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OUR LORD’S FIRST SERMON AT NAZARETH
Luke 4:21-22. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
THE Sabbath was appointed as a day of rest; yet not altogether for the rest of the body, but that the soul might be the more at leisure to acquaint itself with God. In this view it is a most gracious and merciful appointment; because, the time being fixed, all are disengaged at once, and ready both to serve their God together, and to receive instruction respecting their duty towards him. Our blessed Lord, after he had entered upon his ministry, employed every day in the execution of his work: but he availed himself especially of the opportunity which the Sabbaths afforded him, to instruct the people. At Nazareth, where he had been brought up, “he went into their synagogue, as his custom was;” and being called upon to read the portion of Scripture appointed for the day, he stood up and read a passage from the prophecies of Isaiah; and then sat down to expound it. His exposition or comment is not given us: but the substance of it is set before us, in few, but comprehensive, words.
It is our intention to consider,
His comment on the Scripture—
When he told the people, that on that very day the passage which he had read to them was fulfilled in their ears, we must suppose him to have spoken to this effect:
‘I am the person whom the Father has sent—
[‘From my mean appearance you will be ready to think that I can have no pretensions to the office of the Messiah: but it is of me that the prophet speaks in the words which I have now read: I am the person on whom the Spirit has been poured out; “the Lord hath anointed me, and sent me” to instruct and save the world.]
‘And this is the commission which I am come to execute—
[‘ “The poor” are the special objects of my attention; they being particularly “chosen of my Father to be rich in faith, and heirs of my kingdom.” Yet, if any be “poor in spirit,” and sensible of their low and lost estate, to them am I sent; and to declare to them the glad tidings of salvation, is the delightful work which I have undertaken.
‘More particularly, if any be “broken-hearted” with a sense of guilt and misery, I am come “to heal” them by an application of my blood and Spirit to their souls: their guilt will I remove by my all-atoning blood; and their misery, by sending them my Holy Spirit to be their comforter and guide — — — It is not as a temporal prince or conqueror that I am come: my conquests are altogether of a spiritual nature; but they are irresistible, and shall be complete. Are any persons so blinded by Satan, and enslaved by sin, that they appear like captives, immured in a dungeon, and bereft of sight, and galled with massive chains [Note: This was a common mode of treating captives. Sampson was so treated by the Philistines (Judges 16:21.), and Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Kings 25:7.)]? I am come to set them free, not only breaking off their fetters, and restoring them to the light, but renewing even their organs of vision, and bringing them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God — — — And this I shall do, not by war and bloodshed, but by an exhibition of truth to their souls. The word is my sword, and the ministry of it is that chariot in which I will ride on, conquering and to conquer, till every enemy be put under my feet [Note: Thrice it is said, “He hath sent me to preach.”] — — —
‘In a word, you all know what is done in the year of jubilee, how debts are cancelled, slaves are liberated, and inheritances are restored: such are the benefits which I impart: I proclaim the arrival of that happy period, at least as far as respects the souls of men. Whatever debt of sin any man may owe, it shall be forgiven him: his bondage, however severe, shall be brought to an end: and his inheritance, however justly forfeited, shall be restored to him, even all the inheritance of heaven — — —
‘Thus circumstantially has the prophet described my office, which already I have begun to execute: “This very day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears:” and all of you who will believe in me, shall enjoy the benefits I am come to bestow.’]
Such we may suppose to have been our Saviour’s comment on the Scripture which he had read. Let us next view,
The effect produced by it—
This was far different from what might have been expected: yet it will afford much instruction to us—
[No sooner had he read the passage, than “the eyes of all were attentively fixed on him.” The sublimity of the words, and the impressive energy with which they were read, engaged their attention, and made them very desirous of hearing what this celebrated teacher should deduce from them.
Happy would it be, if this eagerness to receive instruction were more visible amongst us. But, in general, when a minister has read the words which he proposes to explain, many, instead of putting forth all the powers of their minds to understand and apply the subject, compose themselves in the most easy posture, and sink habitually into listlessness and indifference; satisfied with having performed a duty, though they reaped not the smallest benefit — — — But consider, the word which you hear, though spoken by a sinful man like yourselves, is, as far as it is agreeable to the mind and will of God, to be regarded “not as the word of man, but as the word of God.” “We are ambassadors for Christ; we speak to you in Christ’s stead; and God himself beseeches you by us,” Whenever, therefore, you hear the Scriptures explained, you should, like the Centurion and his friends [Note: Acts 10:33.], receive the word with all humility of mind, and treasure it up in your memory for the regulating of your hearts and lives — — —]
[Their wonder arose, in part, from their recollection of his parentage and education, which appeared to them ill suited to his high pretensions. But, in part also, it arose from the suavity of his manner, and the exalted nature of his discourse, to which they could not but “bear witness.” And well indeed might they wonder that such a messenger should be sent from heaven, and that such blessings should be imparted unto men.
But alas! the very same truths delivered amongst us are heard with indifference: yea, though opened in the fullest manner, and exhibited in the clearest light, they are regarded as uninteresting speculations, if not as an idle tale. The work and offices of Christ may be explained, and all the wonders of redeeming love be opened to our view, and yet no admiration be excited; yea, the talents of the speaker may be admired, and the subject itself be overlooked. But would this be the case if men felt their need of this salvation? — — — No, surely: they would be filled with rapture, and adore their God all the day long — — —]
[Much as they were struck with the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, they could not overcome their prejudices. They had but lately seen him following the humble occupation of a carpenter, and they could not conceive that such an one could possibly be the Messiah. Hence they did not receive his testimony: hence also, when warned of the danger of rejecting him, and of God’s determination to communicate to the Gentiles those blessings which they despised, they burned with rage against him, and sought to destroy him.
Alas! how common a character is this! How many are there who hear, and to a certain degree approve, the Gospel, while yet they are not effectually changed by it! They are still under the dominion of prejudice and passion; and sit in judgment on the Gospel, instead of yielding obedience to it. The sublimity of its doctrines is a stumbling-block to them; and the purity of its precepts an offence. What is gratifying to their feelings they will receive; but whatever tends to the mortifying of their pride or the subduing of their besetting sins, they will not endure — — —
O that the example before us may put us on our guard! This day is this Scripture fulfilled in our ears, as truly as in the day that Jesus read it in the synagogue. Jesus is still the anointed Saviour: still does he retain and execute the commission given him by the Father: still does he “say to the oppressed, Go free:” the captive that is bruised with chains, and deprived of sight, and broken-hearted with a sense of his sorrows, may even now be restored to sight, and liberty, and joy. Our adorable Saviour is ever ready to give him “the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” — — —
Beloved brethren, “receive not this grace in vain;” neither be contented with a partial approbation of the Gospel: but surrender up yourselves unfeignedly and unreservedly unto the Lord; ever dreading, lest your misimprovement of the light afforded you should provoke him to remove your candlestick, and to transfer your advantages to others.]
PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF
Luke 4:23. And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.
WE are told that “Solomon spake three thousand proverbs [Note: 1 Kings 4:32.].” To condense the results of general observation in some brief sentence, was a mode of communication which wise and learned men of old greatly affected: and to search out what was so communicated, was a study in which the young were deeply employed [Note: Proverbs 1:5-6.]. By proverbs every species of instruction was imparted. By them, also, were reproof and encouragement conveyed with peculiar force and emphasis. Nor was there any one so wise, but he might be addressed in this manner without offence. Even our blessed Lord, after having represented himself as the great Healer of the world, conceived that his hearers would apply to him this proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.” This, doubtless, was a common proverb at that time, as it is also amongst us at the present day: and it shall be my endeavour to shew,
What is its import—
It may be understood,
As a sarcastic reflection—
[This is the precise view in which it was understood by our blessed Lord. He had wrought many miracles at Capernaum: and now at Nazareth, where he had lived from his earliest years, the people hoped to see similar exertions of his almighty power: and, because he did not see fit to gratify their unreasonable expectations, they doubted the truth of the reports which they had heard concerning him. Hence “our Lord said to them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself.’ Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thine own country.” But they had no right to dictate to him thus. The report of what he had done in Capernaum was authenticated beyond all reasonable doubt; and the people of Nazareth ought to have believed in him. But, being offended at him on account of his low parentage and connexions, they could not endure to regard him as their promised Messiah: and it was to punish this unbelief, that our Lord withheld from them any further evidence at that time. This is the account given both by St. Matthew and St Luke [Note: ver. 22–24. with Matthew 13:54-58.]: and this shews the precise meaning of the proverb, as applied to him by his countrymen at that time. Its meaning was, ‘You profess yourself the Messiah; and, if you do not give us all the proofs of it which you have given to others, we will not receive you. We shall take it for granted that you are incompetent to the task; and that you decline all efforts for our conviction, because you are not able to impose on us, who know you, in the way that you have imposed on others, to whom you were not so well known.’ Thus was the proverb used by them as a sarcastic reflection; intimating, that he could not do in his own country what he pretended to have done at a distance from it.]
As a salutary admonition—
[Certainly, a person seeking to reform others should, so to speak, begin at home; and, if he do not, he will provoke others to retaliate with this advice, “Physician, heal thyself.” It is in this sense that the proverb is more generally used amongst ourselves. And in this sense it exactly accords with the instruction given by our Lord, in his Sermon on the Mount: “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either, how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye [Note: Luke 6:41-42.].” In this view it is a salutary admonition, for which all must be prepared who would do good to others: and to cut off all just occasion for it must be the one labour of their lives.]
When we see our blessed Lord supposing it applied to himself, it will be desirable to ascertain,
To whom it may with propriety be addressed—
You will bear in mind, that our Lord was supposed to possess and exercise such powers as fully attested his divine mission. These powers the people of Nazareth, therefore, called upon him to display amongst them: and on his compliance with these terms, they suspended their acceptance of him as their promised Messiah. Had he never given sufficient proof of his divine mission, they would have been justified in demanding more convincing evidence of it. But what he had done at Capernaum was abundantly sufficient to shew that God was with him of a truth; and therefore their demand was unreasonable, and the refusal of it was a just punishment for their incredulity. But we may well apply the proverb,
To the proud moralist, who pours contempt upon the Gospel—
[Many, like the Pharisees of old, adhere to the law of works, and regard the Gospel as foolishness. Their principles, they judge, are quite sufficient for the effecting of every thing that is necessary for their salvation. Then, I say, ‘Prove it to us. You profess that you have satisfied others: but, before we can acquiesce in your high pretensions, we call upon you to satisfy us. ‘Physician, whoever thou art, heal thyself,” and let us see in thee a proof of the efficacy of those principles of which thou boastest. That they will suffice to “cleanse the outside of the cup and platter,” we readily admit: but that they will operate effectually to the cleansing of the inside, we greatly doubt. We will admit the truth of all that was alleged by thy great prototype in the Temple: “I thank thee, O God, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican: I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess [Note: Luke 18:11-12.].” But, in our view of religion, humility, and faith, and love, are very primary and essential parts: and we beg leave to ask, What evidence thou givest us of these? we see not of these any proof whatever: and, till we see them visibly wrought into the frame and constitution of thy soul, we must call in question all thy high pretensions; and must consider thy rejection of the Gospel as a proof of thine own pride, and ignorance, and unbelief’ — — —]
To the censorious professor, who dishonours the Gospel—
[Almost all classes of Christians are ready to censure and condemn those who differ from them: and, even in their own society, there are but too many who cast on each other unkind and censorious reflections: and, in fact, those who are the most faulty themselves are the foremost in finding fault with others. This disposition greatly prevailed amongst the Pharisaic Jews; who, boasting of their high privileges, were forward to condemn others, whilst they themselves were guilty of the very same or worse enormities than those which they censured in others. Hence St. Paul, in the true spirit of this proverb, reproved them; saying, “Thou who teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest, a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest, a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege [Note: Romans 2:21-22.]?” Now, in this, must I reply to multitudes of professing Christians: do you complain of others as carnal and worldly and covetous, and are ye yourselves faulty in these respects? Do ye complain of pride, anger, and un-charitableness in others, and yet indulge them in yourselves? Do ye censure others for bigotry and intolerance, and yet betray the same unhallowed spirit towards those who differ from you? In a word, look at home; and let your severity be directed rather against your own defects, than the defects of others; and, instead of prescribing remedies so profusely to others, apply them first for the healing of the disorders of of your own souls.]
To true believers, who desire to adorn and recommend the Gospel—
[Be sure that those to whom you recommend the Gospel will first mark its operation upon your minds: and, if they see that it has done little or nothing for you, they will not be disposed to expect any great benefits from it to themselves. On the contrary, if they see that it has wrought a valuable change on you, they will be ready to receive it, in order that they themselves may be made partakers of the same benefits. Hence, your first care must be to experience all its sanctifying and saving operations in your own souls; that, when you commend it to others, you may be able to say, “What my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my hands have handled, of the word of life, that same declare I unto you [Note: 1 John 1:1-3.].” St. Paul could appeal to his hearers, “how holily, justly, and unblameably he had behaved himself among them [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:10.]:” and could boldly say, “Whatsoever ye have heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you [Note: Philippians 4:9.].” This rendered his word incomparably more powerful than it would have been under other circumstances; and no doubt, if you also can make a similar appeal, whether you be ministers or private Christians, it will give ten-fold effect to your instructions. To all, then, I would say, labour first to improve the Gospel for the sanctification and comfort of your own souls; and then will those who behold the brightness of your light, acknowledge that God is with you of a truth; and that the Gospel, which has wrought such things for you, is worthy of universal acceptation.]
CHRIST ESCAPES FROM HIS BLOOD-THIRSTY PERSECUTORS
Luke 4:28-30. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.
NOTHING is more uncertain or transient than popular applause. However just may be the grounds of any praise that is bestowed, the smallest circumstance is sufficient to obliterate all remembrance of a person’s merit, and to render him an object of general indignation. At the close of his life our Lord experienced this in a most astonishing degree: for the very people, who but three days before had followed him with acclamations and hosannas, were instigated by their rulers to cry out with equal fervour, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Scarcely inferior to this was the instance that occurred to him the very first time he preached at Nazareth. When his sermon was but half finished, his auditors were filled with admiration at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth: but before the close of it, they rose up in murderous rage in order to destroy him.
We shall consider,
The occasion of their wrath—
Our blessed Lord had preached to them in a kind but faithful manner—
[He had opened to them a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and informed them, that it was accomplished in him. This on the whole afforded general satisfaction: but yet he saw that there were some objections lurking in their minds, relative to his parentage and education; and that they were displeased because he had not given a preference to his own townsmen, and wrought his miracles there rather than at other places. These objections he anticipated, and proceeded to return an answer to them. He observed, first, that prophets in general were not received in the place where they had been educated, because the people who had known them as equals or inferiors, did not like to submit to them in their prophetic character. Secondly, he shewed them, from different instances in the Scriptures, that God had always dispensed his favours in a sovereign manner, and had sometimes imparted them to the despised Gentiles in preference to his own peculiar people.
This was the immediate purport of what he spake; but doubtless there was much more insinuated, than what was plainly expressed. His answer was intended to bring conviction upon their minds, and to shew them, that they were indulging prejudices against him in spite of all they had heard respecting him; and that, if they yielded to their unbelief, they would constrain him to withhold his blessings from them, and even to send them to the Gentile world in preference to them.]
This was the true ground of all their rage—
[They saw the drift of his discourse: but they hated the light; and therefore sought immediately to extinguish it. They were not disposed to contend with him in a way of argument; for they saw that the truth was against them. They resorted therefore to clamour and persecution, the usual substitutes for truth and reason. But to reject him merely, was not sufficient; nor could they be contented even with expelling him from the city: no; nothing but his blood would satisfy them; and therefore, forgetting the sanctity both of the synagogue and of the sabbath, they rose up with one consent, and thrust him out of the city to an eminence, that they might despatch him in a moment. Probably in executing thus, what they would have called, the judgment of zeal [Note: Numbers 25:7-13.], they thought they were doing an acceptable service to their God; so blinded were they by their own passions, and “captivated by the devil at his will.”]
The inspired historian has declared to us,
The manner in which our Lord escaped itseffects—
Our blessed Lord on different occasions withdrew himself from those who loved, and from those who hated him [Note: Luke 24:31. Joh 8:59.]. His escape from them at this time may be considered,
As it respected them“
[His withdrawment from them was miraculous, as much as if he had beaten them all down with his word [Note: John 18:6.], or smitten them with blindness [Note: Genesis 19:11. 2 Kings 6:18.], or struck them dead upon the spot [Note: 2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12.]. The precise mode of his withdrawment is not specified; but it seems that he rendered himself invisible, and thus escaped from their hands.
It was also merciful, both as it tended to convince them of his miraculous power, and especially as it prevented them from executing their murderous purposes. What a mercy did David esteem it, when by the interposition of Abigail he was kept from destroying Nabal [Note: 1 Samuel 25:32-33.]! Much more, if they ever received grace to repent of their wickedness, was it a mercy to those infatuated zealots, that they had not been suffered to imbrue their hands in the blood of God’s only Son.
But it was also judicial: for, by means of his departure, the people of Nazareth were deprived of many temporal benefits, which, if they had received him more worthily, he would have imparted to them: they were deprived also of his spiritual instructions, which, if duly improved, would have converted and saved their souls.]
As it respects us—
[In this escape of his we see, what care he will take of us, and what care we ought to take of ourselves.
Every faithful servant of God must expect persecution. But he is immortal till his work is done. God will screen him from his enemies, how numerous, potent, or inveterate soever they may be [Note: Zechariah 2:5.Isaiah 33:21-22; Isaiah 33:21-22. 2 Kings 6:16-17.]. Look at Paul when a conspiracy w;as formed against his life; and at Peter when chained in an inner prison in order to be brought forth the next day for execution: how seasonably, and in what an unlooked-for manner, did God interpose for their deliverance [Note: Acts 23:12-13; Acts 23:16-24.Acts 12:5-8; Acts 12:5-8.]! Thus will he exert his almighty power on behalf of all who serve him faithfully, unless indeed the hour is come for them to receive their full reward. We never need to fear the face of man: for God has “put a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the jaws,” of every man; “nor can any have even the smallest power against us, except it be given him from above.”
But notwithstanding our assurance of Divine protection, we ought to take all prudent precautions to avoid the fury of our enemies, and to avail ourselves of those methods of escape which God in his providence has opened to us. “If they persecute us in one city, we should flee to another,” and like Paul, when “let down by the wall in a basket,” elude the resentment which we cannot pacify. We must not indeed deny Christ, or decline any duty, even though death should be the inevitable and immediate consequence of our fidelity: but we must never court death, if we have an opportunity of saving our lives by privacy or flight.]
What need have all Christ’s followers to count the cost before they take up a profession of religion!
[Ministers indeed, for the most part, are called to stand foremost in the post of danger, and to bear the brunt of the battle: but every soldier of Christ is called to “endure hardness,” and to “fight a good fight.” If by our life and conversation we condemn the world, though the reproof be tacit, and rather intimated than expressed, the world will be filled with wrath against us; and, if suffered by God, will persecute us unto death. Let us then know what we are to expect, and stand at all times prepared for the worst.]
What a ground of thankfulness should we esteemit, if we are in any measure divested of carnal prejudice!
[All of us, if not restrained by God, should, like the Nazarenes, be ready to vent our indignation even against Christ himself, if he uttered any truths offensive to our ears. What a mercy then is it if we can hear our sins condemned, and have our indignation turned against them, rather than against our faithful monitor! Let us cultivate this disposition, whether it respects the public preaching of the word, or private admonition. Against our sins we cannot manifest too much displeasure. Happy would it be for us, if by one act of zeal we could despatch them utterly. Let us at least set ourselves against them without delay, and prosecute them from henceforth without intermission, and without mercy.]
AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT CAST OUT
Luke 4:33-34. And in the synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?
IF any doubt the existence and agency of devils, the history before us is well calculated to satisfy them upon that head. It is evident that though Satan spake by the mouth of the man whom he possessed, he spake in his own person, and in the name of those other spirits that were leagued with him. To represent this man as disordered with an epilepsy or falling sickness is to confound things which the evangelist was most careful to distinguish [Note: ver. 40, 41.]. Besides, we cannot conceive that a physician (for such was St. Luke) should mention it as a remarkable circumstance that a disorder “did not hurt” a man by leaving him [Note: ver. 35.]; whereas, if we suppose this to have been a demoniacal possession, the observation is just and proper; for we may be sure that when Satan threw down his poor vassal, he would have hurt, yea, killed him too, if Jesus, by an invisible but almighty agency, had not interposed to prevent it. There being many accounts of evil spirits cast out by our Lord, we shall not advert to every circumstance of this miracle, but endeavour to improve that particular incident mentioned in the text; viz. the request of Satan that Jesus would let him alone. In order to this we shall,
State the grounds of Satan’s request—
In acknowledging Jesus to be “the Holy One of God,” Satan might be actuated by a desire to bring the character of Jesus into suspicion, as though they were in confederacy with each other; or perhaps he wished to impress the people with an idea that none but madmen and demoniacs would make such an acknowledgment: but in requesting Jesus to let him alone he was instigated rather by his own fears—
He knew Jesus—
[Jesus was like any other poor man; his own Disciples, except on some extraordinary occasions, did not appear acquainted with his real character. But Satan knew him, notwithstanding the lowly habit in which he sojourned among men. He knew Jesus to be the Son of God, who had left the bosom of his Father, that he might take our nature, and dwell amongst us. He was well aware that this Holy One must of necessity feel an irreconcileable aversion to such an “unclean spirit,” such a wicked fiend as he was; while at the same time there was no hope of prevailing against him either by fraud or violence. Hence he wished to be left to himself, and to be freed as much as possible from his interposition.]
He dreaded Jesus—
[It is not impossible but that Satan’s expulsion from heaven might have arisen from his refusal to do homage to the Son of God. However this be, he well knew that Jesus was “the promised seed,” who should ultimately “bruise his head.” He had already been foiled in a conflict with this despised Nazarene, and had learned by experience the impossibility of resisting his command. Nor could he be ignorant that Jesus was to be his judge in the last day, when the full measure of his sins should be meted out to him, and his present miseries be greatly augmented. Hence, while he “believed, he trembled.” Hence those requests which he offered on other occasions, “Torment me not;” “send me not into the deep,” that is, the depths of hell. Hence also that question, in the passage before us, “Art thou come to destroy us?” No wonder that, under such circumstances, he should be filled with terror, and ask, as the consummation of his highest wishes, to have a respite granted him.]
That such desires were not peculiar to Satan will appear, while we,
Inquire whether similar requests be not offered by many amongst us—
It is certain that many hate the declarations of Christ in his Gospel—
[Men will endure to hear those sins, from which they themselves are free, exposed and condemned; but when the light is brought to discover their besetting sins, they hate it, and wish to have it removed from them. This is found to be the case even in the public ministration of the word. But it obtains in a still higher degree in private and personal admonition. Let a servant of Christ come in his master’s name to a man that is proud or covetous, lewd or dissipated, or under the dominion of any particular lust, and let him set before that man the enormity of his besetting sin, and the judgments denounced against it; will he find a welcome? will not the sinner wish to change the conversation? will he not say in his heart, perhaps too with his lips, ‘Let me alone; what hast thou to do with me?’ Will not he regard such a monitor as an enemy to his peace, and be ready to ask, “Art thou come to destroy” all my hope and comfort? Yes; nor is this aversion to the light peculiar to the sensual and profane: it is rather found to be more inveterate among those, whose regularity in outward things has afforded them a ground for self-admiration and self-complacency.]
Such persons accord with Satan both in sentiment and inclination—
[To hate the authority of Christ in his word is exactly the same as to hate his personal authority when he was upon earth: and to wish to have the light of his truth withheld from us, is the same as to desire the restraint of his personal interposition. Nor is this a mere fallible deduction of man’s reason; it is the express declaration of God. They, who would not hear the law of the Lord, are represented by the prophet as saying to him, “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us [Note: Isaiah 30:9-11.].” Job speaks yet more plainly to the same effect: he represents those who spent their days in wealth and pleasure, as saying to the Almighty, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways: what is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him [Note: Job 21:13-15.]? It is evident, that not only the sentiments of these sinners, but also their very expressions, are almost the same with those of Satan in the text.]
To evince the folly of harbouring such dispositions, we shall,
Shew the inefficacy of such requests, by whomsoever they may be offered—
It was in vain that Satan pleaded for a temporary liberty to indulge his malice—
[Jesus would not even receive his acknowledgments, but peremptorily enjoined him silence. Nor would he suffer Satan to retain possession of his wretched slave: he would not even permit this cruel enemy to “hurt” him; so little were the wishes of Satan consulted by our Lord and Saviour.]
In vain also will be all our wishes to retain with impunity our beloved lusts—
[God may indeed forbear to counteract us for a season, and say, “Let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.].” When he sees that we “will none of him,” he may justly give us up to our own hearts’ lusts [Note: Psalms 81:11-12.]. But this would be the heaviest curse that he could inflict upon us. It would be even worse than immediate death, and immediate damnation; because it would afford us further opportunities of “treasuring up wrath” without any hope of obtaining deliverance from it: besides, it would be only for a little time, and then “wrath would come upon us to the uttermost.” When we stand before the judgment-seat we shall in vain say, ‘Let us alone; What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?’ Our doom will then be fixed, and our sentence executed with irresistible power and inexorable firmness. When once we are “fallen into the hands of the living God,” all hope of impunity or compassion will have ceased for ever.]
This subject affords us occasion to suggest a word or two of advice—
Rest not in a speculative knowledge of Christ—
[We observe that Satan was well acquainted with the person and offices of Christ: but, notwithstanding all he knew, he was a devil still. To what purpose then will be all our knowledge, if we be not sanctified by it? It will only aggravate our guilt, and consequently enhance our condemnation also. We never know Jesus aright till we love his presence, and delight in an unreserved compliance with his will.]
Endeavour to improve his presence for the good of your souls—
[He comes to us in the preaching of his Gospel: he has promised to be with us whenever we are assembled in his name. Shall we then either by our aversion or indifference say to him, ‘Let us alone?’ Let us rather say, ‘Lord, expel this evil spirit from my heart; take me under thy care; and “fulfil in me all thy good pleasure.” ’ Thus shall the “prince of this world be cast out:” and we, his poor vassals, be “brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”]
PETER’S WIFE’S MOTHER CURED
Luke 4:38-39. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simons house. And Simons wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose, and ministered unto them.
HOWEVER much we may be beloved of God, we are not to expect an exemption from those troubles which are the common lot of humanity. Peter was one of the peculiar favourites of our Lord, and privileged to have more intimate access to him than almost any of the Apostles. Yet we find severe affliction in his family. This affliction however tended in the issue (as all the trials of God’s children will) to the glory of God and to his own personal benefit. This observation naturally arises from the account which we have just read respecting the miraculous recovery of his wife’s mother through the interposition of our Lord. In discoursing upon it we may notice,
The service which Jesus rendered her-
She was seized with a very dangerous disorder-
[Peter, an utter stranger to the doctrine since established in the church of Rome respecting the celibacy of the clergy, was a married man, and an eminent pattern both of filial piety and conjugal affection. The aged mother of his wife was permitted to spend her declining years with him:but her near connexion with this eminent servant of God could not preserve her from the common calamities of life; nor could her son-in-law restore her by a miracle without an express commission from God himself [Note: Perhaps the gift of miracles was not yet bestowed upon the church. But after it was, the Apostles could only exercise that gift when they were moved by God to do so. Why else did Paul leave Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Timothy 4:20.) or suffer the sickness of his dear fellow-labourer Epaphroditus to proceed to such extremity? (Philippians 2:27.)]. The circumstance of her being detained from the ordinances of God must doubtless have been a great additional trial to her mind, especially at a season, when he, who “spake as never man spake,” had come thither to instruct the people [Note: The loss of divine ordinances was that which David chiefly regretted when he fled from Absalom, Psalms 84:1-3.]. Peter however saw no necessity for staying from the synagogue when his mother was properly attended at home. He the rather went; and availed himself of his access to Jesus to intercede for his afflicted relative.]
At the request of Peter and his friends, Jesus restored her to perfect health—
[Jesus paid the same attention to the intercessions of friends as he did to men’s personal applications. It was the delight of his soul to relieve misery wherever he found it. Nor did he think his work finished, when he had exercised his ministry in the house of God. He would not cease from labour while the continuance of his labours could be of any essential service. He could indeed have healed her by a word without going to her in person; but he delighted to visit the chambers of affliction. And behold! with what condescension he acted towards her; “he took her by the hand and lifted her up;” he, the Maker and Governor of the universe, administered unto her as if he had been her menial servant! Yet with what authority did he “rebuke” and dispel “the fever!” Who could act thus but God? Instantly did the disease vanish, and instantly did her former strength return; and universal joy succeeded to the tears of sympathy and compassion.]
In what manner she endeavoured to requite this favour we shall see by considering,
The service she rendered him—
We are not to estimate services by the intrinsic worth of them, so much as by the affection manifested in them. In this view her services were as acceptable as any that could be rendered; “she arose and ministered unto them.” By this conduct she unwittingly discovered,
The reality of the miracle—
[Had she merely joined her family, the departure of her fever might have been imputed to a fortunate coincidence of circumstances. Nor would they, who ascribed the expulsion of devils to the agency of Beelzebub, have been ashamed to adopt such a sentiment: but, if this had been the case, her body must have still continued in a state of debility; whereas she was able to exert herself as much as before her sickness. This then was an unquestionable proof of the reality of the miracle [Note: Matthew 9:6-8.]; and she became a witness for Jesus while she intended nothing more than to testify her love towards him.]
The goodness of her own heart—
[The hearts of all are, strictly speaking, most “desperately wicked.” But our Lord tells us that “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things.” In this sense she discovered much goodness of heart. So far from being puffed up with the favour conferred upon her, she was glad to execute the meanest offices. Her heart glowed with a desire to honour her benefactor: nor was she unmindful of the obligations she owed to those who had assisted her, or interceded for her. She ministered not to him only, but to “them” also. She rejoiced in an opportunity to testify her gratitude to all. How different was this from the conduct of the nine lepers [Note: Luke 17:17.]! Who does not reprobate them as the basest of mankind? Whereas she did not delay one moment to testify her sense of the mercy vouchsafed unto her. The one thought of her heart was, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits he hath done unto me [Note: Psa 116:12]?” O that all were like-minded with her in performing a duty which is so “lovely and of such good report!”]
The duty of all who have received mercies from God—
[God is to be acknowledged as much in the blessing given to our food or medicine, as in the more visible effects of his miraculous interpositions. Have we then been preserved in health, or restored from sickness? Surely we stand indebted to God as much as if a miracle had been wrought in our behalf. And shall we be satisfied with making a few cold acknowledgments, and not render any active services to our benefactor? Or shall we pretend that there is nothing that we can do for him? Let us do what our capacity and situation enable us to do. However mean the service, it shall be accepted of him. But if we be too proud to stoop, or too idle to exert ourselves, we violate the plainest law of our nature, and render ourselves unworthy of the Christian name [Note: Unthankfulness to God is specified as the summit of wickedness even in the heathen world, Romans 1:21.].]
The foregoing history may be improved,
In a way of reproof—
[There is not one of us who does not stand indebted to God for an infinite multitude of mercies. But in what manner have we requited him? Perhaps “in the time of trouble we have visited him, and poured out a prayer when his chastening was upon us [Note: Isaiah 26:16.].” But no sooner has his rod been removed, than, like metal from the furnace, we have returned to our former hardness. We have resembled the hypocritical Jews, and forgotten all the vows which we made in trouble [Note: Psalms 78:34-37.]. Ah! what a contrast between us and this pious matron! Let us be ashamed, and humble ourselves before God. Let us remember how awfully Hezekiah was punished for his ingratitude [Note: 2 Chronicles 32:25.]. Let us instantly awake from our lethargy to the discharge of our duty, and “glorify Christ with our bodies and our spirits which are his.”]
In a way of consolation—
[Whether we go up to God’s house, or be confined on a bed of sickness, we may have access unto Jesus. He is with us at all times and in every place; and we may go to him with our petitions either for ourselves or others. What a rich source of consolation is this! And have we no disorders, bodily or spiritual, which need his aid? If our body be healthy, is not our soul languishing? Or if we ourselves be lively, have we no friend or relative that is in a sickly condition? Let us then apply to this almighty Physician, and we shall find him as condescending and as gracious as ever. He calls himself by this endearing name, “The Lord that healeth thee [Note: Exodus 15:26.].” He will “send his word and heal us;” yea, he will strengthen us for the most active and difficult services. Let all of us then surround his throne, and cry with united voices, “Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercy’s sake [Note: Psalms 44:26.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 4". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany