Victory over the Besetting Sin.
Our Lord, in defeating Satan's temptations, taught us also how to overcome them: (1) by answering Satan at once; (2) by not vouchsafing to enter into his subtleties; (3) our Lord teaches us that there is an order in Satan's temptations.
I. If thou canst not find out thy chief fault, apply thyself to any bad one. It is better to gather thyself to an earnest conflict with almost any one, than to lose thy time in debating which to grapple with. Whilst thou art engaged in earnest about one God will disclose to thee others. In this warfare there are some rules, alike for all sins; some special to each; some, which relate to self-knowledge; some, how to be on our guard; some, to help our repentance; some, whereby we may gain strength to fight. (1) It is of the very greatest moment to know the occasions of our sin, and the way in which it shows itself. To know the occasions, puts us on our guard to know how our sin shows itself, gives us the means of stopping it. (2) Even in graver sins, it is very needful to observe whether the temptation begins from within or from without. (3) We should try not only to abstain from sin, but also by God's help to gain the opposite grace. If thou wouldest save thyself from falling backward, thou shouldest throw thyself forward. If thou wouldest not slip back into sin, thou must stretch forward to Christ and His holiness.
II. Look next at the method of this warfare. This is a practice by which some have in a few months gained more than in years before. First go into thyself; ask of God light to see thyself, bear to know thyself, and to know well what thy sins are; and resolve firmly by thy Saviour's help to part with them, rather than with Him. Pray to persevere, and all the rest will be easier. Thinkest thou that it will be toilsome to thee, so day by day to remove every speck of sin? What is it, then, which it is so wearisome to cleanse? Is it something which concerns thee not, something for a time only, something for another? Truly it is for Another too. For it is for the All-Holy Trinity. It is that thine own soul, thine own self, thy very inmost self, may be enlarged to contain God and the love of God, that thy senses may desire nothing but what they have in that blessed-making sight of God, and have what overwhelms all their desire, to be blessed in His bliss, wise in His wisdom, good in His goodness, joyous in His joy, full of God, yet stretching forth to God; all thine which is God's, save His infinity, and that will be for thee too, for thou canst never reach the bounds of His perfections and His goodness.
E. B. Pusey, Selected Occasional Sermons, p. 93.
Reference: Luke 4:1, Luke 4:2.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 129.
"Tempted like as we are.".
The temptation, as is evident from the language employed, was in some way connected with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon our Lord; and we are thus taught that God, for their own and others' good, may lead His people through trial. It behoved Jesus to be made like unto His brethren, therefore He was led up into the wilderness; and while it had a bearing on them, it was no less an advantage to Him, for it furnished Him at the outset of His public ministry with a kind of intensified specimen of the difficulties that lay before Him.
I. The tempter makes an appeal to appetite. It is here that temptation first and most strongly besets a youth. From the mysterious connection between the body and the soul, there are certain appetites created within us which, in themselves considered, are not sinful—on the contrary, they are implanted there for useful, nay, for God-glorifying purposes; but Satan comes, and will persuade the young to gratify them in a sinful manner. That you may know how to resist such assaults, see here how Jesus bore Himself when Satan besought Him to gratify His hunger in a forbidden way; He said, "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." That is to say, life does not consist in eating and drinking and enjoyment; life is not the gratification of the body in any shape, but the obedience of the soul to God.
II. The second appeal was made to ambition; and the same insidious temptation is, in one form or other, repeated in the case of every man; and for the most part in the commencement of his career he has to fight the battle, or to yield himself a captive. God's way to honour and power and wealth is still steep and arduous and rugged; and the lesson we must learn is to avoid the devil's short cuts, and to make the words of our Lord the motto of our lives: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
III. The last onset on our Lord made an appeal to His faith; and it too was as insidious as the rest. Jesus had already repelled him by expressing His confidence in God and allegiance to His Father, and to that very principle the tempter addresses himself now; as if he had said, "Dost thou trust God? Come and I will place Thee in circumstances such as will make manifest to all His guardian care of Thee." Jesus answered, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." We are not warranted to place ourselves in circumstances such as shall tempt the Lord. If we are in danger in God's service, we may rely that He will be with us. But we have no right to imagine that He will suspend the law of gravitation, whenever we choose to leap over a precipice; or that He will suspend the spiritual laws which regulate the actions of our souls, whenever we put ourselves into the way of temptation.
W. M. Taylor, Life Truths, p. 147.
References: Luke 4:1-13.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 58; Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 321. Luke 4:1-15.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., 355; J. J. Murphy, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 312. Luke 4:1-33.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 49. Luke 4:3.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 1.
I. There is a kind of fasting which can be nothing but good for us to practise. Self-denial relates to something which belongs to ourselves, but yet is not our highest property; and this especially applies to our pleasure in bodily enjoyments. This pleasure is really natural, but it does not belong to our highest nature, and it is apt to overgrow that higher nature if not restrained. This restraining it is, then, the exact business of what we call self-denial. Now it is the manifest effect of self-denial thus understood to increase the pleasures of the higher part of our nature. We know that along with restraint of one kind of pleasure there comes the enjoyment of a pleasure of another sort—the pleasure of feeling that, so far as that one action goes, Christ approves of us; that we are so far the children of God, and at peace with God. I speak of this pleasure quite confidently, as of a thing which all understand, and feel to be more delightful than any other. He who never denies himself, never allows himself to feel it; he knows not what it is, and does not believe in its delightfulness.
II. Only observe that this highest pleasure only comes when we deny ourselves really on right motives. If anyone denies himself any indulgence for the sake of gaining credit for it from men, there cannot be in him that delightful sense of being approved of by God, and having so far followed Christ; because he knows that God does not approve such a motive, nor is he following Christ when acting upon it. So it was said in the Epistle of this day, that a man might give all his goods to feed the poor, and yet be without charity. He could not give away so largely without in some sense denying himself; he must cut off some of his pleasures by doing it; but if he does it for the sake of gaining credit for his liberality, he cannot gain that highest pleasure of which I have spoken—the pleasure of having pleased God, and therefore being loved by Him.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 90.
The Art of Conversation.
Could man be happy without speech, living like the animals in a kind of innocence, but deprived of any higher thought, or communion with his fellows? There have been philosophers who wanted to bring him back to a state of nature, who would deprive him of all philosophy and of all religion, who would have him give up the hardly won inheritance of ages in the hope that he might be without evil and without good. Such prophets of evil should begin, if this were possible, by taking from him language. Human speech is a Divine gift; the more we consider it the more wonderful and mysterious does it appear. We must not lose or impair this glorious inheritance. Consider what is needed to give conversation its true and nobler character.
I. First there is kindness. He is twice blessed who says a pleasing or a soothing word to the aged or stupid, to those who are troubled by some false shame, or who from inexperience feel themselves at a loss in society; for kindness has a wonderful power of transmuting and converting human beings, and if a man, instead of always in thought coming round to himself, were always getting away from himself, he would attain to great freedom and enjoyment of society.
II. A second element in a happy and healthy state of society is sincerity, and mutual confidence which is given by it. We want to be able to trust the society in which we habitually live. In speaking of persons we should be on our guard against many faults which easily beset us; against petty jealousy, or popular envy of the great which hears, not altogether displeased, of something to their disadvantage. "I said I will take heed unto my ways, that I offend not with my tongue."
III. A third element may be described as an elevation above the lower interests of life. How is this higher tone to be attained? No definite answer can be given to this question, for superiority of manners must, for the most part, spring from superiority of character. Yet a few illustrations may realise to us what is meant? Why has one man weight and authority, and another not? Why does a single person so often exert such a spell or charm over a whole company? These are questions which it is instructive to ask, and everyone must answer them for himself, and in the answer to them he may perhaps find an antidote to his own weakness, or vanity, or unreality, or self-consciousness.
B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 376.
References: Luke 4:4.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 337; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 61. Luke 4:5.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 23. Luke 4:5, Luke 4:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1132. Luke 4:5-8.—A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 72; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 16. Luke 4:6.—W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 243.
I. When Jesus was offered the kingdoms of the world in return for an almost trivial act of homage, in His mind the proposal would assume the aspect of an expedient for advancing His kingdom, with the policies and prudences and compromises of this world; an expedient which must have been as fatal to the kingdom of the Gospel as any monstrous coalition between good and evil, between life and death. For surely we must look for something more considerable, as lying behind, and signified by that momentary act of homage to which the Saviour was invited; we can hardly contemplate a ceremonial and bodily prostration as being the first and last of what was proposed. By falling down and worshipping the spirit of the world I understand, lowering the ideal of Christ's intended kingdom, and enlisting in its favour, and employing as agents in its extension and maintenance, the passions, the appetencies, and ambitions which might without harshness or ambition be included in the word "worldly-mindedness."
II. Our Lord does not hesitate in His answer. He replies, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Thou shalt make Him no more co-ordinate than subordinate with any other object of worship. The Gospel of grace shall either triumph in all its purity over the sin that is in the world, or in all its purity it shall retire from the conflict, and regain its native heaven. It shall contract no contamination from an alliance with sin, or by a coalition with anything that deserves the name of worldliness. Might we but in every temptation to compromise the interests of truth and love, those two pillars on which leans the temple of Christ within the heart of man, remember that any arrangement, any compromise, any friendly understanding between the spiritual and the anti-spiritual is a dishonour to the Spirit. It is letting an enemy with many comrades into the fortress in the disguise and under the pretext of friendship, who will not be long before he does the work of a traitor upon the garrison who have been so disloyal to their King as to invite his alliance.
W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 262.
I. The spirit of temptation here presents himself in the character and with the accents and demeanour of an ally who desires nothing so ardently as the establishment of Messiah's kingdom in its integrity, and is ready with a proposal to accelerate, nay, precipitate its inauguration, and to insure its unanimous reception by mankind. Here at Jerusalem let the Son of Man perform a wonder that shall at once compel the homage of mankind from the topmost pinnacle of the Temple, which from the loftiest escarpment of the city climbs sheer up into the sky; let Him launch Himself into the air, let Him plunge down to the very bottom of the abyss of the ravine of Jehoshaphat. Then let him alight unharmed. Would not this be a suitable, a proportionate, an appropriate, an effective inauguration of the kingdom of Christ upon earth? We ask
II. Was the Saviour's mission of such a kind that an abrupt act of conspicuousness and of power would be likely to promote it? Is it conceivable, in short, that there was the smallest taint of ambition in the project of the Saviour? If so, then the expedient suggested by the evil one might have had some affinity with such a purpose. But if his purpose were something at the farthest possible distance from all this; if it were to give a new commandment to mankind, namely, that they should love one another; if his purpose were one which required a far longer time for its disclosure and development than the exhibition of a prodigy, it was indispensable that he should drain the cup of affliction to the dregs, and so step by step ascend to the culmination of suffering upon the Cross; and then, and not till then, and by this gate of tribulation, but by none easier and none other, enter finally into an exceeding glory. This was the prodigy, this was the portent, this was the self-manifestation that Messiah was predestined to achieve before the sons of men. The Saviour is come to gain mankind, not by His power but by His love. He is come, not to claim the surrender of conscience and intelligence, not to substitute arbitrary rule for inward convictions of duty. To have exposed the Gospel to such influences at its outset would have been, as Satan knew, to ensure its extinction; it would have been asking tyranny to be the nurse of freedom; it would have been inviting falsehood to be the guardian of truth; it would have been hiring death to rock the cradle of intellectual and spiritual life.
W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 275.
References: Luke 4:9-12.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 32. Luke 4:14, Luke 4:15.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 67. Luke 4:14-17.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 73. Luke 4:14-32.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 430. Luke 4:16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 401; E. Paxton Hood, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 720; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. ii., p. 1; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 60. Luke 4:16-31.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 122. Luke 4:16-32.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 131. Luke 4:17, Luke 4:18.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 19. Luke 4:17-21.—Ibid., vol. vii., p. 358.
I. These words describe the part of our Lord's work which was not to be confined to His own personal agency; and this invites us to consider that other parts of His work were to be confined to His own personal agency. This is so; the work of a perfect righteousness wrought by man in absolute conformity to all the requirements of the law of God, and justifying righteousness which can stand the scrutiny of the Divine judgment—this was His work, and His alone. We never find Him telling His followers to go and offer a sacrifice for sin; but we do find Him telling them to go and preach the glad tidings. The preparation was His, and His alone; the proclamation was His, but not His alone. We cannot work deliverance; we can but preach it. He wrought it, finished it, and left it for us to preach. It is a daring invasion of His office to presume to add to the preparation; and it is disobedience to His orders not to proclaim what He has prepared.
II. "Captives." This captivity commenced in the fountain of the human family before any stream had flowed forth from it. The first man, before he had any offspring, had become the slave and captive to sin; he had incurred the consequences, the fatal consequences, of slavery. The great slave-holder is Satan, the enemy of God and man. He uses the world and the flesh, and see how he drags the captives through the mire. And in proportion as a man's conscience is awakened, and his sin known to be unpardoned, he is a slave.
III. Where is deliverance? This is our glorious message; Jesus Christ alone has deliverance. And mark how it is applied. Captivity began by the violation of the law of God, which is sin. He that committeth sin becomes a slave. The deliverance commences by obedience to the law of God. A man disobeyed, and all men fell. God Himself must obey, or no man can rise again. Deliverance commences thus in perfect obedience by a man to the law of the living God. Now, this is just what our blessed Redeemer and Saviour did. As man, He perfectly obeyed the law of God. There is a righteousness, a perfect righteousness, wrought by Him that can stand the scrutiny of the judgment of Almighty God. That is the beginning of deliverance. The captivity had become fatal by reason of the penalty incurred by disobedience; there was a curse, and the deliverance must therefore proceed by the removal of the curse. The curse must be inflicted, for God is true; the penalty must be endured, for the truth of God endureth for ever. Here, again, Jesus Christ is the Deliverer. He took it upon Himself. This is the deliverance we have to preach. Preached, it is the testimony of God's love to the world; believed, it is the renewal of every man that receives it; disbelieved, it is a witness against the man that he rejects the counsel of God.
H. McNeile, Penny Pulpit, No. 290.
I. If missionary enterprise were nothing more than one of the most remarkable characteristics of our time, it would well deserve a place in the thoughts of those who are brought up to become English citizens. Missionary work is becoming more and more a national undertaking, the expression of a deep national conviction. Any man, whether he be a statesman, a clergyman, or a layman, who shuts his eyes to this truth, is so far out of sympathy with the English nation, and suffers from that narrowness and isolation of heart which is sure to come upon those who look with contempt on national instincts. But missionary enterprise is something more than a marked phenomenon characteristic of our times. It is no transient phase, which may for a time interest philosophical minds, and then pass into obscurity, to be pierced only by the researches of future antiquarians. It is in its nature a lasting thing. If it pass away from England, it is not too much to say that the life of England will have departed.
II. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me." The missionary and the missionary society must be able to say this from the heart. There is great danger of forgetting this. This is an age of elaborate organisation, an age of societies. Beyond all question there is a most real danger that the great English religious societies may cover much that is hollow. The very fact that religious enterprises have become an established part of national enterprise is a reason for making us fear that the Spirit of God may be forgotten in the presence of the Spirit of the world. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is (1) liberty, (2) perfect integrity. Wherever the wants of Christ's children are to be supplied, wherever there are captives needing deliverance, poor asking for tidings of their Father, broken-hearted to be healed, blind praying for, or at least needing, recovery so sight, there is needed one who may well feel that he if a labourer working at an infinite harvest, a shepherd feeding but too, scantily a countless flock of sheep and of lambs; and there, too is needed the mature counsel, the encouragement, and the warning of one who is but little disposed to be a lord over God's heritage, and is willingly and affectionately accepted as a true Father in God.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 38.
Christ the Emancipator.
I. All the world has been under one consciousness—namely, of limitation of power, either inherent in the individual, or caused by the restrictions of circumstances, or by oppression from without; and to be free has been the aspiration of the world. When the Saviour declared that His mission in this world was to open prison bonds, to set captives at liberty, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, He announced a doctrine with which the hearts of men were universally in sympathy. That was just what they wanted. Mankind want the restrictions and limitations about them to be destroyed.
II. The very first essay that the Saviour makes toward the enlargement of men's liberty wears the appearance of the opposite. The very first blow which He strikes at tyranny is at the tyranny of sense and sensuousness in the individual. He introduces us to God as a Father; and if we go to the Father through Him, and if He is a living and loving presence to us, we, by being taught to be in sympathy with Jesus Christ, are under the same conduct, and under the same general instructive processes which we see employed in the lower sphere, and in a more limited way in our own households. We are brought to a sense of the beauty, the grace, the sweetness, the power of the superior life in the soul over all the elements and influences of the lower life.
III. But the deliverance from the thrall of appetite and from the infirmities of the flesh is only one single element of emancipation. Christ delivers us from our bondage to secular conditions. The light and the life that we receive by faith tend to make, often do make, might always make, a man superior to his circumstances. That this is true is pre-eminently shown, not so much by those who are most obvious in life, as by the poor, to whom the Saviour said He came to preach this Gospel. It is the peculiarity of the philosophy of antiquity that it came to the few who were enlightened, and left in the dark the great underclass; and it was the peculiarity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that it was designed to reach the great underclass. It is in hidden retreats and in secluded places that you see that disposition of Christ which makes men in the midst of all limitations and under adverse circumstances strong, steadfast, doing what the air-plants do, that, having no root in the soil, draw all their nutriment from the great air above them.
IV. The illumination that we derive from the Lord Jesus Christ is one that sets us free from ignorance, and in setting us free from ignorance it shuts the door out of which come the emissaries of mischief. Knowledge dominates ignorance, and all through society the strong tend to control the weak. But it is not merely the want of intellectual knowledge that makes a man weak; it is the want of that knowledge which comes by illumination through the Lord Jesus Christ.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 313.
The Preaching of the Gospel.
The words of the text are descriptive of the offices of Christ. We shall place them before you in the strongest light if we employ the method of contrast; that is, if we examine other systems, such as the law and natural religion, showing what these can do towards healing the broken-hearted and delivering the captive.
I. The ceremonial law was but a system of rites which had no natural efficacy, or of observances which were themselves destitute of virtue. If there were truth in the ceremonial law, it was, as we know, truth derived exclusively from Christ. Moses cannot be said to have come to preach deliverance to the captives, nor the setting at liberty them that are bruised. Our text will not hold good of the legal dispensation. But let us ask whether it is in any way verified by natural religion.
II. There are many men who think that there is a sort of natural efficacy in repentance, so that sorrow for sin must ensure its pardon. But is it thus in human affairs? Does pardon follow at all necessarily upon repentance? When laws have been broken, whoever dreams of the criminal being forgiven just because he is contrite? Living, as we confessedly do, in our moral capacity, under a retributive government, we can surely have no right to suppose that what would be utterly ineffectual, had we broken the laws of man, must be necessarily efficacious when set against the infraction of the laws of God.
III. Consider how the disclosures in the Gospel provide for the deliverance of the captive and the recovering of sight to the blind. Bound by the prison-house of our selfish dispositions, bruised by our fall from original righteousness, we have but to believe in Christ, and close with Him as our Saviour, and lo! the fetters fall from us, and we spring into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The Gospel admits to liberty, but that liberty God's service, which alone is freedom; it gives spiritual eyesight, but fixes the eyes on "whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of good report."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,483.
The Christ as a Preacher.
I. Consider the substance of Christ's preaching. Without doubt we have in the text the keynote to His entire teaching. The peculiar feature of this quotation from Isaiah, which Christ makes His own, is its doubleness. "The poor"—but men are poor in condition and in spirit. "The captives"—but men may be in bondage under masters or circumstances, and also under their own sin. "The blind"—but men may be blind of eye, and also in spiritual vision. "The bruised"—but men are bruised in the struggles of this rough world, and also by the havoc of their own evil passions. Which did Christ mean? Both, but chiefly the moral, for He always struck through the external forms of evil to the moral root from which it springs, and of whose condition it is the general exponent. Christ sets Himself as the Deliverer from each, the origin and the result, the sin and the root, and the misery which is its fruitage.
II. The philosophy of this preaching. It was a revelation of God. Those words in the Nazareth synagogue were but the idlest breath, except as they brought the delivering God before men. But when God is seen and known the whole nature of man leaps into joyful and harmonious activity. Under this revelation of Him our troubles shrink, our broken hearts are healed, our darkened minds are illuminated, our sins pass away in tears of shame and repentance, and our whole being springs up to meet Him who made us, and made us for Himself; the secret of existence is revealed, the end of destiny is achieved.
III. The remaining point is the power of this preaching. No one truth, unless it happens to be an all-embracing truth, and no number of truths, however clearly seen, have any inspiring or redeeming power until they are grounded in an eternal person. Mozley, in one of his sermons, asks, "Have we not, in our moral nature, a great deal to do with fragments?" Yes, and it is the weakness of human nature, when it under-takes to teach moral truth, that it has only fragments to deal with. It is because Christ did not see truth in a fragmentary way, and because there was in Himself nothing fragmentary, that He teaches with power. There is no capability in man of resisting perfect truth; when it is seen it conquers. The main thing, therefore, is to see; but men love darkness, and even when they begin to see it is in a half-blind way.
T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, p. 151.
References: Luke 4:18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. III., p. 164; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 330; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii. p. 147; H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 293; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 136. Luke 4:18, Luke 4:19.—J. P. Chown. Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 49; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ix., p. 196; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 212.
Jesus read the prophets' testimony regarding God's goodness, and then closed the book, hiding the severity under the parchment folds. He preached on one half of a clause; did He intend to conceal the harsher portion of prophecy—to cover with a veil the frowns that gather on the Father's countenance, and permit only the smiles to shine through on men? No. He came not to destroy or mutilate the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfil. Heaven and earth may pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the word, till all be fulfilled. Let us try to find out why the omission was made, and what the omission means.
I. It is clear that Isaiah saw the justice as well as the mercy of God, and bare witness impartially of both. He stood afar off, and with an eye divinely opened for the purpose, looked down the avenue of the future, as one might stand upon a mountain far inland and look along a straight narrow estuary to the distant sea, dimly visible on the farthest horizon. At the extremity of the vista, and distant so far in time that to him they seemed to lie within eternity, he descried two lights, one behind the other, and both approaching. The foremost was Divine mercy, and the one behind it was Divine wrath. The faithful witness faithfully proclaimed from his watch-tower to his countrymen both facts—mercy and vengeance.
II. When that witness had served his generation, and fallen asleep, others were successively placed on the same watch-tower to re-duplicate the same warning from age to age. Last of all came Christ, in the fulness of the time. But now the foremost of the two lights had come up. It was abreast of the watchman. Turning to look full upon the one that had come, he sees not the one that is coming. In the lips of Jesus the testimony is not a prediction of what shall be, but a proclamation of what is. The mission of Christ was not to point to another, but to attract to Himself. He meant to present Himself to the people as the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, and therefore He could not include the day of vengeance; for on that day that part of the prophecy was not fulfilled. He came not to condemn the world, but to save; while He sat in the synagogue, and their eyes beheld Him, the day of vengeance had not come to them.
W. Arnot, The Anchor of the Soul, p. 260.
Christ's words of love the reproof of detraction.
St. James is amazed at it, as against nature and one of the deepest aggravations of the sinfulness of sinful speaking, that the tongue, which was made to bless God, a harp to make sweet melody to Him, should also utter evil against God's image—man. Nature is true to itself; man alone is untrue. The fountain sends forth one and the same stream, sweet or bitter. Man's tongue alone would fain send forth both—sweet praises and blessings to God, bitter and hard and unloving thoughts of men.
I. Evil speaking, which God condemns, involves much besides. There is malice in all evil-speaking; yet it is not only to speak with conscious malice. There is falsehood in most evil-speaking; yet it is not at all to speak with conscious falsehood. Pride, envy, swell it up, waft it on, spread it from mouth to mouth; these aggravate its guilt, but its guilt is not in them. It has its own guilt without them. Its guilt is, that in every form and shape and degree it is a sin against love; and a sin against love is a sin against that which Almighty God, in His very nature, is and loves. Evil speaking springs from a deep, hidden fountain of unlove, gushing forth from the corruption of the human heart.
II. In the day of judgment evil, censorious, unloving words will be of far different account than even good men think here. Other wrong deeds, at most, hurt others' souls only by evil example. Most other sins have something seemingly revolting in them. He who speaks an evil word may, in one word, as far as in him lies, slay countless souls. He sets rolling that which he cannot stop. You would count him a murderer who from a height let loose the fragment of a rock which should bound on and on, and fall among a multitude, although he knew not whom it would crush. Yet, even thus, the evil word let loose may slay love in the hearts of all who hear it, and on and on in all whom it reaches, and in whose hearts it finds consent.
III. The guilt of evil words is not with those only who speak them. Whoso listens to evil is an accomplice in it. Human law adjudges that the receiver is as guilty as the thief. If there were few receivers there would be few thieves. Evil-speaking has an evil conscience, which awakens as soon as it finds no response. "The ready hearer of detraction," says a father, "is the steel to the flint." Without him it is not drawn out. Since that is true, "Of every idle word thou shalt give account in the day of judgment," how much more of biting, unjust, detracting, unloving, untrue words, which most detracting words are!
E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 215.
Reference: Luke 4:23.—L. D. Bevan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 389.
(with 1 Kings 17:9)
I. Faith precedes blessing. There are no blessed rays till we believe, till we have acted on our faith, and found the answer in the Father's eternal love. I think the woman did not regret the day she met the strange man on the borders of the wilderness. In the land of idolatry there was trouble; on the borders of famishing and doubt there was a constant supply. Mysteriously the meal held out, and the cruse of oil did not run dry. Thus they continued together, two blessed strangers. God sends His servant not to a palace, but to a widow's cottage, from the solitude of the wilderness, there to learn the humanities of society; from the cry of famine to rely on God, and there to learn the lessons of faith.
II. All great faith precedes great trial. One day, how hoarsely moaned the sea; the waves came murmuring wildly, and dashing on the rocks of Sarepta. The child was dead, and the sun looked down mistily on a distracted mother—distracted indeed, for she impeaches falsely her very blessings. "O thou man of God, art thou come to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" If I had not entertained him, he had not died. But Elijah was faithless, too. How wildly he, who ought to have known better, calls upon God. Then comes the restoration and the confession. "By this I know that thou art a man of God." Ah, how many proofs are necessary! If her son had continued dead her faith had been buried in his grave. But God helps our infirmities, and condescends to our fears, that He may work out our salvation. And in this He no doubt preached to the prophet not less than the prophet preached to the woman.
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 343.
References: Luke 4:27.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 129. Luke 4:28, Luke 4:29.—W. Wilkinson, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 53. Luke 4:28-30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 753. Luke 4:33-44.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 62. Luke 4:39.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1071. Luke 4:40.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 44. Luke 4:42-44.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 127.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter