness of earth soon withers away. This is not a question of enduring for a little time; it is a question of enduring to the end. The end who can tell when that shall come? Life is full of endings life is full of beginnings. Knowing how distressed we are by monotony God has taken care in the economy of the universe that there shall be little or none of it. So he has broken up our life into day and night, the beginning of the week and the end of the same, the day of birth, the day of marriage, the day of peculiar joy so many beginnings are there to tempt us into new views and lure us into deeper resolutions and give us fresh chances in life, and yet all these beginnings and endings culminate in one supreme finality no man can tell when it may be: my end may be this day. It is well we do not know when the final point comes into the literature of life.
"He that endureth to the end." Paul did. He said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course." Weary not in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not. Jesus Christ himself said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." And again he said, "It is finished." Take care lest you come almost to land, take care lest you be almost saved. The old Puritan divine, the Shakespeare of the pulpit of his day, wound up one of his grandest appeals to his people by saying, "To be almost saved, is to be altogether damned." Take care lest you be almost in possession, and yet fail of clasping within your glad hand that after which you have been aspiring. Let us endeavour to the last hour. To fail within sight of the prize, to perish within sight of land, to be able to hear the welcomes that ring from the shore, and yet not to land there Oh, that is painful beyond realisation.
I shall never forget how, recently, we approached the city of our desire. The day before the rain had been continuous, and the mists afterwards very thick, and there was a sudden fear in the minds of men. Then came out the evening sun, and touched up all the sullen clouds into a very apocalypse of glory and beauty. I never saw such a sign in all the heavens, that are full of pictures to the eye that searches for them. We moved on through the water, and the day of landing came, and when persons saw their friends in the near distance, there was much signal giving and signal exchanging. One young boy came to me with his eyes alight and, to explain his joy, he said, "I see my father." I heard a lady say, "I see my brown-eyes." I heard another say, "I see my sister." Was it possible to fail just then to fail within a few minutes of the landing-place to be lost before hands were grasped in the reunion of grateful affection?
Take care: we are going towards the end, but we may not accomplish it; God give us strength to fulfil every mile of the road, and to fight the last battle, and to pluck the sting from the last enemy. It is the end that determines everything. The goodliest ship may go down in sight of port. Oh, may we many of whose ships are not good, much tried, storm-beaten, creaking because of weakness may we all be brought in, and so at last
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 10". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17