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After this there was a feast of the Jews
The Pool of Bethesda, a type of favoured localities in a religious community in which the highest miraculous aid has not yet appeared
The miraculous aid is
ENIGMATICAL: An angel troubling the water.
II. OCCASIONAL: At a certain season.
III. EXTREMELY LIMITED: To the one who steps in first.
IV. TO MANY UNAVAILABLE: The impotent. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
The working of God in the medicinal spring an emblem of the saving work of God in general
I. IN ITS FORMS.
1. The saving operation of the Father in the kingdom of nature.
2. That of the Son in the kingdom of grace.
II. IN ITS STAGES.
1. Christ’s miraculous healing and raising of dead in general.
2. The spiritual awakening and the organic unfolding of salvation in the New Testament dispensation.
3. The finished work of salvation in the general resurrection. (J. P.Lange, D. D.)
The sins of summer watering-places
Outside Jerusalem there was a watering-place, the popular resort for invalids. At a certain season an angel troubled the water. That angel has his counterpart in the angel of healing, that in our day steps into the mineral springs or into the salt sea, where multitudes who are worn out with commercial or professional anxieties, as well as these who are affected with disease, go and are cured. These Bethesda’s are scattered all up and down our country, thank God. Let not the merchant begrudge the employs, or the patient the physician, or the Church its pastor, a season of inoccupation. But I have to declare the truth that our fashionable watering-places are the temporal and eternal destruction of thousands.
I. The first temptation that hovers in this direction is TO LEAVE YOUR PIETY AT HOME. Elders and deacons and ministers, who are entirely consistent at, home sometimes when the Sabbath dawns, take it all to themselves. On the other days the air is bewitched with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and the toughest thing is to keep religion.
II. Another temptation is the HORSE RACING BUSINESS. I never knew a man who could give himself to the pleasures of the turf and not be battered in morals. And the betting, drunkenness, and financial ruin associated with it everywhere cluster round it under a pleasant pseudonym at the watering-place.
III. The temptation to SACRIFICE PHYSICAL STRENGTH. Instead of recuperating their health many lose it. Families accustomed to retire early gossip until one or two in the morning, and dyspeptics take strange liberties with viands they would be afraid to touch at home.
IV. THE FORMATION OF HASTY AND UNDESIRABLE ALLIANCES. Watering-places are responsible for more of the domestic infelicities of this country than all other things combined. You might as well go among the gaily-painted yachts of a summer regatta to find war vessels, as to go among the light spray of the summer watering-place to find character that can stand the test of the great struggle of human life. Ah! in the battle of life you want a stronger weapon than a lace fan or a croquet mallet! The load of life is so heavy that in order to draw it you want a team stronger than one made up of a masculine grasshopper and a feminine butterfly.
V. The temptation to BANEFUL LITERATURE. There is more pestiferous waste read by the intelligent classes in July and August than in the other ten months of the year. Men and women, who at home would not be satisfied with a book that was not really sensible, read those which ought to make them blush. “Oh, you must have intellectual recreation.” Yes, there is no need to take books on metaphysics. But you might as well say, “I propose now to give a little rest to my digestive organs, and instead of eating heavy meat and vegetables, I will, for a little while, take lighter food--a little strychnine and a few grains of ratsbane.” Literary poison in August is as bad as literary poison in December.
VI. The temptation to INTOXICATING BEVERAGE. The watering-place is full of this temptation; after the bath, the game, the dinner, in the morning and at night the custom is to tipple.
1. The grace of God is the only safe shelter.
2. There are spiritual watering-places accessible to all. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The house of mercy
Bethesda means house of mercy, and we have such a House and such a pool in the Church of God and the water of salvation. The pool was a crowded spot, and the poor crippled man had been all these years without finding a place in it.
I. But THERE IS ROOM IN CHRIST’S HOUSE OF MERCY, AND IT IS THE BEST PLACE FOR ALL.
1. For little children.
2. For young men and maidens.
3. For the old.
II. God’s House is the best place for all who HAVE SINNED AND REPENTED. Very often people who have gone wrong cease to come to Church. They feel unfit. But let them repent and come home like the prodigal. Then they will find pardon and peace.
III. God’s House is the best place for those WHO CAME TO JESUS, BUT HAVE GONE BACK AGAIN. Can that companion of drunkards and bad women be the same who used to say, “Our Father” with innocent lips, and was ashamed to tell a lie? Are you happier for going back from Jesus? Well, there is room for even you in the House of Mercy, and cleansing for you in the Blood of Jesus.
IV. HOW MANY OF US ARE LYING LIKE THESE MEN AT BETHESDA?
1. Some of us are paralyzed by sin, evil habits, worldliness.
2. Some are dumb who babble in the world but never speak to God.
3. Some are deaf who hear the offers of the market, yet cannot hear the offers of God.
4. Here in God’s House of mercy there is a hospital for all manner of disease. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)
Waiting in mercy’s house
1. Who wonders that a place which had such a history as that described in this chapter should be called mercy’s house? We should not have been surprised if we had heard of it as being near the Temple; but, as if God would teach us that His mercy is to be got wherever sought, the house of mercy is close by the place where money is made.
2. How came the five porches to be built? Had some of those which had found health built them for the comfort of seekers for mercy, and thus shown their appreciation of what they had received? Let those who find grace to help in the means provided see that others have the chance of getting the same privileges. Let us write on the walls of these porches
I. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO MEND. It is evident this man thought so. Thirty-eight years hoping for a cure. How often he had been disappointed! One can see him as he smiles a sickly smile, and whispers, “Better luck next time.” Some need to be encouraged to hope that it is not too late to be cured of the malady which threatens their soul. Do Dot despair. Satan could not wish for anything better than that your hopes should die, and your prayers cease.
II. On the second porch, write, WAITING ON THE LORD IS TRUE WISDOM. If you don’t wish to grow worse, keep in mercy’s house. Do not be persuaded to give up going to Church. How pleased the enemy of your soul would be if he could but persuade you to spend the whole of your life away from God. “Faith cometh by hearing.” Some convinced of sin, never able to rejoice in God our Saviour, are tempted to give up. People might have said to this man, “Why keep going to the pool?” “If I die without salvation, I will die at the feet of the Saviour.”
III. On the third porch, write, CHRIST IS THE SHORT WAY TO COMFORT. The pool was called the house of mercy, but Christ was mercy itself. All mere human instrumentalities are to Jesus what the house is to the Master. We have an indication of Christ’s plan of saving men. The poor man did not ask Jesus to heal him. It was mercy who took the initiative. Christ gave a command as well as asked a question. “Take up thy bed and walk.” This was something that was a physical impossibility; yet the man made the effort, and was helped of God, and so was made whole. Jesus says to you, who are willing to be saved, “Believe on Me.” Why say you cannot believe? God’s commandments are promises. He never commands what He will not help us to do.
IV. In the next of the porches we will write up, THE NEWLY SAVED MAY EXPECT A CHECK. The man was met as he was going down the street by those who objected to his carrying his bed. Do not be surprised if some one tries to rob you of your new-found joy. Let not any one stop you from joy in the Lord, it is your strength.
V. There is yet one porch on which we will write, SIN WILL HURT YOU MORE THAN DISEASE. “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (T. Champness.)
Scripture a record of human sorrow
What a scene of misery Bethesda must have presented.
I. THE BIBLE IS FULL OF SUCH DESCRIPTIONS OF HUMAN MISERY. It begins with the history of the curse, and ends with predictions of judgments.
II. And, further, IT SEEMS TO DROP WHAT MIGHT BE SAID IN FAVOUR OF THIS LIFE, and enlarges on the unpleasant side of it. Little does it say on the pleasures of life. But then human tales and poems make things better than they are. Scripture tells the truth, “Man is born to trouble.”
III. THIS VIEW IS THE ULTIMATE AND TRUE VIEW OF HUMAN LIFE, AND A VIEW WHICH IT CONCERNS US MUCH TO KNOW, else we shall he obliged to learn it by sad experience; whereas if we are forewarned we shall unlearn false notions of its excellence and be saved from disappointment, and learn to bear a sober and calm heart under a smiling cheerful countenance.
IV. CONSIDER WHAT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF IGNORANCE OR DISTRUST OF GOD’S WANING VOICE. For a while all will be enjoyment: health is good, spirit high, troubles easily mastered; but as years roll on it is discovered that substantial good is wanting. Then a man will get restless and discontented, for he does not know how to amuse himself. He has made no effort to change his heart, strengthen his faith, or subdue his passions. Now their day is come, and they begin to domineer. He had no habitual thought of God in the former time, and now he dreads Him. Where shall he look for succour? To those around him he is a burden. And so he will lie year after year by Bethesda no one helping him, and unable from long habits of sin to advance towards a cure.
V. THERE IS A MORE SOLEMN CONSIDERATION STILL--THAT TAUGHT BY LAZARUS AND DIVES. Suppose the world to remain a faithful friend till the last, its vanity will be disclosed after death. These disclosures of Scripture, then, are intended to save us pain by preventing the unreserved enjoyment of the world. Let this not seem to make life melancholy. The true Christian rejoices in those earthly things which give joy, but in such a way as not to care for them when they go.
VI. OUR SAVIOUR GIVES US A PATTERN WHICH WE ARE BOUND TO FOLLOW. True, such self-command composure and inward faith are not to be learned in a day; if they were why should this life be given us? It is given us as a preparation time for obtaining them. Its sights and sorrows are to calm you, and its pleasant sights to try you. Learn to be as the angel who could descend among the miseries of Bethesda without losing his purity or happiness. Gain healing from troubled waters. Be light-hearted and contented because you are a member of Christ’s pilgrim Church. (J. H.Newman, D. D.)
An old Jerusalem infirmary
I. THE HOSPITAL (John 5:2-3).
1. Its site. Where God has a temple His worshippers should found a hospital (Isaiah 57:7; Matthew 25:35-40).
2. Its form. It was not the five porches of man’s construction, but the water of God’s providing that healed; but the former enabled patients to take advantage of the latter. In nature and grace man is permitted to be God’s fellow-worker (Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 8:18; Psalms 67:6; Psalms 67:6; Hosea 2:21; 2 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:13), but in both He is “Jehovah Rophi” (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalms 103:3).
3. Its name: House of Grace, than which none could be more appropriate for an institution whose origin was love and whose end was healing, and to which Christ came.
4. Its inmates: specimens of the poor creatures who still crowd the world’s infirmaries, and emblems of spiritual invalids.
II. THE PATIENT (John 5:5).
1. A great sufferer for half a lifetime.
2. A friendless outcast, touching the lowest deep of human wretchedness Psalms 142:4). Many such in the lazar house of humanity.
3. A disappointed seeker. One wonders that his heart was not broken by his endless disappointments (Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 18:14). But “hope springs eternal in the human breast” (Romans 8:24). What a comfort there are no such disappointed seekers after spiritual health (Isaiah 45:19;Matthew 7:7-8; Zechariah 13:1; Titus 3:5).
III. THE PHYSICIAN (verse 6).
1. His quick observation. Christ’s people should cultivate the “seeing eye,” for there is no lack of opportunities (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Hebrews 13:6).
2. His perfect diagnosis. Christ apprehends both the man and his malady in every instance (Psalms 139:1-4; Psalms 139:1-4; Proverbs 15:11; John 4:29; John 4:29; Revelation 2:23).
3. His tender compassion, implied if not expressed. He distinguished between the sinner and his sin (verse 14). So in imitation of Mt
5:45 Christian philanthropy should embrace the criminal classes within itsGa 6:10).
4. His hopeful inquiry.
5. His extraordinary prescription equivalent to Ephesians 5:14; Mark 1:15. Christian duty transcends natural ability, but what Christ commands He is willing to supply (John 1:12).
IV. THE CURE.
1. Instantaneous, like all His cures physical and spiritual.
2. Complete. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
A hospital sermon
I. Christ always honoured the religious observances of his day. He shows us
1. The advantage of church institutions.
2. The relative value of religious ritual.
3. The duty of public worship.
II. NEAR THE TEMPLE WAS A HOSPITAL. The connection between the Church and benevolent institutions (and between the philanthropist and the Christian) is vital. Show one and you will find
1. That Christian love has started it.
2. That Christian liberality has supported it.
3. That Christian charity has been its daily guardian.
III. WHAT HAVE THE SYSTEMS OF INFIDELITY DONE FOR THE POOR AND SICK OF OUR LAND? Did Voltaire ever endow an almshouse? What have Tom Paine, Rousseau, Hume, Gibbon, etc., done for the amelioration of the race? What building stands to commemorate the sympathy, heroism, and liberality of the secularism of our day? It was the Christian in Howard that made him a religious reformer; in Wilberforce that made him a slave emancipator; that inspired Florence Nightingale, etc. The Church is the poor man’s refuge; the Bible the sorrowing man’s hope; Christ the world’s great need; heaven the weary man’s rest. (G. Minkle.)
I. THE POOL.
1. In Jerusalem, typical of the Church into which you have been introduced by baptism.
2. The pool itself is emblematical of that “Fountain opened in the house of David,” etc. It is full, not of water, but of Spirit, and His baptism is life to the soul and healing and power to its injured and enfeebled faculties.
3. The five porches set forth the five springs in the Rock of Ages, hands, feet, side, each yielding its separate stream of blessing.
II. THOSE WHO LAY ROUND THE POOL.
1. Representatives of the unconverted citizens of the Spiritual Jerusalem.
(1) The blind, unable to discern the right hand from the left, nay, incapable of seeing any hand to the soul at all.
(2) The halt, divested of faculty for every motion.
(3) The withered, incompetent “as paralytics are” to move the limbs or organs of the soul. Why, if the powers of the congregation were suddenly let loose, the results would arouse the whole world: there would not be a house in the district, however poor and sinful; however rich and worldly, that would not be beset, as it were, by a host of inspired apostles. Attempt to move men in their ordinary state to Sunday-school teaching, missionary exertion, or hearty contribution towards religious objects: some will say, We cannot see the matter as you do; others will say, We approve of the object, but cannot move in it; we are bound by such special bonds that we cannot stir in the case, or if we went and followed your advice, we should be helpless as the dead. What is this but being blind, halt, withered?
2. Take the case of an actual believer. He may feel himself providentially impeded; his way may be hidden, his powers confined, fast bound with bonds invisible. The thought of what a neighbour, or a newspaper, or an enemy, or a dignitary may say, ties him as within gates of brass. He would speak, but invisible ligatures fasten his tongue. He will say, “For that I should have a higher position, a larger fortune, more vigorous powers.” Well, this may be true; yet an energetic grasp of the Hand that moves the universe might remove all these restrictions.
III. THE TROUBLING OF THE POOL.
1. The day: the Sabbath. The pool is always troubled, but the Lord’s day is the day for finding it out. Abolish Sunday and not only would the pool he neglected, but it would become dry.
2. The place: God’s House, not exclusively of course, for it is everywhere accessible But hers are unusual facilities.
3. The troublers: God’s ministers as His agents.
(1) By prayer.
(2) By preaching.
(3) By sacraments. (T. D. Gregg, D. D.)
I. How eager were these folk to be cured! Would that there were the same earnestness for the healing of the soul.
II. GOD CAUSED THE TROUBLING OF THE WATERS, BUT LEFT THE SICK TO GET THEMSELVES IN. As Matthew Henry says, “God has put virtue into Scripture and ordinances, and if we do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault.
III. THIS MAN’S INFIRMITY WAS OF THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS’ STANDING; SHALL WE COMPLAIN OF ONE WEARISOME NIGHT. We should visit hospitals sometimes that we may learn to be thankful for our own blessings and to pity the sufferings of others.
IV. HE SEEMS TO HAVE HAD NO FRIEND. Some day troubles may come upon us which no earthly friend can alleviate or understand. But Jesus knows, He can sympathize and heal.
V. LEARN PATIENCE AND HOPE PROM THE PERSEVERANCE OF THIS MAN Hebrews 2:3; Luke 18:1). (G. J. Brown, M. A.)
The porches were once places of luxurious indulgence for the rich. In the process of time they became hospitals for the poor.
I. THE WORLD’S PAIN IS SCATTERED OVER A VAST SURFACE, BUT THERE ARE GATHERING PLACES, FOCUSSES OF SUFFERING. It will do us good to go into the back street or infirmary where it hides itself.
II. THE PEOPLE WERE A GREAT MULTITUDE.
1. Sorrow has always been in a majority.
2. The great multitude represented a great variety of diseases. There are some thousands to which the human frame is subject. Think of a thousand ways of taking a man to pieces; of God having a thousand scourges by which He can lay His hand of punishment and trial on the sinner. I can run away from fire and water; but who can escape God?
3. The man who is, popularly speaking, in the robustest health to-day may be smitten before the setting of the sun with a fatal disease. In the midst of life we are in death. Therefore, “Whatsoever thy hand,” etc.
4. All the people were waiting. We are all doing the same. “Man never is, but always to be blest.” There are two methods of waiting.
(1) The method which means patience, hope, assurance that God will in His own time redeem His promises; (2)the method of impatience and distrust and complaining that wears the soul out.
III. EVERY LIFE HAS SOME OPPORTUNITY GIVEN IT. “There is a tide in the affairs of man,” etc. Every one has bad a door opened. The angel is present to-day.
1. You may heal the disease of selfishness by timely generosity.
2. You may heal the disease of indolence by Christian work.
IV. TROUBLED WATERS ARE OFTEN HEALING WATERS. Not the little puddles you make with your own foot; but the troubles that God makes by His angels and a thousand ministries by which He interposes. You may take hold of trouble by the wrong end and abuse it, or you may make it a place for thought and vow.
V. IN ALL CLASSES THERE IS A SPECIAL MAN. I am groaning over something I have had for ten years, and there is a man that has had something for five and twenty and never made half the noise about it. I have only one loaf; another man says he has not tasted for three days. There is always someone worse off than you are.
VI. WE CANNOT GET USED TO PAIN, BUT WE GET ACCUSTOMED TO THE SIN THAT MAKES IT.
VII. THE PHYSICIAN IS SENT NOT TO THE WHOLE BUT TO THE SICK. The very asking of His question has healing in it. Some people ask about our sickness but make us worse; others ask us how we are and the kind inquiry makes us feel better.
VIII. THE SELFISHNESS OF PAIN. Here again we come on the subtle working of sin. Does any one say to the man who has been lying in pain for thirty-eight years, “You are worse than I, I shall give you a turn this time.” Great numbers of people had been healed, but no one offered help. Blessing unsanctified may increase our selfishness.
IX. CHRIST’S POWER IS NOT SECONDARY BUT PRIMARY. He speaks and it stands fast.
X. LET US APPLY THE WHOLE THING TO THE MATTER OF SALVATION.
1. It was an angel who troubled the water; it is the Son of God who opens the fountain for sin.
2. The water was moved at a certain time only; the atonement of the Son of God is open to our approaches night and day.
3. Whosoever first stepped in was cured at Bethesda; here the whole world may all go in at once.
4. Go to the fountain and one thing you will never find there--one dead man. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ was eminently a public man. Wherever most people were congregated, there was He; not induced by curiosity, pleasure, or desire for admiration, but to fulfil His mission. Here we find Him after a fifty-six miles’ walk. The prospect of usefulness made it worth the trouble.
I. THE NARRATIVE.
1. The hospital and its bath. The cloisters were designed for ordinary bathers, but since it bad become medicinal, they were filled with the diseased.
2. The patients and their diseases.
(1) The blind with all manner of ophthalmic complaints.
(2) Halt, persons lame from accident, disease, or eruptions.
(3) Withered, those whose sinews had shrunk, and power of movement had become impossible.
3. The angel and his operations.
4. The impotent man and his special infirmity. He was deprived of the power of rapid motion, and laid expecting help; but helpful friends are only found at feasts, not in hospitals,
5. The Physician and His cure.
(1) What a question He asked! The doctor generally says, “Tell me your disease, its symptoms; let me feel your pulse.” This Physician knew more than the patient.
(2) Power came with the healing word, and the man instantly became vigorous.
6. The objectors and their cavils.
7. The restored man and his lesson.
(1) The miracle had a beneficial effect, for he went into the Temple to express his gratitude.
(2) Christ gave him a caution. A worse evil might accrue through sin than thirty-eight years’ affliction. And so now: a guilty conscience, loss of God’s friendship, hell.
8. The communication and its effects. Who can blame the man for his effusive testimony to his benefactor? Yet it was scarcely prudent, a fact that should be borne in mind by the over-zealous, for “the Jews sought to kill Jesus.”
II. THE INSTRUCTION.
1. Sickness is often God’s discipline to prepare the mind to welcome Christ. “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest.” The Thessalonians “received the Word in much affliction.”
2. If we would be healed of our spiritual maladies we must be found where that healing is ordinarily bestowed.
(1) This may be a work of difficulty, as in the case before us.
(2) There are special seasons in which God vouchsafes signal blessings to the Church.
3. The most desperate and lengthened cases are not beyond the reach of Christ’s powers.
(1) Those who have reached the age of this man and whose sin seems inveterate.
4. Copy the sympathy of Christ to the afflicted. We cannot help them as He did, but we can help and comfort them. Visit the fatherless and widows, the sick, etc. (J. Sherman.)
The pool of Bethesda
This is a picture in miniature of the world.
I. The world is GREATLY AFFLICTED.
1. Effects of sin.
2. Often the means of salvation.
II. The world has ALLEVIATING ELEMENTS.
1. Medicinal properties of the earth.
2. Soothing influences of nature.
3. Offices of social love.
4. The Gospel of Christ.
III. The world is SADLY SELFISH.
1. The injustice of selfishness.
2. Its impiety.
3. Its misery.
IV. The world has a GLORIOUS SAVIOUR.
1. He cures the greatest of sufferers.
2. By His own Word.
3. At the earnest desire of the patient. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The pool of Bethesda
I. SOME PROBABLE ACCOUNT OF WHAT IS MYSTERIOUS HERE. This pool is placed near the sheep market or gate. You read of this sheep gate in Nehemiah. Josephus tells us that near one of the gates which corresponds with this was Solomon’s pool, which we may conclude to be Bethesda. But the pool of Solomon derived its waters from the fountain of Siloam or Shiloh, which also fed the pool of Siloam. Isaiah uses the waters of Siloam “that go softly” to represent the kingdom of David, which is emblematic of the kingdom of Christ. Accordingly, the Jews attached a sacred character to them, applying to them during the feast of Tabernacles the words, “With joy shall ye draw water,” etc. May we not think, therefore, that as those waters foreshadowed the kingdom of Christ, God was pleased when that kingdom was near to endue those waters with a healing power, as though to give notice of the restorative virtue that Christ would exert? A long and dreary season, without prophecy and miracles, had elapsed since Malachi; but when the time of Christ was at hand prodigies began again; and prophecy recommenced. Why not add to other attestions that one furnished by the text? Here an angel descended in token of the return of intercourse between earth and heaven. The cripple had lain for thirty-eight years, and attendance probably commenced when the waters became healing. This would place the first advent of the angel about 7 B.C., just when the heraldy of approach was likely to begin.
II. CONSIDER THE NARRATIVE AS SIGNIFICATIVE.
1. It was only at certain seasons that the angel descended, and only he who was instantly upon the alert became healed. The fountain opened for sin is ever equally efficacious, but there are precious opportunities in every man’s life, on the taking advantage of which may depend his final salvation. There is too much ground to believe that Sunday assemblings are seasons to many of the troubling of the waters, and nevertheless not seasons of the restoration of health, because the agitation is allowed to subside.
2. The condition of cure was personal willingness. The man might have found it profitable to be maimed. Many a cripple prefers begging with one arm to working with two.
(1) Wilt thou be made whole, oh young man, who art the slave of thy passions, and whose god is pleasure? Think what it is to be made whole, to mortify thy passions, to deny thyself, “to live soberly,” etc.
(2) Wilt thou, oh man of ambition?
(3) Wilt thou, oh woman of frivolous tastes? There is a secret unwillingness which frustrates the ordinances of grace, and keeps Bethesda still crowded. Men dread the stirring of the waters, and whenever they find them agitated pour upon them the oil of flattering deceit.
3. The man was not wearied out by repeated disappointments. Men now wait upon the means week after week without apparent benefit, and are tempted to give up. But you may be giving up at the very moment when God, having duly exercised your patience, is about to interpose. The greatest promises are to those who wait upon the Lord. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Jesus at Bethesda
I. THE DIVINE HELPER.
1. He saw him. It is something for a man to look on wretchedness. Men’s eyes, as a rule, are turned the other way. The Christian rule is, “Look not every man on his own things,” etc.
2. He knew the circumstances of this patient, and He knows ours.
3. He pitied this poor man. “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” But Jesus is a high priest that “can be touched.”
4. He addressed him. He made the first advances, and awoke new hope within him.
5. He healed him. But not until the arm of flesh had failed. “Sir, I have no man,” etc.
II. THE FAULTFINDERS. Surely a life so beneficent should have been left alone. But the faultfinders are everywhere, and are never at a loss for a text or pretext. They are dogs in the manger. They sneer at foreign missions, protesting that “Charity begins at home,” but when beggars pass by mutter, “This is a fine sight in a Christian country.” How shall we behave towards such people? Let them alone, and go on with our own business as Jesus did.
III. THE NEW CONVERT.
1. He was obedient.
2. He was found in the Temple, doubtless to give praise to God. But “thanksliving is better than thanksgiving”; therefore our Lord says, “Sin no Job 20:11). The ruin of the soul is worse than thirty-eight years of palsy (Hebrews 6:4-9).
3. He testified of Jesus. Witness-bearing is the best preaching. (D. J.Burrell, D. D.)
Jesus at Bethesda
I. THE PATIENT.
1. He was fully aware of his sickness, and owned it He was not like those who are lost by nature, who do not know it or will not confess it.
2. He waited by the pool expecting some sign and wonder. This, too, is how many wait, persevering in ordinances and unbelief, expecting some great thing, that on a sudden they will experience strange emotions and remarkable impressions, or see a vision or hear a supernatural voice. No one will deny that a few have been thus favoured--Colossians Gardiner, e.g.
but such interpositions are not to be looked for. Jesus Himself is the greatest of wonders. In regard to this matter of waiting remark
(1) That it is not the way which God has bidden His servants preach. The gospel of our salvation is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2) This ungospel-like gospel of waiting is immensely popular. Why? Because it administers laudanum to the conscience. When the minister preaches with power and men’s hearts are touched, the devil says “Wait.”
(3) Is not this waiting a very hopeless business? Of those who waited how few were healed? What right have you to expect that if you wait another thirty years you will be different?
(4) There lies our poor friend. I do not blame him for waiting, for Jesus had not been there before.
(5) Having been so often disappointed he was growing in deep despair. Moreover he was getting old; and life is wearing away with you. You have waited all this while in vain, sinfully waited. You have seen others saved, your child, your wife; but you are not.
II. THE PHYSICIAN.
1. He made an election. This man was possibly selected because his was the worst case and had waited longest of all.
2. Jesus said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” not for information, but to arouse attention.
3. He gave the word of command.
4. There is nothing said in the text about faith, but the whole incident shows that the man must have had faith.
5. The cure which Christ wrought was
(1) Perfect. The man could carry his bed.
(2) Immediate. The man was not carried home by friends and gradually nursed into vital energy.
III. APPLY THE INSTANCE TO THE PRESENT OCCASION. Why should we not on this very spot have instantaneous cures of sick souls? Man fell in a moment; why should not Christ restore in a moment?
1. Look at the Biblical illustrations of what salvation is. Noah built an ark, the type of salvation. When was Noah saved? After he had been in the ark a week or two? No; the moment Noah went through the door and the Lord shut him in he was safe. Take the case of the Passover; the moment the blood was sprinkled the house was secured. When the brazen serpent was lifted up were the wounded told to wait till it was pushed in their faces, or until the venom showed certain symptoms? No, they were commanded to look. Were they healed in six months’ time?
2. Take Biblical instances. The dying thief, the 3,000 at Pentecost, the Philippian jailer.
3. The work of salvation is all done. You want washing, but the fountain does not need filling. You want clothing, but the robe is ready.
4. Regeneration cannot be a work of a long time. There must be a line, we cannot always see it but God must, between life and death.
5. For God to say, “I forgive thee,” takes not a century or a year. The Judge pronounces the sentence and the criminal is acquitted. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The miracle at Bethesda
I. THE PORCHES WERE FULL OF SICK FOLK. The world is full of the spiritually sick--thieves, drunkards, harlots, proud, covetous, etc.
II. THESE SICK FOLK WERE FULL OF EXPECTANCY ALL THE TIME. So are many now, but their expectancy is misdirected. “As soon as I get out of my present business I will reform”; “I am going to church oftener”; “Next week is my birthday; I will then turn over a new leaf”; “I will repent on my death-bed”; “I expect to be healed in the next revival.”
III. THE SICK MAN’S HEALING DEPENDED ON HIS TURNING FROM THE POOL TO JESUS.
IV. HEALED THE MAN WAS; NOW JESUS BIDS HIM BE HOLY. Christ our physician
I. WE ARE ALL LABOURING UNDER THE MALADY OF SIN. This malady is
2. It pervades our whole nature.
3. It is attended by
(3) loss of power.
4. It will issue if not arrested in eternal death.
II. NO MAN CAN CURE HIMSELF. This is proved
1. By consciousness.
2. By experience. All efforts at self-cure result in failure or self- deception, or, at best, in mitigation of the symptoms.
III. NO MAN OR SET OF MEN CAN CURE OTHERS. This has been attempted
1. By educators.
2. By philosophers.
3. By ascetics.
4. By ritualists. The world is filled by spiritual charlatans.
IV. CHRIST IS THE ONLY PHYSICIAN.
1. He secures the right of applying the only effectual remedy by propitiating the justice of God, and securing liberty of access to the soul for the Holy Spirit.
2. He sends that Spirit as the Spirit of life and strength. As the constitution is radically affected, a radical cure is necessary, which can only be effected by a life-giving Spirit.
3. The cure is certain and permanent. It results in immortal vigour, beauty, and strength.
4. This Physician is accessible to every one at all times. He requires no preparation, and will receive no recompense.
1. The duty of every one to apply to Him for cure.
2. The reason why any are not cured must be in them, not in Him.
3. The duty of making this Physician known to others. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
Conversion as illustrated by the miracle
1. The utterly lost, hopeless state of every sinner sitting by the waters of salvation (John 5:5).
2. The offer of help addressed to each man’s free will for his personal acceptance (John 5:6).
3. The first phase of conflict that pride is apt to make in blaming others and excusing self (John 5:7).
4. The peremptoriness of the gospel demand: Do something, and God will help (John 5:8-9).
5. The next phase of conflict which external opposition makes discouraging the soul with mere cavils (John 5:10).
6. The full and honest justification of conduct: The One that healed me told me what to do (John 5:11).
7. The salutary experience of solicitude against old besetting sin (John 5:14).
8. The happy obedience of active confession of Christ before others; say openly and everywhere, “It was Jesus that made me whole!” (John 5:15) (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.--Jesus never, as a rule, let a feast go by without visiting Jerusalem.
1. To fulfil the duty of an Israelite.
2. To use the opportunity of preaching to the largest multitudes.
3. To testify the truths then to the leaders at a time when He might appear before them without their venturing to lay hands upon Him.
Evangelical clergymen should use the high Christian festivals with conscientious fidelity.
1. Because then larger congregations are attracted, and many are present then who come at no other time.
2. Because souls are then in a more solemn mood than at other times. (Heubner.)
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep-market a pool
The water supply of Jerusalem
was one of the most wonderful things in that wonderful city. The cisterns, in what is now called the Sanctuary, appear to have been connected by a system of channels cut out of the rock, so that when one was full the surplus water ran into the next, and so on until the final overflow was carried off by a channel into the Kedron. One of the cisterns, that known as the Great Sea, would contain two million gallons; and the total number of gallons which could be stored probably exceeded ten millions. This supply of water appears to have been obtained from springs, wells, the collection of rain in pools and cisterns, and water brought from a distance by aqueducts. The extensive remains of cisterns, pools, and aqueducts show that little dependence was placed on any natural springs existing in or near the city; and, indeed, from the formation of the ground it is doubtful whether any existed besides the Fountain of the Virgin in the Kedron Valley. There may have been a source in the Tyropaeon Valley, but it could only have been a small and not very lasting one. Water was brought into the city by two aqueducts, the “low level” and the “high level”; but the course of the former can alone be traced within the walls of the city. (Recovery Jerusalem.)
Bethesda.--The most natural etymology of the word is “House of Mercy.” Whether the name alludes to the munificence of some pious Jew who had constructed the porches as a shelter for the sick, or whether it relates to the goodness of God, from whom this healing spring proceeded is uncertain. Delitsch supposes that the etymology was Beth-estaw, peristyle. Others have taken it from Beth Aschada, place of out-pouring (perhaps of the blood of victims). It might be supposed that the porches were five isolated buildings arranged in a circle round the pool. But it is more natural to consider it one single edifice, forming a peritagonal peristyle, in the centre of which was the reservoir. Some springs of mineral water are known at the present day at the east of the city; among others the baths of Ain-es-Schefa. Tobler has proved that this spring is fed by the large chamber of water situated under the mosque which has replaced the Temple. Another better known spring is found at the foot of the southeastern slope of Moriah, called the Virgin Spring. It is very intermittent. The basin is quite dry; then the water is seen springing up among the stones. On one occasion Tobler saw it rise four and a half inches with a gentle undulation; on another it rose for more than twenty-two minutes to a height of six or seven inches, and came down again in two minutes to its previous level. Robinson saw it rise a foot in five minutes. He was assured that this movement is repeated at certain times twice or thrice a day, but that in summer it is seldom observed more than once in two or three days. These phenomena present a certain analogy to what is related of the Bethesda spring. Eusebius speaks also of springs in this locality, the water of which was reddish, evidently due to mineral elements, but, according to him, to the filtering of the blood of victims into it. Tradition places Bethesda in a great square hollow, surrounded by walls, at the north of the Haram, south from the street which leads from the St. Stephen’s Gate. It is called Birket-Israil, and is about twenty-three yards deep, forty-four yards broad, and more than double in length. The bottom is dry, filled with grass and shrubs. Bethesda must have been in this vicinity, for here the sheep-gate was situated. As it is impossible to identify the pool, it may have been covered with debris or have disappeared, as so often happens in the case of intermittent springs. Those which are found at the present day prove only how favourable the soil is to this sort of phenomena. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The identity with Bethesda of the deep reservoir in Jerusalem, which today bears its name, Robinson regards as improbable, and is more inclined to find it in the intermittent fountain of the virgin on the south-east slope of the Temple Mount. From John 5:7 and the close of John 5:8, it appears that this spring probably was gaseous, and bubbled at intervals. There is a spring of this kind at Kissengen, which, after a rushing sound about the same time every day, commences to bubble, and is most efficacious at the very time the gas is making its escape. This spring is especially used in diseases of the eye. (Tholuck.)
For an angel went down at a certain season
This verse has undoubtedly no right to a place in the text. That fourth verse the most important Greek and Latin copies are without, and most of the early versions. In other MSS. which retain this verse, the obelus which hints suspicion, or the asterisk which marks rejection, is attached to it; while those in which it appears unquestioned belong mostly, as Griesbach shows, to a later recension of the text. And this fourth verse spreads the suspicion of its own spuriousness over the last clause of the verse pre- ceding, which, though it has not so great a body of evidence against it, has yet, in a less degree, the same notes of suspicion about it. Doubtless whatever here is addition, whether only the fourth verse, or the last clause also of the third, found very early its way into the text; we have it as early as Tertullian, the first witness for its presence At first probably a marginal note, expressing the popular notion of the Jewish Christians concerning the origin of the healing power which from time to time these waters possessed, by degrees it assumed the shape in which now we have it: for there are marks of growth about it, betraying them- selves in a great variety of readings--some copies omitting one part, and some another, of the verse--all which is generally the sign of a later addition: thus, little by little, it procured admission into the text, probably at Alexandria at first, the birthplace of other similar additions The statement rests upon that religious view of the world, which in all nature sees something beyond nature, which does not believe that it has discovered causes, when, in fact, it has only traced the sequence of phenomena, and which everywhere recognizes a going forth of the immediate power of God, invisible agencies of His, whether personal or otherwise, accomplishing His will. (Archbishop Trench.)
The other side
The verse is not found in “Sin,” B.C. 0, nor in a few cursive MSS., nor in the Cureton Syriac, but they were in copies of this Gospel in the time of Tertullian, and are quoted by Chrysostum, Cyril, Augustine, and others, and they exist in important MSS. As to the question why it is inserted, the reply is to assign a cause for the phenomenon. But, on the other hand, reasons no less valid may account for its omission. Who had seen the angel? What Jewish writer had recorded his appearance and operation? These are questions which might have been urged by sceptics of old as now, and the easiest way of removing objections might seem to be to omit the words. We know that this feeling operated so strongly with critics of old as to lead them to omit, not only a few words, but entire books. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
Jewish legends about healing waters
The Jews themselves had several legends of the healing waters. Thus the “Fount of Miriam,” from which the Israelites drank in the desert, was said to flow, after the conquest of Canaan, into the lake of Galilee; and it was believed that, at the end of every Sabbath, its waters flowed out and mingled with the waters of all fountains. Whoever had the good fortune to draw from a fountain at the moment when the waters of the “Fount of Miriam “ mingled with it, and bathed himself with that water, would be cured of all his diseases--even if these were of the most loathsome description. Lightfoot cites an instance of a man suffering from a grievous disease who went down to the lake of Galilee to swim. Now, it happened to be the time when the Fount of Miriam was flowing, so that, when he came out of the water, he found that he was healed. The same author instances a case from the rabbins, of a fountain that was inhabited by two spirits--one evil and one good. When Abba Joses sat at this fountain, there “appeared to him the spirit that resided there, and said, ‘You know well enough how many years I have dwelt in this place, and how yourselves and your wives have come and returned without any damage done to you. But now you must know that an evil spirit endeavours to supply my room, who would prove very mischievous to you.’ He saith to him, ‘What must we do then?’ He answered him and said, ‘Go and tell the townspeople that whoever hath a hammer and an iron pin or bolt, let him come hither to-morrow morning, and have his eye intent upon the waters, and when you see the waters troubled, then let them knock with the iron, and say, “The victory is ours”; and so let them not go back till they see thick drops of blood upon the face of the waters.” To which the gloss adds, “By this sign it will appear that the spirit was conquered and killed.” The reader who is concerned about the result of this stratagem may be glad to know that it proved quite successful. In connection with this general subject it is interesting to note the belief, among primitive peoples all over the world, in the waters of life. In a legend found among the Modern Greeks the water of life flows within a hollow rock, and is inaccessible except to a favoured few; in another case where the waters are concealed in the same way, the rock opens at noon, and discloses several springs, each of which calls out, “Come, draw from me,” but only one is the spring of the water of life; and this true spring is pointed out by a bee which flies directly to it. Whoever draws this water Of life can sprinkle a few drops of it upon any dead animal or man, and immediately the dead will spring to life. Even when the dead have been hacked to pieces, the water of life sprinkled over the parts will bring them together, and unite them into a new and youthful life. In some cases, two springs are said to flow side by side, one giving forth the water of life, the other giving forth the water of death. If the water of death is taken instead of the water of life, the opposite effect is produced. A drop or two will kill a living man at once. There are also legends throughout the whole world concerning the waters of strength. These are generally fabled to be guarded by some mythical monster--snake or dragon--but whoever eludes the vigilance of these guardians, and possesses himself of the water, has the means of endowing himself with superhuman strength. To swallow a few drops is to make one’s self, according to the legend, more than a match for any mortal foe.
The significance of the angel’s action
What St. John affirms is that a certain invisible angel or minister was the instrument of making the water beneficial to the persons who went down into it. He accounts in this way for its operation being more useful at one time than another. That assertion, you say, interferes with the doctrine that there were certain properties in the water itself which affected the condition of human beings. How does it interfere? You hold that the vaccine matter has in itself the property of counteracting the virus of the small-pox. But you hold also that the intelligence of Jenner had something to do with making this vaccine matter available for actual cure; you hold that the intelligence of different medical men has something to do with bringing the preventive power to bear on particular cases. You know this for a fact, but physical science tells you nothing of the way in which the intelligence co-operates with the natural agent. The notion that it does is a fallacy. In no instance whatever can the mere study of physics help you to determine anything respecting moral or intellectual forces, though at every turn the study of physics compels you to the acknowledgment of such forces. It will save us from innumerable confusions if we take this proposition in the length and breadth of it. Through neglect of it the physician and the metaphysician are perpetually stumbling against each other when they might be the greatest helpers of each other. (F. D. Maurice, D. D.)
It seems a worthy exercise of Divine revelation to lead human philosophy to regard what are called physical phenomena as being not produced by natural laws, though they may be regulated according to them, but as effected by Divine agency; in a word, to elevate the human mind from the lower level of material mechanics to the higher region of spiritual dynamics. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
The troubling of the water.--In every excited fear of the vengeance of God, in every impulse which would send you to your knees, in every brief aspiration after holiness and heaven, you have tokens that the angel has been with you, summoning you to be heedful, and not to lose the opportunity which may, perhaps, be the last. And if you take not advantage of the troubling of the waters, if, that is, when you feel prompted to pray you omit to pray; when made conscious of the evil of a practice, you do not forthwith set yourselves to correct that practice; and when moved to the study of the Scriptures, you defer that study to a more convenient season, why, there is more than a probability that you will not soon again be visited with the desire after salvation, and that, even when so visited, it will be in less measure; for the Spirit of God, who is the actual agent, whatever the instrumentality employed in troubling the waters, is grieved and provoked by resistance to His influences, and may be tempted altogether to withdraw, when He has striven with you, and agitated you in vain. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
An infirmity thirty and eight years
The gospel equal to the most inveterate cases
There is a city missionary traversing this district, who finds in a room a woman ninety-eight years of age, and begins to tell her about Christ and salvation; and the poor old woman receives it, and comes to this table, at ninety-eight years of age, for the first time, avowing her faith in Christ, and linking in her hand a little girl fourteen years old, who was received into the Church with herself. Aged and young can be cured by Christ’s power. There sat in a country village a poor old diseased woman, who with the greatest difficulty got into the kitchen of a butcher, in whose house some itinerants used to go and preach, to listen to the Word; and she is seventy-two years of age; but the Word goes into her mind, she receives it, and not only becomes a devoted follower of Christ, but one of the most useful women in the village. There is hope for you! When I was at Bath I heard of a gentleman who had retired from business, surrounded with the bounties of Providence, but had not sought Christ. His wife was very anxious, good woman! about him. One day she prevailed upon him to come with her to God’s house; and as she went she prayed that God would give the minister some text that would be likely to impress her poor thoughtless, witty, indifferent husband’s mind; and when the minister gave out his text, it was this, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” “I thought,” she said, “I should sink in the pew; I knew what fun he would be likely to make of the passage.” However, the Word went home to him, and his thought was this--“I know my wife can say that Christ is her Beloved, and that she is Hisbeloved, but He is not mine”; and from that moment he became a devoted follower of the Lamb, used his property for the service of Christ, and went to heaven rejoicing in His favour. (J. Sherman.)
Wilt thou be made whole?
The Physician’s inquiry
I. A MARK OF AFFECTIONATE SOLICITUDE.
II. AN INSTANCE OF GRACIOUS INVITATION.
III. THE EXPRESSION OF CONSCIOUS POWER. The question is still asked--How many refuse the offer! (Preacher’s Analyst.)
The Good Physician’s question
I. ASSUMES THAT THEY TO WHOM IT IS ADDRESSED ARE NOT WHOLE.
II. SUGGESTS THAT NEVERTHELESS THEY MAY BE MADE WHOLE.
III. IMPLIES THAT IT DEPENDS UPON THEIR OWN WILLS WHETHER OR NOT THEY SHALL BE MADE WHOLE.
IV. PROFFERS THE NEEDED WHOLENESS TO ALL WHO ARE WILLING TO RECEIVE IT. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
A singular but needful question
It seems a strange question. Who would not be made whole? Would the poor man have been lying at the pool had he not been anxious for healing? Yet, as our Lord spake no superfluous words, it may be perceived that the paralysis was mental as well as physical. He had waited until despondency had dried up his spirits, and he scarcely cared whether he was made whole or not. The Saviour touched a chord that needed to vibrate; He aroused a dormant faculty whose exercise was essential to cure. Are there not those here who, through having waited so long, are beginning to get paralyzed in their once earnest desires to come to occupy this seat as a mere matter of custom.
I. This question is needful, because IT IS NOT ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD.
1. It is not the same as “Wilt thou be saved from going to hell?”--every one answers “Aye” to that; but “Wilt thou be saved from sin?”
2. To help you, let me remind you that there never were but two men perfectly whole.
(1) The first Adam. We should all be willing to be in paradise with him; but are we willing to walk with God as he did?
(2) The second Adam. “Holy, harmless, undefiled,” etc. Whole towards God, man, holiness. Do you wish to be like Him?
3. When a man is whole there are certain evil propensities which are expelled, and Certain moral qualities which he is sure to possess
(4) generosity in giving and forgiving.
4. He will have spiritual graces also
II. THIS QUESTION IS CAPABLE OF A GOOD MANY REPLIES, and therefore it is the more necessary that it should be asked and answered.
1. There are some whose only reply is no answer at all. They don’t want to consider anything of the sort.
(1) “We are young, and have plenty of time.”
(2) “We are business people, and have something else to do.”
(3) “We are wealthy and cultured, and must not be expected to look at these things as coarse-minded people do.”
(4) “We are too ill to trouble about it.” But there is another class, who once had a religious concern, whose answer is not very earnest. They have become habituated to unbelieving misery, and persist in carrying a burden of which their Saviour wants to relieve them.
2. Too many give evasive replies to the question
(1) “How am I to know whether I am God’s elect or not?” That is not the question at this stage. It will be answered by and by.
(2) “I have not the power to cease from sin.” God will give the power in proportion as He gives the will.
(3) “I have been so guilty in the past. The question is not, How sick art thou? but Wilt thou be made whole?”
3. There are a good many persons who practically say “No.”
(1) One says, “I would be made whole,” and yet when Divine service is over he goes back to his sin.
(2) Those say “No” who neglect the house of God.
(3) So do those who hear the Word inattentively; and
(4) those who fear lest their being made whole would involve the loss of social position, gains, or companions.
III. WHEREVER AN HONEST AFFIRMATIVE ANSWER IS GIVEN TO THIS QUESTION WE MAY CONCLUDE THAT THERE IS A WORK OF GRACE COMMENCED IN THE SOUL.
IV. WHERE THIS QUESTION IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE IT INVOLVES MOST FEARFUL SIN. You prefer yourself to God, sin to holiness. This is your deliberate choice. When you come to die, and when you live in another state, you will curse yourself for having made such a choice as this. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The cure of spiritual disease
I. WHAT IS SUPPOSED IN THE CONDITION OF THE PERSON ADDRESSED. A state of disorder and disease, or the question would be absurd. You often hear of the dignity of human nature.
1. Physically and intellectually it is dignified when we see man, in his capacity for boundless improvement, “a little lower than the angels.”
2. But how lamentable it is to find his fine powers misapplied and abused! What is man morally and religiously?
(1) His body has become mortal and subject to every calamity.
(2) His soul is alienated from the life of God.
(3) He has no spiritual health.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE QUESTION?
1. That the disease is curable. But not by man;
(1) not by government;
(3) the law;
(5) but only by the Cross of Jesus Christ, the efficacy of whose cure is attested by millions.
2. That willingness to be cured is essential to recovery. The cure is not forced upon you, nor is it accomplished by an insensible process, nor by a charm, nor by chance. A Divine influence makes us sensible of our need, and of the importance of the blessing; then we have to choose the good part.
III. HOW ARE YOU TO RETURN AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION?
1. By inquiring after the way and the means.
2. By applying to the Physician.
3. By submission to the prescription without murmuring or complaint. Not like Naaman, but like the blind man who went to the pool of Siloam.
4. By the eagerness with which you look after convalescence.
IV. WHAT SHOULD URGE YOU TO AVAIL YOURSELVES OF THIS PROPOSAL?
1. The nature of the complaint, than which nothing is more dreadful.
2. The Physician who addresses you. He has everything to recommend Him. He is able; willing. He demands no fee.
3. The brevity and uncertainty of the time in which the cure must be effected.
4. The fact that rejection will be the greatest aggravation of the misery by which it will be ended.
V. WHAT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ENABLED TO ANSWER THE QUESTION IN THE AFFIRMATIVE.
1. To avoid the sins which led to the injury.
3. Consecration of renewed spiritual health to the Physician.
4. To recommend the cure to others. (W. Jay.)
Hindrances to Christian development
I. Many are hindered by a VAGUE SENSE WORKING THROUGH VENERATION AND THE IMAGINATION OF THE MAGNITUDE AND IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION. They have the impression that they are to carry the world on their shoulders. They are cautious, timid, conscientious, and feel that their strength and resolution are not adequate to so great a thing as the amplitude of religious life. This would be valid ii religion called men at first to take the service of Jesus Christ in its perfected form. But it is not so. The Master bids us become as little children, and go on step by step. The question is whether you are willing to take the child’s step towards the consummation.
II. There are others who are caught IN MORBID INTELLECTUALISM, AND ARE STUCK UPON THE SPIRES AND THORNS OF SOME DOCTRINAL SYSTEM. They fail to separate between religion and its doctrines. With one it is election, with another reprobation. They have not learned to let such things alone. They are insoluble, most of them. Christ says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His”--not catechism, confession of faith, doctrine, but “righteousness.” Let life, practice, experience, precede, and they will shape theory and philosophy.
III. Others are hindered by THE FRAGMENTS AND RUINS OF PAST ATTEMPTS.
1. There are many who have entered on a religious life under such misconceptions we have been buffeted by such influences that sentiment, honour, conscience, taste, or pride, has been almost fatally wounded.
2. Others become torpid or dead. In youth, while enthusiasm was strong, they felt that there was a reality in religion; but it having proved a mockery to them they come to have the impression that there is nothing in it.
3. But there are a great many who do not fall so far. They hoped to be saved, but are without any definite purposes. But the mistakes that have been made are no reason why you should not with better light and ampler experience regain the lost ground. No man can afford to throw himself away because he has made a mistake in attempting to be healed. The woman with the issue of blood did not do so. Forget, then, the things that are behind. If you would be made whole, remember that failure is no reason for not striving again.
IV. Many are hindered by THE INSPECTION OF THE LIVES OF CHRISTIAN MEN. This is ignoble, and has nothing to do with your own case. However others may be cowardly and false, that is no reason why you should not be courageous and true. This is no excuse, it is the plea of a man who is in search of one.
V. THE DEBILITATING EFFECT OF SCEPTICAL DOUBTS UPON THE MORAL SENSE. Such is the nature of things that we live by faith and not by sight in respect to the whole realm of the invisible from which the power is to be derived, by which the soul is to be rectified. Once let a man doubt, and it will break the power of his believing. And many people are so moved that their moral root is impaired. Is not this so? To you, then, Christ comes and asks this question. There is healing in Him for those who are impotent from doubt.
VI. THERE ARE THOSE THE HABIT OF WHOSE MIND CONVERTS MORAL IMPRESSIONS INTO IDEAS RATHER THAN INTO ACTIONS.
1. Some are so familiar with their Bible that it is worn smooth. Their wheels slip on the track.
2. Others never break into flame. They are compacted of thoughts and feelings which are so covered up and smothered that they never have disclosure. They are given to revive. The work of the world is not accomplished in this way, nor is that of Christianity. Don’t, then, think about the poetry of religion, but brace yourself for its activities.
1. Every man, whatever his hindrances, should be faithful to the inward yearning to be made whole. If that lives there is hope.
2. To such Christ will come. There is a way when there is a will. (H. W.Beecher.)
God’s pool and man’s porches
All the healing work of the pool was God’s work, and His alone; but in our text we have man’s work side by side with God’s. There were five porches. In all probability these porches were built by some charitable people in the city of Jerusalem, who had argued something after this sort--“We have no power to heal the sick, but we can at all events build a shelter for them when they come seeking a cure. It is not in us to move the water into an all-healing pool, but we can build a place so near the water that when the sufferers come after many a weary mile, they will be able to rest there, secured from the sun, and sheltered from the tempest, and wait in comfort until the angel of mercy stirs it with his wing.” Thus, I think, you will see we have in our text the union of God’s work and human agency. God digs the pool and man builds the porches.
I. LET US LOOK AT BETHESDA, WITH ITS PORCHES, AS ILLUSTRATING SPIRITUAL WORK. It is a high honour, beloved, to be a co-worker with God, no matter in how humble a capacity. God can do without us. The pool could do without the porches, and do as well without them. It had none of its healing qualities from them. No poor sufferer was ever eased of his pain because of the influence of the porches upon the pool. It was the pool alone that did the work and had all the glory of the cure. But remember, on the other hand, that God so ordered it that the porches should be built by man. God digging” the pool does not exonerate man from building the porches. Let us for a moment look and see how this may be applied in many ways. This blessed book is all of Him. No human hand dug its deep well of truth. From Genesis to Revelations it makes one glorious Bethesda. It is a house of mercy, and in its chapters and verses there is latent healing power, that needs but the moving of the Spirit to heal any. To write this book, and make it a power of healing unto souls, is God’s work, and His work alone. But you and I can place this book into the hands of different people, and that is our work. God writes the book, but it is for us to print it, and scatter it on every hand. He makes this pool of Bethesda; but you and I, perhaps through the agency of a Bible Society, have to help build the five porches. Man can neither give himself nor anyone else faith; but man can build the sanctuaries for the gospel to be preached in. Therefore God does not build any chapels by miracles. If men want to have houses to worship in, God says, “that is your work: you must toil, and you must collect, and you must give, and you must pay for it. You can build the brick porch, but it is for Me to make it a Bethesda, a house of mercy unto thousands.” It has occurred to me that in many ways Bethesda makes a very beautiful illustration of what a sanctuary ought to be. I will briefly notice one or two points.
1. The first thing we observe is--that those porches were only built for the sake of the pool. You cannot imagine any gentleman in Jerusalem having built them merely for the sake of an architectural display. Most certainly they were not built for lounges and as equally certain is it they were not built for people to sleep in. They were simply built to help men to get to the water that could heal them. Every sanctuary that is built aright is built from the same motive. It is built simply to lead men unto Christ.
2. But observe, secondly, that the porches were only of value as they led to the pool. In other words, the porch was no good to any man except he went beyond it. Do you observe, too, that those who filled the porches were just the very ones we want to see filling our sanctuaries? They were not only sick ones in those porches. They were something better. They were those who knew themselves to be sick. They came there with a special purpose, and that purpose was to be healed. That preacher has delightful work who preaches to a congregation drawn by the same desire. And then you observe that they were poor people that were there, people that could not any way afford to have a doctor. I would that we could see more of the poor and penniless helping to fill our sanctuaries. And observe, lastly here, that there were plenty of them. It is said, “In these lay a great multitude.” There is nothing easier than to sneer at numbers when they come to hear the preaching of the Word, though I never heard them despised when the meeting is of a political or secular nature. May God make every porch in this great east end of London too straight for the throngs of the poor and the sick and the spiritually diseased that shall crowd into them.
II. And now, lastly, I desire to use this text as illustrating THE WORK WE MAY DO IN CONJUNCTION WITH GOD FOR THE ALLEVIATION AND HEALING OF BODILY SICKNESS. Alas, that group at Bethesda is but a very small sample of a great multitude--a multitude seeking health. Mark you the means are nothing of themselves. The water was nothing until the angel touched it. The medicine is nothing until God blesses it. The physician of himself is powerless, let him be never so clever in his profession. What is it then that is needed? It is the blessing of the angel of the covenant resting on the means that are used--it is God commanding health through their instrumentality. But you and I may say, “Brother, we cannot make you whole, we wish we could, but there is a Bethesda which, by the Lord’s blessing, may, and we can build a porch to help you get and stay there. We know you are poor and cannot afford to have a long doctor’s bill come in, and your poverty only deepens our sympathy, so we will build you a porch which shall be free of all expense. We will build you a place where you can obtain just the care, and just the nursing, and just the medicine that you need, without it costing you a penny. (A. G. Brown.)
“Wilt thou be made whole?”
Do you think it a strange question? Do you take it for granted that a man must long to be freed from the tyranny of sin. Ah! I would to God it were so. But it is not.
1. One desires to be saved only from the consequences of sin, and from the eternal death which is the bitter wages of sin; but not--not to “be made whole!” No! To be made whole would mean giving up some practice which has become second nature. It would mean making new rules of life which would stand in the way of present prosperity.
2. If this one were to say straight out what is in his heart, he would answer the question, “Wilt thou be made whole?”--thus, “Ah, Lord Jesus, leave me as I am! Only--in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, good Lord, deliver me!”
3. Another, does desire to be released from his sin. But this one is so slothful that he cannot rouse himself and look that sin in the face, like a man, and close with it, determined to overcome it once and for all And so he gets into a way of taking his state for granted. He uses prayer, and the means of grace, in a limp, perfunctory manner, hoping for nothing, expecting nothing, in fact believing nothing, and so getting nothing. His answer would be something like this--“It is no use now. It might have been once. I am too far gone.” My brethren, if we do not desire it, then our blood be on our own heads. God does not save men against their wills, and in spite cf their wills. But if we are in earnest, let us arise at Christ’s bidding and do His commands. (I. B. C. Murphy, B. A.)
The force of the question
Jesus says to the man not “Dost thou desire?” but “Art thou really determined?” For the desire is not doubtful, but energy of will seems wanting. It can only be restored by means of faith.
On the one hand Jesus draws the sufferer from the dark despondency into which his long and useless waiting had plunged him, and revives his hopes; on the other, he withdraws his mind from the source of cure to which it was exclusively attached, and puts him in moral connection with the true Bethesda. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Wilt thou be made whole?
A superfluous question, it might seem, for who would not be made whole if he might? But the question has its purpose. This poor man had been so often defeated of a cure, that hope was dead, or well-nigh dead, within him, and the question is asked to awaken in him anew a yearning after the benefit, which the Saviour, pitying his hopeless case, was about to impart. (Archbishop Trench.)
Sir, I have no man when the water is troubled to put me into the pool.
This child of pain suffered a double martyrdom--that of being incapable of reaching the pool, and that of seeing others less needy snatch the boon from before his very eyes. A multitude of various crippled people wait for chances of social, intellectual, and moral improvement, who for the want of a helping hand have the mortification of seeing less encumbered folks step into the opening.
I. THE WORLD IS FULL OF THOSE THAT WAIT FOR THE TROUBLING OF THE WATER BY THE ANGELS OF LIFE.
1. These are paralysed by the lack of friends, funds, or facilities.
2. In gracious response to this expectancy angels of life frequently stir the water. In our day the spirit of change is abroad.
3. The ever-recurring changes of life contribute to the good of mankind. Stagnation is the curse of life; revolution is its salvation.
II. WHEN THE POOL IS STIRRED THE ABSENCE OF A FRIEND IS OFTEN FATAL TO SUCCESS.
1. The Bible may fall into the hands of an illiterate person, and thus the fountain of all good may be sealed. Self-help is a note frequently sounded, but a great section of the race have little power of self-help. No doubt they are cognizant of chances, but are constitutionally or circumstantially incapable of seizing them.
2. With an energetic helper a fair proportion might rear themselves. Artists, preachers, etc., long for fame, but having no helper, live and die in obscurity.
3. All through life supplementary ministries are in requisition. Wanted:
(1) In the scientific world the missing link!
(2) In the political world the man for the hour!
(3) In the Christian world souls not too absorbed to care for others!
III. WHEN THE WATER IS STIRRED THE SELF-SUFFICIENT ARE OFT FOUND TO AVAIL THEMSELVES OF THE PRECIOUS OPPORTUNITY.
1. The world comprises that class who attain by sheer audacity, and are deterred by no modesty or charity. Many, however, collapse, which saves us much bitterness of soul.
2. God is our law and pattern. Let us be merciful as He is. We require to be careful, lest in the race of life we grow callous and unsympathetic. Turner, when the hanging committee could find no place for an obscure painter’s picture, took down one of his own magnificent productions and hung the stranger’s there in the very forefront of publicity. That was compassion like a man.
IV. THE ONLY RESOURCE OF NEGLECTED MEN IS CHRIST. We hail Him as the One mighty to save in all the provinces of life.
1. He loves to take the world by surprise. The most this unfortunate expected was a promise to assist him to the pool some day.
2. Take up thy bed, etc., suggests to us “strike out for yourself.” Christ the Author of faith communicates to us who will receive it the capacity to think, act, pray, etc., which is infinitely superior to the habit of dependence on the services, modes, doctrines of others. (W. J. Acomb.)
The universal cry of humanity
is one of
III. HOPELESSNESS. (Van Doren.)
Irresolution and impotence the worst part of any malady
(in melancholy, hypochondria, etc.)
I. IT IS ITSELF DISEASE.
II. IT AGGRAVATES THE OTHER DISEASES.
III. IT HINDERS THE CURE.
IV. IT CAN MAKE THE CURE UNCERTAIN AGAIN (“lest a worse thing come unto thee”). (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
One wintry day Hawthorne, the American author, went home with a heavy heart, having lost his government appointment. He cast himself down, as men generally do under similar circumstances, and assumed the very attitude of despondency. His wife soon discovers the cause of his distress. But instead of indulging in irrational hysterics, she kindles a bright fire, brings pen, ink, and paper, and then, lovingly laying her hand on his shoulder, exclaims, as she gazes cheerfully in his face, “Now you can write your book.” The word wrought like a magic spell. He set to work, forgot his loss, wrote his book, made his reputation, and amassed a fortune. God-fearing women, go and do likewise! (W. J.Acomb.)
It is said of Bruce, that, in prison, and discouraged with the heat of his campaign for the liberties of his country, he in moody thoughts meditated giving up the struggle; but as he lay and thought, a spider, spinning down, caught his web upon some point, and almost fell to the floor. Not daunted, it crept up and back, and started again; and missed again. And again it tried, and fell again. It went through seven trials, and finally, on the eighth, caught and established itself. And then, with a baseline laid, it formed its web. Bruce took heart from that, through rebuke, and determined never to give up the struggle. And at last victory came. (H. W.Beecher.)
Christ’s method of salvation varied
He looked that Christ should have done him that good office (of putting him into the pool), and could not think of any other way of cure. How easy it is of us to measure God by our model, to cast Him into our moulds, to think He must needs go our way to work. (J. Trapp.)
Help must be opportune
I had a friend who stood by the rail-track at Carlisle, Penn., when the ammunition had given out at Antietam, and he saw the train from Harrisburg, freighted with shot and shell, as it went thundering down towards the battlefield. He said that it stopped not for any crossing. They put down the brakes for no grade. They held up for no peril. The wheels were on fire with the speed as they dashed past. If the train did not come up in time with the ammunition, it might as well not come at all. So, my friends, there are times in our lives when we must have help immediately or perish. (Dr. Talmage.)
When men are willing to be saved we must help them
A poor fellow in Exeter Hall signed the temperance pledge some twenty or thirty years ago. He was a prize-fighter--a miserable, debauched, degraded, ignorant creature. A gentleman stood by his side, a builder in London, employing some hundreds of men, and he said to him--what did he say? “Stick to it?” No! “I hope you will stick to it, my friend?” No! “It will be a good thing for you if you stick to it?” No! He said this--“Where do you sleep to-night?” “Where I slept last night.” “And where is that?” “In the streets.” “No you won’t; you have signed this pledge, and you belong to this society, and you are going home with me.” (J. B. Gough.)
The value of help to seeking souls
Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough which was furthest from his own house, and next to the wicket gate: the which he did, but could not get out by reason of the burden that was upon his back; but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him whose name was Help. Then said he, “Give me thine hand.” So he gave him his hand, and he drew him out and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way. (J. Bunyan.)
Take up thy bed and walk
The hospital of waiters visited by the gospel
It was the Sabbath day and a feast. Where and how would Jesus spend it? Not in any trifling manner. He would do good; so He spent it amongst the afflicted, and not even among His friends.
I. First we will go down to BETHESDA, the hospital of waiters. There was nothing else that they could do before the troubling of the waters. There are enough waiters to-day to fill all the five porches.
1. Some are waiting for a more convenient season--on a sick-bed, possibly, or a dying-bed. How many years have you been waiting? The wise man lives to-day.
2. In the second porch a crowd is waiting for dreams and visions like those with which some ancient prophet was favoured. What is this but insulting unbelief? Is not Christ to be believed until a sign or wonder corroborates his testimony?
3. The third is full of people who are waiting for a sort of compulsion, They have heard about the drawing of the Spirit of God. But He acts upon the will by enlightening the understanding. The gospel, which says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is His, and to reject that is to reject Him.
4. In the fourth are people who are waiting for a revival. But the gospel command is not suspended until revival comes: that says, “To-day, if ye will hear His voice,” and if a revival should come it is very unlikely to affect procrastinators.
5. Many are waiting in the porch of expected impression. They want the minister to preach a sermon that touches them. But he has done so, again and again, and yet they are waiting. The people in the narrative were waiting for the moving waters, and not for Jesus, and that is what you are doing; and I want to teach you better.
(1) They attach great importance to the place. So do you, but Jesus can save as readily in your place of business on Monday as in your chapel on Sunday. Get ye to Him and not to the Church.
(2) They waited for an influence that was intermittent, and you are thinking of special seasons, whereas “Now is the accepted time.”
(3) They were waiting for an influence that was very limited to certain persons, and so many regard salvation as a privilege of a few, the moral, the well circumstanced, etc. But in the gospel there is room for all.
6. Some like the poor man placed reliance on others, and many now rest on the prayers of others rather than on Christ Himself.
II. CHRIST PICKS OUT THE MOST HELPLESS MAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD. He was not only impotent in body, but in mind, for instead of saying “yes” at once, he went on with a rambling story; and when healed he never asked Christ’s name. There are people like that now, who scarcely know their own mind, irresolute, unstable. But Christ pities them as He did him.
III. HOW JESUS DEALT WITH HIM. If Christ had belonged to a certain class of ministers He would have said, “Right, my man; you are lying at the pool of ordinances, and there you had better lie,” or--“You had better pray.” But, on the contrary,
1. He gave him a command. But to rise was impossible. Never mind, there was the command. It was a command which implied faith, and which had to prove itself by practical works. The man did believe, and rose, etc. Now, if you believe in Jesus, you will rise up and walk immediately.
2. The way faith came was very remarkable. He did not know Jesus: but you do, and His atonement for sin.
3. His faith, proved by rising, settled the matter.
4. There is life in a look at the crucified One here and at once. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The third miracle in John’s Gospel--Christ giving power to the powerless
This third of the miracles recorded in John’s Gospel finds a place there, as it would appear, for two reasons--first, because it marks the beginning of the angry unbelief on the part of the Jewish rulers, the development of which it is one part of the purpose of this Gospel to trace; second, because it is the occasion for that great utterance of our Lord’s about His Sonship and His Divine working as the Father also works, which occupies the whole of the rest of the chapter, and is the foundation of much which follows in the Gospel. Christ comes to this impotent man, and says, “Wilt thou be made whole?” meaning thereby to say, “I will heal thee if thou wilt.” And there comes the weary answer, as if the man had said, “Will I be made whole? What have I been lying here all these years for? I have nobody to put me into the pool.” Yes! It is a hopeful prospect to hold out to a man whose disease is inability to walk, that if he will walk to the water he will get cured, and be able to walk afterwards. Why, he could not even roll himself into the pond, and so there he had lain, a type of the hopeless efforts at self-healing which we sick men put forth, a type of the tantalizing gospels which the world preaches to its subjects when it says to a paralyzed man, “Walk that you may be healed; keep the commandments that you may enter into life.” I fix upon these words, the actual words in which the cure was conveyed, as communicating to us some very important lessons and thoughts about Christ and our relation to Him.
I. CHRIST MANIFESTING HIMSELF AS THE GIVER OF POWER TO THE POWERLESS THAT TRUST HIM. His words may seem at first hearing to partake of the very same almost cruel irony as the condition of cure which had already proved hopelessly impracticable. He, too, says, “Walk that you may be cured”; and he says it to a paralyzed and impotent man. But the two things are very different, for before this cripple could attempt to drag his impotent limbs into an upright position, and take up the little light couch and sling it over his shoulders, he must have had some kind of trust in the person that told him to do so. A very ignorant trust, no doubt, it was; but all that was set before him about Jesus Christ he grasped and rested upon. He only knew Him as a Healer, and he trusted Him as such. So it is no spiritualizing of this story, or reading into it a deeper and more religious meaning than belongs to it, to say that what passed in that man’s heart and mind before He caught up his little bed and walked away with it, was essentially the same action of mind and heart by which a sinful man, who knows that Christ is his Redeemer, grasps His Cross and trust his soul to Him. In the one case, as in the other, there is confidence in the person; only in the one case the person is only known as a Healer, and in the other the person is known as a Saviour. But the faith is the same whatever it apprehends. Christ comes and says to him, “Rise! take up thy bed and walk.” There is a movement of confidence in the man’s heart; he tries to obey, and in the act of obedience the power comes to him. All Christ’s commandments are gifts. When He says to you, “Do this!” He pledges Himself to give you power to do it.
We have in this miracle our lord set forth as the absolute master, because he is the healer.
The Pharisees and their friends had no eyes for the miracle; but if they found a man carrying his light couch on the Sabbath Day, that was a thing that excited their interest, and must be seen to immediately.
And so, paying no attention to the fact that it was a paralyzed man that was doing this, with the true, narrow instinct of the formalist, they lay hold only of the fact of the broken rabbinical restrictions, and try to stop him with it.
“It is the Sabbath Day! It is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
” And they got an answer which goes a great deal deeper than the speaker knew, and puts the whole subject of Christian obedience on its right footing.
He answered them, “He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk.
” As if He had said, “He gave me the power, had He not a right to tell me what to do with it? It was His gift that I could lift my bed; was I not bound to walk when and where He that had made me able to walk at all, chose to bid me?” And if you generalize that it just comes to this: the only person that has a right to command you is the Christ that saves you.
He has the absolute authority to do as He will with your restored spiritual powers, because He has bestowed them all upon you.
His dominion is built upon His benefits.
He is the King because He is the Saviour.
It is joy to know and to do the will of One to Whom the whole heart turns with gratitude and affection. And Christ blesses and privileges us by the communication to us of his pleasure concerning us, that we may have the gladness of yielding to His desires, and so meeting the love which commands with the happy love which obeys.
III. WE HAVE HERE OUR LORD SETTING HIMSELF FORTH AS THE DIVINE SON, WHOSE WORKING NEEDS AND KNOWS NO REST. “Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The rest, which the old story in Genesis attributed to the Creator after the Creation, was not to be construed as if it meant the rest of inactivity. But it was the rest of continuous action. God’s rest and God’s work are one. Throughout all the ages preservation is a continuous creation. The Divine energy is streaming out for evermore; as the bush that burns unconsumed, as the sun that flames undiminished for ever, pouring out from the depth of that Divine nature; and for ever sustaining a universe. So that there is no Sabbath, in the sense of a cessation from action, proper to the Divine nature; because all His action is repose, and “e’en in His very motion there is rest.” And this Divine coincidence of activity and of repose belongs to the Divine Son in His Divine human nature. With that arrogance which is the very audacity of blasphemy, if it be not the simplicity of a Divine consciousness, He puts His own work side by side with the Father’s work, as the same in principle, the same in method, the same in purpose, the same in its majestic coincidence of repose and of energy--“My Father worketh hitherto, and I Work. Therefore for Me, as for Him, there is no need of a Sabbath of repose.” Human activity is dissipated by toil, human energy is exhausted by expenditure. Man works and is weary; man works and is distracted. For the recovery of the serenity of his spirit, and for the renewal of his physical strength, repose of body, and gathering in of mind, such as the Sabbath brought, were needed; but neither is needed for Him who toils unwearied in the heavens; and neither is needed for the Divine nature of Him who labours in labours parallel with the Father’s here upon the earth.
IV. WE HAVE IN THIS INCIDENT THE HEALER, WHO IS ALSO THE JUDGE, WARNING THE HEALED OF THE POSSIBILITIES OF A RELAPSE (verse 14). The man’s eight-and-thirty years of illness had apparently been brought on by dissipation. It was a sin of flesh, avenged in the flesh, that had given him that miserable life. One would have thought he had got warning enough, but we all know the old proverb about what happened when the devil was ill, and what befell his resolutions when he got better. And so Christ comes to him again with this solemn warning. “There is a worse thing than eight-and-thirty years of paralysis. You fell once, and sore was your punishment.
If you fall twice, your punishment will be sorer.” Why? Because the first one has done you no good.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The rising life
I. WHO ARE TO RISE.
1. The sinful.
2. The spiritually depressed.
3. Declining Christians, for
(1) Their prayers have got low,
(2) their Bible reading,
(3) their attendance at Church and Holy Communion.
(4) Their intercourse with their family and the world.
(5) Their charities and general usefulness.
II. ABOVE WHAT ARE THEY TO RISE?
3. The world.
4. Their retrospects.
5. Their hopes.
6. Their sorrows.
III. TO WHAT are they to rise?
1. To Christ.
2. To duty.
3. To heaven. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Reasons for rising
I. TO PROCLAIM THE CURE.
II. TO EXCITE ATTENTION.
III. TO PROTEST AGAINST SUPERSTITION.
IV. TO PROVE HIS DIVINITY.
1. As a Worker of miracles.
2. As Lord of the Sabbath.
V. TO TEST THE FAITH AND OBEDIENCE OF THE HEALED. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
which the man was commanded to take up was neither a walnut bedstead, nor an iron bedstead, nor any other of the bed-structures to which we are accustomed in the West. The bed of a low-class Oriental may consist of anything from a rag to a rug. The poorer classes have often no other bed than the garment which they wear by day, which thus serves for a cloak by day and a bed by night. The bed which the infirm man was commanded to take up was, in all probability, simply the ordinary Oriental mat or rug, which could easily be rolled up and carried under the arm. (S. S. Times.)
Faith and works
Paul and James seem, to some, to take different views of faith and works. John here combines the views of the two inspired writers. It is faith that is demanded in this miracle; it is works that are called for. The man is to take up his bed and walk, as a proof that he believes that Jesus is able and ready to cure him. The reward is not of works as works, nor yet of faith without works, but of faith that is shown in works, and of works that arc a proof of faith. And thus it is in every call on us for faith or for works. Our works must be in evidence of our faith; our faith must be of the sort that shows itself in works. (H. C.Trumbull, D. D.)
The significance of the man’s act
For thirty-eight years had his bed borne the sick man, now the healed man bears his bed of infirmity away: in like manner do converted sinners take the materials of their former conversation, and at the same time with joy and shame bear them as trophies of victory, but as reminders too; thus does the converted miser, for example, say to mammon, “Formerly thou hadst me, but now I have thee;” he takes his possessions and goes away ready to lay out all that he has to God’s honour and service. But the bed of sickness, when it is turned into the restored man’s trophy of victory, should also preach of the healing work of God. (R. Besser, D. D.)
The same day was the Sabbath.
I. ALL THE OLD TESTAMENT INSTITUTIONS HAD A SPECIAL FOUNDATION.
1. Those which have a foundation in the common necessities of man and the common relation of men to God. These were not peculiar to the Jews, but were incorporated into their system because they were men. To this class belong all moral precepts and the Sabbath.
2. Those which had respect to the peculiar circumstances of the Jews; such as distinction between clean and unclean meats, circumcision, etc. These bound the Jews as Jews and them only.
3. Those which were designed to be typical of the Messiah, His work and Kingdom. These were mostly incorporations of prior institutions with the Mosiac law.
II. THAT THE SABBATH BELONGS TO THE CLASS OF UNIVERSAL LAWS, binding all men and ages is evident.
1. Because it was instituted before the Law.
2. Because the ground of its observances was a general ground, one in which all nations were concerned.
3. Because it was predicted that it would be observed under the reign of the Messiah.
4. Because its observance has been, in fact, continued as a Divine injunction by the whole Christian Church.
5. It is incorporated in the decalogue.
III. REASONS FOR THE INSTITUTION.
(1) The reason why the seventh day was appointed was to commemorate the work of creation. This is the foundation of all religion, and it is of universal importance that it should be remembered.
(2) The special reason for the observance of the first day was the commemoration of the Resurrection, on which rested the truth of the gospel. If Christ rose then the gospel is true. If the world was created then there is a personal God, the Maker, Preserver and Ruler of the universe.
2. Reasons why one day in seven should be observed.
(1) The necessity of rest for man and beast, for mind and body.
(2) To afford time for public worship.
(a) This is essential for the preservation and diffusion of truth; without it the people would sink into ignorance.
(b) It is necessary as a means of conversion, as it is by the preaching of the gospel that men are saved.
(c) As a means of edification when attendance is not possible. A Sabbath-neglecting people are notoriously irreligious.
(d) As the only opportunity of rendering God that public worship which is the duty of every community as such, as well as of every individual.
(3) To arrest the tide of worldliness; to cause men to stop and remember that this world is not all nor greatest. Without this we should not be aware of our progress toward eternity.
IV. THE MODE OF OBSERVANCE IS DETERMINED BY THE OBJECT OF THE DAY.
1. It includes rest from all worldly avocations and amusements.
2. The cultivation of a religious spirit and the discharge of religious duties. The Pharisaic mode is one extreme, the latitudinarian is another. The latter is the tendency now. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
Christ healed men on all sorts of days: but Sabbaths were high days of grace. Six special cases are recorded.
1. The evil spirit cast out (Luke 4:31-35).
2. The withered hand restored (Luke 6:6-10).
3. The crooked woman made straight Luke 13:10-17).
4. The man with the dropsy cured (Luke 14:1-6).
5. The impotent man made whole (text).
6. The blind man’s eyes opened (John 9:1-14). As God rested on the Sabbath and hallowed it; so as God it was rest for Jesus to heal, and thus He hallowed the day. As Man also He rested His heart, exercised a holy ministry, glorified God, and hallowed the day.
I. THESE CURES MET MANY CASES.
1. Those under satanic influence. Many are in this case.
2. Those conscious of spiritual inability.
3. Those bowed down with great distress, despondency and despair. This poor woman had been infirm for eighteen years.
4. Those smitten with mortal disease, which typifies the deadly character of sin.
5. Those altogether paralyzed. This man was impotent for thirty-eight years.
6. Those in total darkness as to all spiritual truth.
II. THESE CURES REPRESENT USUAL PROCESSES.
1. A word addressed to the devil. Satan feels the power of the
Word of God, but cares for nothing else.
2. A word personal to the sufferer. He was unable, and yet he was commanded; and he obeyed. This is the gospel method.
3. A word accepted as done. Faith turns promise into fact, gospel-teaching into actual salvation.
4. Power without a word.
5. A word arousing and commanding. Many are saved by being stirred up from long inactivity and lethargy.
6. A word associated with other means. The whole miracle is deeply instructive on this point. In these varied forms and fashions, Jesus works on the Sabbath.
III. THESE CURES WERE BOTH IN AND OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE.
1. There, and misbehaving.
2. There and singled out from the crowd.
3. There and called to Jesus.
4. After the synagogue service.
5. Too feeble to get there.
6. Too poor to be there.
IV. THESE CURES WERE ALL UNSOUGHT. This is one special feature about them all.
1. The possessed man entreated Christ to leave him alone.
2. The man with the withered hand did not think of cure.
3. The infirm woman did not hope for healing.
4. The man with the dropsy did not ask for the blessing.
5. The infirm man was too paralyzed to seek Christ.
6. It was an unheard-of thing that the eyes of a man born blind should be opened, and therefore he did not expect it.
This also is the Sabbath; let us look to the Lord of the Sabbath. Will He not this day bless those who are seekers? Will He not bless those whom we bring to Him? Will He not bless those for whom we pray? (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The arrest of a (so-called) Sabbath-breaker
I. AN ACCUSATION PREFERRED (John 5:10).
1. Certainly strange. Congratulation might have been expected towards the man and gratitude towards Jesus.
2. Seemingly just. The action violated Rabbinical prescription and the letter of Scripture. But an action may contravene the literal sense and yet be in accordance with the Spirit (Matthew 12:4-5), and vice versa Matthew 15:3-6).
3. Essentially false. Christ repudiated the ordinance which renders criminal a natural and necessary action.
II. AN EXPLANATION OFFERED (verse 11).
1. Transparently simple (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).
2. Perfectly natural. To the unsophisticated mind it seemed obvious that One who could heal him should bid him take up his bed.
3. Wholly insufficient. The defence was an aggravation. He had obeyed a Sabbath-breaker. His physician was a greater sinner than himself. So men who from good motives at the outset begin to deviate from the laws of heaven by addition or subtraction, and by confounding moral distinctions, end by turning vice and virtue upside down (Matthew 17:12).
III. A VINDICATION GIVEN (verse 17).
1. Startlingly bold. Based on three facts
(1) That the supreme Lawgiver ceased not from Sabbath activity.
(2) That He (Christ) stood towards that Supreme Sabbath Worker in the relation of Son.
(3) That He, as such, was co-worker with God in all that God did.
Hence, whatever He as Father’s Son did was that Father’s working itself.
2. Completely unanswerable. Hence they accused Him of blasphemy.
3. Fatally decisive. They resolved on His destruction.
1. To sanctify the Sabbath by doing good to the bodies and souls of men.
2. To help Christ’s cause by telling what great things He hath done.
3. That people do not always know who their best benefactors are.
4. That those whom Christ has healed should be found in the sanctuary.
5. That the best prophylactic against physical disease is to fear God, and keep His commandments.
6. That Christ is perfectly able to vindicate His ways. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
He that made me whole, the same said unto me, take up thy bed and walk.--The principle here is grand and far reaching, it applies to the whole life. He that saves has the right to command.
I. SALVATION, HEALING OF SOUL, IS THE FOUNDATION AND STARTING POINT OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We must be before we can do.
II. WHY DO I LIVE AS A CHRISTIAN?
1. Is it because it is safe, or prudent, because the evidence seems predominantly in favour of Christianity, because others are Christians? There may be something in these motives, but
2. No Christianity can live and flourish which is not more deeply rooted.
3. What, then, is the root?? Gratitude, not fear, custom, or calculation. This animated the apostles--“We love Him because He first loved us;” the glorified “Unto Him that loved us,” etc.
4. This motive of gratitude is the deepest, strongest, most constraining and abiding. If this ever dies Christianity dies with it.
III. CHRIST’S RIGHT TO RULE IS GROUNDED ON HIS SALVATION. He gives the life; surely, then, it is His to control and direct. He cannot have saved us that we may do as we like with ourselves. That is just what we did before we were saved. When we are saved, we are saved from our self-will. The man took up his bed and walked because he had been made whole, and that he might show that he was made whole. It was both obedience and evidence, and there is no Christian life that is not the same.
IV. HOW DOES OUR LIFE BEAR THIS TEST, that He who is the healer of the soul is also the authority for our life. We are challenged again and again as this man was challenged. The men of custom meet us as they met Him.
1. It is well not wantonly to defy a practice which is not foolish or mischievous. Many established practices should be respected because they exist and do no harm, and render intercourse possible and pleasant. Many of them Christ respected.
2. But the customs which seek to govern us with all the authority of a Divine claim when they have no such claim, eating with unwashed hands, etc., should be resisted as He resisted them. They make men slaves, turn religion into a torture, and quench the light of the sabbath. We are under the law to Christ.
V. It is a glorious thing to remember that WHAT CHRIST COMMANDS IS RIGHT, whether we understand His reasons or not. We must grow into the knowledge of them little by little.
VI. WHATEVER CHRIST COMMANDS HE GIVES US POWER TO DO. He never separates duty from power. “My grace is sufficient.” (E. Mellor, D. D.)
The work of grace the warrant for obedience
I. A JUSTIFICATION. This poor man could not defend his action, for his enemies were learned in the law and he was not, but he did what you and I must always do when we are at all puzzled--he hid himself behind Christ and pleaded; “He that made me whole,” etc. I may not find in my own knowledge and ability an authority equal to that of learned unbelievers, but my personal experience of the power of grace will stand me in as good a stead as this man’s cure was to him. He argued that the cure made the healer an authority above that of the greatest rabbi.
1. There are certain ordinances about which the world raises a storm of questions. The world does not take notice that a man who was once a drunkard has become sober, etc. It lets that miracle pass by unheeded; but he is going to be baptized and they at once object to the ordinance, or he is going to join the church and straightway they jeer at him as a Presbyterian or a Methodist. Blind creatures to despise the medicine which heals because of the bottle or the label! We seek no justification but this--“He that made us whole “ gave us the command. The same with the Lord’s supper.
2. The same apology applies to the doctrines of the gospel. Justification by faith is quarrelled with. “They will lead loose lives; they will sin that grace may abound.” A complete answer to the calumny may be found in the fact that believers in justification are among the best and purest; but we prefer to remind our adversaries that He who has regenerated us has taught us that “Whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved,” etc., that by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
3. The same applies to Christ’s precepts. If the Christian is true to his colours he keeps himself aloof from the sinful pleasures, practices, and policies of the world, consequently he is told that he is precise, singular, and self-opinioned. The text is the answer for all Christians.
II. AN OBLIGATION.
1. The argument takes this form: If He made me whole He is Divine, or at least must be divinely authorized, and I am therefore bound to obey. Jesus, who has saved us, is our God--shall we not obey Him?
2. There was also goodness as well as power, and this touched the poor man’s heart--“I must do what my great Deliverer bids me.”
3. If you have been saved you are under an obligation to do what Jesus bids you.
(1) Are you redeemed? Then henceforth ye are not your own.
(2) Are you forgiven? Does not pardon demand amendment?” Whatsoever He saith unto you do it. Pray, love your brethren; be perfect.
III. A CONSTANT. It was not an ordinary word, but one with power. Not unwillingly did the restored man carry his bed, yet he did it of constraint, for the same power made him obedient. Do you feel reluctant in duty? Surely you need to draw near to the Lord again and hear His voice anew. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We do not want to destroy willinghood, but we would have it quickened into entire subservience to the will of the Lord. Like Noah’s ark on dry land, the will keeps its place by its own dead weight. Oh! for a flood of grace to move, to lift, to upbeat it; to carry it away by a mighty current! We would be borne before the love of Christ as a tiny piece of wood is drifted by the gulf-stream, or as one of the specks which dance in the sunbeam would be carried by a rushing wind. As the impulse, which begins with Jesus, found the poor man passive because utterly unable to be otherwise, and then impelled him on to active movements as with a rush of power, so may it ever be with us throughout life. May we for ever yield to the Divine impulse. To be passive in the Lord’s hands is a good desire, but to be what I would call actively passive, to be cheerfully submissive, willingly to give up our will, this is a higher spiritual mood. We must live, and yet not we, but Christ in us. We must act, and yet we must say, He that made me whole bade me do this holy deed, and I do it because His power moves me thereunto. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The highest authority must be obeyed
In Michelet’s “Joan of Arc” it is related that the two authorities, the paternal and the celestial, enjoined her two opposite commands. The one ordered her to remain obscure, modest and labouring; the other, to set out and save the kingdom. The angel bade her arm herself. Her father, rough and honest peasant as he was, swore that rather than his daughter should go away with men-at-arms he would drown her with his own hands. One or other disobey she must. Beyond a doubt this was the greatest battle she was called upon to fight; those against the English were play in comparison.
What man is that which said unto thee
Tendencies of society
I. TO STIR UP AND STRENGTHEN THE IMPULSES OF OUR ANIMAL NATURE.
II. TO PRODUCE HABITS OF SUPERFICIAL THOUGHT.
III. TO DESTROY THE SENSE OF INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY.
IV. TO PROMOTE FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. (H. W. Van Doren, D. D.)
1. If the first power of Christianity was embodied in miracle it was miracle distinctly expressive of its spirit. The gift of tongues and of healing represent the two grand functions of our religion to bear persuasion to the minds and bring mercy to the physical ills of men. When the men of Galilee stood forth to preach the first glad tidings to that multitude of many tongues, what better symbol could there be of that religion whose spirit is intelligible to all because it addresses itself to the universal human heart? And when the crowd of weary sufferers thronged the apostles’ steps, how better could be represented the character of that faith which has lessened age after age the stripes wherewith humanity is stricken. In the spirit of these acts of Providence we may participate.
2. But nothing could be more unostentatious than the diffusion of Christ’s mercy by the missionaries in the days of old. We feel an idle pride in Paul’s conspicuous adventures; but watch him even in Rome. He was not one to pass through its scenes of magnificence with stupid indifference. But his noblest dignity was not that he paced the forum, but that he lingered in the dens of wretchedness, and shed on the darkest lot a light of hope. And the true dignity of our religion is that it has gone about doing good, and so silently that “he that was healed wist not who it was.”
3. It can never be unreasonable for those who bear Christ’s name to imitate His Spirit, but winter brings with it a peculiar call to mercy, for, however constant the visitations of sickness and bereavement, the fall of the year is most thickly strewn with the fall of human life. How shall we render the fitting service of the season?
I. By thinking Of human ills in the SPIRIT OF RELIGION; regarding them in their relation to the Great Will, and recognizing their position in a system of universal Providence, and being moved by them to reverence and trust.
II. In the SPIRIT OF SELF-APPLICATION. This is difficult, and it is asked, “Why should it be otherwise? Why forestall the inevitable day?” I grant that to think of death in an abject and melancholy spirit is no act of wisdom or duty. Futurity is not to mar but to mend our duty. But it is a fact, and the sense of it breaks up the superficial crust of life and stirs the deeper affections.
III. In the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY. It were selfish to gather round our firesides without a thought or deed of pity for the poor sufferers outside. Oh, could we but see the dead gripe of misery, the only difficulty would be, not to stimulate our generosity, but to persuade it to work wisely.
1. This is indeed a difficulty how to relieve the want and raise the man; how to combine the deed of condescension with the helpful recognition and inspiration of human brotherhood.
2. Another difficulty; we form our good intentions too late. We rarely better ourselves till evils get well ahead, and by no effort can we well be overtaken. We permit a generation to grow up neglected, and then consider how it is to be reclaimed.
3. But, taking facts as they are, you cannot mechanize benevolence, nor put Christian love into an Act of Parliament or a subscription list. However necessary may be the remedial action of laws and institutions, the ties between man and man can be drawn closer, and common ills remedied only by personal agency. (J. Martineau, D. D.)
The malignity of the questioners
reveals itself in the very shape which their question assumes. They do not take up the man’s words on their more favourable side, which also would have been the more natural: nor ask, “What man is that which made thee whole?” But probably, themselves at least, guessing who his Healer was, they insinuate that He could not be from God, who gave a command which they, the interpreters of God’s law, esteemed so grievous an outrage against it. So will they weaken and undermine any influence which Christ must have obtained over this simple man--an influence already manifest in his finding our Lord’s authority sufficient to justify him in the transgression of their commandment. (Abp. Trench.)
Jesus had conveyed Himself away.--There is something beautifully significant in this word as here applied to Christ. He emerged, glided, dived forth invisibly from the waves of the crowd, and re- appeared in the quiet harbour of the house of God. Our Lord has now withdrawn His bodily presence from the crowd of this world in order that we may see Him with the eye of faith. He has dived through the clouds of this lower world of sin and sorrow, and has emerged into the pure, crystal, empyrian of heaven. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
A metaphor from swimming; the multitude like water closing behind Him. We have no word in our poor tongue to express the retiring of Deity Proverbs 25:2). The secret descent of the nightly dew, and the noiseless movement of the mighty orbs of heaven illustrate this. No one hears the sunlight, or the operation of those laws that bind atoms and worlds. (H. W. Van Doren, D. D.)
Thou art made whole: Sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee
Sin and Judgment
I. WE HAVE ALL SINNED.
1. What is sin?
(1) Its Scriptural appellations. Injustice (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34). Error (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34; Judges 20:16). Unlawfulness (Hebrews 8:12; Exodus 34:7).
(2) Its nature (1 John 3:4).
(a) Contrarity to God’s law, either habitual or actual.
(b) Provocation of His anger (Psalms 95:8; Psalms 95:10; Psalms 106:29; Psalms 106:32).
(c) A separation from God (Isaiah 59:2).
(d) A loss of innocency or righteousness.
(e) A staining or defiling of the soul (Titus 1:15).
(f) Guilt or obligation to the penalty denounced (Galatians 3:10). Hence all sins are called debts (Matthew 6:12).
2. How does it appear that all have sinned?
(1) From Scripture (1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8).
(2) From reason, because all descend from Adam (Ro 1 Corinthians 15:22; Psalms 51:5; Ephesians 2:3).
(3) From experience.
3. Uses. Hence we may learn
(1) The sad effects of the first sin (Romans 5:19).
(2) That we have no reason to complain of any of God’s judgments Lamentations 3:39).
(3) That no salvation can be expected from ourselves (Galatians 2:10; Galatians 3:10).
(4) That it highly concerns us to search our own hearts, and view our lives, and find out our sins, and to condemn ourselves for them.
II. SIN IS THE CAUSE OF GOD’S JUDGMENTS
1. What are judgments? Toe effects of God’s anger.
2. How are sins the cause of God’s judgments (Ezra 9:13; Job 11:6; Psalms 107:17; Lamentations 1:5-8; Lamentations 5:10).
3. How does it appear that sins are thus the cause of judgments?
(1) Sin brought misery in general upon mankind at first (Genesis 3:16-19); for man at first was made as upright, so happy (Genesis 1:26; Ecclesiastes 7:29); yet he was mutable. Hence God, to awe him to obedience, threatened death if he sinned (Genesis 2:17). But man, notwithstanding this, sinned, and God therefore could not but in justice inflict the punishment (Genesis 18:25). Hence all mankind became liable to all the judgments of God.
(2) Sin is the cause also of particular judgments; as appears
(a) From Scripture (Psalms 107:17; Ezra 9:13, etc.).
(b) From reason for all judgments came from an offended God Lamentations 1:12), and nothing offends God but sin.
(c) From experience: the old world, Sodom, etc.
(1) Therefore, in time of adversity, consider (Ecclesiastes 7:14) our sinfulness, God’s sovereignty and power (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6), and the danger of incurring His displeasure.
(2) Rend your hearts and turn to the Lord (Joel 2:12-13).
III. HOW ARE WE TO BEHAVE WHEN DELIVERED FROM ANY JUDGMENT?
1. Resort to public ordinances
(1) To make public confession of our sins in offending God (2 Chronicles 7:13-14), and of God’s justice in afflicting us (Psalms 51:4).
(2) Make public acknowledgment of our thankfulness to God for His power and mercy (Lamentations 3:2).
(3) Make our public prayers to God
(a) For the pardon of those sins whereby we have deserved His judgments.
(b) For a blessing upon His judgments.
(c) For grace to live like those who have been under the rod.
2. It must be our greatest study and endeavour to sin no more.
(1) How sin no more. Not with love to sin, nor delight in it (Psalms 119:113; Romans 7:22), nor with allowance of it; but do our utmost to avoid commission of it.
(2) What must we do to keep ourselves from sin. Search the Scriptures; frequent ordinances (Romans 10:17); avoid occasion of sin, such as vain thoughts, idle words, loose company, etc.
IV. GOD HAS YET WORSE judgments in store for us if we still go on sinning Leviticus 26:15-16).
1. Temporal, and these
(1) National--a worse plague (Numbers 16:49; 2 Samuel 24:15); a worse fire (Genesis 19:24); a worse sword, civil war or invasion (Leviticus 26:37; Lamentations 1:1-3); a worse famine (2 Kings 6:25).
(2) Or personal, for He can curse our remaining blessingsMalachi 2:2; Malachi 2:2), or deprive us of them, or send a disease upon us Acts 12:23).
(1) He can remove His ordinances (Revelation 2:5).
(2) Withdraw His blessings (Matthew 21:43).
(3) Blind our eyes (Isaiah 6:9-10).
(4) Suffer us to be led into heresies (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
(5) Withhold His restraining grace (Romans 1:24-27).
(6) Let us alone in our sins without control (Hosea 4:17; Isaiah 1:5).
(7) Harden our hearts (Exodus 4:21; 2 Kings 6:33).
(8) Startle and affright our conscience into despair.
3. Eternal (Matthew 25:41). (Bp. Beveridge.)
Sin and suffering
This is the parting advice of a physician. It is not ordinary medical advice. It utters no warning against the night air, exposure to infection, irregular habits, or indigestible food. Let us inquire into
I. THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THIS WARNING IS FOUNDED. This; that we are under the moral government of God.
1. Evils are divinely inflicted on men on account of sin. God is holy, which means that He hates sin and seeks to destroy it; that He is good, and delights in the happiness of His subjects; that He is wise, and contemplates the highest ends, and selects the most effectual method to carry them into effect. But there are no purposes higher than those of perfect holiness and infinite love, and there are no means more effectual than to link sin with suffering, and purity with happiness.
2. When one stroke of God’s hand is not followed by the end desired, He may inflict a heavier; just as human governments have graduated punishments. God is in no want of resources. All the agencies of nature are at His command, and if His first stroke has been too light, the second will be heavier; and if gentleness has failed, severity will be tried.
II. ITS PRACTICAL BEARING ON OURSELVES. What his sin was we are not informed; but possibly it was just what many of you young people are guilty of every day, a general godlessness of heart and life. And so the stroke came as much as to say, “If that is the use you are going to make of your powers, it is well that they should be for a while taken from you.” In long weary years he learnt the lesson, and the gifts of God were restored. So some of you have been blessed by a curse; take care that you are not cursed by means of a blessing.
1. It is a shame if we should need a worse thing to come upon us.
(1) In the course of our affliction we were made to feel the connection of our suffering with our sin. Then is it not shameful that, having been taught this once, we should need to learn it again in still deeper sorrow?
(2) Our souls have also been touched by the lovingkindness of God--then ought not the current of our grateful impulses to carry us in a course of duty?
2. Are we prepared for this worse thing? God has given His people a succession of calamities as an example of what He can do in this way--Amos 4:1-13; Amos 4:1-13., Pharaoh, etc.
3. There is not only a worse, but a worst thing impending over the impenitent sinner--the final loss of the soul. (Prof. Charlton.)
The pardon of sin
Pardon is an essential stage in the subjugation of sin.
1. There are those who place it last, but this is counter to Romans 7:1-25. where forgiveness is assumed, and yet the conflict is maintained.
2. Others, again, make pardon to cover all future delinquencies, which contradicts St. John (1 John 1:1-10.). But pardon goes a great way to the conquest of sin.
I. THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN CANNOT GO WITHOUT SOMETHING OF THE SIN GOING TOO. “The Lamb of God taketh away” not the punishment, but the “sin of the world.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” actual sin. What would it avail us that results were taken away while the first cause remained in its strength?
II. THE MAN WHO HAS TASTED OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS IS IN WHICH BETTER CONDITION TO OVERCOME THE CORRUPTIONS OF HIS OWN HEART. His weakness is linked on to God’s omnipotence.
III. A SPRING OF ACTION IS SET AT WORK IN THE HEART WITH WHICH NOTHING ELSE CAN COMPARE. The love of Christ. We can all see what a difference it is to fight in the light of a smile or to fight in the darkness of a frown. The Saviour’s method with the impotent man was analogous; pardon was a part of expulsion; and having forgiven him, connected his first calamity with his sin, and his future happiness with his future goodness. This gave him a reason, a capacity for good. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
In the temple
Not in the market; and there Jesus met him who had not known Him in the crowd. Jesus escapes from the crowd, but He finds us and is found by us in the temple. God is seen in solitude; the multitude makes a din around us and hides Him from us. The Divine vision demands religious retirement and holy peace in His house, apart from the strife of tongues. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
A worse thing even in this life might befall him. His sickness had found him a youth, and left him an old man; it had withered up all his manhood, and yet a worse thing than this is threatened him, should he sin again. Let no man, however miserable, count that he has exhausted the power of God’s wrath. The arrows that have pierced him may have been keen; but there are keener yet, if only he provoke them, in the quiver from whence these were drawn. What the past sin was we do not know, but the man knew, and Christ connected the man’s suffering with his sin. As some eagle, pierced with a shaft feathered from its own wing, so many a sufferer, even in this present time, sees, and is compelled to acknowledge, that his own sin fledged the arrow which has pierced him and brought him down. And lest he should miss the connection, oftentimes he is punished, it may be is sinned against by his fellow man in the very kind wherein he has sinned against others (Judges 1:6-7; Ge Exodus 35:15; Exodus 35:15; Jeremiah 51:49; Habakkuk 2:8; Revelation 16:6). The deceiver is deceived as was Jacob (Genesis 27:19; Genesis 27:24; Genesis 29:23; Genesis 31:7; Genesis 37:32): the violater of the sanctities of family life is himself wounded and outraged in his nearest and tenderest relations as was 2 Samuel 11:4; 2 Samuel 13:14; 2 Samuel 16:22); the troubler is troubled Joshua 7:25). He has no choice but to say, like Edmund in “King Lear,” “The wheel has come full circle, I am here.” And many a sinner who cannot thus read his own doom, for it is a final and fatal one, yet declares in that doom to others that there is indeed a coming back upon men of their sins. The grandson of Ahab is himself treacherously slain in the portion of Naboth (2 Kings 9:23); William Rufus perishes, himself the third of his family who does so, in the New Forest, a chief scene of the sacrilege and the crimes of his race. (Abp. Trench.)
A person who suspected that a minister of his acquaintance was not truly orthodox went to him and said, “Sir, I am told that you are against the perseverance of the saints.” “Not I, indeed,” answered he; it is the perseverance of sinners that I oppose.” The other replied, “But that is not a satisfactory answer. Do you think that a child of God cannot fall very low, and yet be restored?” The minister answered, “I think it will be very dangerous to make the experiment.” (E. Foster.)
Penalty of apostasy
Richard Denton, an English blacksmith, who apostatized to avoid martyrdom, perished, shortly after, in the flames of his own dwelling. (E. Foster.)
A warning to the restored
We are not told what the effect was of this warning; whether it restrained the man, as it was intended to do, to a moderate enjoyment of his restored health. But, for the sake of illustration, let us suppose that he did not profit by Christ’s warning, but that he made the most, as it would be called, of his newly acquired health and strength; that he let himself loose in the enjoyment of everything that came within his reach; that he gave free play to the long pent-up desires of his youth, just like one who has unexpectedly come into the possession of a large fortune which he sees no bounds to, and accordingly determines to enjoy to the uttermost, so that he comes again to the old disease. And now let us compare his second illness with his first. As far as his mere bodily state is concerned, we may imagine him to be in much the same condition as when he lay by the side of the pool of Bethesda, waiting for the stirring of the waters. But what must be the state of his feelings now in this second stage of his infirmity, compared with what they were before? What a use to have made of Jesus Christ’s great kindness to him and of His words of warning; what an end to bring himself to after having thus come close to his Deliverer; how bitterly would he repent of ever having been healed; how he would wish with all his heart that he had gone through life the impotent cripple that he was when Jesus Christ first met with him! I may seem to be putting an unlikely case, but, indeed, it is a far too common one. Some of us have had occasion to thank God for a recovery from a bad accident or dangerous illness; after weeks, or perhaps months of pain or weakness, we have, by God’s blessing, got quite strong and well again, and have gone about our old occupations and amusements as before; we have felt an increased delight in everything, from the very fact of having been for a time deprived of it all. Well, then, on every such occasion Jesus Christ meets us with the same warning which He addressed to this man, “Behold,. thou are made whole; sin no more, lest,” etc. He has given you your health again, or rather, He has lent it to you again, on certain conditions. And the chief of these is, that you should make a better use of your powers than you did before, that you should spend them more freely and heartily in His service. He sent you your sickness because He saw you making a bad use of your health; He sends you health again, that you may have an opportunity of showing that you have learned the lesson which your sickness was sent to teach you. But if you go on after your recovery just as you did before, if you still go on living to yourself and to your sins, and not to God, then you must expect this worse thing to come to you, of which your Saviour has warned you. And it will be well for you if God, in His mercy, sends you a still severer sickness, or still heavier misfortune, to force you away from your sinful enjoyment of this life, and to make you at least, give the days of your sickness to God, since you will not give Him the days of your health. But there is a worse thing still in store for us, if we neglect to hear Jesus Christ when He calls us. We may go through life with all our powers of body and mind in their full strength; we may enjoy all that this world has to give us, down to the very dregs; we may go down at last to the grave with no sign of the fulfilment of Christ’s warning; and then it is reserved for the warning to fulfil itself in all its awfulness in another world than this. Oh, may none of us have to wait for this worst thing of all to happen to us; let us beseech God to visit us with every kind of suffering here, rather than leave us to bear the accumulated weight of our sins in eternity. (H. Harris, B. D.)
Christian fear of relapse into sin
Consider, first, what awful notions our Saviour would here impress on us concerning the future end and sure punishment of sin. “A worse thing”--worse, that is, than a palsy of thirty and eight years: worse than lying, helpless and weary, day after day in sight of relief, and seeing one after another step down into the pool and be made whole, while he was himself unable to stir, and had no friend to lift him: yet, says Christ, if you fall again into wilful sin, you are to expect worse than this. Here, then, you at once discern one most merciful purpose of Almighty God, in sending upon men pain and calamity. It may serve effectually, as a kind of sample, to teach them, feelingly as it were, somewhat of the wrath and justice of God. It may serve to awaken a wholesome fear of falling into His hands without a Mediator to speak for them. And happy indeed will that man prove, whose severe bodily pains shall have taught him in time to recollect and fear the torments of hell. But where things unhappily turn out otherwise; where the caution of our Lord is slighted, and the evil habit, suspended only by the affliction, returns and grows over the man anew; or he falls into fresh transgressions; that man’s case is worse in many respects than if he had never been visited at all.
1. First, his wickedness is greatly aggravated by his ingratitude for God’s especial mercies. “The goodness of God,” says an Apostle, “leadeth to repentance;” i.e., the very purpose of the Almighty Father in sparing such disobedient children, was to melt them as it were by His mercy, and make them feel pained and ashamed at the thought of displeasing Him any longer.
2. Again, as such a case is very bad in itself, so it has the worst possible effect. It sears and deadens the heart and conscience, rendering it more and more difficult for any good advice, either of God or man, to find its way into our thoughts. If you reflect on such a relapse at all, you must own it to be mere wickedness of heart, settled ingratitude to your best friend; and that is a thought so painful, that impenitent souls, in order to avoid it, shrink from serious reflection altogether. Thus every day their bad habits strengthen, while their chance of repenting grows less and less.
3. Observe by what steps and degrees that wretched decay comes on, which makes the redeemed of the Son of God first unthankful and then, unholy; and do you, by the blessing of God, resolve to set yourself against every one of them. Thus, there can be no doubt that the first step in most men’s corruption and degeneracy is their wilful neglect of private prayer; of reading and meditating on holy things. Again: it is a perilous step towards relapsing, when a man finds himself content to stand still, sad taking no pains to get forward. There are some hills so steep, that he who would climb them must keep urging himself upwards, else he is sure to fall back: he cannot stop and breathe where he will. (Plain Sermons by Contributors to “Tracts for the Times. ”)
The man departed and told the Jews
Confession of Christ
I. ITS NATURE. “Told.” Some think a healed life a sufficient testimony. So it is when the author of the healing is known, but not otherwise. When a man is cured of a dangerous disease his health is a testimony to some one’s medical skill; but who’s? The restored patient must “tell” to bear testimony to the physician. So the life of a renovated Christian is a witness to some power. But who has exercised the power? Himself: by thought and resolution? His friends: by advice and influence? No, Jesus Himself. Then let the renovated Christian say so.
II. Its SUBSTANCE. “That it was Jesus which had made him whole.”
1. It avoids controversial matters. The man declined to say anything about taking up his bed; probably he could not discuss the Sabbath question; anyhow it was irrelevant. Let the confessor of Christ not be tempted into disputes.
2. It keeps to the point.
(1) The person of Jesus.
(2) The work of Jesus--personal, miraculous, complete.
III. Its BASIS.
1. Experience. As in the case of conversion it was not a fancy, but a felt fact. He knew that he was made whole by the use of his limbs. The Christian knows that he has been made whole by the employment of his regenerated powers.
2. Revelation (verse 14). It was not a speculation, but a statement grounded on Christ’s information. So the Holy Spirit of Christ bears witness with our spirits.
IV. Its INSPIRATION.
1. Certainly not a desire to injure Jesus by revealing Him to His enemies. Such a thought could hardly have entered the man’s mind.
2. But gratitude desiring to make widely known the source by which he was healed. What is ours? Personal display or self-abnegating thankfulness?
V. Its OBJECTS. “The Jews.” Probably the Sanhedrim, for so the expression seems to mean in John (cf. John 1:19; John 7:1; John 9:22; John 18:12; John 18:14)
1. Whoever asks for it. The Jews challenged it, and the man took up the challenge. Be always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you to every man.
2. The most influential. The Sanhedrim’s acknowledgment of Jesus would have carried the nation. How helpful to his Master the Christian in high places, in the court or parliament. Let him not hide his light under a bushel.
VI. Its CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Courage. The poor man bore his testimony before the rich, powerful, learned. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear.”
2. Self-abnegation. It was to Jesus alone, not to his co-operation with Jesus, “Made him whole,” not “by whom he walked.”
3. Beneficent. By this means the sick might know the healer.
VII. Its EFFECTS.
1. Unstudied by the man. How it would be received he knew not. The Christian is to do his duty regardless of consequences, “Whether they will bear or forbear.”
2. Apparently disastrous. The Jews sought to slay Jesus. Let the man who fears to bear witness before infidels and scoffers remember this. Augmented antagonism must not discourage duty.
3. Eventually glorious: This was the first act in the drama of redemption. The Jews slew Jesus, but by that He became the Saviour of the world. The preaching of Christ in the early centuries and more recently, e.g., in Madagascar, led to terrible persecution, but eventually to the triumph of the gospel. (J. W. Burn.)
Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus.
The fickleness of popularity
On the 25th of July, 1553, Northumberland and Lord Ambrose Dudley were brought in from Cambridge, escorted by Grey and Arundel with four hundred of the Guards. Detachments of troops were posted all along the streets from Bishopsgate, where the Duke would enter, to the Tower to prevent the mob from tearing him to pieces. It was but twelve days since he had ridden out from that gate in the splendour of his power; he was now assailed from all sides with yells and execrations, bareheaded, with cap in hand, he bowed to the crowd as he rode on, as if to win some compassion from them; but so recent a humility could find no favour. His scarlet cloak was plucked from his back; the only sounds which greeted his ears were, “Death to the traitor,” and he hid his face, sick at heart, and Lord Ambrose burst into tears. (J. A. Froude.)
My Father worketh hitherto and I work.
The best workers
God the Father and God the Son are the best workers, because they work.
I. SO EXTENSIVELY. To do anything extensively is to do it on a large scale. If you had a flower-garden which covered twenty acres of ground, that would be an extensive garden. If you were a carpenter, or a printer, and giving work to four or five hundred men, then you would, be carrying on that business extensively. If I could preach in all the churches of this city at the same time, then I should be preaching extensively. But I can only preach in one place at a time. And so it is with a carpenter, or a mason, or any other human worker. But it is very different with these heavenly workers. They can work in all places at the same time--in heaven, directing the angels and making them happy; in this world; in this church; in all our homes; on the sea as well as on the land; upon the sky.
II. SO QUIETLY. It is very pleasant to have things done quietly, but it is very hard for some to do anything in this way. Many children get into a noisy habit of doing things. They are like alarm-clocks, going off all the time. But God works very differently, e.g.
1. When the sun rises, it is to give light to thousands and millions of people, and yet how softly, how quietly it rises! Nobody ever heard it. We make more noise in lighting a match.
2. The dew is falling on the grass, the flowers, and trees. Their growth and beauty all depend upon the dew. But no noise attends the falling.
3. The farmer has sowed his wheat; the rains have moistened it; the sun has warmed it. It is just beginning to grow. There are millions of grains all bursting. But did any one ever hear them growing? This is the way in which these heavenly workers carry on most of their works.
III. SO POWERFULLY. “All things are possible with God.” Look at some of the servants they employ. Who can resist them? There is the wind, e.g.; the sea; the earthquake; the angels (Isaiah 37:36).
IV. SO CAREFULLY. When God had finished the work of creating the world, He said it was “very good.” When Jesus was on earth, the people who saw Him working so many miracles, cried out in astonishment, “He hath done all things well!” And what was true of the miracles, is true of everything else that He does. Everything which He does is done in the very best way. The works of man were not half as good in old times as they are now. But it is very different with the works of God. The sunshine which the people in old times used to have, was just as good as what we have now. And so it was with the air, and the rain, and the dew. So it was with the seasons, etc. God is just as careful about the least things He has made as He is about the greatest.
V. SO WISELY. God’s wisdom is illustrated in
1. Our bodies. Suppose our hands had been put where the feet are, of what use would either of them have been to us? And suppose the eyes put at the back of the head, and the nose on one side of it, how awkward and inconvenient it would have been!
2. In the colour of the sky and the fields. Suppose the sky had been made white instead of blue, and the fields scarlet instead of green, how trying it would have been to the eye!
3. In the way in which the sun rises and sets. It is done very gradually.
4. In the way in which he provides for the preservation and protection of different animals. (R. Newton, D. D.)
The Divine workers
He rested on the seventh day from the works of creation. Yet He is still working continually and doing good every day.
I. He PRESERVETH all things
1. That He does so appears
(1) From Scripture (Nehemiah 9:6; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:25-28).
(2) From reason.
(a) He is the first cause of all things, now as well as at the first, and, therefore, all other causes and things must needs depend on Him.
(b) As great power is required for preservation as for creation. No finite power can preserve all things for itself, being but a creature needs preservation. An independent creature is a contradiction.
(c) Hence should not God support us we should fall down to nothing (Job 6:1-30.).
2. How doth God preserve all things. Either
(1) Immediately from Himself; as the angels, sun and fixed stars Revelation 4:11).
(2) Mediately, as all other creatures in heaven and earth, by secondary causes, who with Himself concur; by
(a) Propagation whereby all creatures, even of the shortest continuance, successively are preserved to the end of the world (Genesis 7:3; Psalms 36:6).
(b) Continuation and maintaining of individuals in giving them food Psalms 147:8-9; Psalms 147:8-9; Matthew 6:26); giving a blessing to it (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3-4; Daniel 1:12-15). Inspection of
I. All things--the stars (Psalms 147:4); the number of the sands and weight of mountains (Isaiah 11:12); the hairs of the head (Mt Acts 27:34).
II. Of everything that is done by mankind (Psalms 14:2; Psalms 33:13-15), particularly of thoughts (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 4:14; Psalms 139:2); hearts and affections (Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 21:2; Ezekiel 33:31; John 5:42); words (Psalms 139:4; Matthew 12:36); actions Revelation 2:2-9); sins (Psalms 56:8; Revelation 2:14); repentance (Psalms 16:8; Jeremiah 8:6); good works (Ge Matthew 25:34).
III. He RULES AND GOVERNS all things so that there is nothing falls out without His will effecting or permitting it.
1. Not only the greatest and noblest parts of creation, but the least
(1) The ravens, etc. (Psalms 147:9; Matthew 10:29-30):
(2) The oxen (1 Corinthians 9:9; Deuteronomy 25:4) much more of His ministers.
2. All natural things
(1) Sunrise and sunset (Matthew 5:45);
(2) Grass (Psalms 147:8; Psa 155:13-15);
(3) The elements (Psalms 147:16-17; Jeremiah 10:13; Job 37:10-12);
(4) Fruitfulness (Deuteronomy 11:12);
(5) The senses (Exodus 4:11);
(6) Family increase (Genesis 30:2; Deuteronomy 10:22).
3. All such things as are contingent and accidental. So Achan (Joshua 7:16-18); Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:41-42), etc.; Hophni and Phineas 1 Samuel 4:11; 1 Samuel 2:25); the bow drawn at a venture (1Ki 22:34, cf. verses 17, 28).
4. All things that are done by the free will of men which is inclined by God Proverbs 21:1; Psalms 119:36; 1 Kings 8:58; Acts 16:14; 2 Samuel 17:14).
(1) Acknowledge God in everything (James 4:13-14; Proverbs 3:6).
(2) Pray to Him for all true grace and virtue and depend on Him alone for it.
6. Question: If God thus governs the world how comes it to pass that there is so much sin in it.
(1) God could so have ordered it that no sin should ever have been committed.
(2) Though He permits it He is not the cause of it (James 1:13-14).
(3) God so orders it that good comes out of it
(a) By permitting one sin He sometimes punisheth another Romans 1:21-25).
(b) He so overrules it as to turn it to the good of the righteous Genesis 45:7-8; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28).
(c) He makes it redound to either the glory of His mercy in pardoning (Romans 9:23); or of His justice in punishing it Proverbs 16:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
IV. He ORDERS AND DISPOSES of all things giving them to whomsoever He pleases.
1. Wealth and riches (Deuteronomy 8:18; Genesis 32:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:17; Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 6:1-2).
2. Honour and preferments (1 Chronicles 29:12; Psalms 75:6-7; 2 Samuel 12:8; 1Ki 3:13; 1 Samuel 2:7-8; Psalms 113:7).
3. Love and favours (Genesis 39:21; Daniel 1:9; Exodus 12:36; Exodus 3:21).
4. Health and strength of body (2 Samuel 12:15-16).
5. Gifts and parts of mind (1 Kings 3:9-12; Exodus 31:1-6; Exodus 31:1-6; James 1:5).
6. All true grace and virtue.
(1) Faith (Ephesians 2:8).
(2) Repentance (Acts 11:18; Acts 5:31).
(3) All other graces (James 1:17-18; 1 Corinthians 4:7).
7. Heaven and eternal life (Romans 6:23). Conclusion:
1. All these works of God are done
(1) With infinite power; for He doth all things without trouble, and only with His word since none can resist Him (2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 9:2).
(2) With infinite wisdom; so that He directs all things to the best and His own glory (Psalms 104:24; Romans 11:33).
(3) With infinite justice and righteousness; so that He wrongs none, nor is unjust or unrighteous to any (Psalms 145:17).
(4) With infinite goodness and mercy (Psalms 145:9).
(1) Learn to think that nothing comes by chance or fortune, but acknowledge God in everything (Proverbs 3:6; Exodus 8:19).
(2) Fear nothing but God. No good can be withholden from us, and no evil can fall upon us without Him (Matthew 10:28-30).
(3) Although we ought to make use of means, yet we must put our whole confidence in God without whom the best means are unsuccessful and with whom the least are effectual (Psalms 37:3-7). (Bp. Beveridge.)
The conjoint working of Christ with the Father
The Jews considered Christ as claiming equality with God. But supposing that they mistook His meaning what can be said of His not correcting them? The charge of Sabbath breaking from which He vindicated Himself in the text was insignificant compared to the charge based upon His vindication. Why not defend Himself against such awful blasphemy. On the contrary, He confirms the inference of the Jews in John 5:19. If He were not God He had no right to refer to what God did as His vindication. The practice of the Creator could not be quoted in proof that a mere creature might do what He thought fit on the Sabbath. But were Christ and God equal He could act as God and therefore on all days alike. Notice
I. THE CONTINUED WORKING OF THE FATHER
1. It would present no satisfactory account of the beautiful arrangements of the visible creation to say that matter was first endowed with certain properties and placed in certain relations and then left to obey the laws originally impressed. Of course God has given laws, and exerts no immediate agency to supersede them; but He is continually working by and through them as instruments.
(1) This is the teaching of philosophy which insists that where there are laws there must be an agency and a power of which laws are modes.
(2) The Bible teaches not only the production but the preservation of all things by God. There is scarcely a natural production or occurrence which is not referred immediately to His agency.
2. God has also revealed Himself as a moral Governor, and observes every motion of the human will, makes it subservient to His own purposes, registers whatever occurs for judgment, instigates every good action and overrules every bad. No calamity which can befall us, no anxiety disquiet, no joy cheer, no prayer escape which does not proceed either from His permission or appointment.
3. There are worlds upon worlds for which He does practically the same as ours. It were to be God to know what God has to do.
II. THE CONTINUED WORKING OF THE SON.
1. We may suppose that Christ partly referred to the perfect union of will and person which there is between the Persons of the Trinity when Paul declared that He was “the brightness of the Father’s person,” etc. He went on to speak of Him as “upholding all things by the word of His power.”
2. But as Christ wrought the miracle in His mediatorial capacity, it is rather as the Saviour than as the Creator that He here speaks. The truth then is that Christ has all along been redeeming as the Father has been with preserving all mankind.
(1) This is true all through the dispensations. As soon as there was sin there was salvation--through Christ, so theft every human being added fresh employment to the Mediator as well as to the Creator.
(2) We cannot but conclude that Christ in the office of Mediator has done something for unfallen beings, and if so, how immeasurably this widens the sphere of Christ’s activity.
III. THE EFFECT OF THIS DOCTRINE should be
1. To give us the same confidence in addressing the Mediator as in addressing the Father. Providence, in giving us our daily bread, is not more uniform than that intercession from which we derive daily grace.
2. To console the timid and downcast. “My Father worketh hitherto,” and whom will He neglect or fail to sustain? “I work,” and whom will I refuse to save? Who shall come to me and be cast out?
3. To encourage an application to that Divine Saviour who in His house provides healing for the impotent on the Sabbath day. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
My Father worketh hitherto
I. THE UNIVERSAL PRESENCE OF THE FATHER AT WORK.
1. Men do not imagine God to be near them in actual presence. They acknowledge Him as Creator chiefly because it relieves them of the greater difficulty of otherwise accounting for the existence of things.
2. In addition to this scientific concealment there is a figurative disguise of the Divine presence. The grand creations we invest with personality, and the spaces and elements we people with airy shapes of poetry and romance. These imaginations serve for the Divine Being, and to introduce Him boldly into conversation is considered bad taste or something worse. What a symptom of our universal ungodliness, “God is not in all our thoughts”!
3. But while being enemies to neither science nor imagination, let us open our Bibles and look on the works of God in their light. We let a ray fall on a flower, a structure, a strata, and we exclaim, “The work of Thy fingers.” If you ask us about genera, species, and laws of variation, we leave them to scientists. We cannot detect half so many qualities as they can, but we see our Father at work. If you tell me that the instinct of a bird leads it to pick up a grain accidentally scattered, is it less true that our heavenly Father feedeth it? David was no mean naturalist, yet when he speaks of the sustentation of animals, their dissolution, and the renewal of their generations, he passes over the laws of these changes and only sees the Father at work (Psalms 145:15, etc.). This is not mere poetry; it is written in the largest spirit of science. But a higher Authority, when referring to a flower, affirms that the Father clothes it, and when bidding His disciples imitate the trustful and uncareful birds, He adds, “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.”
II. IF THE FATHER IS WORKING AROUND US WHAT A SECURITY WE ENJOY. Each one of us may say, “My Father worketh for me.” “When I consider the heavens,” etc. I say, “Can I have a separate place in the Father’s heart.” He responds, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” It is sometimes hard to realize this; then in my loneliness I hear the expostulation from one who knoweth my frame and remembereth that I am dust, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob?” (Isaiah 11:1-16.). Thus “He giveth power to the faint.” We are not alone, for the Father is with us.
III. THE FATHER WORKETH NOT BECAUSE AN INTELLIGENT BEING IS NECESSARILY ACTIVE, BUT FOR SOME GREAT DESIGN WHICH THE TRIUNE GOD IS ADVANCING AND MUST COMPLETE. This work, extending over many generations, may be called the second genesis. After the first creation God did not, as the Jews supposed, enter on a Sabbath of inaction. His primal work was done, but the Sabbath was as full of work as the six days, but work of a nobler kind. The Spirit that moved on formless matter must now move on mind. Evil had come into being, and evil is to mind what chaos is to matter. God spent His Sabbath in making a new heaven and a new earth, not of matter, but of mind. Who shall write the history of God’s Sabbath work for man? The Bible is but a chapter of it. Eternity will unroll the volume. But following the Bible, how evident is the progressive design of love--the Father working in counsel; the Son in personal revelation; the Spirit in influence; and looking more closely we observe the Divine Son is the centre of this more glorious genesis. From Adam to John, all revelations pointed to Christ, and the Father is now drawing all men to Him. All men are proceeding Christward. (E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)
Thoughts for the busy
I. The DIGNITY of labour. Toil is not incident to man as a fallen creature. There is royality in it, for the greatest worker is God.
1. God has been working in nature. His works are His thoughts, and how beautiful they are is written on every hand.
2. God is working in providence and grace through all the millenniums for a great purpose of redemption. Patriarchs, lawgivers, prophets, kings, and priests have been His instruments. All the best works have been done because God works.
3. Let these sublime truths point out the dignity of labour. Throw off the delusion that freedom from work is to be sought as an end in itself. By indolence man throws away his crown and rebels against that Divine law of work which finds its highest expression in God.
II. The QUALITY of labour.
1. Divine work is always of the highest and most perfect kind.
2. Always faithful and true.
3. Each man therefore should take his work as a sacred charge to do his best at it. To “do the truth” (1 John 1:6) would work a reformation in this country. All bad work is a lie. Men are lying when they build houses that cannot stand, when they supply goods we cannot wear, and when they sell foods that poison us.
III. The METHOD of labour.
1. We never see in Christ, though He was always busy, any symptoms of rashness and hurry. There were depths in Him of holy peace which outer storms could not disturb.
2. There are causes for anxiety and haste which are not easy to control. But how many of them we never seek to master; desire for display and to be rich, a neglect of the deeper elements of character which leaves us open to the annoyances of little-minded men. It matters little to us whether God works or not. We have taken our concerns out of His hands. Thus we miss the confidence and restfulness which is our strength.
IV. The true MOTIVES of labour. Many work as though they said, “The world worketh hitherto, and I work.” The cardinal point is that success must be achieved at all costs. Christ worked, and we must work because the Father works. (W. Manning.)
What would become of the Sabbath unless God worked on the Sabbath (Bengel.)
The law of the Sabbath is a law of a Being who never rests from doing good (Theophylact.)
The Divinity of Christ
A citizen of London once became angry with the sunlight, and he vowed that no sun should ever again shine within his home. Closing the door and shutters, and lighting the lamps, he lived and died many years as though there had been no sun. The world justly pronounced him insane. In a similar spirit “liberal” theologians and infidels deny Christ’s Godhead. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Work must be constant
A few days ago, in the mountains, we went down in a valley to see a wonderful cascade, a marvellous sheet of water precipitating itself from lofty rocks, and there sat our German friends by scores contemplating it, and reverently admiring its sublimity. As I looked at the cascade the thought struck me it was rather too orderly to be altogether what it professed to be, and, looking on, I noticed that the floods which poured down from the rocks had suddenly diminished, as if the supply of the liquid element had become exhausted. We found that this wonderful waterfall was played three or four hours a day, and was an artificial wonder. But there is plenty of religion of that sort; it is played three hours a day or so many hours a week. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Work and joy
I do not remember reading in Mr. Wesley’s diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest of the Master that it did not occur to him to distrust his God. Some Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown the grain of mustard seed which they have received. If you do not sow your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in Christ Jesus, and his faith exercises itself actively in the service of his Lord it takes root, grows upward, and becomes strong, till it chokes his doubts. Soma have sadly morbid forebodings; they are discontented, fretful, selfish, murmuring, and all because they are idle. These are the weeds that grow in sluggards’ gardens. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We read in Homer of princesses drawing water from the springs, and washing, with their own hands, the linen of their respective families. Here the sisters of Alexander, that is, the daughters of a powerful prince, are employed in making clothes for their brother. The celebrated Lucretia used to spin in the midst of her female attendants. Augustus, who was sovereign of the world, wore, for years together, no other clothes but what his wife and sister made him. It was a custom in the northern parts of the world, not many years since, for the princes who then sat upon the throne, to prepare several of the dishes at every meal. (Rollins’ “History.”)
God’s work is perfect
There is not a more necessary and consolatory truth than this--reason allows it, revelation affirms it “the work of the Lord is perfect.” Whatever He does sustains its consistency and answers its end. Neither is there redundance nor defect. The question of degrees, the scale of dimensions, cannot alter the fact; whether the emmet or the leviathan, whether the atom or the world, each bears a stamp of entireness and self-sufficience. The most cautious inspection, the most fertile imagination, can discover no want, can suggest no improvement. You can relieve no difficulty, you can facilitate no process, you can heighten no result. The system of the individual is as faultless as that of the species, the economy of the particle as that of the universe. The grain imbedded on the shore, the star set among the constellations of the sky, in their differing ranks of constituted nature, exhibit the same matchless adjustment, fitness, and application. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do
The unity of the Father and the Son
The Jews sought to kill Jesus in obedience to the law
(1) because He wrought a miracle on the Sabbath;
(2) because He vindicated Himself on the ground of His equality with God, who constantly works such miracles in His providence on the Sabbath.
So far from disclaiming the Jewish inference He here confirms it. Note
I. CHRIST’S RELATION TO THE FATHER IN ALL HE DOES (John 5:19).
1. Unity of operation. These words assert that as it is impossible for the Son to do anything of Himself, so it is impossible that the Father can do anything without the Son. The cure of the impotent man, therefore, was by both.
2. Distinction of persons. The Father shows, the Son sees; the Father purposes, the Son executes.
3. Identity of works. They do the same, not similar things. The same Jesus stands in the midst of us and says, “Wilt thou be made whole?” If we despise Him speaking in His word we despise the great God with whom we have to do.
II. THE GROUND OF THIS RELATION (John 5:20).
1. Love is the expression of the Father’s feeling toward the Son.
2. He communicates Himself to the Son and makes Him His counsellor.
3. This relation Christ made known that they might marvel--admire God’s glorious manifestation of Himself and give Him glory.
III. INSTANCES OF THE WORKS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THIS RELATION.
1. (John 5:21). Resurrection and quickening, including no doubt the physical, but referring mainly to the spiritual process.
(1) Raising up. Sin, as a frightful incubus, rests on the soul exerting its paralysing influence. This spiritual death is chased away.
(2) Quickening. New life is imparted. Death implies previous life. A tree cut down and withered is different from a stone. In Adam the soul died; when the Son quickens a new and more glorious life is communicated.
(3) There can be no consideration more alarming than our continuance in this death. How dreadful to pass away without having the experience of this raising up and quickening, and to lie for ever in condemnation as self-destroyed.
2. (John 5:22-23). Judgment.
(1) To Him is committed the whole administration of the gospel; and when His supreme government is asserted as here, it means that the Father judgeth no man alone--both judge.
(2) He will preside at the eternal awards.
IV. IMPORTANT INFERENCES DEDUCED FROM THIS RELATION.
1. If Christ is not worshipped God is not (John 5:23). God must be approached according to the revelation He has made of Himself: we cannot do so unless we know Him as the Father who sent the Son.
2. Salvation comes by the word of Christ (John 5:24).
(1) This hearing, no doubt, includes listening with the outward ear; a great and necessary duty. But it is also (John 5:25) of a kind which awakens to life, with the mind and spirit, therefore, prompting to action, so that we become not hearers only, but “doers.”
(2) Salvation is by resting on the true object of faith--in God as sending the Son not as the Creator, etc.
(3) This salvation is everlasting life--a great salvation therefore. “How shall we escape if we neglect it.” (A. Beith, D. D.)
The Father’s love to the Son
I. THE FATHER LOVETH THE SON. What has this to do with us What have we to do with the Son? The answer to the latter will answer the former. If we are one with Christ the fact that God loves Him
1. Will solve a number of curious and doubtful questions. Satan is always trying to draw believers away from what is simple. The Father loveth the Son. Can Satan deny that? If not, then if I be the Son’s, all the outgoings and principles of God concerning me must be of love. Everything must be consistent with that.
2. Will lift us up above a number of depressions.
(1) Are we tried?
(4) weary and worn. Whoever was so tried as the beloved Son?
II. CHRIST RESTED IN THE FATHER’S LOVE, AND IN THE DEEP CONSCIOUSNESS OF IT PUT FORTH IMMENSE POWER.
1. Wherever love attains its highest form there is rest. It puts away all ifs and speculations, and goes down into the ocean depths of certainties which are beyond the reach of surface storms.
2. This should give us great power
(1) in prayer, passing into God’s mind through an inlet of love; its answer coming forth through the outlet of love;
(2) in faith;
(3) in hope.
III. CHRIST’S RELATION TO THE FATHER DETERMINES HIS ADMINISTRATION OF THE FUTURE, AND OUR RELATION TO HIM DETERMINES OUR PART IN IT. In present and future resurrection and judgment. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
resembles Luther’s: “I cannot do otherwise”; or, to take a nearer example, Jesus puts His work under the guarantee of the Father’s, as the impotent man had just put his under the shelter of Jesus. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Neither the man nor the angel exists who could dare to say of himself: “I can do nothing of myself;” because no man’s and no angel’s self is essentially and inseparably one with the self of God. The creature can tear itself away from its Creator, and place its I in opposition to Him; it can seek its life in itself, instead of in Him, and it can act “in its own name” (John 8:44); the Son of God, on the contrary, has nothingof His own, no self, which does not eternally contain the same life which the Father has. (R. Besser, D. D.)
The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son
The delegation of judicial authority to Christ
I. JUDGMENT APPERTAINS TO GOD. It is His in criminal causes (Romans 12:19) and in civil things (Psalms 82:1). No function of God is so often reiterated. And He is the Judge of judges themselves. Judgment is so essential to God that it is co-eternal with Him.
1. He knows, and therefore naturally detests evil. We are blind, and need the assistance of the law to know what is evil. And if a man be a judge what an exact knowledge of the law is required of him--for some things are sins to one nation which are not to another, and some things are sin at one time which are not at another. Only God has a universal knowledge, and therefore detestation of evil.
2. He discerns when thou committest evil. Hence you have to supply defects in laws so that things done in one country may be tried in another. But God has the power of discerning all actions in all places. Earthly judges have their distinctions and so their restrictions; some things they cannot know--what mortal can, and some things they cannot take knowledge of, for they are bound by evidence. But nothing keeps God from discerning and judging everything.
3. He knows how to punish evil. The office of a judge being not to contract or extend the law, but to declare its true meaning. God hath this judgment in perfection, for He made the law by which He judges. Who then can dispute His interpretation? As, then, God is judge in all these three respects, so He is a judge
(1) without appeal;
(2) without needing any evidence (Proverbs 24:12; Proverbs 16:2; 1 Corinthians 4:4); and if so, not only I, but not the most righteous man, nor the Church He hath washed in His own blood, shall appear righteous in His sight.
II. How then, seeing that judgment is an inseparable character of God, can it be said that THE FATHER JUDGETH NO MAN? Not certainly because weary. He judges as God, not as Father. In the three great judgments of God the whole Trinity judges.
1. Before all times in our election.
2. Now in separating of servants from enemies.
3. At the last judgment in separating the sheep from the goats.
Consider God altogether, and so in all outward works, all the Trinity concurs, because all are one God; but consider God in relation, in distinct persons, and so the several persons do something in which the other persons are not interested. So the Son judgeth, the Father judgeth not, for that judgment He hath committed.
III. TO THE SON HE HATH COMMITTED ALL JUDGMENT, the image of the invisible God, and so more proportional unto us, more apprehensible by us.
1. But doth He judge as Son of God or as Son of Man. Upon this the Fathers and Reformers are divided. But take this rule, God hath given Christ this commission as Man, but Christ had not been capable of it had He not been God too. The ability is in Him eternally, but the power of actual execution was given Him as Man.
2. All judgment
(1) Of our election. If I were under the condemnation of the law, and going to execution, and the king’s pardon were presented to me, I should ask no question as to motives and circumstances, but thankfully attribute it to his goodness and accept it; so when I consider myself as under God’s consideration, and yet by the working of God’s Spirit I find I am delivered from it I inquire not what God did in His cabinet council. I know that He hath elected me in Christ. And, therefore, that I may know whether I do not deceive myself I examine myself whether I can truly tell my conscience that Christ died for me, which I cannot do if I have not a desire to conform myself to Him; and if I do that then I find my predestination.
(2) Of our justification, “for there is none other name,” etc. Do I then remember what I contracted with Christ when I took His name at baptism? Have I fulfilled those conditions? Do I find a remorse when I have not? Do I feel remission of those sins when I hear the gracious promises of the gospel to repentant sinners? Have I a true and solid consolation when I receive the seal of pardon at the Sacrament? Therefore this judgment is His also.
(3) Of our glorification (Revelation 1:7). Then He shall come as Man and give judgment for things done or omitted towards Him as Man, “for not feeding,” etc. Conclusion: Such is the goodness of God that He deals with man by the Son of Man.
1. If you would be tried by the first judgment; are you elected or no? Do you believe in Christ?
2. If by the second, are you justified or no? Do you find comfort in the Word and sacraments of Christ?
3. If by the third, do you expect a glorification? Are you so reconciled to Jesus Christ now that you durst say now, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus”? then you are partakers of all that blessedness which the Father intended for you when, for your sake, He committed all judgment to the Son. (J. Donne, D. D.)
The Redeemer our Judge
That our Saviour was perfect God and perfect man is a truth which cannot be denied and Christianity not fall to the ground. But this very combination will cause apparent inconsistencies in the way in which He is spoken of. And it should be remembered that what holds good of Him in one capacity may be inapplicable to Him in another. As God judgment could not be committed to Him. He had it by Divine necessity and right. But it is as Mediator, a Being in which the two natures combine, that He is entrusted with the authority as Judge.
I. HE WILL JUDGE AT THE LAST DAY. What are the qualifications requisite for such an office?
1. Obviously no mere creature can fulfil that function. There must be acquaintance with secrecies of character as well as open actions. Hypocrisy must not pass undetected, nor unobtrusive merit fail of recompense. Angels cannot be judges of human character, nor possess themselves of all the necessary evidence. Omniscience alone will suffice.
2. But if we cannot approach an angelic judge with confidence, how approach omniscient Deity? A created judge is immeasurably nearer than the Creator, though of a different nature.
3. You ask, therefore, for one who shall have a thorough fellow feeling with those brought to his bar, i.e., a man. But how can you hope to have a man who, qualified by sympathy, should yet possess the qualification of omniscience?
4. This combination, however, does exist. A man sits on that “great white throne,” “bone of our bone,” but God to whom all things are naked and open.
II. HE JUDGES NOW, for all judgment is committed to Him.
1. To this we are indebted for that tenderness which characterizes God’s present judgments. Afflictions are not allowed to come together; “the rough wind” is restrained till “the east wind” has passed away. Chastisement is very different conceived as inflicted by God and inflicted by the Mediator.
2. If this be so how heavy will be the final judgment! There will be no pleading that our case was not thoroughly understood. All along we have been drawn by the cords of a man; then the impenitent will be judged by the Man who died for them and tried by every possible means to turn them from enemies into friends. His presence itself will condemn, and they will call to the rocks, etc., to hide them from not the thunderbolts of avenging Deity, but from the face of Him who became man for their salvation. Anything might be better borne than the glance of this face so eloquent of rejected mercies. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Men will have views very different from what they now have.
I. THE MISER will see a life spent in gathering gold with terror.
II. THE AMBITIOUS will wonder that he could barter his soul for office.
III. THE SENSUALIST will dread to review his luxury and lewdness.
IV. THE SOPHIST will argue no more against Divine truth.
V. THE IMPENITENT will be amazed at his madness in clinging to his sins.
VI. THE MOCKER will jest no more about sacred things,
VII. THE PROFANE will howl over the folly that resulted God. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The judgment will be searching
I will tell you a dream of one of quality, related to myself by the dreamer himself. Said he, “I dreamed the day of judgment was come, and all men appeared before Christ. Some were white, others spotted. Methought,” said he, “I was all white, saving that I had one black spot upon my breast, which I covered with my hand. Upon the separation of these two sorts I got among the white on the right band. Glad was I; but at last a narrow search was made, and one came and plucked away my hand from my breast; then appeared my spot, and I was thrust away among the spotted ones.” (Thomas Larkham.)
That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father
Equal honour to be paid to the Father and to the Son
1. Because the perfections of the Father are those of the Son (John 5:26). Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Holiness, Love, etc.
2. Because the works of the Father are those of the Son (John 5:19). Creation, Providence, Redemption, Resurrection.
3. Because the administration of the Father is that of the Son (John 5:22).
(1) Now over kingdoms, cities, families, individuals.
(2) At the great day.
4. Because it is the special desire of both the Father and the Son.
(1) Of the Father, because on the honour of the Son the whole blessedness of the universe is centred.
(2) Of the Son, because the Father is only honoured through the Son. God was not honoured in Judaism, witness its lapses into idolatry and its ultimate formalism; nor by Mohammedanism, witness its cruelty and licentiousness; nor in heathenism, where He is not known at all; nor by Deism, as proved by its development into agnosticism and atheism. Only in Christendom is God honoured, because Christ is honoured.
1. By admiring the perfections of the Divine Son. “The chiefest among ten thousand,” etc.
2. By acknowledging the services of the Divine Son. We are His because He made, preserved, and redeemed us; therefore we should glorify Him as our Master, Friend, Saviour.
3. By co-operating with the rule of the Divine Son.
(1) By obeying it ourselves.
(2) By securing its recognition in others.
4. By making the Supreme desire in the universe the master passion and motive of our souls; doing all things with the one aim of securing the honour of the Son and of the Father through Him.
1. At home.
(1) In secret prayer. This will test the purity and constancy of our motive.
(2) In our families, bringing them up to honour Christ by reverencing His name, word, and ordinances.
2. In the sanctuary.
(1) By attentively listening to the Word.
(2) By regular attendance at His table.
(3) By heartiness in His worship.
3. In the world eschewing all business, amusements, etc., likely to bring dishonour on Him. (J. W. Burn.)
He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father
Amphilochus, Bishop of Iconium, entered the palace of Theodosius, and bowed to the Emperor, but not to Arcadius his son. The Emperor reminding him of his neglect, the good man still refused, and on his showing great displeasure, Amphilochus replied, “O king, how much more will Jehovah abhor those rejecting His Son!” (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Christ’s demand of a man
Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy. He asks that for which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself; He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. (Napoleon I.)
Christ claims Divine honours
“And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Did they sin in worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ? After their long career of intimacy, did love to such a being, who had exhausted the symbolism of life to express His life-giving relations to them; with every conceivable incitement, reverence, and worship; with love, wonder, joy, and gratitude kindling their imaginations towards Him; without a solitary word of caution lest they should be snared by their enthusiasm, and bestow upon Him the worship that belonged only to God--did they sin in worshipping Him? If they did, was not Christ Himself the tempter? If they did not, may not every living soul worship Him? (H. W.Beecher.)
(in conjunction with 6:47). Verily, verily
1. These words indicate a subject of special importance.
2. They were used to denote a clear and certain revelation.
3. Notice when this certainty lies solely in “I say unto you.” In the matter of our salvation carnal reason never arrives at certainty. Mere argument can never bring a troubled heart to a sure anchorage. The ipse dixit of a mere man is not enough. Note
I. TO WHOM THE BLESSING OF OUR TEXT COMES, These favoured persons are
1. Hearers who are also believers. It is not communicated by drops of water; we are to act towards saving truth as towards other information. First, we hear of Jesus, His person, work, office, and blessings; then we accept Jesus as the appointed Saviour for ourselves.
2. Believers who remain hearers, “My sheep hear My voice.”
3. Believers in the Lord Jesus (John 6:47). They have personal faith in apersonal Saviour.
4. Believers in Jesus because of the witness of the Father. We are sure He can save because He is divinely commissioned, divinely furnished, and the pleasure of the Lord must prosper in His hands.
5. Every such believer, whatever else he has or has not, he has everlasting life. But he is full of fault and imperfection; he makes mistakes in theology; he is afraid he has not attained to everlasting life. No exception is to be made on any of these grounds.
6. There is no statement made as to the salvation of any other sort of person. Nothing is said about the baptized, professors, etc., only about believers.
II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH BELONG TO THE BELIEVING.
1. He hath everlasting life. He was condemned and reckoned as a dead man; but he is now acquitted and his life is granted him. He was spiritually dead also, but through Christ he is quickened; and because Christ lives ever he shall live also.
2. He is in a condition of non-condemnation. In Christ he has been judged, condemned, and punished, and is therefore clear of the law and all its penalties.
3. He is passed from death unto life; In regeneration lies the essence and major portion of the resurrection.
III. THE ASSURANCE WITH WHICH THIS DOCTRINE IS STATED.
1. It is certified by the terms in which our Lord utters it.
2. It is verified by conscious experience.
3. It should consequently be confidently proclaimed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The gospel of Christ
We are here taught
I. THE NEED OF HEARING THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST; and that not with the ears of the body only, but with the heart, the will, the affections of man. “He that heareth My word.”
II. BELIEF IN THE EVER-BLESSED TRINITY, in the Father and the Son, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. “He that … believeth on Him that sent Me.”
III. THE SINFUL ESTATE OF MANKIND, the fall through sin into spiritual death, and the consequent condemnation of the whole race of Adam, who through the sin of the first man have come into condemnation.
IV. THE NEED WHICH WE ALL HAVE OF A REDEEMER AND MEDIATOR, through whose passion, death, and resurrection we pass from death unto life.
V. THE HAPPINESS WHICH IS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN AND WHO OBEY GOD IN THIS LIFE, and in obeying Him possess Him who is everlasting life.
VI. THAT ETERNAL LIFE which after the death of the body IS THE HOPE AND THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS, and which is assured to those who in resisting temptation and in overcoming sin here have passed from death unto life. (W. Denton, M. A.)
A short sermon on a great text
I. THE PREACHER.
1. The dignity of His Person.
(1) The Son of God,
(2) The ambassador of the Father.
(3) The faithful witness.
2. The solemnity of His manner. As became one who spoke with
(1) Full knowledge.
(2) Absolute authority.
(3) Tender sympathy.
(4) Personal directness.
II. THE DISCOURSE.
1. The meaning of salvation.
(1) Eternal life.
(2) No condemnation.
(3) Fulness of existence.
2. The way of salvation.
(1) Hearing Christ’s word.
(2) Believing Christ’s Father.
III. THE AUDIENCE.
1. Their persons--men.
2. Their characters--dead.
3. Their numbers--whosoever.
4. Their responsibilities--involved in their ability to hear and believe. Lesson: Take heed how ye hear. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Life is of many degrees--lowest in the sponge, then in the oyster, and higher still in the worm. Through a long and beautifully graduated series we come to man, partly material, partly spiritual; the link between earth and heaven. Life is absolutely perfect in God only; the great source of life to all created beings. “This is life eternal,” etc. (John 17:3). This life in its fulness implies
I. FREEDOM FROM SIN.
1. Its guilt.
2. Its pollution.
3. Its attendant evils.
II. THE POSSESSION OF ALL GOOD.
1. Perfect love.
2. Perfect purity.
3. Perfect youth.
4. Perfect activity.
5. Perfect blessedness. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
You will observe here that everlasting life is a thing which a man is declared, on certain conditions, to have in this world, that the death which is its contradictory is said to be escaped in this world, and in the very act of passing over into life; and that the condition of escaping the one and having the other is faith in God through Jesus. Now what I wish to do, is to point out the dignity and the joy of this true life of the soul, this everlasting life of faith; and if we can know the secret of its blessedness here, we shall know what its blessedness shall be hereafter.
I. And first, TO THE JUSTIFIED SOUL THERE IS THE JOY OF LIVING ITS TRUE LIFE. In all life there is joy; much more in the soul’s true life. In the free exercise of its noblest faculties; in the free use of its noblest powers; in the free apprehension of Divine truth, the free choosing of the right, the unselfish loving of the beautiful and the good; it is a joy even now and here so to live the true life of the soul. And when we come to analyze this joy, we find that in all its details it is a life of blessedness.
1. For, first, there is the joy of triumph, the guadiam certaminis that courts and enjoys the well-won victory. Worldly and carnal pleasures woo the soul’s affections from their true and worthy objects. To resist these is conflict worthy of heroic souls; to stand steadfast, to be true to truth, to goodness, to righteousness, this is victory, and the joy of it is bliss to the struggling, conquering soul. And when the soul’s victorious inner life is translated into worthy outward action, that outward life becomes heroic too, the life of a knightly soul that proves its knighthood and receives its reward in scattering error, in righting wrong, in helping the weak, in relieving the oppressed, and in doing his duty to God and all the world.
2. And then there is the joy of progress. For the soul s true life is a progress from the less to the greater, from the partial to the more perfect good. There is growth in humility, and so there is no more galling and fretting of pride. There is growth in meekness, and so the burden of resentment is laid aside. There is growth in faith, and so the unseen things are seen with more and more distinctness to be the great thing. There is growth in hope, and so the soul grows glad and young as it lays hold on the hope of eternal life. There is growth in love--in the blissful love that never faileth, that suffereth long and is kind, etc.
3. And then there is the joy of self-sacrifice. Man had forgotten the great truth, that self-sacrifice for duty and for love is the very joy of the soul’s true life. But God revealed it in Jesus. And revealing it He showed not only the Divine wisdom and power, but also the Divine blessedness. Who does not understand something of this! Who are the great and happy souls of earth? Not those, assuredly, who look for base ease, or sordid gain, or selfish advantage, or guilty pleasure; but the pure and strong and lofty souls, who in loving the unseen and following lofty ideals gladly sacrifice themselves for what they love. The patriot who goes at his country’s summons to battle; the father and husband who scorns delight and lives laborious days for wife and children; the mother who turns away from all delights to bend in yearning tenderness above the couch of her sick or afflicted child; the Christian man or woman who in loving, dutiful deeds of brotherly love and goodwill, delight to help the unfortunate and make the wretched happy--these are the great and happy, souls, and in their self-sacrifice they find the highest joy of their soul’s true life. In a word, then, the soul’s true life in this world is the life of faith, of hope, and of love. In the victory of its faith, the progress of its hope, the glad self-sacrifice of its love, its joy consists. And this brings me to my concluding thought. We have seen what the soul’s true life in this world is.
II. WHAT SHALL IT BE IN THE NEXT WORLD BUT THE SAME IN KIND, THOUGH IN FULLER, LARGER MEASURE? The only difference shall be that the limitations of sin, the hindrances of earthliness, shall be removed. Unfettered and free, the soul shall expand in the perpetual delight of life and love and peace--the delight of growing knowledge, the delight of more and more adequate utterance, the security and pea-e of more perfect self-consecration, the deep and tender joy of more entire self-sacrifice. How this shall be, I cannot tell. It is enough for me to know this one thing--that the soul’s true life, the eternal life, begun here, shall continue afterdeath substantially the same, and that its joys shall be the same, only fuller, larger, richer. Oh, then, let me ask myself this question: Am I living now the soul’s true life--the everlasting life of faith and hope and love--and am I finding now and here the joy and the blessedness of that life? If not, then even heaven itself would be a hell to my untutored soul. But if I do know the joy and peace of believing, then eternal life is mine already. (Bishop S. S. Harris.)
Passed from death unto life.
Notice the smallness of the conditions, and the magnificence of the offer. The salvation of a man’s soul is simply a matter of capitulation, and the terms of the capitulation are, “Hear the messenger and believe the mission.”
I. THE UNDERTAKING WHICH THE ALMIGHTY HAS MADE OF WHAT HE WILL DO TO THOSE WHO GIVE UP AT DISCRETION.
1. Look a moment at our position. We have provoked God and attacked His rights, and therefore have separated ourselves from God. Therefore we do not deserve to die, nor sure to die, but we are dead. For death is not annihilation. Separation of soul from body is physical death: separation of soul and body from God is physical death. People abhor the thought of eternal punishment or eternal death; but what if that means separation prolonged through eternity. Is there anything in that inconsistent with God? But that would be hell enough.
2. Christ comes and offers union with Himself, that is, nearness to God which is life.
(1) The nature of this life.
(a) Physical life of a higher order because consecrated.
(b) Intellectual life--a life of latent thoughts, energies and affections which, but for this, would sleep on for ever.
(c) A life of true satisfying service.
(2) Its characteristics.
(a) A present possession. The moment you believe in Christ you live; you have done with death for ever. What is coming and is called death will not be death to you, because no separation.
(b) A lasting life. In the old life nothing was very lasting; either the thing passed away, or the power to enjoy it. The new life has its hidden springs in God, and will last for ever.
(c) A life free from condemnation. There is nothing now behind, and no future to be afraid of. Your sins were condemned and punished in Christ, and there shall be no resurrection of forgiven sin.
II. WHAT ARE THE TERMS?
1. “Hear My word.”
(1) Do not you all hear it? Not with the inward ear.
(2) But what word. If you receive any word, you will receive all. Take this one, “Come unto Me,” etc.
2. “Believe on Him that sent Me.” Not in Me. Some object to vicarious atonement on the ground that it does not put the Father in His right place. But Christ here, as elsewhere, traces it all to the Father and His love. It is part of your salvation to take worthy views of the Father. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Passing from death to life
I. THE STATE FROM WHICH EVERY BELIEVER IS DELIVERED.
1. Its nature. A threefold death has befallen man. The body dies, everlasting death is threatened, spiritual death is inflicted. This latter is the death here, and is not simply the absence of what constituted life, but the presence also of the opposite.
(1) Man’s knowledge was a part of his life, but it has gone and he is ignorant and misrepresents the truth.
(2) This flow of holiness is staunched, and he is defiled.
(3) His innocency is blotted out, and he is guilty.
(4) His title to heaven is gone, and he is exposed to hell.
2. Its forms. It does not always take the same shape.
(1) A man’s circumstances will do something to curb the tendencies of his nature. Your life may be chaste and outwardly religious, but with all this there is a defiled nature seen by the eye of God.
(2) In other cases there is a complete contrast, and depravity knows no shame.
3. Its extent; total
(1) as regards the individual.
(a) The human form once so noble and symmetrical and undying has become enervated by disease, and falls into the grave.
(b) The mind has not escaped its blight. Go to the lunatic asylum where the mind is gone, and to the cultured atheist whose vast intellectual powers are perverted.
(c) The soul is dead, not that it has ceased to be immortal, but lives on in death.
(2) As regards the race. However employed and wherever found man is the impersonation, of death.
4. Its cause. Not God. Look at the proofs of Divine benevolence in the beauties of nature, and ask, Is God the cause of death? Look at the monstrosities of nature--the drunkard, e.g., and ask, Is that God’s handiworks?
II. THE CONDITION TO WHICH, BY THE MERCY OF GOD, EVERY BELIEVER HAS BEEN BROUGHT: from death to life.
1. What is this life?
(1) Life is a series of relationships. In vegetable life there is a relationship of dependence; in animal life of the senses: in rational life of consciousness; in spiritual life to God in Christ.
(2) Life has its developments. This could not be predicated of a stone. In vegetables you see it at its lowest, in reptiles higher, in beasts higher still, in man highest; and in rational life you have the babe, the child, and the man, and so in spiritual.
(3) Spiritual life is knowledge. Mark the contrast between men of large intellectual powers and a man half-witted, who knows God is his Father and Christ his Saviour. They are dead; he lives.
(4) It is purity.
(5) It is love.
2. Whence comes it?
(1) Not from self; a corpse cannot raise itself.
(2) Not from another; a corpse cannot raise others.
(3) From God the fountain of life, through Christ, the resurrection and the life.
III. THE PROCESS FROM THE ONE TO THE OTHER.
1. Its character a purely spiritual process, illustrated by the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly; the change from winter to spring; the resurrection of the dead.
2. Its means. The gospel embraced by faith.
3. Its Agent, the Holy Spirit. (Gervase Smith, D. D.)
Passing from death to life
I. From a death of UNBELIEF to a life of FAITH.
II. From a death of FALSEHOOD to a life of TRUTH.
III. From a death of SIN to a life of RIGHTEOUSNESS.
IV. From a death of MISERY to a life of BLESSEDNESS. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
We are saved by believing
A small matter may suffice to shape the destiny of an immortal soul. In those ill times when there were slaves across the Atlantic, a lady went down to one of our ships accompanied by a negro servant. The lady remarked to the captain that if she were to go to England and take this black woman with her, she would become free as soon as she landed. The captain replied, “Madam, she is free already! The moment she came on board a British vessel she was free.” When the negro woman knew this do you think she went on shore with her mistress? By no means; she chose to keep her liberty. How slight the change of place, but how great the difference involved: marvel not that faith involves such great things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We must believe or perish
If a man will not do that which is necessary to a certain end, I do not see how he can expect to gain that end. You have taken poison, and the physician brings an antidote, and says, “Take it quickly, or you will die. If you take it quickly I will guarantee that the poison will be neutralized.” But you say, “No, doctor, I do not believe it; let everything take its course; let every tub stand on its own bottom; I will have nothing to do with you, doctor.” “Well, sir, you will die, and when the coroner’s inquest is held on your body the verdict will be, ‘Served him right.’“ So it will be with you, if, having heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you say, “Pooh-pooh! I am too much of a common-sense man to have anything to do with that, and I shall not attend to it.” Then, when you perish, the verdict given by your conscience, which will set upon the King’s quest at last, will be a verdict of felo-de-se. He destroyed himself. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Faith must lay hold on Christ
One night, when preaching in Philadelphia, right down by the side of the pulpit, there was a young lady whose eyes were riveted on me, as if she were drink- ing in every word. I got interested in her, and after I had done talking I went and spoke to her. “Are you a Christian?” “No; I wish I was. I have been seeking Jesus for three years.” I said, “There must be some mistake.” She looked strangely at me, and said, “Don’t you believe me?” “Well, no doubt you thought you were seeking Jesus; but it don’t take an anxious sinner three years to meet a willing Saviour.” “What am I to do, then?” “The matter is, you are trying to do something; you must just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Oh, I am sick and tired of the word, ‘Believe, believe, believe! I don’t know what it is.” “Well,” I said, “we’ll change the word; take ‘trust.’” “If I say, ‘I’ll trust Him,’ will He save me?” “No; I don’t say that. You may say a thousand things, but He will if you do trust Him.” “Well,” she said, “I do trust Him; but,” she added in the same breath, “I don’t feel any better.” “Ah, I’ve got it now! You’ve been looking for feelings for three years, instead of for Jesus.” (D. L. Moody.)
The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.
The spiritual resurrection
I. Its SUBJECTS. The spiritually dead, in trespasses and sins. To have life we “must be born again.”
II. Its MANNER.
1. The dead hear the voice of the Son of God in the word preached.
2. This word receives its power from heaven.
III. Its NATURE. Those who hear
2. Shall live. Death is banished for ever.
IV. Its SEASON.
1. The hour is coming.
(1) At Pentecost.
(2) Ever since.
(3) Till time shall be no more.
2. Now is.
(1) The day of the Spirit’s power had already in some measure come. Under every dispensation many heard the voice of the Son of God and lived.
(2) Now is the accepted time.
V. Its SOURCES.
1. The life which is in the Son (John 5:26).
2. The authority exercised by the Son. (A. Beith, D. D.)
The spiritual awakening
I. THE TIME OF IT. Now, during the currency of this Christian dispensation, at any and every moment thereof (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 4:7).
II. THE SUBJECTS OF IT (Ephesians 2:1).
III. THE MANNER OF IT. The vitalizing of a dead soul results from the infusion into it of life by the Son of God (John 5:21).
1. Not directly.
2. But indirectly through the word which the Son speaks.
IV. THE COGNITION OF IT. Not all the spiritually dead are quickened, or even all to whom the word of Christ is externally addressed, but only those who hear and believe (Joh 5:24-25, cf. Isaiah 55:3).
V. THE GROUND OF IT. The fact that the Son is possessed of life in Himself as an original and inexhaustible fountain, even as it exists in the Father (John 5:26).
VI. THE END OF IT. Life in the fullest and highest sense. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Life for the dead
I. SINNERS ARE BY NATURE DEAD.
1. Legally under the sentence of death (Romans 5:1-21.). We are guilty and condemned. The curse of the law and the wrath of God are upon all viewed in their relation to Adam.
2. Really. The body is subject to death and to all the miseries which precede death. The soul is dead in trespasses and sins. Natural death makes the body lifeless; spiritual death makes the soul graceless, and both soul and body comfortless for ever.
(1) In natural death the body is without the soul; in spiritual the soul is without God.
(2) Natural death disfigures the body; spiritual the soul.
(3) Natural death makes the body cold; by spiritual the soul becomes cold toward God.
(4) In the one a man loses all right to property that once was his; by the other men lose all their right which they had in Adam to communion with God.
(5) As a dead body is without understanding, so the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.
(6) A dead body cannot raise itself, neither can a dead soul.
II. IN THE GOSPEL MEN ARE PROMISED LIFE.
1. This life is real.
2. It is suitable, removing condemnation, extracting the sting of death, imparting spiritual vitality to the condemned, guilty, and helpless.
3. Christ is this life, and the Holy Spirit applies it to the soul.
4. This life becomes part of a man’s being.
5. This fife, although obstructed in its growth, is capable of endless development.
III. WHAT IT IS THAT QUICKENS THE SOUL OF THE DEAD. The voice of Christ is the Gospel, heard by the faith of the heart. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)
Life in Himself
Life unoriginated, independent, absolute, eternal life
IV. ALL SATISFYING to men and angels. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
God is the focus and fountain of life
In Him life may be contemplated in its twofold activity.
I. THE LIFE OF GOD PASSES FORTH FROM ITSELF. It lavishes itself through the realms of nothingness. It summons into being worlds, systems, intelligences, orders of existences unimagined before. In doing this it obeys no necessary law of self-expansion, but pours itself forth with that highest generosity that belongs to a perfect freedom. That is to say that God the Life is God the Creator.
II. GOD IS BEING RETURNING INTO ITSELF, FINDING IN ITSELF ITS PERFECT SATISFACTION. God is thus the object of all dependent life. He is indeed the object of His own life; all His infinite powers and faculties turn ever inward with uncloyed delight upon Himself as upon their one adequate end. We cannot approach more nearly to a definition of pleasure than by saying that it is the exact correspondence between a faculty and its object. Pleasure is thus a test of vitality; and God as being Life is the One Being who is supremely and perfectly happy. (Canon Liddon.)
And hath given Him authority to execute Judgment
The advent in judgment
I. WHO IS THE JUDGE? Christ. He must be Divine to work out so great a judgment; but His humanity is expressly given as a reason for His judgeship.
1. We know His character, and can rely on His fairness and goodness.
2. He knows us, can sympathize with our weakness, and can understand our temptations.
3. Having in His human life conquered the same temptations, He has a right to condemn us if we fail.
4. As Messianic King He has the office of judging those who submit to Him and those who reject Him.
II. WHO ARE TO BE TRIED?
1. The dead. Death is no escape. Those who would not hear the voice of mercy must hear that of judgment. Spiritual death might prevent their hearing the first, but with physical death added they will hear the second.
2. All men.
III. WHAT IS THE GROUND OF TRIAL?
1. Not opinions, feelings, professions, resolutions, but deeds.
2. Not what men expected of us, what the world did, what was fashionable, convenient, suitable or aesthetic in our conduct, but its moral character solely. The simplest but deepest lines of cleavage will separate men--the question of good or evil.
3. But this will be judged by One who reads the heart, weighs all circumstances, and characterizes an act according to its motive. Thus many deeds which the world accounts good will be condemned, and others that are condemned will be justified.
IV. What will the sentences be?
1. A resurrection of life. The reward of obedience is for further obedience--not luxurious indolence.
2. A resurrection of judgment. To the impenitent death does not end all, nor any judgment-day. Their future is dark, but just and fair.
V. WHEN WILL THIS JUDGMENT BE? No one can know. God has fixed it. Every day brings it nearer. To each man it comes virtually at death. (W. F.Adeney, M. A.)
The Son of Man our Judge
As a man His life will condemn us.
I. His HUMILITY our pride.
II. His TEMPERANCE our indulgence.
III. His FORBEARANCE our impatience.
IV. His CHASTITY our sensuality.
V. His PIETY AND DEVOTION our ungodliness and worldly-mindedness. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The Son of Man
1. In His exaltation (John 1:51); as being in heaven while on John 3:13).
2. As Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8).
3. As blasphemed (Matthew 12:32).
4. As coming in glory (Matthew 16:27).
5. As suffering (Matthew 17:12).
6. As rising (Mark 9:9).
7. As Saviour (Matthew 18:11).
8. As sitting on His throne (Matthew 19:28).
9. In His second advent (Matthew 24:30).
10. As made under the law (Galatians 4:4).
11. As subject to God’s decrees (Matthew 26:25).
12. As forgiving sins (Matthew 9:6).
13. As houseless (Matthew 8:20).
14. As wearing a golden crown (Revelation 14:14).
15. As Lord of the angels (Matthew 13:41).
16. As supreme Judge (Revelation 1:7).
17. As head of the Church (Revelation 1:13). (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The judgment of the Son of Man
Judgment, as Scripture knows it, is not the popular idea of judgment, which bids us be careful in reverence for the tribunal of human opinion; nor the scientific idea, which shows us how inexorably what we are about to-day will tell upon what we shall be; nor even the moral idea, which challenges us to say whether there is not a right and a wrong, and a choice which we can make between them. The judgment of Scripture is a simpler, deeper, stronger thing, which includes and explains all these. The judgment of Scripture is that which brings each man before God his Maker. In it God is a present, silent “Judge of all.” God’s revealed Word declares a judgment which must be stringent and searching, because it is the judgment of the All-Holy and All-Knowing. What question is it that we should ask? It is, “By what standard shall we be judged?” The text seems to suggest the answer, “The Father hath given to the Son authority to execute judgment, because He is” (the) “Son of Man.” Not, as we might have expected, because He is Son of God, but because He is Son of Man. The Judge wears our manhood; His manhood equips Him for judgment, even as it equips Him for sympathy and compassion. It is by man’s standard, then, that we are judged and shall be judged; and fairly, for it is both the judgment which tries us by what we are made to be, and the judgment which we know; the judgment which speaks within us, just in proportion as our manhood is true and our conscience clear and strong; the judgment which speaks to us still more clearly through the human voices of men and women better than ourselves, calling us to “ quit as like men.” In the Gospels we see the Son of Man beginning thus to judge. By the human instinct of compassion, the priest and Levite are condemned, and the good Samaritan approved; by the human instincts of gratitude and humility, the forgiven, but unforgiving, servant is judged; by the common standard of faithful human service, and even by that of worldly sagacity and foresight, the servant who hid his lord’s talent and the foolish virgins are judged; by comparison with the purely human qualities of zeal and pluck in the jewel collector, or of skilfulness even in the unjust steward, He rebukes men’s slackness and unwisdom in the things that concern their souls; by the human instincts of charity, He declares that men shall be eternally judged, according as they have, or have not, regarded the appeal of the poor, sick, naked, hungry, and captive. Think, then, that we, individually and collectively, shall be judged by the standard of human excellence as it stands in our time, and as we may know it if we will what a dignity and value this gives to the human life about us in all its width and variety. For there, amidst much that corrupts and confuses, are to be found the best thinkings, doings, and strivings of our time and place; and by them, as men of our time and place, we must be judged. In this respect there are some simple counsels which may help. We must, for example, often learn from those whom we can by no means wholly follow. The prudence of the unjust steward is commended, without sanction of his character; the Positivist, who believes in no hereafter, may be admirable in his tenderness for all the natural parts and sympathies of this present life; students, whom, perhaps, we must think narrowly indifferent to interests outside their own departments of knowledge, are often excellent examples to us by their thoroughness, their perseverance, their reverence for every fragment of fact. Again, there is judgment for some of us in simple things, in natural virtues. We may go highflying after intellectual ambitions, and forget modesty and homely courtesy and kindness to those about us; or after special devotion and piety, while we neglect the simple duties of industry in daily work, or dutifulness at home, or brotherly kindness to Christians who are not of our sort. Once again, it would be well to judge ourselves by what is good in men of habits or temperament unlike our own; not to hug our own one-sidednesses, but to suspect them; to remember, if we are eager and easily moved, how much the slow, sober people have to teach us; or, if our pride is in moderation and solidity, how likely we are to need examples of warmer and less self-centred character, and a more generous appreciation of ideals. Remember, then, that the standard by which you must be judged is not that of your own low aims and narrow thoughts, but it is the standard of what you have the opportunity of raising those aims, or enlarging those thoughts, to he by a due use of all that is best and most inspiring in human life, as you have the privilege of knowing it. But we have not exhausted the meaning of the text. It cannot merely mean that we shall be judged by human standards. It must, mean that we shall be judged by the standard of the true manhood of Christ, and of humanity, taught, restored, illuminated by Christ. We have His Name on our lips, His cross before our eyes, His teaching in the gospels, His means of grace lavishly given to us. Must there not be a judgment in this--a judgment because Be is Son of Man revealing to His brother-men how they may be true men, as God their Father would have them be; and they will not? (E. S. Talbot, D. D.)
Christ will bring men to judgment
A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is no delicacy in season which he forgets to bespeak. He stops at the inn for some time. By and by the bill is forthcoming, and it takes him by surprise. “I never thought of that!--I never thought of that!” “Why,” says the landlord, “here is a man who is either a born fool or else a knave. What! never thought of the reckoning--never thought of settling with me!” After this fashion too many live. They eat and drink and sin, but they forget the inevitable hereafter, when for all the deeds done in the body the Lord will bring us into judgment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Death will be followed by judgment
After a mission festival several pastors and deacons continued an hour together, when the conversation drifted from the heathen abroad to those around us, and the following story was told by a village miller:--“I sat at a garden concert with a friend of mine. The first part of the programme was ended, when an acquaintance of my friend’s came to us. ‘Have you heard,’ said he to my friend, ‘that Mr. R--died yesterday quite suddenly? A great pity; he was an agreeable andclever business man, and a pleasant companion. Ah well! he enjoyed life while he lived, and he was quite right; for when we are once dead it’s all finished.’ ‘Is it all finished? Do you really think there is an end of it?’ said I. ‘Ah!’ returned he, ‘I see you are one of the old superstitious ones. What shall come after death greater or better than this life? “As the tree falls, so it lies.”’ ‘Quite right,’ said I; “As the tree falls, so it lies;” but--do not take it amiss, friend--when you wish to prove by this quotation that after death it is finished with respect to us, you have not considered the matter on all sides, or your opinion is a blind one. Near my mill I have a woodyard, and now and then I buy some trees to cut down. Often have I stood over the fallen trunks and thought of those words, “As the tree falls, so it lies;” none will grow one inch taller or thicker, better or worse; all that can be done in him is done. But now, dear sir, it is not all finished; does it not rather begin? I go from trunk to trunk proving the wood. “This,” I say to myself, “will be good for building purposes, that will prove useful;” but for others, I say it is but fit for the fire. You know now how I think of the text. May God help us to become trees of righteousness.’“ (Der Glaubensbote.)
The hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice
The general resurrection
1. Its subjects. All who are in their graves.
(1) The almost universal custom of preserving the remains of the departed bears witness to the truth of the text. No such custom obtains with reference to animals. The body was not formed to die, and men cherish the hope of its recovering its lost immortality.
(2) Our text, therefore, gratifies the most sacred feelings of the human heart. Our separation from our loved ones is only temporary.
(3) The same persons shall rise. Momentous changes, indeed, take place; but what changes take place between infancy and old age! Yet it is the same person in whom they transpire.
(4) The analogy by which Scripture illustrates this mystery is that of grain sown in the earth, which dies in order to live again.
2. The power by which it is accomplished. Christ’s voice.
(1) Not the voice as heard through pastors, etc. The season for hearing, that for conversion, sanctification, comfort, etc., is over. This we can refuse to hear, but not that.
(2) The voice of the archangel and the trump of God, terrible, irresistible, dead awakening.
3. The time.
(1) It is determined in the counsels of God.
(2) It will be at the winding up of the affairs of time, “the last day.” The day of world’s first judgment came; so did that of Sodom, and Babylon, and Jerusalem; and just as surely shalt this.
II. The JUDGMENT. All shall come forth.
1. The righteous.
(1) They shall not taste of death.
(2) Their bodies shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body.
(3) They shall obtain everlasting blessedness.
2. They that have done evil.
(1) The unbelievers who are condemned already to have their condemnation confirmed.
(2) They shall rise to be everlastingly banished. (A. Beith, D. D.)
What Christ AVOWS and affirms is that He is the Son of God, and that is the first thing that was ever done in heaven--the eternal generation of the Son: that by which He proves this is that there shall be a resurrection of the body; and that is the last thing that shall be done in heaven.
I. The DIGNITY of this resurrection. Marvel not at this--at your spiritual resurrection, that a sermon should work, or sacrament comfort. Deem not this a miracle. But there are things which we may wonder at. Nil admirari is but the philosopher’s wisdom; he thinks it a weakness that anything should be strange to him. But Christian philosophy tells us that the first step to faith is to wonder with holy admiration at the ways of God with man. Be content, then, to wonder at this, that God should so dignify as to associate to His presence the body of man. God is a spirit, every soul is a spirit, angels are spirits, and therefore proportioned to heaven; so no wonder they are there. But wonder that God, who is all spirit, and is served by spirits, should have a love for this body.
1. Behold this love even here.
(1) The Father was pleased to breathe into this body at first, in the creation.
(2) The Son assumed this body in the redemption.
(3) The Holy Ghost consecrates this body and makes it His temple by His sanctification. So the whole Trinity is exercised upon the dignifying of the body.
2. This purpose of dignifying the body is opposed
(1) By those who violate and mangle the body which God made in inhuman persecutions.
(2) By those who defile the garment Christ wore by licentiousness. Some of the Roman emperors made it treason to carry a ring that had their picture on it to any place in the house of low office. What name can we give that sin to make the body of Christ the body of a harlot? (1 Corinthians 6:15-18).
(3) By those who sacrilegiously profane the temple of the Holy Ghost by neglecting the duties belonging to the dead bodies of God’s saints.
3. Those exceed this purpose who
(1) Pamper with wanton delicacies or sadden and disfigure with lastings and disciplines His own workmanship.
(2) Who dishonour or undervalue the body or forbear marriage.
(3) Who keep any rag of a dead man’s skin, or chips of their bones, or lock of their hair for a relic, amulet, or antidote against temporal or spiritual calamities.
II. The APPROACH of this resurrection. The former resurrection Christ said, “Now is”; of this He said, “It is coming.” In a sense this applies to death. The resurrection being the coronation of man, his lying down in the grave is his sitting down on that throne where he is to receive his crown. To the child now born we may say, “The day is coming”; to him that is old, “The hour is come”; but to him that is dead, “The minute is come”--because to him there are no more minutes till it do come.
III. The GENERALITY of this resurrection. It reaches to all that are in the grave. God hath made the body as a house for the soul till He call her out; and He hath made the grave a house for the body till He call it up. Shall none, then, rise but those who have enjoyed a grave? It is a comfort for a dying man, an honour to his memory, the duty of his friends, a piece of the communion of saints, to have a consecrated grave; but the word here is in monumentis--i.e., in receptacles of bodies of whatever kind. Some nations burnt their dead, there the fire is their grave; some drowned them, there the sea; some hung them on trees, there the air. The whole mansion of the dead shall be emptied.
IV. The INSTRUMENT. The voice of the Son of Man. In the spiritual resurrection it is the voice of the Son of God, lest the human vehicle should be despised. Here it is that of the Son of Man, who has felt all our infirmities, lest we should be terrified at the presence of the offended God. The former we may hear if we choose; the latter we must hear whether we will or not. God whispers in the voice of the Spirit; He speaks a little louder in the voice of a man; but let the man be a Boanerges, yet no thunder is heard over all the world. But the voice at the resurrection shall be heard by the very dead, and all of them.
V. The DIVERSE END.
1. You have seen moral men, or impious men go in confidently enough; but they will “come forth” in another complexion. They never thought of what was after death. Even the best are shaken with a consideration of that. But when I begin this fear in this life, I end it in my death, and pass away cheerfully; but the wicked begin this fear when the trumpet sounds, and never shall end it.
2. Fix on the conditions “done good.” To have known good, believed it, extended it, preached it, will not serve. They must be rooted in faith, and there bring forth fruit.
Conclusion: Remember with thankfulness the several resurrections that God hath given you.
1. From superstition and ignorance, in which you in your fathers lay dead.
2. From sin and a love of it, in which you in your youth lay dead.
3. From sadness, in which you in your worldly crosses or spiritual temptations lay dead; and
4. Assure yourselves that God, who loves to perfect His own work, will fulfil His promise in your resurrection to life. (J. Donne, D. D.)
The doctrine of the resurrection
is peculiarly Christian. With natural reason, assisted by some light lingering in tradition, a few philosophers spelled out the immortality of the soul; but that the body should rise again is brought to light by Christ. It is the key-stone of the Christian arch; for if Christ be not risen our faith is vain. It was the main weapon of the early missionaries, and therefore should be oftener preached. It is, moreover, continually blessed of God to arouse the minds of men. We shall
I. EXPOUND THE TEXT.
1. There is a forbidding to marvel at the renewing of natural life, as in the case of Lazarus, etc., and at the quickening of the spiritually dead--both of which are things which it is legitimate to wonder at by way of admiration, but not in the spirit of insulting unbelief. But the greater marvel is the general resurrection. Yet to you it is less than that of the marvel of saving dead souls. In the former there is no opposition to omnipotence, but in the latter the elements of death are so potent that regeneration is a complicated miracle of grace and power, Nevertheless, to the few the former is the greatest marvel. Let us be admonished by these marvelling Jews. Does it seem impossible for that ungodly man to be converted? That you should be supported in your trouble? That your corruptions should be cleansed? Doubt no more. Your Saviour will raise the dead.
2. The coming hour.
(1) “An hour,” because near to Him: since we do not begin to look for an hour that is remote. It may be a thousand years off, but with Him that is but as one day. Like Him, therefore, count it close, and act as though it would come to-morrow.
(2) “Coming,” therefore, certain. Dynasties may stand or wither; but the hour of resurrection is sure, whatever else may be contingent or doubtful. Every second brings it nearer. Look at it, then, as a thing that ever cometh
(3) the hour par excellence. We hear of hours which have been big with the fate of nations, crises in history; but here is the culminating crisis of all.
3. All “that are in their graves.” Those before the flood, those after; from east, west, north, south; mighty empires, etc., and you.
4. “Shall hear His voice.”
(1) Why, the ear has gone! But the God who gives the ear to the new-born babe, shall renew yours.
(2) That voice now sounding in this place is not heard by those who have ears; yet those who have no ears shall then hear it. How deaf must those be who are more deaf than the dead. You must hear the summons to judgment; God grant that you may hear the summons to mercy.
5. “Shall come forth.” Not only emerge, but be manifested. Hypocrisy will be unmasked, and unobtrusive good acknowledged.
6. “Those who have done good and those who have done evil.”
(1) Death makes no change in character, and we must expect no improvement after death..
(2) Only two characters will rise. There are no mingled characters.
(3) All will be judged according to their works which have evidenced their faith.
(4) They will meet with different dooms.
II. DRAW LESSONS FROM THE TEXT.
1. Of adoring reverence. If the dead are to rise at the voice of Christ let us worship Him.
2. Of consolation to those who mourn departed friends. Weep not as if thou hadst cast thy treasure into the sea, thou hast only laid it in a casket whence thou shalt receive it brighter than before.
3. Of self-examination.
(1) What shall be your position?
(2) How shall you meet before God those whom you have sinned with before men?
(3) How shall you meet Him as your Judge who would have been your Saviour? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE EVIDENCE BY WHICH IT IS ESTABLISHED.
1. The express declarations of the commissioned servants of God Hebrews 9:19; Job 19:25-27; Psalms 16:9-11; Isaiah 26:19;Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 27:52-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58).
2. Our Saviour’s own resurrection. If Christ did not rise, our faith is vain; if He did, He can raise us, and His resurrection is a pledge of ours.
3. Let this evidence produce on your minds its legitimate impression, and banish all uncertainty.
4. The folly of scepticism will appear when we consider that this is in harmony with reason. For admitting God’s infinite power, this is not impossible; and granting His infinite goodness, it is certain.
II. THE AGENCY BY WHICH IT SHALL BE ACCOMPLISHED.
1. By hearing Christ’s voice. The archangel’s trumpet is a symbol of that in its awakening power.
2. The mode is uncertain, but Christ has innumerable resources of which we have no knowledge.
III. THE IDENTITY OF THE BURIED WITH THE RAISED.
1. If new bodies were produced they could not be said to come out of their graves. The word “resurrection” suggests something different from a new creation. Besides, it would be contrary to equity that one body should do good or evil and another be rewarded or punished.
2. Still “we shall all be changed,” but not so as to lose our identity. The glorified Christ is the same Jesus as “the Man of sorrows.” We shall be like Him, yet the same persons that we are now.
IV. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE ACT.
V. THE IMPROVEMENT. The subject suggests
1. A powerful motive to seek an interest in the Christian salvation. We must all die; and if we have not been saved we shall rise to the resurrection of damnation.
2. Comfort under the loss of near and dear relatives.
3. Confidence in the prospect of our own dissolution. (P. Grant.)
The resurrection brought to light by Christ
I stood on the top of the Catskills one bright morning. On the top of the mountain was a crown of flashing gold, while all beneath was rolling, writhing, contorted cloud. But after a while the arrows of light shot from heaven, began to make the glooms of the valley strike tent. The mists went skurrying up and down like horsemen in wild retreat. The fogs were lifted, and dashed, and whirled. Then the whole valley became one grand illumination; and there were horses of fire, and chariots of fire, and thrones of fire, and the flapping wings of angels of fire. Gradually, without sound of trumpet or roll of wheel, they moved off. The green valleys locked up. Then the long flash of the Hudson unsheathed itself, and there were the white flocks of villages lying amid the rich pastures, golden grain-fields, and the soft, radiant cradle of the valley, in which a young empire might sleep. So there hangs over all the graves, and sepulchres, and mausoleums a darkness that no earthly lamp can lift; but from above the Sun of Righteousness shines, and the dense fogs of scepticism having lifted, the valleys of the dead stand in the full gush of the morning of the resurrection. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The conqueror conquered
If I were to call on you to give the names of the world’s great conquerors, you would say, Caesar, Alexander, Philip, and the first Napoleon. You have missed the greatest. The men whose names have just been mentioned were not worthy the name of corporal when compared with him. He rode on the black horse that crossed the fields of Waterloo and Atlanta, and bloody hoofs have been set on the crushed hearts of the race. He has conquered his every land and besieged every city; and to-day, Paris, London, St. Petersburg, New York, and Brooklyn are going down under his fierce and long-continued assault. That conqueror is Death. He carries a black flag, and takes no prisoners, He digs a trench across the hemispheres and fills it with carcases. Had not God kept creating new men, the world, fifty times over, would have swung lifeless through the air; not a foot stirring in the cities, not a heart beating--a depopulated world--a ship without a helmsman at the wheel, or acaptain on deck, or crew in the rigging. Herod of old slew only those of two years old and under, but this monster strikes all ages. Genghis Khan sent five millions into the dust; but this, hundreds of thousands of millions. Other kings sometimes fall back and surrender territory once gained; but this king has kept all he won, save Lazarus and Christ. The last One escaped by Omnipotent power, while Lazarus was again captured and went into the dust. What a cruel conqueror! What a bloody king! His palace is a huge sepulchre; his flowers the faded garlands that lie on coffin lids; his music the cry of desolated households; the chalice of his banquet a skull; his pleasure-fountains the falling tears of a world. But that throne shall come down; that sceptre shall break; that palace shall fall under bombardment, “For the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The inevitableness of the resurrection.
An infidel German countess said her grave never should be opened. She ordered it to be covered by a solid slab of granite; that around it should be placed square blocks of stone, and that the whole should be fastened together by iron clamps. On the stone, by her order these words were cut, “This burial-place, purchased to all eternity, must never be opened.” Thus she defied the Almighty. But a little seed sprouted under the covering, and the tiny shoot found its way between two of the slabs, and grew there, slowly and surely until it burst the clamps asunder, and lifted the immense blocks. Man’s power fails even to secure a tomb from natural destruction; much less can it secure the soul against that day in which each one is to give account of the deeds done in the body. (J. L. Nye.)
may be contemplated from two points of view, either on the side of its positive malignity, its will and power to work mischief, or else on that of its negative worthlessness, and, so to speak, its good-for-nothingness; πονμρός contemplates evil from the former point of view, and φᾶυλος from the latter. There are words in most languages which contemplate evil under this latter aspect, the impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it. Thus “nequam” (in strictness opposite to frugi), and “nequitia” in Latin, “vaurien” in French, “naughty” and “naughtiness” in English, taugenichts, “schlecht,” schlechligkeit in German. This notion of worthlessness is the central notion of φαῦλος (by some identified with “faul,” foul), which in Greek runs succesfylly through the following meanings: light, unstable, blown about by every wind, small, slight, mediocre, of no account, worthless, bad; but still bad predominantly in the sense of worthless. Φαῦλος, as used in the New Testament, has reached this latest stage of its meaning; and τἀ φαῦλα πραξαντας, are set over against τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες and condemned as such to the “resurrection of damnation.” (Archbishop Trench.)
The resurrection credible
Wycliffe’s corpse was burnt to ashes, and these ashes were cast into the river; carried into the sea, and thence dispersed in a thousand directions, can the particles ever again be reunited? The Christian philosopher sees no difficulty in the case. Did any of these changes happen to the Reformer’s body irrespectively of those natural laws which God has ordained? And, if even so, is it not just as easy for Him to reverse their action as it was to give them that action originally? It is a well-known chemical law, that, by the use of proper agencies, bodies thoroughly dissolved may be recovered and restored to their pristine shape. A single illustration will suffice. If we throw a lump of solid camphor into a vessel of spirits of wine, it will soon be completely dissolved; nevertheless, by diluting the spirits of wine with water, we may recover the camphor in the form of a sediment; nay, with the loss of a few grains, we may restore it to its original shape. So, too, of a silver vase dissolved in aquafortis. Beyond all controversy, these experiments are, in the eyes of the philosopher, far less marvellous than the act of reconstituting a dispersed, disorganized body; and yet, bearing in mind the infinite power of Jehovah, we can conceive it just as easy for Him thus to restore originally as to create.
The future punishment of the wicked
A professor in one of our leading colleges some time ago went to the president with his doubts upon the subject of endless punishment, and confessed that he could “hardly believe the doctrine.” “I couldn’t believe it at all,” was the president’s reply, “if the Bible did not teach it.”
A venerable minister preached a sermon on the subject of eternal punishment. On the next day it was agreed among some thoughtless young men, that one of them should endeavour to draw him into a dispute, with the design of making a jest of him and of his doctrine. The wag accordingly went, and commenced by saying, “I believe there is a small dispute between you and me, sir, and I thought I would call this morning and try to settle it.” “Ah,” said the clergyman, “what is it?” “Why,” replied the wag, “you say that the wicked will go into everlasting punishment, and I do not think that they will.” “Oh, if that is all,” answered the minister, “there is no dispute between you and me. If you turn to Matthew 25:46 you will find that the dispute is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ, and I advise you to go immediately and settle it with Him.” (W. Baxendale.)
I can of My own self do nothing; as I hear I judge
Christ’s present judgment
This verse is a conclusion of this part of Christ’s apology for His curing of the man, and commanding him to carry his bed on the Sabbath day, and for His asserting His unity and equality with the Fathel; wherein, from the former purpose, be sums up these conclusions:
That He is inseparable from the Father in operation (John 5:19), having no private power of His own (as they conceived of Him as a mere man); but the same in essence, power, and operation with Him.
2. That He is in all the Father’s counsels, and hath the power of administration of all things communicate to Him from the Father, which is pointed out under the name of hearing, as it is John 5:19, by seeing, to hold forth the spirituality of the way of communicating, and His infinite comprehension of all that is communicate, as hearing and seeing all.
3. That His government and administration is most just, as seeking no satisfaction to any will of His own, contrary to, or diverse from the Father’s, as He is God; and that He doth this not only as God simply, but as God now incarnate also, being the same still With the Father, and acting in all things according to the will of God. And though as man, He have a will distinct from His will as God, and so diverse from the Father’s will, yet that did act in subordination to the will of God (Matthew 26:39).
1. The divinity of Christ is a truth that may no ways be quarrelled with, and doth call for our second and serious thoughts; therefore doth He recapitulate His apology, that this truth may be inculcate.
2. Such is the strict conjunction and perfect unity of the Father and the Son, that the Son neither doth, nor can do anything without the fellowship of the Father; so that in all His working the Father is to be seen and taken up; for “I can of Mine own self do nothing,” saith He.
3. Christ, in the administration of all things, and executing of His purposes in this life, and at the day of judgment, is upon the Father’s counsel, acting from Him, and all Christ’s administrations are upon counsel and conclusion taken betwixt the Father and the Son, for, saith he, “As I hear, I judge.”
4. Christ’s administrations and sentences are all just and right, doing injury and violence to no man, nor ought they to be stumbled at by any, for, “My judgment is just,” saith He.
5. The reason of the justice of Christ’s judgment is because it is agreeable to the will of the Father, with whom He is one, and whose will is the rule of justice, as being supreme and absolute Lord; which will Christ, being incarnate and God-man, did conform Himself unto in all things, for, “My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will” (nor have any will, contrary to, or diverse from His, as hath been explained), “but the will of the Father, which hath sent Me.” (G. Hutcheson.)
Christ’s present judgment
1. There is a moral difference in the judgment of men concerning Divine truth.
2. Diversity of judgment is dependent on moral condition.
3. Moral condition is resolvable into one of two great principles of action--self-seeking or God-seeking.
4. Adoption of the Divine will is the essential condition of just judgments.
1. Explain the perversion of the Bible by its avowed disciples.
2. Indicate the method in which the gospel should be preached.
3. Supply a test of fitness for the work of the gospel ministry.
4. Show the necessity of Divine influence. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The unclouded heart
1. For the training of goodness, the ancient reliance was on the right discipline of habit and affection: the modern is rather on the illumination of the understanding. Vice is made a blunder of intellect, and, like optical delusions, to be cured by the most approved instruments for seeing.
2. This prescription is attractive from its apparent simplicity. It seems to take away all mystery from the moral emotions. But its value disappears the moment we use is, as, say, the miser, the cheat, the insane candidate for glory. When has it ever made such generous, just, and meek. It is true that you have only to give the slave of passion a different view of the objects of his desire and he is set free. It is equally true that you have only to make the paralytic run and he will be well.
3. Christ, reversing the order of the explanation, placed the truth in a juster point of view. He knew that if sometimes because the reason is darkened the passions are awake, it more often happens that because the passions are awake the reason is darkened. Pure sympathies make a clear intellect. When auditors, feeling that, “never man spake like this man,” asked, “how knowest this man letters?” etc., He said, “My judgment is just because I seek not Mine own will,” etc.; and He instructed others how to gain a like discernment: “If any man do His will,” etc. “Whatever be the word on which the judgment may be engaged, it will be invariably ordered by the sympathies of a just, disinterested, and holy mind.
4. Even in His abstruser toils, these are the wise man’s mightiest power. The most turbid clouds which darken reason are those which interest, fear, and ambition spread, and these the pure affections sweep away. How often will a child penetrate the centre of some great truth. A pure-hearted man will be a right-minded man.
5. All the great hindrances to impartiality in the quest of truth have their seat in some class of selfish feelings. The excessive eagerness about reputation produces a thousand pitiable distortions of understanding. In one it takes the shape of a determination to be original and so extinguishes his perception of all ancient excellence, in another it passes into the pride of being moderate and sound, and so he dreads eccentricities far more than falsehoods. And what is partizanship but a collection of selfish feelings, fatal to all the equities of reason.
6. But the mere absence of selfishness is not the only condition for a just judgment. Inpartiality will accomplish nothing without impulse. Clearness of intellectual view will be found not-in one who follows the light without the deep love of it, but in Him who seeks the will of One who sent Him, and who trusts it with a “love that casteth out fear!”
I. ON QUESTIONS OF PRACTICAL MORALS this principle holds good. The moral habits and tastes of men form their opinions much more frequently than their opinions form their habits, so that their theoretical sentiments are little more than a systematic defence after the act. Any moral practice may be recommended; yet how many things we palliate would be condemned by the very act of expounding them to others--duelling, e.g. It is fearful to reflect how the moral sentiments are modified by the atmosphere of social influence; how the indications of the unperverted conscience may become obscured or lost, and the possibility of remorse killed out.
II. IN ITS JUDGMENT OF HUMAN CHARACTER the same principle rules. The pure affections still the confusion of the senses and remove all motive for not seeing men and life exactly as they are. One who looks on the world as his appointed post of strenuous duty and feels on him the Divine charge to leave it better than he found it must close neither eye nor heart against its ills; and as for its charities and virtues, delighting in them all, he discerns them all; bringing as they do the refreshment of a generous veneration what temptation has he to doubt or decry them. To the selfish, on the other hand, men are tools and have to be flattered into service, and accustomed to speak of good qualities which they do not possess, the mind dwells to such an extent on the negation of excellence that it ceases to believe in it, and thus the nobler half of human nature undergoes permanent eclipse.
III. Those who “seek their own will,” are liable to error respecting those CHANGES IN SOCIETY which are brought about by the nobler forces of the human will. It is happy for the world that over the vision of its greatest enemies, their own selfishness spreads a film concealing the powers which will effect their over-throw. In spite of all the pampered despot’s vigilance, conspiracy, conducted by lean and praying patriots, has gone on unnoticed before his very eyes, and suddenly the tempest bursts. It is of the very nature of guilty power to be surprised by the apparition of high-minded virtue in a people. Conclusion:
1. Selfishness under the form of jealousy draws another cloud over the judgment and hides from it all that is fairest in kindred minds.
2. But our judgments will not be right unless our sympathies be not only disinterested but pure. In addition to not seeking our own will, we must seek God’s. The partialities of the affections are nobler every way than those of self-love; but they are partialities still; and while they make our judgments merciful, may prevent their being just. (J. Martineau, D. D.)
If I bear witness of Myself My witness is not true.
There is another that beareth witness of Me
The witnesses of the Son
I. A GREAT WITNESS, His forerunner. The Baptist as a witness for Christ was
1. Human (John 5:34; cf. John 3:31).
2. Brilliant. While he lasted he was like the lamp that gave light to the whole household of the Jewish people. So should every Christian in his place as parent, master, teacher, citizen, be a blazing torch, or, at least, a useful lamp, to guide others to Christ (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15).
3. Acceptable. For a time the people buzzed round him like moths round a Luke 3:15). He was therefore a witness of their own selection, and hence one that might be supposed to be impartial.
4. Transcient. So Christ’s witnesses can seldom count on protracted popularity (Hebrews 7:23).
5. Yet permanent (John 5:33). A word truly spoken for Christ never dies.
II. A GREATER WITNESS. His works.
1. More exalted in its origin (John 5:34; cf. John 3:31). John’s was from earth, Christ’s from heaven.
2. More direct in its expression. Christ’s works, being the Father’s, proceeded straight from Him without passing through a subsidiary messenger as John.
3. More conclusive in its significance. John’s was necessarily imperfect, he being but human. But Christ’s works were such as the Father only could John 3:2; John 14:10-11). The inference from John 5:36; John 5:39 wasirresistible that Christ was the Son of God.
III. THE GREATEST WITNESS. His Father.
1. The Scriptures the medium of the Father’s testimony (John 5:39; John 5:46).
2. The Scriptures the Father’s testimony par excellence. The Father speaks in them by the Holy Ghost. To reject them is to reject the last and highest form of evidence God can give. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The witness bearer
We are not informed whether our Lord’s opponents expressed their feelings, but knowing all things, He replied to their secret objections that the testimony was valid, inasmuch as He was not alone in bearing it (John 5:31). Such testimony could not be given by any man (John 5:34); it could be given so as to be on a footing of equality with His own only by “another” such as Himself, viz., the “Father.” The testimony was
1. “Of another,” implying distinctness of personality, and yet equality of testimony in value.
2. That of the God of Truth, known to Christ, who is in the bosom of the Father as it cannot be known to men. Consider, then, the Father’s testimony to Jesus by John.
I. THEY HAD SENT TO JOHN (verse 33). Some of them, perhaps, had themselves been deputies (John 1:19). By taking this step they had manifested a high opinion of John’s testimony. What authority, then, ought that testimony to have on the subject they had submitted to him?
II. JOHN BORE WITNESS TO THE TRUTH. John repudiated the Messiahship of himself, but announced Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” Had they put by this testimony? They were now reminded of it.
III. THE AUTHORITY OF GOD’S TESTIMONY WAS NOT HIS, BUT THAT OF HIM THAT HAD SENT HIM (verse 34). Man of himself was not equal to the task of witnessing to the glory of Christ. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father.” Man may be employed to proclaim what God is pleased to communicate, but the authority is not his, but God’s. John was sent from God to bear witness of the light. How vain, then, to speak of the authority of the Church in the Roman sense. It abides in the Word which she is commissioned to proclaim, and in that only.
IV. JOHN’S PLACE AND HONOUR IN SUCH A CAUSE (verse 35).
1. He was a burning and shining lamp, a vessel prepared and ordained to diffuse light. The oil of grace in his heart was kindled from above, not from below. All ministers of Christ are of a similar character.
2. The Jews had rejoiced in this light, and had acknowledged John as a messenger from God. It was for a season only, however. John’s ministry was short, and their willingness to rejoice in it was shorter still. When they found that he was the herald of no political deliverer, when they understood the conditions of entering the kingdom John predicted, and when he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, they gave him up.
1. Have we received the gospel as the Word of God? It is only when we hear God in the Word that we hear at all.
2. Were we once more willing to rejoice in the gospel than we are now? (A. Beith, D. D.)
God alone can testify touching the nature of a Divine relation. Christ has the witness of
I. THE BAPTIST. His predicted forerunner.
II. HIS MIRACLES.
III. THE FATHER.
1. At His baptism (Matthew 3:17).
2. At His transfiguration (Luke 9:35).
3. In the temple (John 12:29).
IV. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
1. Old Testament.
V. HIS DISCIPLES in whom He dwells.
VI. HIS ENEMIES, the rancour and persistence of whose opposition is a testimony to His Person and worth. (J. W. Burn.)
The witness of the Old Testament Scriptures to Jesus Christ
I. They witness to Him BY THE GREAT NEED OF A SAVIOUR, revealed by the lives and expressed in the words of the noblest of men.
II. They witness to Him BY THE UNSATISFYING EXPEDIENTS to which men resorted to meet that need--law, ritual, sacrifice.
III. They witness to Him BY TURNING MEN’S THOUGHTS from the past and the present to the future. The golden age of Israel was ever before her, not behind.
IV. They witness to Him BY THE UNREALIZED IDEALS of Prophet, King, and Priest, which Christ alone fulfilled.
1. As Prophet, He spoke with authority.
2. As King, He wrought with authority.
3. As Priest, He forgave with authority. (C. M. Hardy, B. A.)
These things I say, that ye might be saved
Have an object
A minister once had the celebrated Andrew Fuller as a hearer. After service, both were invited to a neighbouring house for refreshment. The preacher, who evidently thought he had made no failure, was desirous to ascertain Mr. Fuller’s opinion of his effort. The veteran divine seemed unwilling to be drawn out upon that subject, and for some time took no notice of his younger brother’s allusions and hints. At length a remark was made of so inviting a character as that Mr. Fuller could not well avoid making some reply. He said, “I gave close attention to your sermon, and tried to ascertain at what you were aiming it: what was your object?” Several years afterwards that preacher referred to Mr. Fuller’s inquiry as a cutting reproof which he deeply felt, and which had the effect of changing essentially the character of both his motives and his labours. (Clerical Anecdotes.)
He was a burning and a shining light
I. In the ANALOGY employed by our Lord we have the threefold characteristic of a Christian minister--light, heat, and lustre. Re is a living lantern. “Light in the Lord.”
1. The first qualification for a Christian teacher is that he sees. He has heard the voice, “Let there be light,” and the voice has divided the light from the darkness.
2. The Christian doctrine is that the world and human nature are dark, and that Christianity is a light shining in a dark place.
3. In harmony with this view, every Christian man, and especially the Christian teacher, should be a light-bringer, none the less so because his temperament and character are called to a different routine of duties, or develop a varied order of excellences. There may be more or less of the red flare of human passion or the beautiful white light of love. Light is one, but it shines through various affecting media. There is light
(1) In the eye, by which we know sensible objects;
(2) In the understanding, by which we know scientific relations and are able to reason, etc.;
(3) In the will, which affects the whole range of our moral vision;
(4) but we see most clearly when we see through our affections.
4. But the Christian, like John, must be a burning and shining light--the marriage of knowledge and zeal; the white and red lights of life; impetuosity and prudence; Peter and John going up to the temple; the jewels on the high priest’s breastplate; the gorgeous red of the ruby, the soft blue of the sardonyx, the cataract splendour of the diamond.
II. Our Lord permits the designation to wear the form of EULOGY. John was an extraordinary teacher every way.
1. When any insist on ecclesiastical authority, I like to point to John the Baptist. How strangely he must have startled the ordinary opinions of his day. To the priests his mission must have appeared most heretical and disorderly. How strange that the conservators of religion are ever the last to learn the meanings of a great revelation. But when the Word of the Lord burns in the heart of a prophet he cannot hold back.
2. John was no dreamer, but never did prophet appear more so, proclaiming the visionary kingdom at hand. In the nature of things the light would not be comprehended by the darkness. Suddenly, in the death state of the Jewish nation, John rose. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent ye.” God’s turning to man the plea for man’s turning to God--the sum and seal of the gospel lies in that.
III. GENERALIZATIONS. The burning and the shining light was
1. Before his age. The age was one of formalism and religious apathy. John was the impersonation of reality and earnestness. The most dreadful sight on earth is that of a preaching machine, yet that is often preferred to a prophet.
2. He was banished from society by his convictions. All men who leave the formalism of the present moment must make up their minds for the desert. But it is there we learn our true strength and the meaning of our mission.
3. He died a martyr to his faithfulness. (Paxton Hood.)
Sacrifice and submission
Suppose it were certainly predicted of your child that he should grow up the servant of other men, that he should have none of this world’s honours, and that his life should be made up of sacrifice and submission; would you not conceive it a dreary prospect? This prospect was realized in John; but the Master pronounced it grand. The poet sings, “Lives of great men all remind us,” etc. Thousands of young people have read these lines with hopefulness; of full-grown persons with misgiving; of the old who have wished that they had never heard them. But what are the elements of a grand life? There are easy, pleasant, showy, restless, plodding, successful, and average lives; but of grand lives two only are possible, both realized in Christ and in those who are like Him.
I. THE LIFE OF SACRIFICE. There are those in this world whom God calls to live for others, and the wants of others are to them the gate of everlasting glory. It may be the poor, sick, penitent, orphan, one’s country, church, household, pariah, city, or hamlet. Human want is everywhere. To resolve to live for others, to give time, wealth, prayers, that others not so fortunate may be helped, cared for, taught, and that not grudgingly or of necessity, nor for profession or pay or praise, and on the first motion, and in faith--that is the way to make life sublime. And it is sublime because
1. It contradicts the desires of the heart, which never go that way by themselves, and involves that most glorious of victories, the conquest of self.
2. Because it is like the life of Christ and of those who have loved Him best.
II. THE LIFE OF HOLY SUBMISSION. In this life there is what is called the inevitable. Often this takes a formidable shape, and seems as if it might wreck the whole life. The wider the range of this enemy of peace, the greater the trial to a sensitive and eager spirit. But submission to the inevitable must take the form of intelligent resignation to the will of God to ennoble life. To this end
1. The mind must be kept in check by the thought of God.
2. The spirit of complaint be checked.
3. The habit of cheerfulness cultivated.
1. One of warning to the prosperous: the one thing in their life which could have given it grandeur is lacking, and failure will be written on it at last without sacrifice and submission.
2. One of consolation to the unfortunate: acceptance of one’s lot as from God, and making the best of it, makes it glorious.
3. Put, then, away mock heroic ideas of grandeur. There are lofty lives where the world cannot see, but God can; and noble lives, although covered with this world’s tinsel glory, which will one day utterly fade away. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)
The Word is a hand-lamp. Candles of tallow were first used, then lamps with wicks of flax were universally substituted. The ancients, in the absence of tables, used candlesticks from twelve inches to five feet high, made of wood, bronze, marble, silver and gold, with several branches. That of Antiochus was adorned with jewels set in chains. They were made in the form of lilies, seals, vines, and other figures. Lamps were used in marriage ceremonies, and placed in sepulchres. Olive oil was used, which on festive occasions was highly perfumed. Sometimes the lamps were held by the domestics standing round the table. Emblematically ministers are called candles (Zechariah 4:1-14.; Revelation 1:1-20; Revelation 11:4). The Rabbis were called “Candles of the Law; Lamps of the Light.” Light and fire were symbols of John 1:4; John 3:20). Lamps are required only in the sun’s absence, so at Christ’s coming John disappears. The Church is symbolized under the sign of a candlestick (Revelation 1:20). Caravans in the desert at night are preceded by a brilliant lantern, which lights all who follow. Should the bearer be careless, “Let your light shine” sounds from all. Christ was never called, like John, a “light-bearer”; the word light as applied to Him is entirely different. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The light and the lamp
Just as Christ was not a Light, but the Light, so John was not a lamp, but the lamp; he was the friend and servant of the Bridegroom, who was to go before Him with the torch of his testimony. Burning like fire, his call to repentance penetrated into the hearts of men; brightly shining, full of gospel truth, he went before, lighting the way which led to the Lamb of God. (R. Besser, D. D.)
John was not a permanent sun; he was the torch which cannot burn without consuming itself. Critics have interpreted the article as signifying the torch par excellence, as alluding to Sir 48:1, “the word (of Elias) shone like a torch,” and as comparing John to the well.known retch-bearer who walked before the bridegroom in a nuptial procession; but the article simply means the light, of which there never was more than one in the house, (F. Godet, D. D.)
The lamp that burneth and shineth
The two epithets express the same idea; that of the ephemeral brilliance of a torch which wastes as it gives light. The imperfect “was” proves that the torch is now extinguished. John was imprisoned or dead. (F. Godet, D. D.)
A lamp shines by burning, and burns in shining; the sun wastes not while raying forth its beams. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Burning and shining lives
Some shine but do not burn; others burn but do not shine. True grace in the soul does both. Basil thundered in his preaching and lightened in his life. Of the martyrs Rogers and Bradford it was difficult to decide whether their eloquence or their holiness shone the brighter. (Van Doren.)
Let your light shine
As I have seen the glowworm at late evening, by the silent side of an empty English lane, mount some tall spike of grass and turn its tiny lamp, content to hang, head downwards, itself unseen, so that the exquisite soft green light which God had given it might be visible in its loveliness; so may one find in this world’s lowly and unfrequented paths Christ’s light-bearers, who shed each his own sweet love-light round a narrow circle of the dark, that the wayfarer who sees may praise, not his unsightly and, sooth to say, concealed self, but that great Father in heaven who lit this faint taper upon earth, even as He lit the nobler fires which burn far up in heaven. But just as I have shut the poor glowworm in a dark box or under an inverted dish, yet found that it spent all its radiance there unseen, only for sake of love, and because shine it must: so will the true soul, whom his Lord shall chance to imprison from shedding light on any human eye, rejoice no less to let his devout affections and gracious deeds be seen of Him who looks through the densest cover, and knows how to bestow an open reward. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
Christians must shine
Christians I it is your duty not only to be good, but to shine; and, of all the lights which you kindle on the face, joy will reach furthest out to sea, where troubled mariners are seeking the shore. Even in your deepest griefs, rejoice in God. As waves phosphoresce, let joys flash from the swing of the sorrows of your souls. (H. W. Beecher.)
The benefit of light
The man who carries a lantern in a dark night can have friends all around him, walking safely by the help of its rays, and he not defrauded. So he who has the God-given light of hope in his breast can help on many others in this world’s darkness, not to his own loss, but to their precious gain. (H. W. Beecher.)
The value of light
A blacksmith can do nothing when his fire is out, and in this respect he is the type of a minister. If all the lights in the outside world are quenched, the lamp which burns in the sanctuary ought still to remain undimmed. For that fire no curfew must ever be rung.
Burning and shining lights
Paul, Peter, James, or John--Luke, Mark, Matthew, or Apollos--Andrew, Philip, Barnabas, or Stephen--each would be a burning and shining light: in one the lustre might dart from the pen, in another from the tongue; from one might flash the lightnings of eloquence, from another the more quiet beam of lucid exposition. St. Bernard may illuminate a court, or Thomas a Kempis a cloister; Wickliffe may lighten a rectory or a kingdom; Luther may blaze over an age; Brainerd and Elliott may spend their fiery light in rousing the latent emotions of Indian tribes; or Williams, in identifying Christianity to savages with the arts of life; Whitfield may be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, echoless as soon as uttered; Madame Chantal, the glorious Elizabeth of Hungary, or the lovely Florence Nightingale, may show how the Tabitha and Dorcas spirit is not confined to any age, to cottage, or to court. But the fact about Christianity is, that it turns all its possessors, all its sound-hearted professors, into burning and shining lights. (Paxton Hood.)
The self-consuming life
As a burning and shining light while illuminating others consumes itself, so Christian teachers should sacrifice themselves in the service of God for their fellow-men. (Zeisius.)
Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in His light.
Jesus compares the Jews to children who, instead of taking advantage of the precious moments during which the torch burns to accomplish an indispensable task, do nothing but dance and play the fool in its light till it goes out. It is impossible to characterize better the vain and childish satisfaction which the national pride has found for the moment in the appearance of this extraordinary man, and the absence of the serious fruits of repentance and faith which it was intended to produce. “Instead of being yourselves led to faith by John, you made him an object of curiosity. You pleased yourselves with him.” Comp. Luke 7:24, etc., which charges them with making it an amusing spectacle, and closes by comparing them to a group of children playing in the market-place. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Playing with the light
“All you ever seriously contemplated was to leap, dance, make sport of, like gnats in the twilight, like flies round a lamp, like dancers at a wedding.” The phrase marked not the progress of the Baptist’s career, but the short-lived character of their favourable mood towards him, or the celerity with which their satisfaction in the radiance emitted by him turned into disgust. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Regeneration better than admiration
The Jews were pleased enough with the thrilling excitement of his ministry, and experienced the delight of a new and powerful sensation. But when John struck deep they forsook him, and never mourned when the martyr perished; as children sport with fire till they are burned, then they cast it aside. Thus the Athenians sought profane amusement in Paul’s preaching (Acts 17:19), Thus popular preachers are followed by thousands who will the next day be found at the gaming table, the racecourse, or the theatre. Not admiration, but regeneration is what a minister should seek for. (Van Doren.)
I have greater witness than that of John
The Greater Witness
Jesus was competent to bear witness to His own glory; so was the Father and the Holy Ghost. Each did, and they alone are competent witnesses. Besides the testimony of the Father through John there were
I. TWO OTHER FORMS IN WHICH THE FATHER BORE WITNESS.
1. By the works which He gave Jesus to finish (verse 36). John’s mission served its end by calling attention to them: the works themselves are now put in evidence.
(1) What were they? Not miracles merely, but all that required to be performed for man’s salvation.
(2) In what sense were they “given” Him?
(a) In the everlasting covenant;
(b) When He was instituted in His mediatorial office;
(c) In token not only of the Father’s love for the elect, but for His Son.
(3) They were given Him to finish. Not to enter on and fail to accomplish. All heaven and earth were entitled to act on the assurance that there could be but one issue.
(4) Yet the works were His, done by His own inherent, personal, almighty power, and of His independent sovereign will.
(5) These works bore witness that the Father had sent Him. They were evidences not of an ordinary prophetic, but of an extraordinary Messianic mission.
2. The Father had directly borne witness to Him (verse 17): Here also was testimony greater than John’s.
(1) Christ doubtless referred to His baptism. Never had such a testimony been borne before. “Unto which of the angels,” etc. The Father’s voice was heard; the emblem cf the Spirit was seen; the image of the invisible God was revealed. Thus the triune Jehovah visited the East. It was a descent more glorious than on Sinai. Jesus now appealed to it.
(2) The Jews sought after a sign. Here was one. It had not been given in a corner. It bore testimony to the Only Begotten, but notwithstanding, the Jews remained in their unbelief.
3. This constituted their great sin which led ultimately to the cross. Unbelief is no less an evil in us. The evidence that Jesus is the Messiah is complete: who of us believes it unto salvation? What then if we be guilty of crucifying Christ afresh.
II. CHRIST’S APPEAL TO THE JEWS ON THIS SUBJECT FOR THEIR CONVICTION consists of three charges. 1 (verse 37). The Saviour spoke here of all the ways in which the Father had testified of Him. The Father’s voice was uttered through Moses, the prophets, John, at Jordan and through the “works.” But to them it was as though it had never spoken. They enjoyed such opportunities as their fathers never enjoyed. Some of these, however, had heard and seen. Abraham, Jacob, Moses. 2 (verse 38). It was their national boast that they had the Scriptures, and a deep though superstitious regard for them. But they had not the word abiding in them. It was not so with all, however, e.g., Mary, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael. How common now the former case, how rare the latter, and the consequent acceptance or rejection of Christ. 3 (verses 39, 40).
(1) He praised them for the duty. But how much depends on the spirit and aim of the search. Theirs was fruitless through prejudice.
(2) They searched but did not come to the eternal life. Their discovery was an hallucination. How sad to read and hear about Christ and not find Him. (A. Beith, D. D.)
The Son’s complaint against His own
I. A GRAVE INDICTMENT.
1. Nonacceptance of His Father’s ambassador (John 5:38).
2. Unwillingness to partake of His salvation (John 5:40).
3. Rejection of His gracious message (John 5:47).
II. A SUFFICIENT PROOF.
1. They entirely misconceived the nature and use of the Bible (John 5:39). That which had been given them so as to prepare them for Christ they had failed to understand. They beheld in it a sort of superior talisman that endowed them with eternal life. They never dreamed of searching it for light to lead them to the Son. It is possible for a Christian to make a Saviour of the Scriptures rather than of Christ.
2. They were devoid of true love to God. They made much profession of knowledge and zeal for God’s law, but had no sincere regard for the
Lawgiver. This was evinced by the fact that though they had the law it was not within them (John 5:38).
3. They were wholly out of sympathy with such a Saviour as Christ professed to be (John 5:43). Had He come as a temporal deliverer they would have rallied to His standard; but because He came in His Father’s name and with His Father’s love, and to do His Father’s work, they would have none of Him. What a melancholy tale for that day and for this.
4. They were completely absorbed in their own personal ambitions (John 5:44), and so were incapable of appreciating Christ.
5. They were thoroughly steeped in scepticism even in regard to Moses (John 5:46-47). Hence their unbelief in Him of whom Moses wrote, though not excusable, was not surprising.
III. A FEARFUL FATE.
1. To be accused to the Father (John 5:45), to be impeached before the high tribunal of heaven as those who had dishonoured the Father’s majesty in despising His Son.
2. To be prosecuted by Moses, the very law-giver in whom they had trusted.
3. To be deserted by the Son. Appalling retribution. Lessons:
1. A call to self-examination.
2. A note of warning. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The works which the Father hath given Me.--The declaration of this relation of the Father and the Son is peculiar to St. John. The Father hath given
I. ALL THINGS INTO HIS HAND (John 3:35; John 13:3).
II. ALL JUDGMENT (John 5:22; John 5:27).
III. TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF (John 5:26).
IV. A COMPANY OF FAITHFUL SERVANTS (John 6:39; cf John 6:65; John 7:2; John 7:6; John 7:9; John 7:12; John 7:24).
V. COMMANDMENT WHAT TO SAY (John 12:49) AND TO DO (John 17:7; John 17:7, etc.).
VI. AUTHORITY OVER ALL FLESH (John 17:2).
VII. HIS NAME (John 17:11, etc.).
VIII. HIS GLORY (Joh 17:24, cf. John 17:22). (Canon Westcott.)
Search the Scriptures.--I rather construe it in the indicative sense, “ye search,” upon these reasons
1. Because of what is said in the verse itself, ye think ye have eternal life in them; in which words our Saviour intendeth not so much to show what they might have in the Scriptures, for then it had been proper to have said, In them ye have eternal life, as He meaneth to touch upon the erroneous conceit of the Jews, who thought they obtained eternal life by the study of the law ex opere operato.
2. Because of the context in the verse following, which lieth fairer in this sense, Ye study the Scriptures scrutinously, and they are they that testify of Me, and yet ye will not borne unto Me--than taken thus: Search ye the Scriptures, for they testify of Me, and ye will not come to Me.
1. That Christ is speaking to the doctors of the Sanhedrim, the most acute, diligent, and curious searchers of the Scripture of all the nation. Men that made that their glory and employment; and howsoever it was their arrogancy that they thought their skill in Scripture more than indeed it was, yet was their diligence and scrutinousness in it real and constant even to admiration. It was exceedingly in fashion among the nation to be great Scripture men, but especially the great masters of the Sanhedrim were reputed as the very foundations of the law and pillars of instruction, as Maimony styles them in the treatise “Mamrim,” cap. 1. And therefore it cannot be proper to think that Christ in this clause sets them to the study of the Scripture, upon which they spent all their wits and time already, as confessing their studiousness, yet showeth them how unprofitably they did it and to little purpose.
2. They did exceeding copiously and accurately observe and take up the prophecies in Scripture that were of the Messias, and though they missed in expounding some particulars concerning Him, yet did they well enough know that the Scriptures did testify of Him abundantly.
3. The word that is used, ἐρευνᾶτε, which betokeneth a narrow search, seemeth to be intended purposely to answer the word דרשׁ, which they themselves attribute to themselves in their unfolding of the Scriptures. (J. Lightfoot, D. D.)
Search the Scriptures
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE SCRIPTURES?
1. Man had at first as perfect a knowledge of God as was necessary for him Ecclesiastes 7:29).
2. This knowledge was impaired by the fall, so that a Divine revelation became requisite for his instruction in duty and the way and means to happiness.
3. Here a God revealed His will to Adam (Genesis 3:15).
4. This was handed down by tradition for 2,500 years, and the long lives of the patriarchs preserved it incorrupt. Methusaleh lived 243 years with Adam, and 98 with Shem, who lived 50 years with Isaac.
5. Man’s life being shortened, God wrote His law by Moses (Psalms 90:10).
6. For the clearing of it He inspired prophets continually (Hebrews 1:1; Numbers 27:21).
7. When Christ came’ He inspired others to record His works and doctrine John 14:26).
8. Hence the Scripture is contained in the books of the Old and New Testaments.
(1) The Old in number thirty-nine, which the Jews reduced to thirty-two, and they divide them in this manner:
(a) The Pentateuch.
(b) The Prophets.
(c) The Hagiographa.
(2) The New Testament consisting of
9. These are all that make up the canon; and that the Apocrypha is no part thereof is plain (Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Ephesians 2:20).
(a) Malachi was the last prophet.
(b) From reason. They are neither of the Old nor New Testaments, in many places they contradict both, and they do not speak as from God.
(c) From the Fathers.
II. WHY ARE WE TO SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES?
1. Because they are the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:20-21).
(a) From their antiquity.
(b) The simplicity of the penmen (Exodus 32:1-35.; Numbers 11:11-14; Numbers 12:3).
(c) Their low quality (Amos 7:14; Matthew 9:9; Acts 4:13).
(d) Their high doctrine as Trinity, Creation, Fall, Incarnation, etc.
(e) Fulfilment of prophecy.Genesis 3:15; Genesis 3:15 was given 4,000 years before its fulfilment; Genesis 12:3 almost 2,000; Genesis 15:13-14, 400. So Daniel 9:24; Genesis 49:10.
(f) Their speaking with so much majesty and authority (1 Corinthians 1:17).
(g) Their efficacy and power to convert (Psalms 19:7-8; Hebrews 4:12).
(h) The hatred of wicked men against them (John 15:19).
(a) If this be not God’s word there is none.
(b) God hath attested it by miracles.
(c) If they were not from God, then either from Satan or man. Not from Satan, for they destroy his kingdom (James 4:7). Not from men; good men would not cheat the world, bad men would not condemn themselves.
(3) The use. If the Scriptures are the Word of God, then
(a) Here is terror to the wicked (Isaiah 48:22).
(b) Comfort to the godly (Matthew 5:2-4).
(c) Counsel to all. Wherefore: Reverence them; believe them; prize Psalms 19:10; Proverbs 2:14-15); be thankful for them; conform your lives to them; delight in reading themPsalms 1:2; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 19:10).
2. Because they contain all things necessary to be known and believed, explicitly or implicity; which appears
(1) from Scripture.
(a) God is their Author, and therefore they are like Himself--perfect (2 Timothy 3:16).
(b) They furnish the man of God unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:17; Psalms 19:7).
(c) They contain the whole counsel of God (Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:8-9).
(d) Christ and His apostles taught nothing but Scripture (Lu Acts 17:2; Acts 26:22).
(2) From reason. If all things necessary are not in Scripture, then there is something which I have no certainty of, and then the Scriptures would be in vain (John 20:21).
III. ARE ALL BOUND TO SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES? Yes.
1. God commands all (Deuteronomy 31:11-12; Colossians 3:16).
2. God commends it (Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Timothy 3:15).
3. They were written to be read of all (Romans 15:4); and were, therefore, first written in the vulgar tongues.
4. The knowledge of the Scriptures keeps from error (Matthew 22:29).
5. All are bound to mind their salvation.
IV. HOW MUST WE SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES?
1. With reverence and devotion.
2. With attention and understanding (Acts 8:30).
3. With affection (Acts 2:37).
4. With fear (2 Kings 22:11-13).
5. With faith (Hebrews 4:2).
6. With delight (Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:103).
7. To a right and good end.
8. Constantly (Psalms 1:2).
1. Reproof to such as neglect to search the Scriptures.
2. The highest encouragement and motive thereunto.
(1) There is none so ignorant but this will make him wise (2 Timothy 3:15; Psalms 19:7).
(2) There is no heart so sinful but this will cleanse it (Psalms 19:7).
3. No soul so dejected, but here it may find comfort (Psalms 94:19).
4. It is horrible ingratitude not to read what God hath written, and we shall have to answer for it. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Search the Scriptures
I. WHAT ARE THE SCRIPTURES?
1. The Word of God. In the sense in which the words of man are his, and reveal his thoughts, will, purposes, the Scriptures are the Word of God. He is their Author, and they rest on His authority. This is opposed
(1) To the Deistical.
(2) To the Rationalistic.
(3) To the Quaker views.
2. From this it follows that they are
(5) the appointed means of salvation. We are enlightened, begotten, sanctified, and saved by the truth.
3. They are complete, containing all the extant revelation of God.
4. They are plain, so that every one can learn for himself what God says.
II. WE SHOULD KNOW WHAT WE SEEK WHEN WE SEARCH. We should search
1. For knowledge of God, Christ, truth, duty.
2. For consolation.
3. For holiness.
III. HOW ARE WE TO SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES?
1. Reverently and submissively, with fixed determination to believe every truth they affirm. Everything is right which they affirm, and wrong which they condemn. We are not to sit in judgment on Scripture.
2. With diligence.
(1) Studying them much.
(3) What they teach on particular subjects.
(4) Availing ourselves of every Aid; fixing right principles, and availing ourselves of All subsidiary means.
3. With dependence; convinced that without Divine guidance we shall obtain neither right speculative knowledge, nor right spiritual views.
4. Therefore with prayer previous and continued.
5. With self-application. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
Search the Scriptures
I. THE DIRECTION.
1. Not merely possess.
2. Nor survey.
3. But search as the woman for the lost piece of silver.
II. THE SUBJECT OF SEARCH. The Scriptures not merely theirs, but ours.
1. Between sixty and seventy writings, composed at intervals of hundreds of years, yet with one chain of truth, one message.
2. The original source of even the nineteenth century’s history, biography, and science.
3. The only guide for the soul of man.
III. THE OBJECT OF THE SEARCH
1. May we not search for scientific truth (Acts 17:26).
2. For our own family records from Adam to John.
3. For the Divine message to our individual soul.
4. More especially for the life and the testimony here mentioned. In, through, and by the Scriptures, eternal life is to be had. Life is the joy of every living creature, therefore search for it in the Scriptures that reveal it by testifying of Him who is “the Life.”
IV. METHOD OF SEARCH.
1. Fairly, without foregone prepossession.
4. Comprehensively. (Pulpit Analyst.)
Search the Scriptures
1. Because it is Divine in its origin.
(1) This it claims to be (Heb 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 4:16).
(2) This it can be proved to be from its fulfilled prophecies and its unique teaching.
2. Because it gives us correct ideas of our condition.
(1) Our sinfulness.
(2) The possibility and way of our salvation.
3. Because it makes us acquainted with our enemies and our dangers.
(1) It exposes the wiles of the devil.
(2) It furnishes us with weapons.
(3) It throws light on our dark and perilous way.
1. With prayer. Prayer gives insight to the searcher, and opens up the depths.
2. With an upright intention of submitting to the will of God. Not going with the desire to nourish preoccupied fancies; nor as a controversialist for polemical weapons, but to know what God has said.
3. Regularly and diligently.
(1) By ourselves.
(2) With our families. (T. Snell.)
Search the Scriptures
1. Christ’s Scriptures were those of the Old Testament.
2. Of these Christ said, “They contain eternal life.” Hence
(1) If you admit the New you must accept the Old, for Christ endorses it.
(2) In the New it is the same truth and life as in the Old.
3. What a far better Bible is ours. Two witnesses to one Christ--first in figure, then in historical reality.
4. Remember what the Bible really is. God in His love desired to make Himself known to His creatures; so He gave His Son, “the express image of His Person.” How could we know the Son? Only by the Holy Ghost, who testifies of Him in the Scriptures. The Scriptures
I. MAKE KNOWN OURSELVES. With this end, St. James says they are a mirror. There we can see our real selves.
II. REVEAL SELF’S ANTIDOTE. Christ in His saving mission as promised, and as come, and as coming again.
III. PROVIDE AN ORACLE TO RESOLVE DOUBTS; to check difficult questions; to show daily duty.
IV. REND THE VIEW OF FUTURITY. Conclusion: How many of you could pass an examination in the facts and truths of the Bible? Shall a soldier not know the articles of war? Shall a scholar not know his grammar? “ Search the Scriptures.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The Bible means the book, the book of books. Scriptures mean writings, the marks them out from all others. Search means hunt, dig. Why search? Because
I. THEY ARE THE WORD OF GOD. When you are absent from home you write to your parents, and although they do not see you they know from your handwriting, signature, and expressions that it is yours. God takes strange methods sometimes to convince men that the Bible comes from Him. A young man, an infidel, had to carry a large sum of money through a forest. He lost his way, and was benighted. He came to a cottage and obtained shelter. The owner was a rough-looking man, which made him afraid for his treasure. So he resolved to stay up all night and guard it. By and by the man reached down the Bible, upon which a load was taken from the traveller’s mind. He knew he was safe in the house of a Bible reader. This led him to be a Christian.
II. THEY MAKE KNOWN A SAVIOUR. A pious widow had a large family, all of whom became followers of the Saviour but one, a wild lad who went to sea. His mother gave him a Testament, and wrote his name and her own on the back. The ship was lost, and years passed by without any tidings. Eventually a sailor begged at the widow’s door, and gave an account of his life. He had been shipwrecked, and with another had been cast on a desert island. His companion read day after day in a little book his mother had given him. “He wept a good deal over his sins, and gave himself up to the Saviour and soon afterwards died, and gave me the book.” The book was produced, and it was the very one the widow had given to her boy.
III. THEY TEACH US HOW TO LIVE.
1. As ever in the sight of God. “Thou God seest me.”
2. To be obedient and useful.
IV. THEY SHOW US THE WAY TO HEAVEN. (E. Woods.)
The duty and advantage of searching the Scriptures
The supreme Authority in religion here sweeps away
(1) the dishonourable reflections of the infidel;
(2) the servile restraints of the superstitious;
(3) the wild fancies of the enthusiast. For how can Christianity be accused of conspiring to keep the world in ignorance when its injunction is, Read and investigate, making it therefore a duty to learn to read and to reason? How can it be charged with enslaving the mind by delivering it over to priestcraft, when its Author commanded a promiscuous audience to search for themselves? How can it be charged with fanaticism, when we are charged to bring all our sentiments and feelings to an inspired standard to be regulated? No! the most formidable foe to ignorance, and the most active stimulant to knowledge; that which best secures for the awakened mind the full enjoyment of its rights and the freedom of its inquiries, and the best safeguard against the perversion of our reason is the Bible.
I. To THE BIBLE Christ points while He says, “Search,” etc.
1. The Scriptures are a mine of wealth.
2. We should therefore search them as men digging for hid treasure.
(1) This suggests that its discoveries do not all lie on the surface to be obtained by a casual glance. Books partake of the qualities of their author. If the mind be profound, so will be the writing. What depths then may be expected in a volume inspired by God.
(2) Yet with all this depth there is the utmost simplicity. The Scriptures first instruct our childhood, and to the last engage the mature reflections of old age; before we can understand any other book we may read this to profit; and after we have exhausted all others, we still find something here to learn.
(3) But if searching implies difficulty, then careful and frequent perusal is required; and this should be accompanied with the comparison of one part of Scripture with another, and with the use of every available help and with prayer.
(4) This searching does not preclude hearing.
II. The Saviour here points TO OURSELVES and reminds us of our professed principles. “In these Scriptures ye think ye have eternal life.” He appeals
1. To the principle that in the Scriptures we have eternal life. How fondly we cling to life; yet we must soon part with it. We aspire, therefore, to a continuance after this present state, and nothing short of eternity can satisfy our cravings. What then will discover and guarantee this to us? Not the speculations of reason, but the revelation of God. This discloses to us the duration and blessedness of eternal life. What a motive then to search it to find this pearl of great price.
2. To persons, for “you yourselves judge that you have eternal life in the Scriptures”:
(1) to those who neglect it altogether;
(2) to those who keep it as a gilded toy;
(3) to those who only read it on Sundays;
(4) to those who pay no more honour to it than they do to their catechism, prayer book, or favourite author;
(5) to those who study it superficially or partially, or for the support of their own private views.
III. The Saviour here points TO HIMSELF as He says, “These Scriptures testify of Me.” Note
1. The fact that we have here the testimony of Jesus. This is declared to be “the spirit of prophecy,” or the soul of revelation. As the single principle of gravitation throws light on the whole system of the universe, so the discovery of Christ and His salvation explains the whole record of Scripture.
2. The argument which thence arises
(1) That the Scriptures by testifying of Christ afford us eternal life. He whom they reveal came not only to convince us of the fact and the grandeur of our immortality, “I came that ye might have life,” etc.
(2) That the Scriptures deserve to be diligently searched. What folly for a man who yearns for heaven to neglect the only means of getting there! (J. Bennett, D. D.)
The necessity of searching the Scriptures
Truth must be sought, and that with care and diligence, before we find it. Jewels do not use to lie upon the surface of the earth. Highways are seldom paved with gold. What is worth our finding calls for the greatest search. Prejudice is the wrong bias of the soul, that effectually keeps it from coming near the mark of truth; nay, sets it at the greatest distance from it. They are few in the world, that look after truth with their own eyes; most make use of spectacles of other’s making, which causes them so seldom to behold the proper lineaments in the face of truth; which the several tinctures from education, authority, custom, and predisposition do exceedingly hinder men from discerning (John 7:48; St. Luke 11:52). (Bp. Stillingfleet.)
Blank pages of the Bible
I dare say none of you ever saw a kind of ink used for secret writing. Common ink, you know, leaves a very plain mark on the paper; but this ink of which I am speaking fades away directly it is used, and the paper seems to be blank. But if that sheet of paper is held to the fire, the writing comes out, and can be read easily. Now to a great many people the pages of the Bible, especially of the Old Testament, seem all blank, without any beauty or interest.. But if you learn to read God’s word with care and intelligence, above all, if you pray to God to show you the true meaning, the pages which seemed blank before will be full of interest for you. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)
Search the Scriptures, not as thou wouldst make a concordance, but an application; as thou wouldst search a wardrobe, not to make an inventory of it, but to find in it something fit for thy wearing. (J. Donne, D. D.)
1. The Sadducees “erred, not knowing the Scriptures,” and this is the source of error all time through.
2. Christ made the Scriptures His constant rule and guide, and so, therefore, should we.
I. IT IS EVERY MAN’S DUTY TO SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES. God’s purpose in vouchsafing the Scriptures was in consequence of our fall, and the necessity of a new birth in Christ Jesus; and their characteristic feature is to lead men to a practical knowledge of these two great truths. If man had continued in a state of innocence he would not have needed an outward revelation, because God’s law was originally written on his heart; but since his fall, without such a revelation he could never have known how God could be reconciled. This revelation, then, is suited to his wants as a fallen creature, and that is sufficient evidence of its divinity. The infidel desires a sign, but no sign shall be given him but this, and if this is not enough, he would not believe though one rose from the dead.
II. SOME SUITABLE INSTRUCTION WHEREBY THE SCRIPTURES MAY BE STUDIED WITH PROFIT.
1. Have in view the one end for which they were written, to show the way of salvation through Christ. Always look for Christ; in Old Testament prophecies, etc., and in New Testament teaching.
2. Search with a humble disposition, for God hides its meaning from the wise in their own eyes, and reveals it to babes who desire “the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby.”
3. Search with a sincere intention to put in practice what you read. “If any man will do His will,” etc. But to those who read without a desire to keep the commandments, but only for amusement or cavil, God will never reveal Himself although they search to the end of time.
4. Make an application of everything you read, and this will make “all Scripture profitable for reproof,” etc.
5. Labour to obtain the influence of their Divine Author. It was for the want of this that the disciples fell into frequent and inexcusable mistakes. Therefore begin by praying that the Spirit who guides into all truth may assist you, and close by praying that He may engraft the truth on your heart.
6. Read diligently, thoroughly, daily. (H. J. Newbery, M. A.)
The inexhaustible treasures of Scripture
In the Dresden gallery of royal gems there is a silver egg: touch a spring, and it opens, disclosing a golden chicken; touch the chicken, and it opens, disclosing a crown studded with gems; touch the crown, and it opens, disclosing a magnificent diamond ring. So it is with the Bible; as we study it, we touch successive springs, disclosing exhaustless treasures. (G. D. Boardman.)
The importance of Scripture study
The Bible should be diligently studied because of
I. ITS ORIGIN. Divine (2 Timothy 3:10).
II. IT IS FOLLOWED BY THE QUICKENING SPIRIT OF GOD.
III. IT IS FITTED FOR ALL PEOPLE.
1. There is no nation wherever located or however educated for whom it has not just what they need.
2. It is adapted to all varieties of moral development.
IV. THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN GIVE SO MUCH LIGHT TO THE WORLD.
1. It is like the sun; all other lights are like candles, oil, gas, or electricity.
2. Its effects, like those of the sun, are to kindle all other lights.
3. Like the sun it gives life, beauty, etc.
V. ITS AMPLITUDE REQUIRES CLOSE AND PERSEVERING ATTENTION. Who can study a picture-gallery or inspect a building to profit with one visit? The miner requires years before he can exhaust the mine. So the Bible.
VI. IT WILL ASSIST MORE THAN ANY OTHER BOOK IN FORMING A CLEAR, TERSE LITERARY STYLE. The greatest writers and speakers have been indebted to it.
VII. THE BIBLE IS A LIBRARY IN ITSELF. The fewness of the books is no objection. An old doctor uses few medicines.
VIII. THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO GOOD SOCIETY. Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, our blessed Lord, etc.
IX. THE BIBLE IS IMMUTABLE.
1. In doctrine.
2. In language.
3. In influence.
Persecutors have destroyed it, and infidels argued it out of existence; but it still lives and they are gone.
X. IT IS INEXHAUSTIBLE. All physical growth has a law of limitation, but there is no limit to the growth of the soul. For the expanding needs of our spiritual nature the, Bible has an infinite supply. You can master every other book; the Bible never.
XI. IT TESTIFIES OF GOD.
XII. IT REVEALS ETERNAL LIFE. Sin is the germ of death; the Word plants the seed of never failing vitality. (H. M. Scudder, D. D.)
How we should study the Bible
I. PERSONALLY. Commentaries and lesson-helps are sometimes a hindrance. We must do our own thinking, evolving for ourselves what God has involved.
1. We must compare Scripture with Scripture, for the Bible is its own best commentator. The Gospels supplement each other; the Acts explain the Epistles; both covenants form one Divine unity.
2. Master the principles which be at the foundation of Hebrew poetry and prophecy, particularly the principle of parallelism; for while our rhyme is that of sound, the Hebrew is that of thought.
3. Learn the geography and natural history of the Bible. A true map is in a sense a part of the Bible.
4. We must put forth all our mental powers to perceive acutely, conceive accurately, reason closely, and express clearly. We must learn how to trace analogies, bring out real points, follow the outline of arguments, detect links, and observe general drifts.
5. We ought to summon the aid of imagination to realize actors and scenes.
6. But let us beware of the old sin of letter worship; that killeth, only the Spirit giveth life. Seek the essential under the incidental, the central under the superficial, the eternal under the transcient.
II. HUMBLY; with docility of spirit; stripping ourselves of preconceptions; searching not for the confirmation of our opinions but for the truth of God. Only the pure in heart, those of unmixed pellucid motives shall see God. “The meek He will guide in judgment.”
III. PRAYERFULLY. Scholarship is but a telescope, and telescopes are of no use to the blind or in the dark. The spirit must illuminate our understandings and guide into all the truth.
IV. EXECUTIVELY. Do the truth as well as study it; in fact, this is the only way of knowing and believing it. (G. D. Boardman, D. D.)
The Bible should be studied
I. CRITICALLY. We are all possessed of judgment and reason, and God intends us to employ them. A large number of passages have come to be used in a conventional sense, which is not their real sense. It is the latter we ought to find. Make, then, the Greek Testament an object of study; or, if not, a good commentary.
II. CONSECUTIVELY. We do not do the Bible justice if we read a scrap here and a scrap there. The Epistle to the Romans, e.g., as all letters, should be read straight on. If you can only master a few verses keep to them, but do not let the chain be broken.
III. OCCASIONALLY. Carry a little Testament about with you to refresh you as you take a glass of water when you are thirsty between meals..
IV. TOPICALLY. Take the subject of justification and see what Paul says, and then James, and then John. Don’t be afraid of controverted subjects. Work them out for yourself, not from treatises or sermons, but God’s Word.
V. EXPERIMENTALLY. When you read a passage ask yourself. With what lesson am I impressed? Don’t be content with being interested, try and get something for edification.
VI. DEVOTIONALLY. If we want a real feast let us go down upon our knees, spread the Bible open before us, and realize that God is speaking to us. This is where the Jews failed in spite of all their critical care and reverence, “Ye have not His word abiding in you.” Many people use their Bibles as superstitiously as any Chinaman uses his praying machine. “I have read my chapter this morning, and my conscience is satisfied.” But how much good has it done you? Just as much as counting the beads of a rosary; i.e., none, unless you have found in it a living Saviour. (W. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)
The testimony of the Scriptures to Christ
I. As making atonement for sin, and thus providing THE GROUND OF LIFE.
II. As procuring the influences of the Spirit, and thus providing THE MEANS OF LIFE.
III. As exhibiting a perfect humanity, and thus providing THE MODEL OF LIFE.
IV. As overcoming death, and thus providing THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
How to study the Bible
To some the Bible is uninteresting and unprofitable because they read too fast. Among the insects which subsist on the sweet sap of flowers there are two very different classes. One is remarkable for its imposing plumage, which shows in the sunbeams like the dust of gems; and as you watch its jaunty gyrations over the fields, and its minuet dance from flower to flower, you cannot help admiring its graceful activity, for it is plainly getting over a good deal of ground. But in the same field there is another worker, whose brown vest and strong straightforward flight may not have arrested your eye. His fluttering neighbour darts down here and there, and sips elegantly wherever he can find a drop of ready nectar; but this dingy plodder makes a point of alighting everywhere, and wherever he alights he either finds honey or makes it. If the flower-cup be deep, he goes down to the bottom; if its dragon mouth be shut, he thrusts its lips asunder; and if the nectar be peculiar or recondite, he explores all about till he discovers it, and then, having ascertained the knack of it, joyful as one who has found great spoil, he sings his way down into its luscious recesses. His rival of the painted velvet wing has no patience for such dull and long-winded details. But what is the end? Why, the one died last October along with the flowers; the other is warm in his hive to-night amidst the fragrant stores which he gathered beneath the bright beams of summer. To which do you belong?--the butterflies or the bees? Do you search the Scriptures or only skim them? (J. Hamilton, D. D.)
The Bible to be studied often and lovingly
Lord Bacon tells us of a certain bishop who used to bathe regularly twice every day, and on being asked why he bathed thus often, replied, “Because I cannot conveniently do it three times.” If those who loved the Scriptures were asked why they read the Bible so often, they might honestly reply, “Because we cannot find time to read them oftener.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Superstition use of the Bible
The Bible is some- times used as a book of magic. Many open it at random, expecting to be guided by the first passage that they see, as Peter was told to open the mouth of the first fish that came up and he would find in it a piece of money. A missionary of high standing was cured of this superstition by consulting the Bible in an important matter of Christian duty, and the passage that met his gaze was, “Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming.” (J. M.Buckley, D. D.)
The advantage of unfettered Bible study
It was a glorious hour in England when the Bible was unchained, when every man could hear and read in his own tongue, wherein he was born, the history it told of the doings of God with man. Freedom sprang to light whenever the book went, and at its touch imagination stirred and awoke to life. A fresh world of thought and feeling, the world of the Oriental heart, opened out its riches to the poet and the philosopher. New blood streamed through the veins of English literature. Not only intellectual, but political freedom deepened wherever its words were heard and its principles received. It gave new force to the struggle against tyranny. It gave fresh impulse to political progress. It made cruelty, injustice, the oppression of the weak, the corruption of the great and the small, more hateful and intolerable. It initiated reform; it was the standard of all noble revolution. Our civil freedom--accelerating as it goes--has always taken much of its impulse from the book of true liberty, true fraternity, true equality. And it is not only intellectual freedom or political freedom which have gained their living force from this book. Higher than the imagination of the poet, the intellect of the philosopher, and the patriotism of the citizen, is the immortal spirit which abides in man. The spiritual being of man lay crippled and unmoved in England, like the lame beggar of old at the beautiful gate of the temple. When the Bible was put into the hands of every man in the country, it came, like Peter and John of old, to the heart of England, and proclaimed the gospel of Christ Jesus. Straightway the soul of England received strength, and entered into the temple of spiritual freedom, walking, and leaping, and praising God. Far and wide the book penetrated into the homes of England, and the fetters which had been bound on the spirits of men mouldered into the dust from whence they came. Religious freedom was the Bible’s child. (S. A. Brooke, M. A.)
The Bible interpreted by love
You have heard of the story of the blind girl who, when her fingers became callous, cut her finger-tips to make them more sensitive. This, however, only made them harder, and then she could not read her Bible at all. At last, after bitter weeping, she kissed her Bible a farewell. To her intense joy, that kiss revealed to her the fact that she could read the raised words with a touch of her lips. Ever after she kissed into her soul that precious Word. (H. M. Scudder, D. D.)
Christ in the Bible
I know that men sneer at the idea that Christ is traceable everywhere in the Scriptures. A wealthy man builds and furnishes a house for the reception of his much-loved bride. When she enters it she finds that all the rooms and all the furniture, from the least to the greatest, bear signs that she was thought of. Will she sit patiently under a sneer at her acknowledgment of the forethought of the bridegroom for her needs and tastes? Will she not point out the proofs, above and below, in common and peculiar things, and reassert that she sees the signs of his perfect knowledge and love everywhere? And shall we be frightened by a sneer from affirming that God, who built up all the books of the Bible, saw His end, and made reference to that end in every stage of revelation--that Christ is everywhere? Does not our Lord support the idea when He says to the Pharisees, “Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me”? And “Ye will not come to Me that ye may have life” is a mournful form in which He explains their utter misconception of the Scriptures. May that saying not be applicable to us! Let us read the Bible to find Christ. (D. G. Watt, M. A.)
Christ in the Bible
There was once a famous artist who made a wonderful shield, and worked his own name so cleverly into it, that it could not be removed without destroying the shield. The Bible is like that shield, and the name of Jesus is so worked into it that we find it everywhere. Have you ever seen a photographic artist take one of those sun-pictures which are now so common? Well, at first there was no picture, only a piece of glass with a kind of white cloud upon it. But presently, as the artist poured certain chemicals upon it, a picture began to come out of the mist; first one feature, then another, till you saw the likeness of a friend. The Old Testament Scriptures sometimes appear strange and uninteresting to you; there is a mist over them as it were. But as you study the words, or hear them explained, gradually new beauties, new features, come out, and you find a likeness. Whose likeness, my children? The likeness of Jesus Christ. Have you ever seen a kaleidoscope? When you hold it to your eye and turn it round, you see a number of pieces of coloured glass which form all kinds of beautiful patterns, such as stars, and crowns, and fountains, and flowers. The Bible is very like a kaleidoscope. When you look carefully into it, the more you turn over its pages and study them, the more beautiful things you find there; and remember that all these beautiful things will show you something about Jesus. Whether you are reading in the Old Testament or in the New, whether you study the law or the prophets, or read about the Judges or the Kings, you will find something about Jesus. He said, “Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.” Whenever you read your Bible do so with one object--always read looking for Jesus. (H. J.Wilmot Buxton.)
Christ the interpreter of the Bible
In the vision of the apocalyptic book sealed with seven seals, one only out of all on earth or in heaven was able to break the seals and read the scroll: it was He who is alike the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. And He is still the only one who is able to interpret His own volume. We must consult Him, then, if we would understand His Word.
Search the Scriptures
It is said of some of the mines of Cornwall that the deeper they are sunk the richer they prove; and though some lodes have been followed a thousand and even fifteen hundred feet, they have not come to an end. Such is the Book of God. It is a mine of wealth which can never be exhausted. The deeper we sink into it, the richer it becomes. (Charles Graham.)
The Bible worth searching
There is gold in the rocks which fringe the Pass of the Splugen, gold even in the stones which mend the roads, but there is too little of it to be worth extracting. Alas! how like too many books and sermons! Not so the Scriptures; they are much fine gold; their very dust is precious.
Christ the gem of the Scriptures
What the pin is when the diamond has dropped from its setting, that is the Bible when its emotive truths have been taken away. What a babe’s clothes are when the babe has slipped out of them into death, and the mother’s arms clasp only raiment, would be the Bible if the Babe of Bethlehem and the truths of deep-heartedness that clothed His life should slip out of it.
The Bible handy
Dear friends, fly to this comfort with speed in every time of trouble; get to be familiar with God’s Word, that you may do so. I have found it helpful to carry “Clarke’s Precious Promises” in my pocket, so as to refer to it in the hour of trial. If you go into the market, and are likely to do a ready-money business, you always take a cheque-book with you; so carry precious promises with you, that you may plead the word which suits your case. I have turned to promises for the sick when I have been of that number, or to promises to the poor, the despondent, the weary, and such like, according to my own condition, and I have always found a Scripture fitted to my case. I do not want a promise made to the sick when I am perfectly well; I do not want balm for a broken heart when my soul is rejoicing in the Lord; but it is very handy to know where to lay your hand upon suitable words of cheer when necessity arises. Thus the external comfort of the Christian is the Word of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The test of truth
A man offers you a note. You are not quite sure about it. You say to him, “I don’t know. Hold on; I’ll let you know in half an hour”; and away you run, round the corner. Your lawyer lives near by. You show him the note. “Such a one offered me this. I thought I’d just speak to you about it. What would you do?” “Better have nothing to do with it,” says the lawyer, shaking his head. You run back, and say to the man, “I’ve concluded not to take that note.” Then some transaction is urged upon you. You hesitate. You don’t know exactly whether it will stand in law. “Wait,” you say, “wait a minute--I can’t decide yet”; and away you go, round the corner. “Oh, yes,” says your lawyer, “that’s all perfectly right and safe”; and back you run, and the matter is settled. He is the “man of your counsel.” Just in this way should you consult the Bible in regard to all the actions of your life.
The Scriptures without comment
There is a story told concerning John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Good Thomas Scott, the commentator, wrote notes to it: he thought the “Pilgrim’s Progress” a difficult book, and he would make it clear. A pious cottager in his parish had the book, and she was reading it when her minister called. He said to her, “Oh, I see, you are reading Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Do you understand it?” She answered innocently enough, “Oh, yes, sir, I understand Mr. Bunyan very well, and I hope that one day I shall be able to understand your explanations.”
The wonders of Scripture
The boy holds his ball of twine in his hand, and thinks it is not much, he can clasp it so easily; but when he begins to unroll it, and his wind-borne kite mounts higher and higher, till at length that which on the ground was taller than he is now no bigger than his hand, he is astonished to see how long it is. So there are little texts which look small in your palm, but, when caught up upon some experience, they unfold themselves, and stretch out until there is no measuring their length. (H. W.Beecher.)
The Bible first
A business man sat at his fireside in the city. Near by him, playing on the floor, was his only child, a beautiful little boy. It was early in the morning. The day’s task was not begun, and while waiting for his breakfast the father took up the daily paper to read. The dear child came and climbed up on his father’s knee, and, laying his hand gently on the paper, looked lovingly up into his face and said, “No, no, papa, Bible first, Bible first, papa.” Very soon after this dear child was taken sick, and died. As that father stood by the coffin in which his dead darling lay, and when he laid him in the grave, he seemed to hear his gentle voice repeating those simple words, “No, no, papa, Bible first.” He never forgot those words. They were ringing in his ears all the time lie made them the rule of his life.
A search warrant
“What warrant have you to read the Bible for yourself?” was the demand of another priest of a new convert to the true faith. “Och!” was the answer, “I’ve a search warrant” (John 5:39).
Diligent seeking will be rewarded by joyous finding
A friend of mine had been told that the Word of Life was contained in his Bible. He went quickly home, and he said, “If it is there, I will find it.” He began with Genesis, and read on further, until in due course of time he reached that good evangelical chapter, Isaiah lift. He read carefully until he came to the words, “By His stripes we are healed.” “That is it,” said he; “I have it now; we are healed; I am healed. There is no hoping or wishing, or ‘perhaps,’ or ‘but,’ or ‘if’--we are healed.” (Dr. Mackay.)
Heathen testimony to the excellence of the Scriptures
A Hindoo paper, published in Bengal, speaks as follows of the excellence of the Bible:--“It is the best and most excellent of all English books, and there is not its like in the English language. As every joint of the sugarcane, from the root to the top, is full of sweetness, so every page of the Bible is fraught with the most precious instruction. A portion of this book would yield to you more of sound morality than a thousand other treatises on the same subject. In short, if anybody studies the English language with a view to gaining wisdom, there is not another book which is more worthy of being read than the Bible.”
How to search the Scriptures
As the apes in the story, who, finding a glow-worm on a very cold night, took it for a spark of fire, and heaped up sticks upon it to warm themselves by, but all in vain, so do they lose their labour that, in the warrantable search of Divine truth, busy themselves about sounds of words and incoherent Scripture sentences; when, partly from depravedness of mind, partly frown ignorance, partly from instability, suddenness, and haste, they make a snatch, and run away with that which looks somewhat like the sense of Scripture, and so deceive their own souls, crying out, like the mathematician in Athens, “I have found it, I have found it,” when indeed they have found nothing to the purpose nor anything to the true information of themselves or others in the ways of God and goodness.
The learned Prince of Granada, heir to the’ Spanish throne, imprisoned by order of the Crown lest he should aspire to the sovereignty, was kept in solitary confinement in the old prison at the Place of Skulls, Madrid. After thirty-three years in this living tomb death came to his release, and the following remarkable researches marked with an old nail on the rough walls of his cell, told how the brain sought employment during those weary years:--“In the Bible the word Lord is found 1,853 times; the word Jehovah 6,855 times, and the word reverend but once--in Psalms 111:9. The 8th verse of Psalms 117:1-2, is the middle verse of the Esther 8:9 is the longest verse, and John 11:35 the shortest. In Psalms 107:1-43, the 8th, 15th, 21st and 31st verses are alike. Each verse of Psalms 136:1-26. ends alike. No words with more than six syllables are found in the Bible. Isaiah 37:1-38, and 2 Kings 19:1-37 are alike. The word girl occurs only in Joel 3:3. There are found in both Testaments 3,586,483 letters, 773,693 words, 31,373 verses, 1,179 chapters, and 66 books.” (W. Baxendale.)
Origin of the Bible Society
Mary Jones was the daughter of a poor weaver living in a humble dwelling at the foot of Cadet Idris. She was born in 1782, and early in life began to learn her father’s trade. She attended a Sunday-school, and was soon distinguished by her readiness to learn and repeat large portions of the Word of God. As yet, although there had been many editions of the Welsh Bible published, it was an exception to see a copy in a poor man’s house in Wales. The nearest Bible was two miles distant from Mary Jones’s house. She had permission to read it as often as she chose. Meanwhile she carefully set aside all her pence, determined if possible to buy a Bible of her own. After years of saving she succeeded in making up the sum necessary to buy a copy of the Welsh Bible. She ascertained that Bale was the nearest town in which a copy might be got; and it was twenty-five miles away. But nothing daunted the girl set off, and walked all the way foot-bare, carrying her boots in a bag in order to put them on just before entering Bale. She arrived at Bale late in the evening--too late to see Mr. Charles, from whom the Bible was to be had. In themorning she went to Mr. Charles, and he was touched by her simple story. He said: “I am sorry that you have come all the way to obtain a Bible, seeing I have no copy to give you. All the Bibles I received from London have been sold months since, excepting one or two which I have promised to keep for friends.” Mary Jones wept bitterly. The disappointment was too much for her. But Mr. Charles could not withstand her tears, and he at last gave her one of the promised Bibles. Mary placed the Bible in her bag, and bade good-bye to the good Mr. Charles, feeling grateful to him for letting her have what she considered the greatest of treasures. Her visit to Mr. Charles left a lasting impression on both. Often afterwards did Mr. Charles refer to that touching incident to convince his English friends of the intense craving of the Welsh nation for the word of life. In December, 1802, Mr. Charles laid before the Committee of the Religious Tract Society the pressing needs of his country; and related the story of Mary Jones. The story awakened sympathy in every breast, and it was then resolved, not only to have a Bible Society for Wales, but a Bible Society for all nations.
This was the origin of the Bible Society. Who would have thought that little Mary Jones’s journey to Bala would have supplied the important link which, until then, had been wanting in the chain of events before the Bible Society could spring into being? Mary lived to an old age. The Bible she bought at Bala was by her bedside when she passed away. She no longer required to read it. She knew all its promises and consolations by heart. This Bible has recently been handed over to the British and Foreign Bible Society with the formation of which it has so sacred a connection. An open Bible is engraved on her tombstone with the words, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Then come these words:--“Mary, widow of Thomas Lewis, weaver, Bryncrwg, who died December 28th, 1864. Aged 82. This tombstone was erected by contributions of the Calvinistic Methodists in the district, and other friends, in respect to her memory, as the Welsh girl, Mary Jones, who walked from Abergwynolwyn to Bala, in the year 1802, when sixteen years of age, to procure a Bible of the Rev. Thomas Charles, B.A. A circumstance which led to the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible Society.” (Clerical Anecdotes.)
Dr. Johnson’s dying counsel
Dr. Johnson said to a young gentleman who visited him on his deathbed, “Young man, attend to the voice of one who has possessed a certain degree of fame in the world, and who is about to stand before his Maker. Read the Bible every day of your life.” (W. Baxendale.)
Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life
Man’s happiness dependent on his coming to Christ
You have read the lives of wise and good men, and yet without any conception that they were anything else, and that with all their excellences they had corresponding defects. Now, if Jesus Christ was a mere man you would have the same impression on reading His memoirs. But this is not the case. Who can read our text and feel that Christ was merely a wise and good man?
I. THE FINAL SALVATION OF MAN IS MADE DEPENDENT ON HIS COMING TO CHRIST.
1. Christ is a unique Being who exists in a condition unlike any other, not a condition of simple humanity or simple Divinity, but one who combines the attributes of both.
2. To sustain the character of Saviour it was necessary that He should suffer the just for the unjust, and that He should have the power to remit sin and confer eternal life.
3. To secure the benefits the sinner is required to come to Christ, not corporeally, speculatively, but by personal application of enlightened faith.
4. This Christ required in the days of His flesh, and He requires it now.
(1) There must be an acknowledgment cf His power to confer the blessing--just the same as when you apply for a favour to your friend. You insulthim if you disbelieve in his power.
(2) You must renounce your trust in everything else but your own need and His clemency. Does the pauper require a little wealth to qualify him for asking relief?
5. Coming in contact accidentally or designedly with others sometimes leads to unanticipated and important results. Chance meetings have been full of weal or woe. But no meeting was ever fraught with such effects as the meeting of a sinner with his Saviour. Take the case of the impotent man; that of any saved man.
(1) Internal: guilt removed, conscience allayed, passions quelled, apprehension destroyed, and instead peace, joy, hope, etc.
(2) External: the drunkard is made sober, etc.
6. Not only are the results extraordinary, they are satisfactory. The mind is at ease, and sometimes rises to transport; and there is not the slightest wish to have this occurrence undone.
II. Strange as it may appear MEN WILL NOT COME TO CHRIST THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE.
(1) Some are too proud to come. There is nothing more offensive to the pride of a man of intellect or social virtue to be told that he must come in the same way as the publicans and the harlots.
(2) Some say they cannot, and wait for Divine assistance. That is conveyed with the command. Come, and you will have power to come, as the withered hand was bestowed by stretching it forth.
2. This refusal is extraordinary.
(1) Man in all his stages--as child, youth, man--regards the temporal future with growing solicitude. Why not, then, the eternal?
(2) This eternal future is vastly more important, and is forfeited by not coming to Christ. Imagine a condemned criminal not accepting an offer like this!
3. This refusal is so extraordinary that it deserves to be recorded. Write down, then, solemnly--“I will not come to Christ,” etc. (T. East.)
Coming to Christ for life
Suppose a legislator, anxious to deter his subjects from crime, were to threaten confiscation of property. An individual offends and is punished. Suppose the children to tread in the steps of the father, and the legislator to have devised a method without encroaching on the principles of rectitude, by which the forfeited inheritance might be restored on easy terms, what would you think of the children if they despised the blessing and rejected the offer? And yet that was the case with the Jews, and is the case with the sinner. Perhaps you may conclude that you have obeyed this invitation because you are a professor of Christianity, but you have not unless you are a real Christian in heart and conduct.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH HINDER SOME FROM COMING TO CHRIST.
1. Disbelief in Christ’s Divine mission.
(1) But shall a man be condemned because he does not apply for salvation to one in whom he disbelieves? No, but fop disbelieving that God has commissioned that One to be a Saviour.
(2) But shall he be condemned because a certain impression is not produced upon him, and because the evidence is insufficient? Yes, if through his own culpability, which is the case where the gospel is preached in its purity and simplicity.
2. The Pharisees abstained because they were self-righteous--a reason which keeps many away still.
3. Others are deterred by the cares of the world. They have no time for it, and besides industry is a part of religion; they come to church, and what time can be spared should be spent in enjoyment.
4. Others come not because bound by the chains of criminal practice.
5. With some youth is the impediment. I will some day, but there is plenty of time.
6. With others age is the obstacle. It is now too late to change, and the meetness of declining years co-operates with mental repugnance.
II. IS WHAT MANNER. AND WITH WHAT DISPOSITIONS ARE WE TO COME.
1. With a sense of sin, its guilt and power.
2. With a conviction of our own impotence and deservedness of punishment.
3. With a desire to be saved.
4. With a faith in Christ’s power and willingness to save.
5. With a determination to be obedient to Christ’s commands.
III. PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
1. To sinners. Come at once.
2. To disciples. Show that you have come by fulfilling the duties you owe to Christ. (T. Gisborne, M. A.)
Coming to Christ the only means of salvation
I. WHAT IS MEANT HERE BY LIFE? As death is put for evil, so is life for all that is good (Deuteronomy 30:15). And seeing that the happiness which God hath prepared for His people consists in the full enjoyment of all that is good, it is called life; and eternal life, because it shall last for ever. Though it be perfected only in the other world it is begun in this. At our new birth, when we are made God’s children by adoption and grace the Holy Spirit is breathed into us and becomes the principle of eternal life in John 5:47; Joh 5:54; John 5:24; 1 John 3:15).
II. THIS LIFE IS TO BE HAD IN CHRIST JESUS, AND IN HIM ONLY (John 14:6; John 14:6; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 5:20). All things related to it are founded in Him. He purchased life for us, promised it to us, prepares it for us and us for it, and bestows it upon us. To make this clear
1. Man created in the image of God was immortal; but the first man in whom all the rest were contained by sinning made himself and his posterity obnoxious to the death God had threatened.
2. But Jesus Christ, the second Adam, having taken away the sin of the world, hath thereby abolished death, so that man by Him may have life again.
3. Christ being now by the right hand of God, exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, confers upon the penitent believer this life.
III. THOSE WHO WOULD HAVE THIS LIFE MUST GO TO CHRIST FOR IT.
1. By coming to Him He means believing in Him as
(1) Our Prophet, assenting to all He has revealed to us.
(2) Our Lord and Master, obeying all that He commands.
(3) Our Priest, and trusting in His merits.
2. By thus coming to Him He gives us grace to repent, power to resist temptation, His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, to strengthen our faith, and to guide us to heaven.
IV. NEVERTHELESS MEN WILL NOT GO TO CHRIST FOR LIFE.
1. The truth of this proposition is proved by our Lord’s assertion, and is confirmed by experience.
2. The reasons.
(1) Because men are so stupid as not to care for it; they look no further than what just lies before them, and go on eating and drinking, and sleeping and playing, till death comes and carries them to a place they never thought of in their lives (Deuteronomy 32:28-29).
(2) But if they cannot with all their art keep their conscience quiet they flatter themselves with hopes that they will do well enough without troubling themselves about going to Christ, for they are moral.
(3) And of those who have some sense of their sins many think that their good works counter- balance them.
(4) But there are others who are poisoned with heretical opinions, denying Christ’s Divinity and Atonement.
(5) The greatest reason, however, is that they have things which they deem of greater moment (Luke 14:18-20; but Matthew 16:26). (Bp. Beveridge.)
I. LIFE IS ONLY TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST (verse 39).
How to come to Christ, and the great hindrance
1. Not in the letter of the Word, but in the Living Word; not in an idea, but in a Person. Many are now satisfied with an imaginary Christ.
2. Why? Because they have never known the want of a real Christ. If they felt the pangs of hunger they could never be satisfied with wax fruit.
3. The real Christ differs from the ideal in that He is a living Christ, and can communicate the life that is in Himself.
4. Vain all your self- satisfaction, morality, prayers, etc., if you have not life from Him.
II. THE WAY TO OBTAIN THIS LIFE IS BY COMING TO CHRIST.
1. There are various steps in this process indicated by great Scripture words.
(1) “Coming” to the Cross.
(2) “Looking” away from everything to Christ.
(3) “Believing” that He died for us.
(4) “Receiving” Him in all His fulness.
(5) “Embracing,” grasping, or holding Him fast.
2. These are acts of faith, so you must
(1) Believe the record that He is “the Lamb of God,” etc.
(2) Believe that He has given you your discharge in full. You can only do this by committing all your sins to Him.
III. LIFELESS SINNERS DO NOT COME TO CHRIST BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT. (W. J.Chapman, M. A.)
The great refusal
I. WHY IS IT THAT WE WILL NOT COME TO CHRIST FOR LIFE?
1. Negatively. Not
(1) from any want of sufficiency in Christ to meet our need (John 5:21-29).
(2) From any want of evidence that He is the eternal life (verses 3139).
(3) From any want of consciousness of the need of life (John 5:39).
We all want something we have not, and few are so besotted as not to feel their need of heaven.
2. Positively. Prejudice and enmity against Himself, arising from self-righteousness and unbelief. He gives four reasons for this.
(1) John 5:41. The Lord Jesus is not fashionable in the world.
(2) John 5:42. If you only knew how God delights in Christ, and is honoured by Him, you would love and admire Christ too.
(3) John 5:44. The thing that keeps many back is the knowledge that he would be sneered at.
(4) John 5:46. We don’t believe our Bibles, and therefore do not come to Christ for life.
II. CHRIST SETS BEFORE US THREE WEIGHTY MATTERS.
1. The great want of our souls is life. We think that reformation, good resolutions, a certain amount of sorrow, will do when Life is wanted; for the Bible is in nothing more emphatic than that man is dead in trespasses and sins. Consequently words, works, prayers, repentance, are all dead till we come to Christ. That is the begin- ning of religion.
2. The great duty and privilege of every sinner.
(1) We must come to Christ because
(a) God commands it;
(b) it is the end of Christ’s coming;
(c) the purpose of gospel preaching;
(d) the object of the mission of the Spirit.
(2) It is our privilege to come
(a)because life is to be had on the easiest terms;
(b) because all men, without exception, may receive it.
(3) But what is coming? Taking Him at His word and pleading His promise. You want no further warrant than your need and His invitation.
3. The great folly of infatuated sinners. Health proclaimed to diseased souls, life to dead souls; when the world, pleasure, evil calls, they go, but God calls in vain. What is this but folly?
1. Christ says, “Come unto Me”: not to ministers, priests, ordinances: men readily go to them.
2. Not to go to Christ for life is to reject Him. (Marcus Rainsford.)
The lamentations of Jesus
I. Men, apart from the salvation of God, are in a state of DEATH.
1. In this plaint of the Saviour’s the true condition of sinners is seen in awful distinctness. He knew what was in man.
2. The estimate of man’s state and prospects is of vital importance. To deny or neglect is
(1) to accuse Christ of coming into the world on a needless errand;
(2) to reject the only offer of deliver- ance.
II. In order to pass from death to life we must COME TO JESUS.
1. On our part it is not a word, but an act. A dead-letter knowledge destitute of moving power pervades and paralyzes the Church.
2. Beware lest you lose yourself in any mist which may gather round the expression, “Come unto Me.” In the experience of life we frequently pass over from one confidence to another, and we do this as really and potentially as we come in body from one place to another. It is not an incapacity to understand such a change, it is unwillingness to make it.
III. In order to live NOTHING MORE IS NEEDED than to come to Jesus.
1. No preliminary qualification is demanded. None are excluded for the presence of one quality or the absence of another.
2. To go conclusively off from self and all other confidences and cleave to the Son of God as all your salvation is all that is necessary.
3. The effects which the change produces have not produced the change.
4. It is not the coming to Christ and a better obedience that will bring life to the dead. Coming to Christ is itself alone this.
IV. Those who are spiritually dead are NOT WILLING to come to Christ for life.
1. This seems strange, and the Lord Himself wondered at their unbelief.
2. The human nature of the question is graphically represented in the history of Naaman. Most men would do difficult things willingly for the sake of what they call heaven; but they are unwilling to do the easy thing God requires.
3. The want lies in the will.
V. Jesus COMPLAINS that they will not come to Him for life.
1. Here the Saviour opens His heart that He may look in and see the love that fills it.
2. The upper side of religion is not a sentiment, hut a fact; such also must its under side be. The one is Christ’s coming into the world to die for us; the other is our coming to Christ to live in Him. Mercy let down from heaven must be grasped by the needy on earth while it is within their reach.
3. When you neglect this great salvation you mar the Saviour’s joy. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
I. THE UNWILLINGNESS OF MEN TO COME TO CHRIST. What is the cause of this reluctance?
1. It is not the Saviour’s fault. He not only invited but went, and does so to-day.
2. Scoffers say it arises from the visionary nature of the gift which Christ offers.
3. What too despondent friends of religion say amounts to the same thing, viz., that men are too gross and worldly to care for such a thing as immortality. But how then shall we account for the pilgrimages and endless mortifications of devotees.
4. No, the cause lies deeper, even in the sinfulness of the human heart. Just as darkness is opposed to light, so is sin to holiness.
II. WHAT IT IS THAT MEN GAIN BY COMING TO CHRIST.
1. It is inferred that life out of Christ is transient, unsubstantial, and must die. However fair and moral a man’s outward life may be, if sin is busy in his heart he must perish.
2. But if you come to Christ in heart you shall obtain life,
(1) The life of holiness.
(2) Of Christ.
(3) Of heaven.
III. THE GREATNESS OF THIS GAIN OUGHT TO REMOVE ALL UNWILLINGNESS TO COME TO CHRIST. Those Who obtain life obtain
1. Perfect security, and all things work together for their good--loss, sickness, bereavement, death.
2. Constant progress in time and in eternity.
3. Happiness now and for ever. (G. Colborne, Ph. D.)
Unwillingness to come to Christ
I. THE PLAN OF SALVATION, coming to Christ. There must be personal contact between Christ and your spirit. Faith, like a hand, must spiritually grasp Him.
1. The text implies that we are to come to Jesus Christ for everything, for life includes all that is needful to salvation and salvation itself.
2. Christ gives us actual spiritual life and judicial life, so that we are saved from condemnation.
3. This way of coming to Christ is the only way, for “there is none other name,” etc.
4. It is a sure and open way. None have ever tried it and failed. The Fountain has never been closed.
II. YOUR POSITION IN REFERENCE TO THIS PLAN OF SALVATION.
1. I would have you get alone and say deliberately, “I will not come,” etc.
2. You will not because you have not.
(1) Some of you say softly, “I cannot.” This is the same as “will not.” If you had the will you would have the power.
(2) Others, “I dare not.” Turn that the other way, “I dare not refuse to come.”
3. Think of what you are spurning.
(1) Life eternal, and the day will come when you will think with anguish that you have despised it.
(2) Christ Himself, incarnate, dying, glorified.
(3) You refuse to come to Him. Not to Sinai, but to Calvary.
Salvation is worth Christ dying for, but not worth your thinking about.
4. Think of why you will not come.
(1) Do you hope to find salvation somewhere else? This is what the Jews did and failed: so will you.
(2) Is it some secret sin?
(3) Sheer frivolity perhaps. If you must play, play with something cheaper than the blood of Christ, something less precious than your souls.
III. WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT OF THIS? I suppose some of you think you will come to Jesus some day. Why not now? Every day adds to the chances that you never will come to Christ. And if not you must die eternally. What is that? Ask those who know--Dives.
IV. LET US HOPE THAT THERE WILL BE A CHANCE TO-NIGHT.
1. You may come. Christ invites; the Spirit and the Bride say,
2. Respond, “I will come.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Men by nature unwilling to come to Christ
I. MEN BY NATURE ARE FAR FROM CHRIST. In respect of
II. SINNERS ARE UNWILLING TO COME TO CHRIST.
1. Many think they have already come.
2. Many do not fully apprehend their need of Christ. They think it enough to be sorry, reformed, mean well, etc.
3. Many are too busy, and so have no leisure for such a journey: pleasure, business, care, etc., prevent (Luke 14:1-35.).
4. Many will not part with that which keeps them at a distance from
Christ, viz., sin.
5. Many are possessed with prejudice against Christ as represented in the gospel.
III. THE USES.
1. Of information.
(1) Man’s wretchedness.
(2) Man’s helplessness to deliver himself.
(3) The sufficiency of Christ and His salvation.
2. For examination. Those who come to Christ
(1) Are sorry that they were so long ere they came to Him.
(2) Are acquainted with the way to Christ, having walked in it.
(3) Have a high esteem of Christ.
(4) Are in a new condition.
(5) Walk with Christ.
(6) Are at a greater distance from sin and the world.
(7) Have renounced their own righteousness.
3. Of exhortation. Consider
(1) The necessity of coming to Christ.
(a) You are under the power of Satan.
(b) You are under the guilt of sin.
(c) You are under God’s wrath.
(d) You are under the curse.
(e) The justice of God is engaged to destroy you.
(f) Your outward enjoyments and accommodations in the world are uncomfortable, unsanctified, accursed.
(2) The advantage of coming to Christ--freedom from all these disadvantages; and
(a) Union with Him, real, happy, everlasting.
(b) Communion with Him.
(c) Participation of Him in all He is and all He has: His obedience, miracles, prayers, resurrection, etc.
(3) The equity of coming to Christ.
(a) You lose nothing, but gain enough by it: health from sickness, liberty from captivity, beauty instead of deformity, sanity for madness.
(b) He waits till you come, condescendingly, industriously, patiently.
(4) The danger of not coming: the guilt of soul murder. If you will not come to Christ
(a) He will come against you either in a severer way to reclaim you or to destroy you.
(b) He will depart from you, and you know not how soon.
(c) You shall not come hereafter.
(d) Ye shall not have life.
IV. THE CONVERSE. Those that come to Christ will have life. What life? All that is opposite to the death Adam brought into the world. Those who come to Christ
1. Have another kind of temporal life.
(1) In respect of its tenure. The sinner’s title is common providence; the saint’s that of the covenant of grace.
(2) In respect of its blessing. Life is not a blessing special but in Christ.
(3) In respect of its comfort.
(4) In respect of its usefulness.
2. Spiritual life.
(1) The life of righteousness (Romans 5:18).
(2) The life of holiness in its principles, increase, acts, continuance.
3. Eternal life in respect to
(l) Its title
Conclusion: Have you this life? If so, where there is life there is
3. Sense--seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The reasons why men do not come to Christ
I. THEY PLACE NO VALUE ON THE BLESSINGS HE OFFERS. These blessings are
2. Of a spiritual nature.
(1) Pardon of sin.
(2) Peace of conscience.
(3) A joyful hope of immortality.
II. THEY HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE POWER OF CHRIST TO GRANT THE BLESSINGS HE PROMISES.
III. THEY OBJECT TO THE TERMS UPON WHICH HE OFFERS SALVATION.
1. Self-denial and the taking up of the cross.
4. Purity and spirituality. (J. Venn, M. A.)
Christ’s lamentation over those who will not come to Him
The discourse from which these words have been taken arose out of a conflict between our blessed Lord and the Pharisees respecting the observance of the Sabbath.
I. We have, in the words before us, CHRIST’S EXPLANATION OF MAN’S INVETERATE SPIRITUAL MALADY.
1. Apart from Christ, men are spiritually dead. In forms, more or less repulsive, we find spiritual death wherever we look, in the world at large or in our own circle of friends. Intellectual life is not wanting. Never, perhaps, was there a period in the history of our race when intellectual life existed in a form more vigorous. Moral life is not wanting. One of the indirect results of the spread of the gospel is to enlighten the conscience even of those who do not receive it. But they have no spiritual life. God is not the object of their supreme affection. And, alas! this spiritual death is not confined to the world. Look for a moment at the Church.
2. Now, what is our Lord’s explanation of the solemn fact that spiritual death thus so generally obtains, notwithstanding that He has brought life within the reach of men and offered it to them in His gospel? He does not say that it is because they have never read the revelation of the Father’s love in Him, that they are as they are. But He says, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.”
3. But let us look at this solemn truth as it affects the anxious inquirer after salvation. It is only because men do not come to Christ for salvation, and therefore have no life, that the ordinances of the house of prayer are so often, and to so many, empty, fruitless exercises. Again: with how many questions does the inquirer after salvation often trouble and perplex his mind, from all of which he would be delivered, if he would only come for life simply and in faith to Christ. For instance, he sometimes perplexes himself as to the nature of conversion, and wonders, and asks himself whether it has taken place in his case. Regeneration takes place in the very act of receiving Christ as our life. Coming to Jesus for life and salvation is not the result, but the very means of the new birth.
II. We have in the words of our text, CHRIST’S LAMENTATION OVER THE CAUSE OF THE CONTINUED SPIRITUAL DEATH OF MEN. “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” I cannot discern, my brethren-, in the utterance of these words by our blessed Lord, the tones of wrath. Oh, no! sadness must have covered His face with gloom as, looking over the reckless multitude, He said, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” Christ might justly have spoken in anger. He would probably have done so had He been less holy and Divine than He was.
1. This complaint seems to open to us the very heart of Christ in its aspect towards men. It reveals to us the intensity of His love. The greatest joy He can possess is to impart Divine life to sinners, who are perishing because they have it not. The greatest grief which can oppress Him is to find His love, which would have given this life, despised and spurned. This has been so beautifully illustrated by a living writer, by a reference to one of the most familiar scenes of domestic life, that I must adopt his illustration, though not in his words. One of the deepest joys of a mother’s heart is to nourish her babe from her own breast. It is a double grief! He grieves for the death of the dead, and the loss of His own life-giving! How deep and tender, therefore, the love of Jesus for perishing men!
2. In the second place, the complaint of Jesus suggests the solemn thought that the sinner’s death is the sinner’s fault! Possibly, you sometimes think that a portion of the fault, at least, may lie upon your minister. Possibly you sometimes blame the Church. There are so many frailties in those who compose it, that they are a stumbling block in you! The fault of your death is not to be found anywhere but in yourself! (E. J. Hartland.)
Hindrances to conversion
I. Some refuse Christ from IGNORANCE OF THEIR TRUE SPIRITUAL CONDITION. Content with lip-knowledge. Need to realize that “respectability is not conversion.”
II. Some are hindered by what they deem OPPOSING FORCES.
2. Mistaken ideas of religion.
3. Inconsistency of professing Christians.
4. Fears--of God, of man, of self, of the danger of falling.
III. All these are SUMMED UP IN CHRIST’S WORDS, “Ye will not.” How long is this to last? Why give everything to gain the world, and take no step to save your soul?
IV. YOUR LOSS IS LIFE. Christ came to rescue from death. Appreciate His love by appropriating His salvation. (John Edwards.)
Christ alone is rejected
When the dove was weary she recollected the ark, and flew into Noah’s hand at once: there are weary souls who know the Ark, but will not fly to it. When an Israelite had slain, inadvertently, his fellow, he knew the city of refuge, he feared the avenger of blood, and he fled along the road to the place of safety; but multitudes know the refuge, and every Sabbath we set up the sign-posts along the road, but yet they come not to find salvation. The destitute waifs and strays of the streets of London find out the night refuge and ask for shelter: they cluster round our workhouse doors like sparrows under the eaves of a building on a rainy day; they piteously crave for lodging and a crust of bread; yet crowds of poor benighted spirits, when the house of mercy is lighted up, and the invitation is plainly written in bold letters, “Whosoever will, let him turn in hither,” will not come, but prove the truth of Watts’s verse: “Thousands make a wretched choice, And rather starve than come.” ‘Tis strange, ‘tis passing strange, ‘tis wonderful! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Shall we refuse life?
Many years ago, when the great war was raging m America between the Northern and Southern States, no cotton came to supply the Lancashire mills, and hundreds of thousands of people were reduced to great poverty and suffering for want of food and clothing. Oh! how fervently they prayed that the war might soon be over, and that God would send them “cotton.” At last the war closed, and the sea was again white with the sails of cotton-bringing ships, and soon a railway train laden with the precious thing arrived at Preston, in Lancashire. The town was filled with joy, and when the first load of cotton was brought through the streets on a dray, the people went out by hundreds to welcome it. They marched on either side of it, and many of them kissed the bales of cotton as they moved along, and sang: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” for now there would be work, and food, and comfort. And when in the year 1871 the gates of the famine-stricken Paris were thrown open after the terrible siege, and a drove of fat cattle were driven along the streets to be killed for food, the women rushed from their doors and, throwing their arms around the necks of the sleek oxen, kissed them a welcome to their ruined city, for their coming was life to them and to their children. And is not Jesus “Life” to us? Is He not a thousand times more to us than cotton or cattle were to the people of Preston and Paris? And shall we refuse Him, or receive Him coldly? What think you? (R. Brewin.)
Sinners will not come to Christ
Since I have been watching the sea a wind has sprung up, and suddenly the ocean is dotted with ships. This little town has a harbour, and trading vessels of small tonnage evidently expect a storm, for here they come. Like sea-fowl borne on white wings they are flying for the harbour. Differing in their tacking, yet it is evident that they are all making for one spot. How beautiful it is to see them enter the haven, cast anchor, and rest! Oh, that our fellow-men were equally wise as to spiritual things! A thousand signs betoken the approaching tempest; they know there is a place of refuge, will they not hasten to it? They will suffer loss, nay, they will be wrecked totally, if they try to weather the last dread storm; the harbour is free, there is time to reach it, there is ample room within its shelter; why will they refuse the safety? Ah me! this is cause for tears. Are my fellow-creatures mad? Do they despise Jesus, the appointed haven of souls? Do they so despise Him as to perish to show their contempt? My God, help me to mourn for them, if I cannot persuade them, and do Thou give them understanding enough to accept their own lives. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Sinners will not come to Christ
If there is any man here who says, “I cannot come,” I beg him to express himself properly, and speak out the sad fact as it ought to be spoken. Here is the style: “Unhappy wretch, I cannot come to Christ! Millions in heaven have come, but I cannot come. My mother died in a good hope; but, ‘Mother, I cannot come.’ My father has gone home to be with Jesus; but I cannot come.” I thank God that this statement is not true; but if you say it, and believe it, you ought never to rest any more; for if you cannot come to Christ, you are the unhappiest person in the world. May I ask you to do another thing? If you still intend to say, “I cannot come,” will you speak the truth now? Will you alter a word, and get nearer the truth? Say, “I will not come.” “I cannot come,” is Greek, or double Dutch; but the plain English is, “I will not come.” I wish you would say that rather than the other, because the recoil of saying, “I will not come: I will not believe in Jesus: I will not repent of sin: I will not turn from my wicked ways”--the recoil, I say, from that might be blessed by God to you to make you see your desperate state. I wish you would then cry, “I cannot sit down and make my own damnation sure by saying that I will not come to Christ.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s desertions and complaints
Jesus, Mediator between God and man, suffers two desertions, and utters two complaints. On that side, God forsook Him; and on this side, man. The answer to the first desertion, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” came in a strong cry from His dying lips; the answer to the second is written here, “Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life.” The desertion by the Father in the utmost agony of the Son was the greater--was inconceivably, infinitely great; but the lower and lesser--the desertion by sinners whom He seeks that He may save--pierces His heart more painfully, because the last desertion makes the first for that case of no avail. When we come to Him for life, He sees, He tastes of the travail of His soul and is satisfied; when we refuse, He complains that so far His soul has travailed in vain. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord “risen from the dead”; the Lord is gladder when He sees disciples coming to Himself as doves to their windows. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Will, the seat of inability
Nelson could not see the signal for suspending battle because he placed the glass to his blind eye, and man cannot see the truth as it is in Jesus because he has no mind to do so. Ungodly men are, as the country people say, “like the hogs in a harvest field,” who come not out for all their shouting; they cannot hear because they have no will to hear. Want of will causes paralysis of every faculty. In spiritual things man is utterly unable because resolvedly unwilling. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Will--not violated by grace
When we see a casket wrenched open, the hinges torn away, or the clasp destroyed, we mark at once the hand of the spoiler; but when we observe another casket deftly opened with a master-key, and the sparkling contents revealed, we note the hand of the owner. Conversion is not, as some suppose, a violent opening of the heart by grace, in which will, reason, and judgment are all ignored or crushed. This is too barbarous a method for him who comes not as a plunderer to his prey, but as a possessor to his treasure. In conversion, the Lord who made the human heart deals with it according to its nature and constitution. His key insinuates itself into the wards; the will is not enslaved but enfranchised; the reason is not blinded but enlightened, and the whole man is made to act with a glorious liberty which it never knew till it fell under the restraints of grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I receive not honour from men.
Lest they should think that in commending Himself and challenging them He was hunting after vainglory, as false teachers do, Christ obviates that mistake, and showeth that He was seeking no such thing, nor was capable of any addition of honour from the creature. Whence learn
1. Christ is so omniscient that He knoweth and marketh the thoughts of every one that He dealeth with; so much doth His obviating their thoughts teach.
2. It is the usual fault of men that they have but low and base thoughts of Christ, and that they measure and judge of Him and His followers by themselves, for this suspicion of Christ imported that they looked on Him as a mere man, and as they were themselves ambitious (John 5:44), so did they judge of Him, and so are His servants judged of.
3. Christ was no hunter after vainglory, nor is He capable of any addition of honour by men’s acknowledging of Him; nor ought men to think that He seeks them because He hath any need of them, or that they add anything to Him, when He makes them somewhat; for albeit men are bound to manifest and declare His super-excellent glory; and men by sin do what they can to dishonour Him, as who would cast dirt or spit against the sun? Yet His infinite glory is neither capable of addition nor diminution from the creature; for “I receive not honour from men.” (G. Hutcheson.)
Vanity of worldly honours
The subjects of Charlemagne, after his death, set his corpse on a throne in a sepulchre, and put a sceptre in his stiff hand and a crown on his bloodless temples; but long ago he came down to a prostrate condition. At the Tuileries, in Paris, during the revolution of July, when the mob broke in, a boy, wounded to death, was laid on the emperor’s throne, and his blood gave deeper crimson to the imperial upholstery ;but, after all, he came down into the dust where we must all lie. (Dr. Talmage.)
Worldly honours delusive and dangerous
Heliogabalus, the Roman emperor, being jealous of the power of the senate, invited the senators to a great feast. When they were overcome with wine, Heliogabalus left the hall. The doors were fastened without; yet the carousal continued. The emperor shouted to them from a glass door in the ceiling, that, as they were ever aspiring after fresh laurels, they should now be satisfied. Wreaths and flowers began to rain upon them. The senators cried, “Enough, enough!” but the rain continued. Terror seized them. They flew to the doors; but they were immovable. Escape was impossible. The relentless storm continued till all were buried and suffocated beneath the murderous sea of flowers. (E. Foster.)
Ye have not the love of God in you
The sin of not loving God
WHAT IS IT TO LOVE GOD? Hereunto is required
1. Knowing of Him.
2. Our choosing Him as our portion and sovereign good Deuteronomy 26:17; Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26).
3. Our exercising all the acts of love towards Him.
(1) Good will.
(2) Desire of union.
II. HOW ARE WE TO LOVE GOD?
1. With all our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37).
2. Above all things (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26).
3. At all times. Because
(1) Of the infinite perfections of goodness in Himself.
(2) Of His infinite expressions of goodness towards us.
III. HOW DOES IT APPEAR TO BE SIN NOT TO LOVE GOD? Because
1. God has commanded it (Deuteronomy 6:5).
2. We have so many obligations to love Him.
3. The want of this turns everything else to sin.
IV. WHO ARE GUILTY OF THIS SIN?
1. They that acknowledge Him not.
2. That think not of Him (Psalms 119:97).
3. That long not after Him (Psalms 73:25).
4. That rejoice not in Him.
5. That love anything as much or more than Him (Luke 14:26).
6. That love not His (1 John 4:12; 1 John 5:1).
7. That do not endeavour to be reconciled to Him.
8. That do not obey Him (John 14:15).
V. MOTIVES TO LOVE GOD.
1. It is the first and great command (Matthew 22:38).
2. We can perform no duty aright without it (1Co
3. It will make all other duties easy and pleasant.
4. Consider how infinitely God deserves our love for what He is in Himself; and also for what He is to us. He
(1) Made us;
(2) Maintains us;
(3) Protects us;
(4) Redeemed us;
(5) Sanctifies us;
(6) Prepares heaven for us.
5. If we love God all things shall work together for our good.
Marks of the love of God
I. In suggesting various MARKS by which you may ascertain whether you love God or not, I would mention
1. The general bent and turn of your thoughts when not under the immediate control of circumstances. These afford clear indications of the general temper and disposition. It is impossible that such a Being should be absent long from your thoughts unless you are decidedly indifferent to
Divine things; the charge against the ungodly is that “God is not in all their thoughts.” Consider this, ye that forget God.
2. How you stand disposed to the exercises of religion: if God is the Object of your love you will gladly avail yourselves of the opportunities for cultivating a closer friendship with Him.
3. How you stand affected towards His Word. We can derive no just thoughts of God but from that. All, therefore, who sincerely love Him study that. “How I love Thy law; it is my meditation all the day.” A neglected Bible is an unambiguous sign of an unsanctified heart.
4. With what sentiments do you regard the people of God? If you do not love the image which you see, how can you love the unseen original?
5. Consider the disposition you entertain toward the Son of God. “If ye had loved the Father, ye would have loved Me also.”
6. Examine how you are affected by His benefits. These are so numerous and distinguished that they ought to excite our gratitude; and yet are they the only benefits we receive without thankfulness.
7. In what manner are you impressed with a sense of your sins?
8. How are you affected towards this world?
II. Supposing a conviction to be produced that you bare not God’s love in you, let me make the proper IMPROVEMENT.
1. It should be accompanied by deep humiliation.
2. Let this humiliation be accompanied with concern and alarm.
3. This is an awful, but not a helpless state. Jesus is the way to the Father’s heart. (Robert Hall.)
The absence of the love of God
There are some charges which cannot be advanced without exciting the strongest feelings, such as cowardice and falsehood. And yet there are graver charges which excite no emotion, or, if perchance the conscience be aroused to the sense of their truth, anodynes are applied and men return to recklessness and indifference. It was so with the Jews and the allegation of the text, and it is so to-day. Observe
I. THAT THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE PRINCIPLE WHICH OUGHT TO ACTUATE ALL HIS INTELLIGENT CREATURES. Deuteronomy 6:1-6 six times repeated and confirmed by JesusChrist.
2. God’s revelations of His character and proceedings, show the reasonableness of this command, for they show His love for the purpose of making us happy. Contemplate
(2) The scheme of grace.
3. This should lead us to recognize His claim upon our love.
II. THAT THERE ARE MULTITUDES OF THE HUMAN RACE WHO ARE DESTITUTE OF THE LOVE OF GOD.
1. This is proved from Scripture. How multiplied are the charges against men that they forsook God, departed from, hated, denied Him! Christ said, “They have both seen and hated Me and My Father,” and Paul, that they are “haters of God.”
2. This will always be the case where men are left to the influence of their own minds without the counteracting principle of Divine grace.
3. This accounted for by man’s fall, which introduced in the human mind a dislike to God and His commandments (Romans 8:7-8).
III. THAT THERE ARE SIGNS BY WHICH THE ABSENCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD MAY BE DETECTED.
1. A rejection of the Divine testimony respecting the Person and work of the Son (see the whole context).
2. The infraction of the judicial or moral commandments of the law John 14:21, etc.).
3. Inordinate desires for and pursuit after worldly gain (Matthew 19:16; Matthew 19:16, etc.; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4).
4. Destitution of true practical kindness towards other men (1 John 3:14, etc.; 4:7, 12, 19).
IV. THAT THOSE WHO ARE DESTITUTE OF THIS LOVE ARE LIVING IN AN AWFUL STATE WITH REGARD TO THEIR ETERNAL INTERESTS. The absence of the love of God
1. Abandons man to the dominion of those passions whose uniform tendency is the production of abasement and sorrow.
2. Excludes men from the favour of God and exposes them to future punishment. (J. Parsons.)
The emptiness of natural virtue
1. Jesus knew what was in man, had a faculty of perceiving what lay under a semblance that would have imposed on other men.
2. In the exercise of this faculty Jesus came forth with the utterance of the text. He saw, in spite of their zeal for the Sabbath and God’s honour, that the Jews had not the love of God in them.
3. It is mortifying to the man who possesses many accomplishments of character to be told that the most essential accomplishments of a moral being is that in which he has no share, and wanting it, he wants not merely obedience to the first and greatest commandment, but the impregnating quality of all acceptable obedience.
4. There is no more useful exercise than that of carrying round this conviction amongst all conditions of humanity. The pride of the Pharisees was opposed to such a demonstration, nor do men of taste, feeling, and morality understand how they should require the same treatment in preparing them for immortality with the profligate.
5. But the Bible everywhere groups men into two classes, with one clear line of demarcation between them, and this we can find out to be in accordance with the actual exhibition of human nature. There are men who do and men who do not possess this love of God.
I. TAKE AN EXTREME CASE, A MORAL MONSTER, who, in addition to every other vicious feeling and practice, can steel his heart against the atrocity of murder. We have no difficulty in assigning his place. It were a monstrous supposition that the love of God were to be found in him.
II. DETACH FROM HIM ONE OFFENSIVE FEATURE. He recoils from murder. Has he thereby become a spiritual man? Is the difference assigned to him due to the love of God? Your consciousness will tell you that the heart has constitutional feelings unaccompanied by any reference to even the existence of God.
III. H this natural recoil from murder be experienced by the man who has no love to God, why may it not be carried further and yet the same love be absent? LET THERE BE THEN A FURTHER TRANSFORMATION. Endow the man with natural tenderness and make him a fair every-day character. Still he only constitutionally revolts from crime without any movement of affection towards God.
IV. PROCEED IN THIS WORK. Conceive of an exquisite softening of affection and tenderness over the whole character. Do these refined sensibilities constitute a spiritual man? The feeling heart if unaccompanied by the love of God is no better evidence than the circulation of the blood.
V. GO STILL FURTHER. Let the heart be filled with upright and honourable principles. But there is a principle of honour in the human mind apart altogether from any reference to God.
VI. But it may be asked, WHAT BETTER EVIDENCE CAN BE GIVEN OF OUR LOVE TO GOD THAN THE EXISTENCE AND PRACTICE OF THESE VIRTUES? It takes us to the bottom of this delusion to observe that though the religious principle can never exist without virtuous conduct, yet such conduct may be due
1. To natural disposition.
2. To a perception of its beauty.
3. To secure friendships.
4. To a perception of it as part of a fashionable deportment.
But it is only when he is virtuous, because it is a prescription of Divine law that there is any religion in it. If you do what is virtuous because God tells you, then only do you give an example of the authority of religion over your practice. God cannot reward you in the capacity of Master when His service is not the principle of it, nor as Judge when your virtue has no reference to His law. And the highest sense of duty towards society will not be received as an atonement for wanting a sense of duty to God. He gave you your virtuous faculties and provided a sphere for their exercise, yet you do not love Him. Conclusion:
1. Virtue without religion, from the want of an adequate motive, is at best imperfect and breaks down under the severe pressure of temptation. Christian virtue sustained by the love of God is invincible, perpetual, permanent.
2. If Scripture and all experience are on the side of our text, should not this be turned by each of us to personal account?
3. The love of God may be, and can only be, shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
(in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 16:22):--Our Lord is remonstrating with the Jews for their desire to slay Him. By taking His life they would be taking their own (John 5:40). This was attempted under the pretence of love to God. Our Lord here exposes its hollowness. The other verse is a prediction of the inevitable consequence of impenitence. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul tells us that the Jews called Jesus Anathema, i.e., a person devoted to destruction. How He turns their doctrine upon them! “It is not Jesus who shall be destroyed, but those who do not love Him.”
I. THE MIND DELIGHTS IN SOME SPECIFIC AND ABSORBING PURSUITS, and the range of its search will widen, and its standard rise in proportion to the purity, reverence, and the devoutness of the desire.
II. THIS TENDENCY FINDS ITS REWARD IN THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE HIGHEST GOOD. Finite intelligence can rest only in its infinite source.
III. THE PATHWAY TO SUCH AN ISSUE IS OPENED IN THE GOSPEL.
1. With unobtrusive step. There is no vulgar ceremonial, no wild or harsh Eureka.
2. With surprising grace.
3. With convincing luminousness. Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
4. With unembarrassed access. Willinghood is the only condition. “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.”
IV. THE REVELATION WHICH THE GOSPEL MAKES IS THE GREAT MORAL TRIBUNAL AND TEST.
1. It tries our estimate of law. He who underrates the gospel lowers the standard of the law. A low estimate of moral law means a low estimate of God.
2. It tests our reverence for God. The mind which shrinks from the obligations of the gospel is deficient in its veneration for the Supreme.
3. It tests our susceptibility to transcendent worth. Without a sense of our utter worthlessness there can be no appreciation of Christ. Any sense of personal righteousness detracts from our estimate of His. Just as a man dwindles in His own esteem Christ rises and expands. Christ came not to dower the rich and cleanse the pure, but to enrich the poor and wash the filthy.
V. TO SET THIS GOSPEL AT NAUGHT IS TO BE LEFT WITHOUT EXCUSE.
1. Unless we can find a substitute; but all substitutes hitherto have been like the cup of Tantalus. Read the “Transactions of the British Association” beside a sick bed, or take them as a light to the feet, and where is your consolation?
2. Unless we can silence clouds of witnesses. Could a lie have filled the martyr with new faith?
3. Unless we can do all this without misgiving.
4. But to yield to this gospel is to pass within the range of everlasting love. (A. Mursell.)
Love the supreme test
As a man loveth so he is; for the lover is in the thing loved, more properly than in himself: wherefore, if a man love earthly things, he may be called an earthly man; but if he love heavenly things, or God, he may be called an heavenly or a godly man. Therefore love God and heavenly things, for undoubtedly that is the best and most assured love; for they be, and ever shall be, permanent; and all earthly things be soon vanished and ended; and so the love of them is in vain (1 John 2:15-17). (Dean Colet.)
The tests of love
1. We take delight in pleasing the object of our affection.
2. We delight in the society and conversation of those we love.
3. We naturally prize the approbation of one whom we love.
4. We have reference to the feelings of one whom we love, in all our conduct.
5. We naturally love to think of the object of our affection.
6. We delight in conversing about an object of our affections.
7. We are pained when separated from those we love.
8. We naturally love the friends of the object of our affection.
9. We naturally avoid the enemies of our friends.
10. We are grieved when our best friend is abused in our presence.
11. We are naturally credulous and pleased if we hear any good of those we love.
12. We love to see means used to promote the interest and happiness of those we love.
13. It is difficult for us to believe an evil report of one whom we love.
14. When we are compelled to believe an evil report of the object of our affection, we are careful not to give it unnecessary publicity.
15. We naturally try to put the most favourable construction upon any event that might be injurious to the interest or reputation of a friend whom we love.
16. When any of the friends of one whom we greatly love fall into any conduct that is greatly dishononrable to the object of our affection, it distresses us, and we are disposed, as far as possible, to prevent a repetition of the event.
Nothing is more common than for impenitent sinners to affirm that they do love God; and yet nothing is more certain than that they do not love Him. (C. G.Finney.)
The world does not love God
I have been reading Chinese books for more than forty years, and any general requirement to “love God,” or the mention of any one as actually “loving Him,” has yet to come for the first time under my eye. (J. Legge, D. D.)
The awful charge
I. HERE IS AN AWFUL CHARGE. “Ye have not,” etc. To whom does this apply?
1. To those who are habitually unmindful of Him. Our thoughts as naturally follow the object of our regard as the needle the loadstone. Says David, “I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” Observe what follows: “How precious are Thy thoughts unto me,” etc. But of the wicked it is said, “God is not in all their thoughts.”
2. To those who do not trust in Him. We cannot confide in one we dislike, and we know not how to distrust one whom we truly esteem.
3. To those who are unconcerned for His honour and interest. Is our friend misrepresented? We naturally stand forth in his defence; we could not see him injured or wronged without pain, and Without endeavouring to have him righted. But what lamentable unconcern do we witness for God and the things of God!
4. To those who are indifferent about His presence and favour. We value the regard of those who are dear to us.
II. CONSIDER THEIR SIN AND DANGER. God has the highest claims to our love, and not to love Him is a sin of no ordinary magnitude.
1. It is a most comprehensive sin. Love is the fulfilling of the whole law, and hence the want of it is a sin which violates the whole law. It is the want of everything that is morally good, the root of all evil, the spring or root of all disobedience.
2. It is a most inexcusable sin. For can any plead want of ability? Is not the passion of love implanted in our nature?
3. It is a most ruinous and destructive sin. All who die without love to God must be excluded from His presence, shut out from His kingdom.
Apply the subject
1. To those who are destitute of this love. Humble yourselves before God.
2. To those whose love to God is low and languid. Let them seek to have it revived and invigorated by a contemplation of the Divine excellencies--grace and love--as displayed in the great Mediator.
3. To those whose love to God is increasing. “If any man love God, the same is known of him.” (The Evangelist.)
I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not.
I. Albeit Christ be God over all, equal with the Father, and Lord over His own house, and so acts in His own name, yet IT PLEASED HIM TO CONDESCEND as Mediator, not only to purchase life to them that come to Him, but to COME into the world CLOTHED WITH A COMMISSION FROM THE FATHER to make offer of this purchased life, that by His condescendence He might commend His love to His people, and teach them humility, and not to run on a calling unsent, and that we might look on Him as approved of the Father, and that such as come to Him the Father will accept them, for saith He, “I am come in My Father’s name” (see Philippians 2:6-7; Philippians 2:6-7, etc.; Matthew 3:17; Hebrews 5:4-5).
II. CHRIST thus coming IS TO BE RECEIVED, His doctrine to be heard, Himself to be acknowledged for such in His person, offices, commission, and benefits, as He declareth Himself to be; to be rested on and embraced, to be employed and submitted to as such, for so is imported in that they should receive Him.
III. Albeit Christ be the great Ambassador of the Father, not a servant, but the Son (Matthew 21:37). And albeit He was singular in His admiration of His office, mad all tending to the good of sinners, YET SUCH IS THE PERVERSENESS OF THE WORLD AS NOT TO MAKE HIM WELCOME; for it is the peculiar privilege of the elect to be drawn to Him, and others, they neither see His excellency, nor feel their need of Him; therefore saith He, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not.”
IV. SUCH AS REJECT CHRIST ARE DESTITUTE OF THE LOVE OF GOD, nor have they any evidence of respect to Him, since Christ is the clearest image of the Father, and cometh in His name, and the Father will not be acknowledged but in add through Him. Therefore by this doth He prove that challenge (John 5:42).
V. WHEN CHRIST MANIFESTS HIMSELF to the world, IT IS USUAL WITH SATAN TO HOUND OUT SEDUCERS AND FALSE TEACHERS, to study to bear him down, to seduce souls, and by their courses to make the way of truth odious; for so is imported that another shall come, pretending either to be the Christ, or to hold Him out to others (see Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:24; Acts 5:36-37).
VI. ALBEIT FALSE TEACHERS PRETEND TO COME IN GOD AND CHRIST’S NAME (Matthew 24:5), YET THEY DO BUT COME IN THEIR OWN, as having no commission when they run, as malting themselves, their reputation and advantage, their chief aim in their undertaking, and as speaking the imaginations of their own heart and brain, without any warrant from God; for “another shall come in His own name.”
VII. SUCH AS EMBRACE NOT CHRIST MAY TAKE WORSE IN HIS ROOM, and will easily receive and embrace false teachers and seducers. Men’s nature is propense to evil courses, and is readiest to be affected with what is wrong. And seducers are more ready to serve men’s humours than faithful ministers may be, and withal it is God’s just judgment on the world to give them up to such, since they will not receive the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Therefore saith He, “If another come in his own name, him ye will receive.” This is the heinous sin of men, to affront Christ, to respect Satan in his messengers, before God in His Son, as to prefer lies to truth. And it is their dreadful punishment to be given up to such delusions, because they will not see the light, or do receive it only as it may serve their turn, or weary of the light, and walk not answerable to it. And men should be ashamed of their errors, as being their plague, and a proclamation that they have not received the love of the truth. (G. Hutcheson.)
He who despises the Dove (John 1:42) falls a prey to the frogs Revelation 16:13). (R. Berser, D. D.)
There is light for those loving light, and darkness for those loving darkness. (Pascal.)
Robert Owen rejected Christianity, and died a believer in spirit-rapping. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?
False and true glory
Something is lost in this rendering of “honour” in the place of glory. More is lost by the substitution of “from God only” for “from the only God.” Glory is the forthshining of light, the manifestation of a perfection inherent in the person spoken of. What a rebuke, therefore, lies in the phrase “Receiving glory one from another,” implying a claim of inherent excellence. To speak of it in connection with man is to deny creation and the fall, to deify man and to dethrone God. The other substitution is less excusable. The very object of the expression is to show that there is none good but One, that is God. There is but one Being who has any light to emit, any excellence to manifest. Any other glory must be counterfeit; to accept or profess to give it is an affront to the majesty of God as the one Being.
I. THE TENDENCY WHICH IS IN ALL OF US TO RECEIVE GLORY FROM ANOTHER. This is a different thing from that of which St. Paul says, “Render honour to whom honour is due,” or St. Peter, “Honour all men.” Honour is respect, recognition of the claims of position, character, humanity, not the impious flattery, for receiving which Herod was smitten. But much of that which men give to or expect from another is glory--the ascription of inherent excellence. We should call it cant to be reminded that God is the giver of that which makes a sagacious statesman or an eloquent orator. The thought, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” though it lies on our theological shelf, is not welcome as a monitor. We have borrowed the word “talent” from the parable, but we have divorced it from its context--as the memento of a Lord who will hold His servants in strict account.
II. In contrast with this habit OUR LORD SETS BEFORE US THE ALTERNATIVE OF SEEKING GLORY FROM THE ONLY GOD. It seems strange after the above definition of glory to seek it from God as something. He can communicate. Yet our Lord speaks of seeking from God that forthshining in ourselves The life to which Christ calls us is no tame monotony. It is a seeking of glory; the ambition to be accepted; an aspiration after an applause that the world wets not of. It is the desire for the approval of God Himself which attends upon the exercise of the Christlike mind. Where this life is there is elevation above lying world-worship. Begin this ambition at once. If hitherto we have allowed the thought of other people to come in, let us do little acts of good which no one can discover, or form some in secret, some good habit hitherto falsely ascribed to us, and thus seek a glory that comes from the only God.
III. THE CONNECTION OF FAITH WITH THESE HABITS.
1. How can ye believe who seek the one glory? To believe is to realize the invisible. This is the direct opposite of the habit before us. To receive glory from another is to be deaf and blind to all but sense and time.
2. How can ye believe who seek not the other glory? Faith is a thing which presupposes a searching after, till it finds the God in whom man lives and moves and has his being: the half unconscious consciousness that there is a glory which God, the alone good and great and glorious, destines for and can alone bestow on man.
3. “How can ye believe?”
(1) It is good for us to be sternly reminded that there are states of mind incapable of believing.
(2) The gospel may be true all the time and you responsible for rejecting it. How can ye believe with your worldly lives and ambitious projects?
(3) Lord, convince us of the shame and folly and wickedness of this earth-bounded, miserable creature worship, and draw our thoughts upwards to Thy glorious presence. (Dean Vaughan.)
The peril of seeking honour of men
1. All its attendant circumstances add weight to this remarkable utterance. It is the statement of the hidden reasons for Jewish wilfulness. There was a deep moral incapacity which made Christ’s words and works powerless.
2. That which made belief powerless in the Jews makes it powerless in us.
3. In a very few touches He shows the real character of this evil--the allowing man’s estimate to become the measure of what is to be honoured.
I. WHAT THIS DANGER IS THE EFFECT OF WHICH IS TO MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO SAVINGLY RECEIVE THE TRUTH.
1. Pride. Take, e.g., a man of high intellectual power. Poor as it is held by God’s standard, yet when judged according to the low measures many propose to themselves, the man has a right to be proud. Accordingly, he becomes a law unto himself and looks on others with a calm sense of superiority. By degrees he has a secret pleasure in going against the common forms of belief. His greater acuteness shows him errors in creeds, and then perhaps he stoops to be a leader of babes and grows into a heresiarch, or sinks, if truth be too strong for him, into the sadder honours of a spurious martyrdom. But for some overpowering work of grace, belief is impossible to such a man. Wrapped up in the superiority cf a Pharisee, or embittered into a scoffing Sadducee, how can he believe?
2. Self-conceit--a bastard growth of the same evil root. There is scarcely any peculiarity on which such may not ground a high estimate of themselves. Singularities of dress, bodily defect, a lisp, etc., show the workings of this lesser devil. What is there in this empty, inflated, irritating soul on which the gospel can lay hold when a strange dress, etc., is enough to satisfy his desire for greatness?
3. Vanity--closely related to the two former and yet widely different. It is a diseased desire for the good opinion of others to mend or bolster up our good opinion of ourselves. There is no humiliation to which a vain man will not stoop; he would rather be laughed at than left unnoticed. His itching desire to bring himself into notice spreads into his religion, and shows itself in small instances of ridiculous manner or rite. How can such an one believe?
4. Self-consciousness.is a struggling form of the same evil. The self-conscious man is ever tormented with an ever-present vision of self in what he is doing. He cannot confess sin without thinking how well he is doing it, nor pray without thinking how others, if they only saw him, would applaud. All of these forms have about them this deadly element, that they substitute some lower object for the one true end of a man’s being--to do the will of God.
II. WHERE IS OUR DELIVERANCE?
1. We cannot find it in ourselves. The proud man cannot reason himself out of his pride; self-conceit will survive all disgrace; vanity will go on all through life blemishing everything, and self-consciousness will poison a life of active exertion and contemplative piety.
2. Self in this deceitful form can only be cast out by our Maker. In His presence only can we see our littleness. There all self-delusions fade. It is well, then, to get there from time to time in a solemn and especial manner.
3. But then you must watch in detail against the temptation.
(1) Think as little as possible about any good in yourself; turn your eyes from self and speak as little as possible about yourself, and specially be on your guard against the little tricks by which the vain man seeks to secure attention.
(2) Take meekly the humiliations which God in His providence deals out to you.
(3) Place yourself often beneath the Cross. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Undue regard to reputation a source of unbelief
I. THE NATURE AND EVIL TENDENCY OF AN UNDUE REGARD TO REPUTATION.
1. There is a proper regard which is useful and laudable. This Samuel and Paul had. We may value it
(1) As a test of our own character, and as an instrument for doing good.
(2) But in a moderate manner, and
(3) Not as the main motive of our conduct.
2. There may be an undue regard in cases in which the opinion of the world seems to be entirely despised. An affectation of singularity, a contrariety to the maxims and conduct of the world, may spring from a desire of reputation.
3. In general, however, it is by the dread of singularity that this undue regard is evinced. We are anxious to follow the world. The evil of such a principle is great.
(1) It robs God of His proper glory.
(2) It is base and mean, therefore, and further because it is but the love of self.
(3) It is highly prejudicial to others. For it will induce us to flatter them in order that they may be pleased with us.
(4) It fails of its object. The world is a hard master. “Them that honour Me I will honour, but they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.”
II. THE NATURE AND EXCELLENCY OF SEEKING THE HONOUR THAT COMETH OF GOD.
1. Its nature and advantages. The man who is guided by this motive
(1) Sets God ever before him as his supreme Lord whom he is bound by every obligation to obey.
(2) He learns to attach little value to human approbation.
(3) He obtains peace, and
(4) The time is coming when he will enter upon eternal honour, while those who act from the opposite principle will be rewarded with shame and everlasting contempt.
2. Its excellence. It is
(1) Pure, unalloyed by any mixture of imperfection, and consists of regard for a Being infinitely pure.
(2) Simple, because it has but one end in view.
(3) Noble, because its end is the glory of God.
(4) Fixed and permanent. The tastes of men vary, but the will of God is unchangeable.
(5) Always productive of peace and happiness.
III. THE CONNECTION OF THESE PRINCIPLES WITH A READY RECEPTION OF THE DOCTRINES OF CHRIST. AS the understanding is biassed by the affections, it follows that when the love of reputation operates the mind is predisposed to believe that system which is fairest in human estimation. The man who follows the world has nothing to do with principle or truth. He is a slave to those whose opinion he courts. It is not to a character like this that it belongs to pursue the calm investigation of truth or to suffer for it. This requires independence and unselfishness only imparted by the influence of some great principle, such as a supreme desire for the favour of God. Hence Nicodemus, Joseph, Nathanael, Zacchaeus, etc., were already disposed by the fear of God to embrace the gospel, while in the Pharisees, whose religion was vanity and whose hearts thirsted for applause, rejected it. (J. Venn, M. A.)
Why men cannot believe in Christ
I. THE HINDRANCE IN THE WAY OF THE PHARISEES.
1. The mere fact of receiving honour, even if that honour be rightly rendered, may make faith a difficulty. He is in danger of being elevated above the conviction of sin and of the necessity of salvation.
2. It is still more perilous if, receiving honour, we come to expect it. Those who do are not in the condition which renders it easy to say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
3. The Pharisees received honour, but it was quite undeserved. They extolled one another for ostentatious religiousness, whereas they devoured widows’ houses, etc. If a man has a fine character and doesn’t deserve it, and allows it to go on, how can he believe in Christ whose light shows him in his true colours? How can the man who has lived in the dark love the light?
4. Always receiving this honour, they deceived themselves into believing that they deserved it. The deluded becomes self-deluded, and when the smoke of incense makes their eyes dim with self-conceit, it is not at all marvellous that they cannot believe in Christ.
5. The praise of men generally turns the receivers into great cowards. To believe in Jesus is to forfeit that. Men would no longer salute them as Rabbi, but turn them out of the synagogue. So a good many now cannot believe because they are afraid. The commercial traveller would be exposed to the chaff of the commercial room; the working man to the coarse remarks of the workshop. Some are afraid of the boon companions whom they have led. How many live on the breath of their fellow men!
II. OTHER HINDRANCES.
1. Some are unable to believe because they have a very high opinion of themselves. They have never done anything amiss, or have good hearts at bottom.
2. In many cases there is a strong aversion to confession of sin and to approach to God.
3. In others the hindrance is indolence.
4. Many are too fond of pleasure to believe in Christ.
5. Habitual or occasional sin.
6. Love of gain.
7. An unforgiving temper;--all impede faith in Christ. But they all aggravate the sin. Dare you plead them before God? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The idolatry of genius
I. DESCRIBE THE EVIL.
1. The lowest and least sinful grade of it is when men value genius and do homage to it simply for its own sake, and apart from its uses. This evil is exemplified where men honour another, not for anything he has done, but simply because he has received from God some quality, intelligence, beyond that ordinarily bestowed. He may be a vain man, who is concerned chiefly to use his gifts for display; or an indolent man, who allows life to pass away without his doing any benefit; or a thoughtless man, who has never formed one worthy aim; or an irresolute man, who is driven through life as a mere waif.
2. A worse is reached when men suffer their admiration of genius to blind them to moral distortions. Sometimes the man is bold and wicked enough to employ, genius for feathering the poisoned arrows of vice, so that they may fly the surer and strike the deeper. At other times only the tendency of his writings saps the moral principle. In other cases the writer may have kept his page comparatively clean whilst he has been himself a man of notoriously flagitious life. Are such men worthy of being held up to admiration?
3. Another stage, more daring and wicked, is when men of superior powers are actually deified. This is exemplified in those forms of heathen hero-worship; and something not essentially different from this may be found in the saint-worship of the Romish Church. It may appear to some, however, that there is no risk of this species of idolatry attaching itself to mere literary genius. But what is to be said of the deliberate proposal of Comte--to revise the Calendar, and appoint days for the special worship of greatmen, gods, heroes, saints; in the first of which he would place such names as those of Moses, Homer, St. Paul, Shakespeare, Frederick the Great; in the second, Buddha and Confucius; and in the third, Hercules and Ovid?
II. THE EVIL AND DANGER OF SUCH A TENDENCY. The worship of genius is
1. Irrational. The difference between one man’s intellect and another’s can never be so immense as to make it compatible with the dignity of a rational being for the less gifted to bow down in homage and reverence to his more richly endowed brother. Is it not a dereliction from our proper manhood? What would be thought of us were we to treat other gifts of God after the same fashion? Beauty, strength, etc.
2. Immoral. The first principle of morality is, that a man is neither to be praised nor blamed for what is merely physical and constitutional. The mere possession of a gift infers no excellence, implies no worthiness. It is as the possessor uses them that he becomes a fit subject for approbation or the opposite. The immorality is heightened when a man of genius is lauded, in spite of the impurity, blasphemy, or falsehood of his writings, or the crimes of his life.
3. Prejudicial to the moral interests of the youth of the community. “We must put an end,” says the Platonic Socrates, speaking of the immortal stores of the Greek poets, “We must put an end to such stories in our State, lest they beget in the youth too great a facility for wickedness.”
4. Idolatrous. You worship genius: Why?--Because it is the gift of God? So is nature. Because it is attractive and brilliant? So is the sun, so are the stars, the earth, the sea. Because it fills you with delight? So do the flowers. Where do you draw the distinction? (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)
A certain king had a minstrel whom he commanded to play before him. It was a day of high feasting; the cups were flowing, and many great guests were assembled. The minstrel laid his fingers among the strings of his harp and woke them all to the sweetest melody, but the hymn was to the glory of himself. It was a celebration of the exploits of song which the bard had himself performed, and told how he had excelled highborn Hoel’s harp, and emulated soft Llewellyn’s lay. In high-sounding strains he sang himself and all his glories. When the feast was over, the harper said to the monarch, “O king, give me thy guerdon; let the minstrel’s meed be paid.” Then the monarch replied, “Thou hast sung unto thyself; pay thyself. Thine own praises were thy theme; be thyself the paymaster.” The harper cried, “Did I not sing sweetly? O king, give me thy gold!” But the king said, “So much the worse for thy pride, that thou shouldst lavish such praise on thyself. Get thee gone, thou shalt not serve in my train.” (W. Baxendale.)
Happiness and humility
Some time since I took up a work purporting to be the lives of sundry characters as related by themselves. Two of those characters agreed in remarking that they were never happy until they ceased striving to be great men. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
The day of judgment is likened to a trial, and we learn that with every verdict there will be given reasons which shall satisfy the intelligent creation. When we read of books and witnesses, we may be sure there will be evidence we shall not be able to contradict.
1. Conscience will probably be the great accuser. This may now be torpid; but circumstances constantly occur to show that it is not dead.
2. Conscience now awakens with memory, and so it will be then; and so memory will reproduce every action, and conscience will determine its character. Addressing Himself to Jews, our Lord, notwithstanding the testimony of His miracles, avers that He will not accuse them for their infidelity. There were such clear attestations in the writings of Moses to Himself, that it would be sufficient only to produce them. And what a forgetfulness of the element of their religion, and what a stifling of conscience must there have been ere they could profess to trust in a lawgiver whose laws they set at nought!
I. Our Lord makes it A NECESSARY CONSEQUENCE ON MEN’S BELIEVING MOSES, THAT THEY SHOULD BELIEVE IN HIM.
1. The law and the gospel, therefore, must be parts of the same system.
(1) If you consider the law as a system of types, and compare it with the gospel as the antitype, it seems impossible to avoid being struck by the correspondence.
(2) The gospel furnishes us with the character in which the law is written, and thus enables us to decipher its hieroglyphics.
2. How can we account for this? Not by chance; for there is not here and there an accidental resemblance. But when it is the business of a lifetime to find out all the reciprocities, and the impossibility of a lifetime to detect one disagreement, we are compelled to believe that, whoever constructed the gospel, formed it for the purpose of adapting it to the law.
3. Let us see how the argument stands.
(1) The founders of Christianity must, if impostors, have laboured to give plausibility to their system by assimilating it to the law; but in order to success, they must have had unbounded familiarity with the Mosaic institution and unbounded ingenuity in giving substance to shadows.
(2) Had the apostles been learned rabbis, they would not have been equal to this; but they were unlearned peasants.
(3) The only theory on which we can account for this mutual adaptation, is that both come from God.
4. Consequently, to reject one is to reject both. The Jews, indeed, had no such acquaintance with the gospel as we have; but they had abundant opportunity of noting the correspondence of Christ with the Messianic prophecies. They rejected the former, and hence the latter also.
5. To follow the same line of thought further. The Bible, though composed in different ages and by different writers, is an uniform book, presenting throughout the same truths, though with a great variety of exhibition and marked by a surprising similarity of style. This is convincing alike of the unity and Divinity of its authorship, and to believe one part of it is to believe the whole.
II. THE FORCE OF THE REASONING THAT IF MOSES WERE NOT BELIEVED NEITHER WOULD CHRIST BE.
1. We are wont to think that were Christ to speak and work now as He did eighteen hundred years ago, that His ministry would result in widespread conviction of unbelievers and conversion of sinners. But if the fact that the Jews resisted the writings of Moses proved that there was no hope of them being overcome by the words of Christ, we might infer that those who reject the preaching of Christ’s ministers would reject Christ Himself. The amount of necessary resistance would not be greater in the one case than the other, except that the Jews had an incomplete, but Christians have a perfect Bible. But would not Divine eloquence and miracles be more powerful than the written Word? No.
(1) Because the Holy Spirit is the Agent of conversion in either case.
(2) Because there being no respect of persons with God, one generation is dealt with by the same laws as another; and we have no right to believe that in handling a miracle the Spirit would apply a greater effort than in handling the Word.
(3) In resisting the writings of Moses the Jews had resisted the Holy Spirit speaking in those writings, and henceforward, in resisting the word of Christ, they were to resist the Spirit speaking in those words. And so now the Spirit turns upon us sufficient evidence to convince, but not to compel.
(4) “To think that we should be converted by miracle who are unconverted by Scripture is to apologize for infidelity by throwing the blame upon God.” It holds good to-day, “If we will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither shall we be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Christ’s testimony to the Bible
There is much controversy about the Book. It will be interesting, amid the din and tumult, to find out what Christ thought of it. If He makes it out to be a good Book, I shall continue my faith in it. If He is hesitant or doubtful, I shall not hesitate to give it up.
I. IN REGARD TO OTHERS.
1. He commended it as an object of study.
(1) Without one word of caution. He points to it as you would point your child to a garden, where you give him liberty to roam where and eat what it may. If there was a pit there, or a poisonous serpent, and your child came to harm, you would be to blame. So Christ sends us to the Bible, and takes the entire responsibility.
(2) Authoritatively; not with a polite wish, but with a command. We want to do away with the imperative mood, and are inviting people to be courteous enough to let the sunlight into their chambers. If you have any doubt about your Bible, then go like a crouching dog and ask people to kindly listen to your tale. But if it be in your heart as the life of your life, then speak it boldly and lovingly.
(3) Completely. He does not say, “When you come upon anything that taxes your fancy, put that into the waste-paper basket, and go on; when you meet with a difficulty, pass it by, and accept what you can accept; when something appears incredible, reject it, and pass on to what you can accept.” Had there been anything wrong there I know, because I know His truth and nobleness, that He would have told me of it.
2. He declared its absolute integrity, and exactly as a truth-speaking man would do. Persons came to Him with a difficulty, and in His answer there is this parenthesis: “The Scriptures cannot be broken.” This was not special pleading. The subject had no reference to Scripture. The remark is casual and unstudied, and one on which those who examine witnesses place great reliance. He had the opportunity of making annotations, of saying, “I now refer to the moral parts,” or “I am speaking eclectically”; but His whole assumption, on the contrary, broadens out into an infinite confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures.
3. He taught that it contains the great answers to all the great questions of the soul
(1) As regards duty. A man came to Him, asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus instantly replied, “What is written in the law?” and showed that that great question had been answered from the beginning.
(2) As regards destiny. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus He showed that the men of olden time did not go down to hell without warning. “If they hear not Moses,” etc.
II. IN REGARD TO HIMSELF. He was not a mere lecturer about the Bible.
1. He fled Himself to it in the time of His temptation and agony. “It is written.” In His great crisis He goes to the Bible; He has it in His heart; He quotes it as if He had written it.
2. Coming out of the wilderness into society, we find Him even quoting it in self-vindication. Again and again He said to learned men, “Have ye never read?” To His own disciples, “How is it that ye do not understand?” And when He began to read, their hearts began to burn. They had been reading the Scriptures, and yet had made nothing of them, like many today. Read it with Christ, and you will find His person, claims, promises, vindicated everywhere.
3. Christ found Himself in the whole Bible. “Had ye believed Moses,” etc. “Beginning at Moses,” etc. And what is the Old Testament testimony to Him? That He is Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, Sovereign, Friend; “the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever.” Then search the Scriptures; read them through.
1. This alone will qualify you for criticizing it.
2. This alone will give you solid comfort and eternal life. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The unity of the Bible an argument for its Divinity
In reading the Bible I seem always to hear the same voice: whether the volume is informing me how the unshapen chaos resolved itself at the Creator’s bidding into symmetry and life--or men, who, familiar with the scenes, are gathering centuries into sentences; or the lawgiver is arranging the ceremonies of the mystic volume; or historians are discoursing of battles and captivities; or evangelists describing the institutions, and apostles unfolding the doctrines of Christianity--I seem always to hear the same voice, as though the words of John, the exile in Patmos, were the echo of those of Moses, the leader of Israel. There is vast difference in the subjects successively, touched on; but, notwithstanding, there is a tone which I always recognize, and which always impresses the feeling that I am hearkening to the same speaker. There seems no change in the instrument, though continual change in the sound; as if at one time the whirlwind swept the chords, that I may be astonished with the utterance of wrath and devastation, and at another they were touched by an angel’s hand, that I might be soothed by the melody of mercy. There is the same scheme carried on by the wanderings of patriarchs, the sacrifices of priests, the ambition of kings, and the sufferings of martyrs. The same style is preserved by the poet in his hymns, by the prophet in his visions, the lawgiver in his codes, the historian in his annals; so that, as though the Author never died, but appeared at one time in one character, and another in another, the Bible comes to me as the dictate of one mind, and the writing of one pen. Inspiration only accounts for this; but we cannot imagine any other solution. And if (for it is on this our text bids us fasten) there be such a sameness between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, that all the types in the one find exact antitypes in the other, and thus the two have such a relationship, that they compose one uniform system, we must receive both or reject both. If we believe Moses we must believe Christ, and if we believe Christ we must believe Moses; and this serves to vindicate what might otherwise seem difficult, that no Jew can truly believe his own religion and yet deny the Christian religion. “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The impossibility of inventing the correspondence between Moses’ testimony and Christ’s work
We should like to see a company of acute and scientific reasoners, but ignorant of Christianity, sit down to the study of the books of Leviticus and Exodus; they shall be told, “These books are full of types, and emblems, and figures, and ceremonies, and you must strive to devise a simple religious system, which shall give significance to every item of this symbolic array; there are mysterious intimations,” we will tell them, “in every page, couched in parabolic language, or under sacrificial institutions, and your endeavour must be to invent a scheme of theology which shall afford a plausible and rational explanation of all that is thus obscure.” Now do you honestly think that our company of ingenious and intelligent writers would make much way with their task? Can you believe that, as the result of their joint labours, there would be sent into the world any scheme of religion which should fix the plain meaning, or at least afford a clue, to all the mysteries of the books of Exodus and Leviticus? Yet this is precisely what is done by the system of Christianity; done with so unvarying a carefulness, that you cannot find a point to which there is nothing corresponding. The men, moreover, who effected this were ignorant and illiterate; so that the books were compiled when there was none of those human appliances which at best would but ensure the most limited success. What alternative, then, have we but that of admitting a supernatural interference, and ascribing to God the whole system of Christianity? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Christ in the Old Testament and in the New
Christ was in the faith of the patriarchs like corn in the ear; in the faith of the law like corn grown into flower; but since the Incarnation He is in our faith completely as when corn is made into bread. (Bernard.)
THE HISTORICAL CONNECTION BETWEEN CHAPTERS 5. AND 6.--Our Lord is in Galilee. It has been, perhaps, a year since the healing at Bethesda. His ministry in Galilee has gone forward, as described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, including many miracles, the Sermon on the Mount, the early parables, and the mission of the twelve. Returning from this mission, on which they went two and two throughout Galilee, teaching and healing, the twelve were weary and worn, as Jesus Himself had been when He reclined beside Jacob’s well. So He compassionately said to them (Mark 6:31), “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.” That project led to his feeding the five thousand. This is the first narrative in which John has been parallel to all three of the other Gospels (Matthew 14:13-33; Mark 6:31-52; Luke 9:10-17), and it will not be so again until the triumphal entry. John’s chief object is to present the Saviour’s discourses, and he probably gives this one Galilean event in common with the other Gospels only by way of introducing the great discourse on the Bread of life. (J. A. Broadus, D. D.)
The moral connection between Chapters 5 and 6.
The record of a critical scene in Christ’s work in Galilee follows the record of the critical scene at Jerusalem. At Jerusalem Christ revealed Himself as the Giver of life; here He reveals Himself as the Support and Guide of life. In the former case the central teaching was upon the relation of the Son to the Father; in this case it is in the relation of Christ to the believer. The episode contains the whole essence of the Galilean ministry. It places in decisive contrast the true and false conceptions of the Messianic kingship, the one universal and spiritual, the other local and material. (Bp. Westcott.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/