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He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees
The gospel for the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
WE HERE BEHOLD OUR SAVIOUR IN THE SOCIAL CIRCLE. Jesus was not a recluse. He had a kind and social heart. He came to instruct, benefit, and redeem men, and He took pleasure in mingling with them. With all His holiness, majesty, and glory, He was a meek and social being, worthy of all admiration and imitation.
II. WE HERE HAVE A REMARKABLE TESTIMONY TO CHRIST’S GOODNESS. There is reason to suspect that His invitation to this Pharisee’s house was for no friendly purpose. The Pharisees, as a class, hated Jesus, and were intent upon bringing Him into condemnation; and this man had distinguished friends with him on this occasion, who were no exception. This is proven from what occurred when they all got together in the house. Immediately in front of Christ, and in a manner thrust upon His notice, was “a certain man that had the dropsy.” How he got there is to be inferred. Evidently he was placed there to tempt our Lord to commit Himself. Yes, even their hard and bitter hearts were so assured of the Saviour’s goodness, that they felt warranted in building on it their plot to ruin Him. Sabbath day as it was, their convictions were deep and positive that He would not pass by the opportunity for exercising his marvellous power to cure the invalid they had stationed before Him. And that one incidental fact speaks volumes. It tells of the constant stream of healing power dispensed by the Saviour wheresoever He went. As the very cloud that would cover the sun with darkness bears the bow which the more beautifully reflects his glory, so the very wrath and malignity of these designing hypocrites did the more magnificently attest the gracious goodness of our Lord. Nor did they miscalculate. Knowing full well the nature and intent of the arrangement, and comprehending all the ill use the treacherous watchers around Him meant to make of it, He did not flinch from His wont, nor suffer His merciful power to be diverted or constrained.
III. BUT HOW BASE THE COWARDICE BROUGHT BEFORE US IN THE CONDUCT OF THESE MEN! To wish to unseat and injure one of whose goodness they were so thoroughly convinced, was in itself a self-contradictory wickedness almost beyond comprehension. Shame on a zeal that attaches sanctity to such hypocrisy, or honour to such cowardice!
IV. WE HERE BEHOLD THE TRUE SPIRIT OF THE LAW. The Sabbath was not ordained for itself and its own sake; nor as a mere arbitrary act of Divine sovereignty; but for the good of the living beings concerned in its observance.
V. WE LIKEWISE BEHOLD FROM THIS NARRATIVE, THAT AN UNCHARITABLE PUNCTILIOUSNESS ABOUT RELIGIOUS THINGS, IS APT TO HAVE, AS ITS ACCOMPANIMENT, IF NOT ITS ROOT, SOME HIDDEN SELFISHNESS AND SELFCONSEQUENCE. It was not that they so loved God’s appointments, or that they were so devoutly concerned to obey them; but anxiety for a bludgeon to break the head of Him whose pure teachings were undermining their falsehood and tyranny. It was not God, but greed; not righteousness, but honour, place, and dominion; not concern for Moses and the prophets, but for themselves and their own consequence. On the occasion before us, there was a marked concern about honours and place. This was the inspiration of their assumed sanctity, and all their superior orthodoxy was only a sham for pride and lust of power. And only too apt is this to be the case in every intolerant and uncharitable ado about the mere “mint, anise, and cummin” of the faith.
VI. BUT THE END OF THE WHOLE MATTER IS ALSO HERE SHOWN US. Such a spirit has no favour with God, and has nothing good to expect. (J. A.Seiss, D. D.)
They watched Him
What may be learnt from watching Christ
If we watch Christ also, we see how exalted piety instructs the worldly-minded.
1. He condescends to accept in friendly spirit the invitation that appeared to be friendly.
2. He explains and defends the right use of the Sabbath.
3. He rebukes pride by inculcating humility.
4. He unfolds to those around Him the nature of true humility.
5. From humility as His subject, in the presence of the proud, He proceeds to speak of hospitality in the presence of the selfish.
6. Our Lord distinguishes between the hospitality of ostentation, and the hospitality of true benevolence.
7. He deduces His instruction from passing events or from surrounding objects.
8. Seated at the supper, He utters to His host and the guests the parable of the Great Supper. (Van Doren.)
Healing on the Sabbath
Is it lawful to do anything but heal on the Sabbath day? Certainly not; that is the purpose of the day; it is a day of healing. If, therefore, in the very complex arrangements of our modern life, we are trying to interfere with anything that is customary on the Sabbath day, we should ask whether we are interfering with that which has a healing effect, or whether we are interfering with that which has an injurious effect; because there are many things that in their outward form are “works” that nevertheless in their general effects are healing. (T. T. Lynch.)
The coming Sabbath
We have been thinking and speaking of a miracle done on the Sabbath. It is evident that our Saviour had a preference for the Sabbath as a time for working miracles. How, then, is it with respect to ourselves--we who, many of us, would be glad to have a miracle wrought on our behalf, and yet have no right whatever to expect one? It is just thus--we are waiting for the Sabbath. In other words, it was intended, no doubt, to be taught us by our Saviour’s practice, that there is a special time of rest coming, when all the various troubles that hamper and injure us will be utterly removed--our burdens unbound; our fevers cooled for ever; our weakness changed to strength; all our heaviness lightened; our blind eyes made clear; our deaf ears unstopped; our feet filled with vigorous leaping blood; and all that is within us lighted up with joy, even as the house was lighted up, and music and dancing sounded in it, when the prodigal came home. There is a Sabbath coming; and as Christ wrought His cures upon the Sabbath, when He was upon earth, we are taught to look on to a day of cure that is coming--that Sabbath, namely, of rest, into which we hope to enter hereafter. It may be needful for our perfection, and the perfection of our friends, that we should still be burdened; but we are quite sure that, after the round of the six days, there will come the seventh; we are quite sure, when the time of trial has ended, the boon of health will be granted. (T. T. Lynch.)
Dropsy a figure of avarice
Dropsy is a disease which in general attacks only those of an advanced age. In a similar manner, from indifference to God and celestial things, and attachment to earthly goods, arises avarice--a vice to which many fall victims, especially in advanced years.
I. SIMILARITY BETWEEN DROPSY AND AVARICE.
1. In the thirst occasioned by both.
2. In the sufferings occasioned by both.
(1) Want of rest and joy.
(2) Pains throughout the whole body.
3. In the dangerous character of the respective diseases.
(1) Avarice is difficult of cure.
(2) Should the avaricious man be converted, there is the utmost danger of his relapsing into his former sins.
(3) Avarice frequently causes premature death.
(4) Avarice causes everlasting death.
II. DEATH THE DELIVERER FROM BOTH DISEASES.
1. Death and the grave warn us to despise earthly goods.
2. The judgment warns the avaricious to tremble on account of their possessions. For they provoke God--
(1) By their injustice and hard-heartedness, which are often the cause of sins crying to heaven.
(2) By the false confidence which they place in their goods.
3. Eternity teaches us to covet unfailing goods. (Venedien.)
Grief aiding thought
Here, then, stands the man that had the dropsy. Does he object to a miracle on the Sabbath day? It is surprising how our own necessities give an internal light to our principles. Many a thing that has been wholly dark to a man, so that he has said, “I cannot understand it,” becomes translucent to him as soon as God has lighted up a grief within him. Put a grief inside a thought, and it is astonishing how much clearer the thought is. This man had clear views of the Sabbath--very clear views. The dropsy had given him those views. (T. T. Lynch.)
He put forth a parable to those which were bidden
Christ’s great text book
“When He marked how they … ” The book of daily life was Christ’s great text-book.
What every man did, gave Him a subject; every word He heard started a novel theme. We poor preachers of the nineteenth century often cannot find s text, and say to one another, “What have you been preaching about? I wish I could get hold of another subject or two.” Poor professional dunderheads! and the great book of life--joy, sorrow, tragedy, comedy--is open night and day. Jesus Christ putforth a parable, not after He had been shutting Himself up for a fortnight, and reading the classic literature of immemorial time, but “when He marked how they … ” Keep your eyes open if you would preach well keep your eyes open upon the moving panorama immediately in front of you, omit nothing, see every line and every hue, and hold your ear open to catch every tone, loud and sweet, low and full of sighing, and all the meaning of the masonry of God. Jesus Christ was, in this sense of the term, preeminently an extemporaneous speaker, not an extemporaneous thinker. There is no occasion for all your elaborate preparation of words, if you have an elaborate preparation of yourself. Herein the preacher would do well, not so much to prepare his sermon as to prepare himself--his life, his manhood, his soul. As for the words, let him rule over them, call them like servants to do his behest, and order them to express his regal will. What sermons our Saviour would have if He stood here now! He would mark how that man came in and tried to occupy two seats all to himself--a cunning fallow, a man who has great skill in spreading his coat out and looking big, so as to deceive a whole staff of stewards. What a sermon lie would have evoked on selfishness, on want of nobleness and dignity of temper! How the Lord would have shown him how to make himself half the size, so as to accommodate some poor weak person who had struggled miles to be here, and is obliged to stand. I have been enabled to count the number of pews from the front of the pulpit where the man is. I paused there. My Lord--keener, truer--would have founded a sermon on the ill-behaviour. He would have spoken about us all. He would have known who came here through mere curiosity, who was thinking about finery and amusement, who was shopkeeping even in the church, buying and selling to-morrow in advance; and upon every one of us, preacher and hearers, lie would have founded a discourse. Do you wonder now at His graphic, vivid talk? Do you wonder now whence He got His accent Can you marvel any longer to what He was indebted for His emphasis, His clearness, His directness of speech, His practical exhortation? He put forth a parable when He remarked how they did the marketing, dressed themselves, trained or mistrained their families, went to church for evil purposes, spake hard words about one another, took the disennobling instead of the elevating view of their neigh hours’ work and conversation. The hearers gave that preacher His text, and what they gave lie took, and sent back again in flame or in blessing. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Sit not down in the highest room
1. That Christianity is intended to enter into our whole conduct, not only when we are engaged in religious exercises, but even in our social intercourse with our fellow-creatures. Nothing, you see, can be a greater mistake than to suppose that religion is to be confined to the church or to the closet. It is intended to regulate our thoughts and passions, and to dispose us always to cherish those dispositions which are amiable.
2. We infer from this passage that humility is a disposition essential to true Christianity, which ought to be exercised, not only on great occasions, but at all times; and that it does not consist merely in speeches, but includes actions done even in the most common intercourse of life.
3. Nothing can be more true than the declaration of our Saviour in the eleventh verse: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” In uttering this maxim He addresses human feelings. He allows that all men aspire after distinction and honour, but requires that these should be sought after by humility. For he who is not humble, but cherishes pride and vanity, shall be subjected to mortification and disgrace. On the other hand, all are ready to raise the humble man, and to rejoice in his exaltation. Even if he should pass unnoticed by his fellow-creatures, the exercise of humility will constantly improve him, and will at length enable him, with the blessing of God, to attain the true dignity which belongs to superior excellence: “For the kingdom of heaven is his.” (J. Thomson, D. D.)
Some interesting volumes have been published under the title of Table-Talk. That of Luther is well known, in which many striking sayings of the great reformer are preserved, which would otherwise have sunk into oblivion. To other works of a biographical character, the above designation might have been appropriately given, especially Boswell’s “Life of Johnson.” We need not say that its chief charm, the one feature in which its interest and value pre-eminently consists, is not the incidents it contains, but the conversational observations which are recorded. The table-talk, however, of Luther and Johnson, instructive and important as it was, is not for a moment to be compared with that to which we are permitted to listen on the present occasion. We have in this chapter, as well as in many other parts of the gospel narratives, the table-talk of Christ. And while in His more public addresses, “never man spake like this man,” the same can be said of Him with equal truth concerning all He uttered in those social gatherings to which, from various motives, He was occasionally invited.
The gospel inculcates good manners
There are no manners so refined and graceful as those taught in the gospel, because the gospel refers all to the heart. The habit of “pushing,” as we expressively call it, whether in affairs of smaller or greater importance, seems expressly discountenanced by the spirit of the gospel, and something very different is taught. We who have to bring up our children to make their way in life, should be careful how far we stimulate in them the pushing instinct. Do not encourage them to be loud and clamorous in asking, and to make the interest of “Number one” the point of only or first importance, and to thrust others aside. Doubtless we have much counter-opinion to meet on points like these, but let us hold to it that the manners which are pervaded by the evangelical spirit and temper are the true manners, both for the gentleman and the man of the world. It is said, “If we do not look after ourselves, no one else will.” Certainly, as our great poet says, “Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.” But this is not the point. It is a self-love indulged so far that it becomes indifferent to the rights of others; it is the restless desire to get out of our proper place, and seize that which belongs to another, which is condemned. The world is always glad of people who are bent upon doing their duty and who keep their place, and takes delight in putting down those who do not know their place, and would grasp at honours not their due. Christ’s lesson is one that comes home to us. It is not in the first instance a lofty and spiritual lesson, but a hint for our behaviour in the world of every day. And it is observable that He appeals to two very powerful passions--the sense of shame and the love of honour. If, in effect He says, you will persist in snatching at honours or advantages to which you are not entitled, you are on your way to be ridiculed, perhaps to be disgraced. If, on the other hand, you take a low place, lower, possibly, than that to which you are entitled, the chances are all in your favour. You may be promoted, and your promotion will bring honour upon you. An Oriental proverb says, “Sit in your place, and no man can make you rise.” In other words, at life’s feast sit down where all will accord you room, where none will dispute your right to be--a place that is lowly, therefore not envied; and there you may sit in peace and comfort. No man can disturb you in a place secured to you by the good will and respect of your neighbours. How much better this than to be contending for a position which the spite of others will not permit you to enjoy, and from which, sooner or later, you are likely to be removed. To how lofty a religious application is this lesson carried in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican! (E. Johnson, M. A.)
Amongst the lowly
We are all the subjects of love and of truth. We should indeed be dishonoured by absence from the feast; but as present, we show our fitness for honour by placing ourselves at the disposal of our royal host. We take the lowest room, and in that bright presence not the remotest corner is dark. Admission even, without promotion, is happiness. But Love, with his truth-anointed eyes, will soon see at which of the lesser tables we are suited to preside; among which group of guests we may best receive and dispense joy; and in what place and office of the festival we shall find our strength most free for generous exertion. Possibly, Love may see that we shell find it the truest promotion to remain in the lowest room and keep the door, and make those happy who, not fitted as yet to occupy high places, were nevertheless thought worthy of admission. Some of the great must always remain amongst the lowly, lest these become neglected and desponding, and a lowly heart is needed for this service. Perhaps our Saviour was sitting in a humble place, that the humbler part of the company might see and hear Him; and had declined, though with acknowledgment, the courteous request of the Pharisee that He would “come up higher.” (T. T. Lynch.)
Promotion not to be sought apart from ability
There is a weapon much used in the contests of life--the elbow. We elbow our way on in the world. And there is another weapon, less regarded, but powerful--the knee. We must stoop the back to succeed in husbandry; and we must bend the knee to subdue the evil power that assails us from below, the enemy, whose strength is in his pride. And humility is not a temper to be put off on promotion; it is our safeguard in the sorrows of our early career, our ornament in elevation. At the first, like a shield--beautiful as well as protective; and at the last, like health--safety as well as beauty. If, then, you ask, Am I sure of promotion if I take the lowest place? Yes, sure, we reply, if you take it with a lowly heart. But many seek promotion, as if it were--in a spiritual, that is, in a real, sense--possible, apart from true ability. Will any one blame the sapling for desiring to become an oak? or even the little forget-me-not for wishing to be made the memorial of some good man’s friendship? No; nor will we blame any man for asking a field for his strength, and an opportunity for his talent. Rut many seek promotion with little thought of service and capacity. As if one should come to us, complaining of his lot, and we should say, “I need a captain for one of my ships; will you take the post?” “Captain of a ship,” he exclaims, “I never was at sea.” “Oh,” but we say, “there are two hundred men on board to do your bidding.” “Ah,” but he cries, “I could not even tell them what sails to unfurl.” “But,” we add, “the ship is going on a lucrative voyage; the captain will be well remunerated.” “Ah,” he says, “I could take the money.” And, indeed, that is what he seeks. Men may not know how to earn a loaf, still less how to make and to bake one; but they know that they could eat it. They may know themselves unable to fulfil a high function, yet they do not deem a high chair unsuitable for them, because the cushion is soft! True promotion, however, is like that of the captain, who is the first man in the rule of a storm, and the last man in flight from a peril. No man should wish for degrees of wealth and praise unsuited to his inward attainments. He cannot indeed be rich to good ends, to his own welfare or his neighbour’s, without being wise and good. He cannot honestly and safely receive the praise of men unless he deserves their love. Humility is then the necessary condition of all true and abiding promotion. All going forward that comes of a vain heart comes to a bad end. Vanity raised us; into “vanity” we sink. We have but stepped on, to be put back again. Now we begin with shame to take the lowest room. Humility does not imply, but is inconsistent with, baseness of spirit. It knows self as feeble, because it knows God as strong. It is the vision of God’s glory that gives us the discovery of our own poverty; we feel, but not abjectly, our dependence upon Him. We are utterly yet hopefully dependent. It is He who shall appoint to us our places, we seeking first to do the duties next us in the best way; content with a low place because of a good work, wishing for a higher one because of a better. Through humility the lowest things are well done; and as we rise, we shall need the knowledge that experience of such work will bring us, for we shall need to direct, and still occasionally to perform, labours which once exclusively occupied us. The wise master-builder is acquainted with the humbler tools and meaner services his work needs, and so can both control and encourage all the workmen he employs. Humility may fail to secure earthly promotion, and yet the capable man will often rise through it to places of serviceable power and pleasant esteem.
Results in this world do not at once and invariably illustrate spiritual laws, but they frequently do so. (T. T. Lynch.)
Take the lowest room
Most persons agree to say that their earliest religious days were their happiest and best. May not this be traced, in part at least, to the fact that, at the beginning, we all take “a lower place” than we do afterwards? Was not it that then you were least in your own eyes--that your feelings were more child-like--that you had more abasing views of the wickedness of your own heart than now? Or, you say, “My prayers are not effectual. I do not get answers when I pray, either for myself or others; and, in consequence of this discouragement, prayer has become lately a different thing to me, a thing without life, a thing without reality--then I remind you, Those that point their arrows high must draw theirbows down low. You must “go lower.” Remember that it was to one who felt herself “a dog” that our Lord said, “O woman, great is thy faith;” and then gave her everything she asked--“Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Be sure there is “a lower room” in prayer than you have yet found. You must discover it, and go down into it, or you cannot find real peace of mind. Now, let us go into this matter a little deliberately. You use the ordinances of the Church and the private means of grace. It is well. Do you look for peace because you do this You say, “No; I look for peace because I trust in Christ.” That is better. But there is “ a lower room” than that; and therefore a better way than that. We get forgiveness--and peace, the fruit of forgiveness--not because we do anything, or believe anything, or because we are anything--but because God is God, and because Christ is Christ. It is the out-flowing of the free sovereignty of God’s eternal grace, which, by believing, we take--and we, where are we?--but for that grace, in hell! You are to feel the amazing distance which there is between you and a holy God. “God, be merciful.” That is “the lowest room;” and the way home is nearer and quicker--“I tell you that man went down to his house justified.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
“Sit down in the lowest room.” But first, let me guard my meaning. To say, “I am not a child of God, He does not love me,” this is not to “sit down in the lowest room.” This lowers God’s grace, but it does not lower you; rather, it puts you up. Neither is it to “go down, and sit in the lowest room “ to reason upon any duty; it is above that--“Who am I that I should do such a work as this?” Do you not know that you are one thing, and the grace of God that is in you is another thing? Nor yet is it to “take the lowest room “ to be ignorant of, or to deny the possession of talents which God has given you. Still less is it intended that these words should extend to heaven, and that we should be content with the “lowest place” in the “many mansions.” I can never for a moment hold with those who say, “Let me get only within the gate of heaven, and I shall be satisfied.” Avoiding, then, these misinterpretations, let us now consider what is the real meaning of the words. First, towards God. What is “the lowest room” towards God? Now I conceive it to be, to be content simply to take God at His word, without asking any questions, or raising any doubts, but to accept, at His hand, all that God graciously vouchsafes to give you, the pardon, and the peace; to be a receptacle of love, a vessel into which, of His free mercy, He has poured, and is pouring now, and will go on to pour for ever, the abundance of His grace. Next, it is to be just what God makes you, to rest where He places you, to do what He tells you, only because He is everything, and you are nothing, conscious of a weakness which can only stand by leaning, and an ignorance which needs constant teaching. But now, how to man? This is the point which I wish to view this morning as practically as I can. But unless the relationship is right with God, it is quite useless to expect it will be right with man. Then make the well-balanced sense of what you are, and what God is, the inner sense of weakness and strength which makes true humility, a subject of express, special prayer; that when you pass into company, you may be able to know, by a quick perception, what your own proper part is--to speak, or to be silent; to take a lead, or to go into the shade. But whichever it be, bare prepared yourself to put self out of sight; do not make yourself the hero of what you say, specially when you speak of personal religion. I)o not expect, or lay yourself out for notice, but seeks others’ preferment. Anything approaching to argument would be an occasion which would especially call for this self-discipline of “taking the lowest room.” Be on your guard, then, that self does not go up. Have a strong jealousy for the right, and fight for it; but do not confound your victory and the vindication of truth. If there be anything particular to be said, or any work to be done, and you see another willing to do it, and who can do it better than you, stand by, and let that other speak or act. But if there be not such a one, it will be as true humility to go boldly forward, and do it yourself. Only copy your great Pattern, and retire out of sight the moment it is said or done. If there be one among those you meet who is less thought of than the rest, show to that one the more kindness and attention. Do not put yourself up into the chair of judgment upon any man; but rather see yourself as you are--everybody is inferior in something, far worse than that man in somethings. If you wish to do good to any one, remember that the way is not to treat him as if you were above him, but to go down to his level, below his level, and to speak to him respectfully. Sympathy is power; but there is no sympathy where there is self. If, brethren, you have failed in any relation towards God or man, the reason is mostly that you have not yet gone “low” enough. If you have not peace--if you have few or no answers to prayer--here, probably, is the chief cause. Therefore just try the remedy, “Go and sit down in the lower room.” If you are troubled with suggestions of infidelity, the main reason is this, intellect has gone up too high. You are sitting as judge upon the Bible, when you ought rather to be the culprit at its bar. Be more a little child, handling the immensities of the mind of the Eternal. “ Go and sit down in the lower room.” And if you have not succeeded in your mission of life, this is the root; if you will go and be less, you will do much more. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Friend, go up higher
Friend, go up higher
We have been taught to regard this parable as a counsel of prudence, and of a somewhat worldly prudence, rather than as a counsel of perfection. Some of our best commentators so read it, while they confess that thus read, it enforces an artificial rather than a real humility, that it even makes an affected humility the cloak of a selfish ambition which is only too real and perilous. What this interpretation really comes to is this, that when our Lord was speaking to men who eagerly grasped at the best places, all He had to give them was some ironic advice on the best way of securing that paltry end, in the hope that, if they learned not to snatch at what they desired, they might by-and-by come to desire something higher and better. Is that like Him? Do you recognize His manner, His spirit, in it? Can you possibly be content with such an interpretation of His words?
I. Even if we take the parable simply as A COUNSEL OF PRUDENCE, considering the lips from which it fell, there is surely much more in it, Why may we not take it as enjoining a genuine and unaffected humility; as teaching that the only distinction which deserves a thought is that which is freely bestowed on men of a lowly and kindly spirit? Why may we not take it as setting forth a truth which experience abundantly confirms, viz., that even the most worldly and selfish of men have a sincere respect for the unworldly; that the only men who they can bear to see preferred before themselves are those of a spirit so gentle and sweet and unselfish as not to grasp at any such preference or distinction?
II. BUT MAY WE NOT TAKE IT AS A COUNSEL OF PERFECTION? In the Church, as well as in the world, we find men and women of a pushing, forward spirit, a selfish and conceited temperament, who covet earnestly the best seat rather than the best gift, and the first place rather than the prime virtues; who never doubt that, let others be where they will, they are entitled to sit down in the highest room. And, curiously enough, it is the comparatively ignorant who are most deeply convinced of their own wisdom; the narrow mind which is most sure that it is always in the right; those who have the least in which to trust, who trust in themselves; those who are most incompetent to rule, who are most ambitious of rule, most vexed and incensed if they are not suffered to rule. What they most need, then, is to hear a Voice, whose authority they cannot contest, which bids them take a lower place, both in the Church and in their own conceit, than that which on very slender evidence they have assumed to be their due. On the other hand, happily, we find many men and women in the Church, who are either naturally of a meek and quiet spirit, or who, by the grace of God, have so far tamed and subdued their natural self-will and self-conceit as to show, by word and deed, that they are familiar with their own weakness, and are on their guard against it. And when the Voice comes to them, “Friend, go up higher, take a more honourable post, not that you may be better seen or receive praise from men, but that you may serve them better, on a larger scale, or in a more public way,” no one is more unaffectedly surprised than they are. Yet these are precisely the men whom we all delight to honour and to see honoured. Because they abase themselves, we rejoice in their exaltation.
III. Does, however, even this wholesome and pertinent lesson on humility exhaust the spiritual meaning which we are told this parable must have? By no means, I think. WE MAY READ IT IN A SENSE IN WHICH EVEN THE UNWELCOME COMMAND, “GO DOWN LOWER,” MAY BECOME WELCOME TO US, AND MAY REALLY MEAN, “COME UP HIGHER.” How often does our Lord compare the kingdom of heaven--i.e., the ideal Church--to a feast to which all are invited, and all may come without money and without price I And when we listen to the call, come into His kingdom, and sit down at His table, how often does the first joy of our salvation fade into disappointment and dismay as we perceive that His salvation is in large measure a salvation from ourselves, that His call is a call to share in His own self-sacrificing love, His unthanked toil, or even His poverty, shame, and affliction! When we first apprehend what His call really means, does it not seem to us as if it were a command to come down, not only from all that we once took pleasure or pride in, but also from the very honours and enjoyments which we had looked for in His kingdom and service? Alas, how we misread His love! For what can any call to the cross be, but a call to the throne? (S. Cox, D. D.)
The outward place reacting upon the inward spirit
Does the Lord here inculcate a feigned humility? By no means: He simply enjoins that a man should mortify his individual pride and self-seeking--an act of self-discipline which is in itself always wholesome and beneficial. If the man deserved the lowest or a lower place, then all was right; he took that to which alone he was fairly entitled. If he took a place below what he was entitled to, then he left it to the master of the feast, the only fountain of honour, to redress matters. Anyhow he set an example of “minding not high things,” but “in lowliness of mind esteeming others better than himself.” It is to be remembered that in one of any real worth, the outward act would react on the inward spirit. The pride of spirit is fostered by outward self-assertion, and mortified by outward self-abasement. (M. F.Sadler.)
Pride and humility before the Divine Prince
With respect to the spiritual meaning of the parable, we have a remarkable key to it in Proverbs 25:6-7. The Lord must have had this place in His eye; He must have meant Himself by the “prince,” for it was He who, as the Wisdom of God, inspired this passage. All pride, all self-assertion, all seeking of great things takes place in the presence of a King, the supreme Fountain of Honour, the Lord of both worlds, the present and the future. It is very necessary for us to remember this, for the shame and confusion of face which in this parable is represented as the lot of mortified pride does not always follow it in this world. Self-assertion, self-assumption, forwardness, and boasting, do not always entail a disgraceful fall upon the man who displays them. The meek do not as yet “inherit the earth”; though, if we can trust the words of Christ, they assuredly will. David asks, how is it that ungodly men “speak so disdainfully, and make such proud boastings.” Men who are ambitious and self-seeking at times attain to the height of their ambition, provided, of course, that they have other qualities, such as prudence, cleverness, and perseverance. But a day is coming when the words of Christ with which the parable concludes (verse 11), will be verified in the case of every man. He Himself is the “King” before whom all pride displays itself, and before whom it will be abased. And there is the greater reason that He should do so, for when He had the highest place in the universe next to the Eternal Father, He abased Himself, and took the lowest place, even the place of the cross of death, in order that He might exalt those who have “followed the example of His humility.” The Judge at that day will remember and humble every act of pride, just as He will remember and reward every act of humility. Does this seem too much? Not for One who numbers the hairs of our heads, and without whose permission no sparrow falls, and who has engaged to bring every idle word into judgment, and make manifest the secrets of all hearts. Should it not, then, be a matter of prayer that God may humble us here rather than hereafter? It may be very bitter to have our pride mortified now, but it will be a thousandfold more bitter to have it mortified before men and angels, above all in the presence of the Prince whom our eyes have seen. (M. F.Sadler.)
The inferior seat preferred
It is said that General Gordon used to sit in the gallery of the church among the poor until, his fame becoming known, he was asked to sit in the luxurious seats appointed for the grandees, but that he preferred to keep the seat in which he had so long sat unnoticed and unknown.
Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased
On the vice of pride
I. THE VICE OF PRIDE IS FOOLISH FROM ITS VERY NATURE. We ought all to be deterred from pride by the fact that the proud endeavours to deceive both others and himself by pretended advantages; and also that, instead of gaining honour and favour, he usually renders himself contemptuous and odious. Yet it will help us to a more thorough conviction how utterly unfounded and foolish pride is if we meditate--
1. On the nothingness of man.
(1) In the natural order.
(a) What were we, say one hundred years ago? Nothing! No one thought of us. No one needed us. God called us from nothingness to life because He is good.
(b) What are we now? We are not able to prolong our life for one minute unless God preserves it; we are subject to frailty of body and soul.
(c) What are we to be ere long? We are to pass like a shadow: to die.
(2) In the order of grace.
(a) What have we been? Born in sin; and sinners by our own actions.
(b) What are we to-day? Perhaps hardened in sin, or lukewarm. At best, exceedingly weak.
(c) What shall we be at last? Dreadful uncertainty! Either converted, persevering, happy for ever, or obdurate, relapsing, reprobate for ever. Can we still remain proud, instead o! imploring in the dust the Divine mercy and grace?
2. On the greatness of God.
II. THE VICE OF PRIDE IS FATAL IN ITS CONSEQUENCES
1. In reference to God.
2. In reference to human society.
(1) Anarchy, caused by the undermining of the pillars of social welfare, fidelity, piety, etc.
(2) Revolution: when haughty governments oppress the people, or when the insolent masses refuse to submit to order.
(3) Ruin of families, caused by dissensions.
3. In reference to individuals.
The proud man is deprived of--
1. Inward peace, which is never enjoyed by a soul enslaved by her own passions, and at variance with God.
2. Outward peace, since it is continually clouded by real or imaginary opposition, affronts, humiliation, and contempt.
3. The enjoyment of true happiness. Although the proud have their triumphs, yet they are insufficient to satisfy man’s heart, which will always crave for something more. Haman. (Repertorium Oratoris Sacri.)
I. I AM TO CONSIDER WHAT TRUE HUMILITY IS, AND WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.
1. With regard to superiors in general, true humility consists in paying them cheerfully and readily all due honour and respect in those particular regards wherein they are our superiors, notwithstanding any other accidental disadvantages on their side, or advantages on ours.
2. Towards our equals, true humility consists in civil and affable, in courteous and modest behaviour; not in formal pretences of thinking very meanly and contemptibly of ourselves (for such professions are often very consistent with great pride), but in patiently permitting our equals (when it shall so happen) to be preferred before us, not thinking ourselves injured when others but of equal merit chance to be more esteemed, but, on the contrary, rattler suspecting that we judge too favourably of ourselves, and therefore modestly desiring that those who are reputed upon the level with us may have shown unto them rather a greater respect.
3. With regard to our inferiors, humility consists in assuming to ourselves no more than the difference of men’s circumstances, and the performance of their respective duties, for preserving the regularity and good order of the world, necessarily requires.
(1) There is a spiritual pride in presuming to sin, upon the sense of the virtues we are in other respects endued with. This was the case of Uzziah, king of Judah.
(2) There is a spiritual pride of vainglory in affecting a public appearance of such actions as in themselves are good and commendable. This was the great fault of the Pharisees (Mark 12:38).
(3) There is a spiritual pride of men confidently justifying themselves, and being wholly insensible of their own failings, while they are very censorious in judging and despising others.
(4) There is still a further degree of spiritual pride in pretending to merit at the hands of God.
(5) There is yet a higher degree of this spiritual pride in pretending to works of supererogation. Lastly. There is a spiritual pride in seeking after and being fond of mysterious and secret things, to the neglect of our plain and manifest duty. It remains that I proceed at this time to propose some arguments to persuade men to the practice of it. And first, the Scripture frequently lays before us the natural ill consequences of pride, and the advantages arising from true humility, even in the natural course and order of things. Pride makes men foolish and void of caution (Proverbs 11:2).
It makes men negligent and improvident of the future; and this often throws them into sudden calamities (Proverbs 1:32). It makes men rash and peevish, obstinate and insolent; and this seldom fails to bring down ruin upon them (Proverbs 16:18). It involves men perpetually in strifes and contentions; and these always multiply sin, and are inconsistent with true happiness (Proverbs 17:19). It makes men impatient of good advice and instruction, and that renders them incorrigible in their vices Proverbs 26:12; Proverbs 26:16; Proverbs 28:26). Secondly. The next argument the Scripture makes use of, to persuade men to the practice of humility, is this that pride, as ’tis usually of natural ill consequence, so ‘tis moreoverparticularly hateful to God, who represents Himself as taking delight to bring down the lofty and to exalt the humble. ‘Tis the observation of Eliphaz in the book of Job, Job 22:29 and Job 33:14-17). An instance of which is the description of the haughtiness and the fall of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30), and the instance of Pharaoh Exodus 5:2), and that of Herod (Acts 12:21). Another example is that of Haman, in the Book of Esther. Thirdly. The third and last motive the Scripture lays before us, to recommend the practice of humility, is the example of God Himself and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In a figurative manner of speaking, the Scripture does sometimes ascribe humility to God, and recommends His condescension as a pattern for us to imitate. “The Lord, who dwelleth on high … humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth” (Psalms 113:6): “Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly” (Psalms 138:6). And the same manner of speaking is used by God Himself (Isaiah 57:15). These are the principal arguments the Scripture makes use of to persuade men to the practice of humility in general. There are, moreover, in particular, as many peculiar distinct motives to practise this duty as there are different circumstances and varieties of cases wherein it is to be exercised. Without practising it towards superiors, there can be no government; without exercising it towards equals, there can be no friendship and mutual charity. Then, with regard to inferiors; besides the general example of Christ’s singular and unspeakable condescension towards us all, there are proper arguments to deter us from pride upon account of every particular advantage we may seem to have over others, whether in respect of our civil stations in the world, or of our natural abilities, or of our religious improvements. If the advantages of our civil stations in the world tempt us to proud and haughty behaviour, we may do well to consider that argument of Job 31:13 : “If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant when they contended with me, what then shall I do when God riseth up?” And Job 34:19 : “Heaccepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.” Which same argument is urged also by the wise man: “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker” (Proverbs 14:31). (S. Clarke, D. D.)
Humility not the way of the world
The world’s rule is the exact opposite of this. The world says, “Every man for himself.” The way of the world is to struggle and strive for the highest place; to be a pushing man, and a rising man, and a man who will stand stiffly by his rights, and give his enemy as good as be brings, and beat his neighbour out of the market, and show off himself to the best advantage, and try to make the most of whatever wit or money he has to look well in world, that people may look up to him and flatter him and obey him: and so the world has no objection to people’s pretending to be better than they are. (C. Kingsley.)
God the true disposer of men
If God is really the King of the earth, there can be no use in any one setting up himself. If God is really the King of the earth, those who set up themselves must be certain to be brought down from their high thoughts and high assumptions sooner or later. For if God is really the King of the earth, He must be the one to set people up, and not they themselves. There is no blinding God, no hiding from God, no cheating God, just as there is no flattering God. He knows what each and every one of us is fit for. He knows what each and every one of us is worth; and what is more, He knows what we ought to know, that each and every one of us is worth nothing without Him. Therefore there is no use pretending to be better than we are. (C. Kingsley.)
Pride east down
Charles V. was so sure of victory when he invaded France, that he ordered his historians to prepare plenty of paper to record his exploits. But he lost his army by famine and disease, and returned crestfallen.
The day Sir Eardley Wilmot kissed his Majesty’s hands on being appointed Chief Justice, one of his sons, a youth of seventeen, attended him to his bedside. “Now,” said he, “my son, I will tell you a secret worth your knowing and remembering. The elevation I have met with in life, particularly this last instance of it, has not been owing to any superior merit or abilities, but to my humility, to my not having set up myself above others, and to an uniform endeavour to pass through life void of offence towards God and man.”
Humility a safeguard
A French general, riding on horseback at the head of his troops, heard a soldier complain, “It is very easy for the general to command us forward while he rides and we walk.” Then the general dismounted, and compelled the grumbler to get on the horse. Coming through a ravine a bullet from a sharp-shooter struck the rider, and he fell dead. Then the general said, “How much safer it is to walk than to ride!”
Lowliness allied to loveliness
A humble saint looks most like a citizen of heaven. He is the most lovely professor who is the most lowly. As incense smells the sweetest when it is beaten the smallest, so saints look fairest when they lie lowest. (T. Secker.)
Humility allied to modesty
The humble soul is like the violet, which grows low, hangs the head downwards, and hides itself with its own leaves; and were it not that the fragrant smell of his many graces discovered him to the world, he would choose to live and die in secrecy. (Sunday Teachers’ Treasury.)
Humility the essence of Christianity
St. Augustine being asked “What is the first article in the Christian religion?” replied, “Humility.” “And what the second?” “Humility.” “And what the third?” “Humility.”
Call the poor
The Church’s duty to the poor
A recent advertisement on our city walls struck me as singularly suggestive; it contained the words, “God and the poor.
” Such a conjunction of words is most remarkable: the highest and the lowest, He who owns all things, and they who own nothing: it is a conjunction of extremes, and though it looked very extraordinary on a placard, yet if you examine the Old and New Testaments the idea will be discovered almost more frequently than any other.
I. THE RELATION OF GOD TO THE POOR. There is a strange mingling of terror and tenderness in God’s language in relation to the poor; terror towards their oppressors tenderness towards themselves. Take the former Proverbs 17:5; Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 22:13; Amos 5:11; etc.). Such are some of the sentences of fire in which God speaks of the oppressor of the poor. We now turn from terror to tenderness. We shall hear how God speaks of the poor themselves. The lips that spoke in fire now quiver with messages set to music (Isaiah 58:6-7). There is an extract which I must give from God’s ancient legislation, and as I read you will be able to say whether ever Act of Parliament was so beautiful Deuteronomy 24:19-21). And why this beneficial arrangement? A memorial act; to keep the doers in grateful remembrance of God’s mighty interposition on their behalf. When men draw their gratitude from their memory, their hand will be opened in perpetual benefaction.
II. THE RELATION OF THE POOR TO THE CHURCH. “The poor ye have always with you.” For what purpose? As a perpetual appeal to our deepest sympathy; as an abiding memorial of our Saviour’s own condition while upon earth; as an excitement to our most practical gratitude. The poor are given into the charge of the Church, with the most loving commendation Of Christ their companion and Saviour.
1. The poor require physical blessing. Christ helped man’s bodily nature. The Church devotes itself more to the spirit than to the flesh. This is right: yet we are in danger of forgetting that Christianity has a mission to the body as well as to the soul. The body is the entrance to the soul And is there no reward? Will the Lord who remembers the poor forget the poet’s benefactor? Truly not! (Psalms 41:1).
2. The poor require physical blessing; but still more do they require spiritual blessing. The harvest is great, the labourers are few. Do you inquire as to recompense? It is infinite! “They cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” And yet they can recompense thee! Every look of the gleaming eye is a recompense! Every tone of thankfulness is a repayment. God is not unrighteous to forget our work of faith. If we do good unto “one of the least of His brethren,” Christ will receive the good as though offered to Himself. Terrible is the recompense of the wicked! “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” Much is being said about Charity. They have carved her image in marble; they have enclosed her in gorgeously coloured glass; they have placed on her lofty brow the wreath of immortal amaranth; poesy has turned her name into rhythm, and music has chanted her praise. All this is well. All this is beautiful. It is all next to the best thing; but still the best thing is to incorporate charity in the daily life, to breathe it as our native air, and to express it in all the actions of our hand. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” You will then be one with God! “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?” Then do not contemn the poor. “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THE DUTY OF A CHRISTIAN TO DO GOOD; to lay himself out to do good to every one within his reach.
1. This arises from the very nature of the Christian character. Gratitude to Christ leads him to copy the Saviour, “who went about doing good.”
2. The duty of laying ourselves out to do good arises from our Christian calling. When the Holy Spirit of God makes a difference between sinners who are living in ungodliness and walking after the vanity of their minds, why does He make that difference? God calls forth His people to be witnesses for Him, in such a manner that those who are blind to His glory in creation, and who neglect His glory in revelation, cannot refuse to acknowledge it when it is evidenced and reflected from the people that He has called by His grace. When God’s people go forth doing good, when they manifest self-denial, when they are willing to “spend and be spent,” in order to contribute to the temporal necessities or to the spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures, there is something in these actions which tells upon the heart that is closed to all other means of receiving the knowledge of God’s glory and salvation.
II. THE OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN BENEFICENCE. When a Christian does good, or tries to abound in any good work, it must not be from
(1) personal vanity,
(2) a desire of human applause,
(3) for worldly recompense.
His sole inducement must be the love of Christ; his one object the glory of God; his whole desire to advance the temporal and spiritual good of mankind.
III. THE CHRISTIAN’S ENCOURAGEMENT to lay himself out to do good unto all men, without looking for anything again. “They cannot recompense thee; but,” etc. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
Much Of the impressiveness of our Lord as a preacher arose from the miracles He performed in confirmation of the divinity of His mission, and the truth of His doctrine; much also from His adapting Himself to the state and conditions of His hearers; and much also from His deriving His instructions and encouragements from present objects and occurrences, for this always gives a freshness to our discourse, and a superiority to the artificialness of study. He sees a sower going forth to sow, and for the instruction of the people is led to deliver a parable on the good seed of the kingdom.
I. THE OCCASION OF THE ADDRESS. “Then said He also to him that bade Him.” Concerning this invitation let us make four inquiries.
1. Who was it that bade Him? It was one of the chief Pharisees, a man of some substance and respectability, probably a ruler of the synagogue, or one of the Sanhedrim. We never read of any of the Sadducees inviting our Lord, nor do we ever read of the Herodians inviting Him. Though the Pharisees were the bitterest enemies of Christ, they had frequent interviews with Him.
2. For what was He bidden? Some suppose that this was a common meal, but the narrative requires us to view it as an entertainment, or some kind of festivity.
3. When was He bidden? We are told that it was on the Sabbath day.
4. Why was He bidden? He was invited by Martha from a principle of duty and benevolence, and she and Mary hoped to derive some spiritual advantage from Him. I wish I could think that this Pharisee invited our Lord under the influence of similar motives. But from whatever motive they were impelled tie went not to eat and drink only. No, He went about His Father’s business, this He constantly kept in view. He knew what His work required. He knew that the Good Shepherd must seek after the lost sheep until He find it. My brethren, you must here learn to distinguish between Him and yourselves. He had nothing inflammable in Him. The enemy came and found nothing in Him. But you have much remaining depravity, and are in danger from external circumstances; you therefore, must watch and pray lest you enter into temptation; you are safe when in the path of duty, there God has engaged to keep you. Let us learn from the Saviour’s conduct to exercise good behaviour, that others may not have occasion to speak evil of us on account of our religion. Consider--
II. WHAT OUR SAVIOUR FORBIDS. He said, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.” This “supper or dinner” supposes something costly, for you observe that in the following verse it is called “a feast.” Observe, it is not absolutely wrong to invite our friends, or our brethren, or our rich kinsmen, or our rich neighbours; but our Saviour looks at the motive here, “lest a recompense be made thee”; as much as to say, there is no friendship or charity in all this. And the apostle says, “Let all things be done with charity.” You are to show more hospitality than vanity, and more charity than ostentation, and to be more concerned for those who want your relief. This brings us to consider--
III. WHAT HE ENJOINS. “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.” Here we see what a variety of evils and miseries are incident to the human race. Here are “the poor,” without the necessaries of life; “the maimed,” whose hands are unable to perform their office; “the halt,” who are indebted to a crutch to enable them to walk at all; “the blind.” Here we learn, also, the proper objects of your compassion, and the fittest subjects of your charity. It is not necessary that you should always have “the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind” at your table. You may fulfil the Saviour’s design without this, and do as Nehemiah did, “send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared.”
IV. WHAT OUR SAVIOUR INSURES. “And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
1. The blessedness: “Thou shalt be blessed.” Blessed even in the act itself. Oh, the pleasures of benevolence! How blessed is it even in the review! for this blessedness can be continued and improved on reflection. How superior in the performance to sordid entertainments! “Thou shalt be blessed”--blessed by the receiver. Think of Job. He says, “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me. Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.” What do we see yonder when we enter Joppa with Peter? “When he was come they brought him into an upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.” “And thou shalt be blessed”--blessed by the observers. Who does not observe? And who observes and does not bless on such occasions? Few, perhaps none of us, knew personally a Reynolds, a Thornton, or a Howard, of whom we have read; but in reading their history, when we come to their names we cannot help blessing them, and thus the words of the Scripture are fulfilled, “The memory of the just is blessed.” “And thou shalt be blessed.” Above all, blessed by God Himself, upon whom everything depends, “whose favour is life, and whose loving-kindness is better than life.” He blesses personally and relatively. He grants you spiritual and temporal blessings. David says, “Let them curse, but bless Thou.”
2. The certainty of this blessedness--“For they cannot recompense thee.” This seems a strange reason, and would tend to check rather than encourage a worldly man. The foundation of this reason is this, that charity must be recompensed. If the poor cannot do this themselves, some one else must undertake it for them, and therefore God Himself must become answerable; and it is much better to have God to recompense us than to rely upon a poor dying creature. Paul therefore, says, to those who had made a collection to relieve him, and had sent it by the hands of Epaphroditus, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” If, therefore, the thought ever occurs to your mind, “I know not those persons who have relieved me; I shall never be able to repay them,” so much the better, for then God must, and if there be any truth in His word, if there be any love in His heart, He will.
3. The time of this bestowment--“For thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Not that this will be done then exclusively, for, as we have already shown, there are advantages attending charity now. But it will be principally then, publicly then. The apostle says to the Corinthians, “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God.” Then will it be done perfectly. It is not wrong to look for advantage in religion. But you should be upon your guard not to entertain a notion of meritoriousness in any of your doings. No, the reward is of grace, not of debt. (W. Jay.)
Christ’s counsel to his host
Our Lord does not here enjoin neglecting and refraining from one’s friends, kinsfolk, and neighbours, to entertain only the poor, maimed, halt, and blind. What He says is, when you make a dinner or supper--that is, as He immediately explains, a feast--let it be, not for those with whom you are accustomed to associate, but rather for the destitute and forlorn outside your circle. It is a question, you see, not at all of social fellowship, but of expenditure, and of the objects to which our great expenditures should be devoted. When you would lavish trouble and money, says Christ, let the lavishing be, not for your own personal gratification, not with the view of securing some enjoyment or obtaining some benefit for yourself, but for the blessing of others. The point on which the whole admonition turns, and to which it refers, is largeness of outlay. This is obvious. Our Lord is thinking and speaking, not of, an ordinary meal such as might be spread any day, but of a feast, like the “great supper” of the parable that follows: and remember the occasion of His words, the circumstances under which they were uttered. He was dining on the Sabbath, in the house of one of the chief Pharisees, who had Him to eat Bread with him; and everything indicates that it was no common dinner at which He was present, but an entertainment on a large scale, got up probably with much pains, and regardless of cost. Christ noticed, we are told, how those who were bidden chose out the chief rooms; nay, such were the unseemly contests among the guests for precedence, and the rude struggling for the best places, which He witnessed, that when at last the tumult had subsided, and all were arranged, He could not forbear remarking on it in tones of rebuke. Evidently the meal was a grand affair, a banquet numerously attended and by many notable and distinguished persons. Contemplating, as He sat there, the profusion, the sumptuousness; picturing what it had cost--the amount of money, labour, and worry, and perhaps sacrifice, that had been expended on it--and penetrating that it was all mainly for selfish ends, with the idea and in the hope of some advantage through it; Christ turns His great mournful eyes upon the many with the words: “When you would make such another feast as this, my friend, at so much trouble and cost, instead of calling to it your rich friends, who are likely to recompense you for it, you should call to it the destitute and afflicted, who are unable to recompense you, and thus be blessed at the resurrection of the just.” The inner point and spirit of which form of words was this: “Ah! my friend, it is a mistake to make your great outlays of strength and treasure with a view to your own gratification and aggrandisement, for it is poor recompense at the best, after all. These great outlays should be reserved rather to meet the needs and ameliorate the unfortunate condition of others; for the blessing of that, though more ethereal and less palpable, is infinitely more worth. You should not burden yourself to win ought of present enjoyment or acquisition for yourself. If you burden yourself at all, it should be to supply some want or serve some interest of the necessitous around you.” And the lesson remains for us. Let your extensive expenditures, your toils and worries, and hardships and sacrifices, be for those outside who require ministry, rather than for yourself. When it is a question of your own personal amusement or pleasure, of your own worldly comfort or gain, be content to spend but little; don’t make a fuss, or lie awake anxiously, or go out of your way for that. If you do so at all, do it when the welfare of others is concerned, when there are others to be succoured or saved by it; reserve for such ends the incurring of heavy cost, the taking on of heavy burdens of thought and care. (S. A. Tipple)
Jesus Christ did not intend that the rich should never have communion with one another, or hold intercourse with one another; that would be as absurd as it would be impracticable. The idea is that, having had your own fellowships and enjoyments, having eaten the fat and drunk the sweet, you are to send out a portion to him that hath none, and a blessing to him who sits in loneliness and sadness of heart. I had a wonderful dream some time ago--a singular dream. It was about the Mansion House and the Lord Mayor. I saw the great banquet ing hall filled, and I looked and wondered at the people, for they had such a peculiar expression upon their countenances. They seemed to be closing their eyes, and so they were. Alas! they were all blind people, and all over fifty years of age. It was the great Lord Mayor of London himself who had invited all the blind people over that age in London to meet one another, and have one happy night, so far as he could make it, in the ancient banqueting hall. No loving cup was passed round, lest accidents should occur; but many a loving word was spoken, many a sigh full of meaning was heaved--not the sigh of misery, but the sigh of thankfulness. And then a strange silence fell upon all the guests, and I heard a voice from above saying in the English tongue quite distinctly, “They cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Then the banqueting hall seemed to be filled with spectators--glad witnesses--as if, at last there were upon the earth some fine touch of Christian feeling, some recognition of the mystery of charity and the boundlessness and condescension of Christian love. (J. Parker, D. D.)
True Christian festivity
I. It should be UNSELFISH. Not extended merely to those from whom we expect a similar return.
II. It should be MERCIFUL. Extended to those who are generally neglected.
III. THIS FESTIVITY WILL BE REWARDED. With the blessing of the poor now, and the commendation of the Judge hereafter. (Anon.)
Our Lord really means that hospitality is first to be exercised towards those who need it, because of their narrow means, and to whom kindness of this sort is more pleasant, because they receive such little notice from the world. These are to be first recipients of our hospitality, and after them our friends, relatives, and neighbours, who may be supposed to be able to ask us again. This, of course, is directly contrary to the practice of the world. Now I do not think that we obey this injunction of the Lord by following its spirit (as the saying is) rather than its letter. It has been said that “the essence of the beatitude, as distinct from its form, remains for all who give freely, to those who can give them no recompense in return, who have nothing to offer but their thanks and prayers,” and that “relief, given privately, thoughtfully, discriminately, may be better both for the giver, as less ostentatious, and for the receiver, as tending to the formation of a higher character than the open feast of the Eastern form of benevolence.” But it is to be noticed that the Lord is not speaking of relief, i.e., of almsgiving, but of hospitality. It is one thing to send relief in a basket to some poor person from your house, and quite another yourself to proffer to the same person food upon your own table of which you and he jointly partake. By relief or alms you almost of necessity constitute yourself his superior; by hospitality you assume that he is far more on the same level with yourself. Partaking of food in common has, by the absolutely universal consent of mankind, been esteemed a very different thing from the mere gift of food. If it be said that such hospitality as the Lord here recommends is contrary to the usages of even Christian society amongst us, we answer, “Of course it is”; but, notwithstanding this, it is quite possible that the Christianity of our Christian society, of which we have so high an opinion, may be very imperfect indeed, and require reformation, if not regeneration, and that “the open feast of the Eastern form of benevolence” may be worthy of more imitation amongst ourselves. Look at the extravagant cost of some entertainments--viands set before the guests simply because they are costly and out of season--and consider that the difference between a fair and creditable entertainment and this extravagance would enable the giver to act ten times more frequently on the principle which the Lord inculcates, and for which he would be rewarded; consider this, and the folly of such waste, not to say its wickedness, is manifest. (M. F. Sadler.)
A model feast
I cannot think there is no connection with Divine things in the counsels Christ gave to His host about making a feast. I think He meant more than to alter a custom, or change social habits. What He advised went deeper, and had a profounder intention than that. He was reaching down to the foundation of things; showing how God deals with men, and what are the principles, or what is the measure and scope of His kingdom. He pourtrays a model feast. And if I mistake not, the portraiture is a pattern of things in the heavens. A place at the feast, I think He means to say, does not depend upon social grade, position, or attainments, but upon the needs of those who are called. Necessity, misery, helplessness, were to be the qualifications--poor, maimed, halt, blind. Friends and rich neighbours were not to be left out; they might come and share the joy and blessing--the joy of ministering and doing good to others; but the sore and the stricken were to be the guests; the invitations were to be sent specially to them. The ado, the preparation, the plentifulness, and the freeness of the feast, must be all for them, to bless them, and make them glad. That is God’s feast. That is how God does. He prepares a feast for man roman the sinner, man the miserable, man the outcast, the hungry, the starved, the diseased, the dying; and He throws it open, and bids them all come, and sends to fetch them in. And when they gather, He lets His rich friends, the angels, rejoice with Him; for “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (W. Hubbard.)
The poor invited to a feast
When I was quite a little boy, there lived in my father’s house a man whom, as I look back, I, in common with most who knew him, cannot help regarding as, perhaps, the holiest man we were acquainted with. He lived a life of singular devotion and self-denial, and seemed to walk constantly in the presence of God. Some little time ago, when m Liverpool, I accidentally came across the person in whose house be had lodged in the days when he had first devoted himself to God, when he was quite a young man, before his connection with my own beloved father was as close as it afterwards became. This good man, who kept the house in which this gentleman lodged, told me a few anecdotes about him, and, amongst others, I remember the following: “Ah, Mr. Aitken!” said the man, “I shall never forget Mr. C’s Christmas dinner.” I said, “I wish you would tell me about it;” and he replied, “I will.” “Christmas Day came near, and Mr. C called up my wife, and said to her, ‘Now, I want you to make the very best dinner you possibly can; I am going to give a dinner-party.’ ‘Well, Mr. C,’ she said, ‘you have been a long time in my house, and I never heard you talk of giving a dinner-party yet; but I will see to it that it is a right good dinner, and there shall be no mistake about it.’ ‘Do your best,’ he said; ‘I am going to invite my friends, and I want everything to be done properly.’ My wife set to work and got a very good dinner indeed. Christmas Day came. Towards evening we were expecting the gentlemen to turn up who had been invited by our lodger; we did not know who they were, but we made sure they would be people worthy of the occasion. After a time, there came a knock at the door. I opened the door, and there stood before me a man clothed in rags. He had evidently washed his face, and got himself up a little for the occasion; at the same time he was a beggar, pure and simple. He said, ‘Does Mr. C live here?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied; ‘he lodges here, but you cannot see him; he is just going to sit down to dinner.’ ‘But,’ said the man, ‘I was invited to come here to dinner this evening.’ You may imagine my horror and astonishment; I could scarcely contain myself. ‘What!’ I said; ‘you invited to come here this evening, a man like you?’ I had scarcely got the words out of my mouth before I saw another poor, miserable specimen of humanity crawling round the corner; he was another of Mr. C ‘s guests. By-and-by, there was a round dozen of them, or something like a score; and in they came, the most haggard, miserable, woe-begone objects you could possibly conceive. They went into my wife’s nice, smart-looking dining-room, with that grand white cloth, and all the good things which had been so carefully prepared. It almost took one’s breath away to see them. But when we saw the good man himself, setting to work, like the Master of old (who girded Himself to serve His disciples)--setting to work to make these men happy, and help them to spend a pleasant evening, without stiffness or formality, we thought, ‘After all, he is right. This is the best sort of dinner-party;’ and we did not grudge the labour we had bestowed.” Now, I have told that little anecdote in order to illustrate the fact that our Lord’s teaching on such subjects is eminently practical, and that when He gives a suggestion, you may be sure that it is a very sensible and sound one. (W. H. Aitken, M. A.)
Call the poor
Pococke informs us, that an Arab prince will often dine before his door, and call to all that pass, even to beggars, in the name of God, and they come and sit down to table, and when they have done retire with the usual form of returning thanks. It is always customary among the Orientals to provide more meats and drinks than are necessary for the feast! and then, the poor who pass by, or whom the rumour of the feast brings to the neighbourhood, are called in to consume what remains. This they often do in an outer room, to which the dishes are removed from the apartment in which the invited guests have feasted; or otherwise, every invited guest, when he has done, withdraws from the table, and his place is taken by another person of inferior rank, and so on, till the poorest come and consume the whole. The former of these modes is, however, the most common. (Biblical things not generally known.)
Feeding the hungry
It was the custom of St. Gregory, when he became pope, to entertain every evening at his own table twelve poor men, in remembrance of the number of our Lord’s apostles. One night, as he sat at supper with his guests, be saw, to his surprise, not twelve but thirteen, seated at his table; and he called to his steward, and said to him, “Did not I command thee to invite twelve? and, behold! there are thirteen.” And the steward told them over, and replied, “Holy father, there are surely twelve only.” And Gregory held his peace; and, after the meal, he called forth the unbidden guest, and asked him, “Who art thou?” And he replied, “I am the poor man whom thou didst formerly relieve;” but my name is ‘The Wonderful’ and through Me thou shalt obtain whatever thou shalt ask of God. Then Gregory knew that he bad entertained an angel; or, according to another version of the story, our Lord Himself.”
It is said of Lord Chief Justice Hale that he frequently invited his poor neighbours to dinner, and made them sit at table with himself, if any of them were sick, so that they could not come, he would send provisions to them from his own table. He did not confine his bounties to the poor of his own parish, but diffused supplies to the neighbouring parishes as occasion required. He always treated the old, the needy, and the sick with the tenderness and familiarity that became one who considered they were of the same nature with himself, and were reduced to no other necessities but such as he himself might be brought to. Common beggars he considered in another view. If any of these met him in his walks, or came to his door, he would ask such as were capable of working why they went about so idly. If they answered it was because they could not get employment, he would send them to some field to gather all the stones in it, and lay them in a heap, and then pay them liberally for their trouble. This being done, he used to send his carts, and caused the stones to be carried to such places of the highway as needed repair.
Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.
There are a great many ways of turning a conversation when it happens to be suggestive of disagreeable truth, or to convey advice which we should prefer not to take, or to reveal to us points in our character which we should wish to keep hidden, even from ourselves. But of all the various devices resorted to for this purpose the pious ejaculation is usually the most successful, as well as by far the easiest. If it fail to change the subject, it at least causes an awkward pause, after which there is a fair prospect of an altered tone in the general talk.
I. GLANCE AT THE SCENE. The Saviour had been putting some pointed questions respecting personal religion to His host and fellow-guests. Feeling that things had gone far enough in their present direction, and yet that by no possibility could exception be taken to anything that had been said, the guest introduced to our notice in the text attempts to dismiss to heaven those heavenly things which are not easily acclimatised to earth; to project into the future those “very excellent things” which were felt to look best at a distance; to refer the whole subject to another world, and to change the venue, as I believe lawyers would say, by a formal remark--indisputable but unpractical--“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
II. Let us see HOW THIS SPEECH WAS MET. All unreal ejaculations are evasive, self-deceiving (like Balaam’s), or procrastinating; or all three. The ejaculation of the text was most likely all three. It was certainly evasive. And the Saviour met it by pointing out that the blessedness which the speaker, and others like him, professed to desire, was precisely that from which they were most ready to excuse themselves the moment it was offered to them; that “the kingdom of God” was something present, and not something merely future; that they could enjoy what they professed to regard as its blessings now; but that there were many other things which for the time being they very decidedly preferred.
III. NOW WHY DID HE WHO WOULD NOT “BREAK THE BRUISED REED OR QUENCH THE SMOKING FLAX” THUS DISCOURAGE THOSE WHO WERE SAYING WHAT WAS VERY GOOD? I should say, He did not discourage otherwise than by suggesting that they should weigh the import of their words and test their” reality. “By thy words,” said our Saviour, “thou shalt be justifed, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. He did not mean, of course, that we shall be judged by these alone; but that they will be taken into account. And for a moment, drawing away our thoughts from our bad words, let us ask ourselves whether our good words may not prove, after all, the more condemning, and waft over ages and ages, as the verdict of the Most High, the echo of His words by Isaiah long ago, “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (J. C.Coghlan, D. D.)
A certain man made a great supper
Parable of the great supper
THE ELABORATE PREPARATION. Indicating the treasures of Divine wisdom, forethought, power, love, expended upon the work of redemption.
II. MEN’S PREFERENCE OF OTHER THINGS--not things sinful in themselves, but worldly pursuits, occupation, s, pleasures--to the rich provision of the Divine bounty, and their consequent slighting of the Divine invitation.
III. LOVE SLIGHTED TURNS TO INDIGNATION.
IV. GOD’S PURPOSES ARE NOT FRUSTRATED BY THE DISOBEDIENCE AND UNTHANKFULNESS OF MAN. The house is filled. If one guest refuses to come, another is brought in to occupy his place. Drop your crown, and another man will lift it and place it on his brow. (Anon.)
The gospel feast
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GOSPEL.
1. Its readiness. Nothing for man to do but come. The feast has been preparing from the foundation of the world.
2. The gospel’s abundance. Grace enough in God’s heart to include all the world.
3. The condescension of the gospel. No favouritism. Absolutely free. The vilest soul is good enough to be saved.
4. The gospel’s urgency. Not force, but moral earnestness.
5. The gospel’s triumph. Christ’s blood is not shed for nought.
II. THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL.
1. The gospel finds no favourable reception from--
(1) The gospel-hardened. Every invitation rejected does but set more firmly in opposition a will already opposed to Christ. The heart grows stubborn and indifferent.
(2) The proud.
(3) The preoccupied. When Mark Antony began his famous speech with the words, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” he well knew that he might as well toss his words to the idle winds that swept over the dead body of his friend, as address an audience who paid him no attention. In the preaching of the gospel, the very fact that people are interested in it, talking about it, working for it, heralding it far and wide, is a guarantee of its effectiveness. We must make men think about their souls. So long as their oxen, or their stores, or their wills, or their ships are in their minds, Christ cannot get in.
(4) The self-satisfied. Here is the trouble with many a man of amiability and worth. He has a pleasant home, friends he delights in, social ties, all possible comforts. He needs to see that this is Dot enough. He ought to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and at the gospel feast he might be filled.
2. The gospel is tolerably certain to find reception among--
(1) The needy.
(2) The neglected. (A. P. Foster.)
The gospel supper
I. THAT GOD HAS MADE AMPLE PROVISION IN THE GOSPEL FOR ALL OUR SPIRITUAL EXIGENCIES. That provision is here set forth under the similitude of a great supper. That the gospel supper may be thus designated will appear if we think of--
1. Its Author. It has been provided by God himself.
2. The expense at which it was procured. Almost incredible sums have been expended in the getting up of sumptuous entertainments. But what were they when compared with the expense incurred here? To provide this banquet, the Son of God became incarnate, lived a life of reproach, of poverty, of persecution, and died the accursed death of the cross.
3. The greatness and variety of the blessings which are set before us. And what tongue of man or angel can describe them in their ineffable importance? They include all the treasures of grace here, and all the inconceivable treasures of glory hereafter.
II. THAT INVITATIONS OF THE MOST ENCOURAGING KIND ARE GIVEN US TO COME AND PARTAKE OF WHAT GOD HAS GRACIOUSLY PROVIDED.
1. The characters to whom they were addressed. First, to the Jews only. Then to all men.
2. The manner in which the invitations should be applied. Moral compulsion.
3. The motives by which they should be enforced.
(1) That the provisions are all duly prepared. “Come; for all things are now ready.” The Saviour has been made flesh; He has finished the work which was given Him to do; the sacrifice He offered has been accepted; the Spirit has been poured out from on high; the ministry of the gospel is instituted; the sacred canon is complete.
(2) The amplitude of the preparations. “And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.” Although so many have been gathered in, the seats are not all occupied.
III. THAT THE DIVINE PROVISIONS, OF WHICH WE ARE SO FREELY INVITED TO PARTAKE ARE BY MANY SLIGHTED AND DESPISED. The excuses offered are--
IV. THAT THOSE WHO DESPISE THE PROVISION OF THE GOSPEL CANNOT DO SO WITHOUT INCURRING THE GREATEST GUILT, AND WITHOUT EXPOSING THEMSELVES TO THE MOST AWFUL DANGER. (Expository Outlines.)
The marriage feast
We know that, in every department of life, happiness, health, honour, and prosperity, involve two essential elements, one of which is a provision for these things in nature and society, and the other of which is an appropriation of that provision by those to whom it is offered. And this last is as indispensable as the first. That which makes the offer and the provision of any validity or usefulness is the circumstance that there is some one to accept it. Let us look, for one moment, at this. God has made great provision of the elements of nature. Light--oh, how abundant! how beautiful! how sweet!--and all that will accept this boon of God shall have the benefit of it. The blind cannot. The wilfully blind cannot; for although there is light enough for thrice ten thousand times as great a population as that which inhabits the globe, if a man endungeons himself purposely, and shuts out the light from the room where he dwells, the abundance of the provision and the offer make no difference with him. He loses it and all its blessings. There is heat enough, and there are sounds enough, for the comfort and for the solace of the human soul; and yet, unless men accept these things, the mere fact that they have been offered to all, and that they are abundant, will do them no good. We know that in respect to those great qualities of nature the abundance of provision does not enforce acceptance. The great prime necessities of life, such as food, raiment, shelter--God has put the elements of these things within our control, and there is provision for all the wants of men, and for the growing needs of society: but if men refuse to work; if they refuse to practice frugality; if they will not put forth skill, the God of nature and the God of grace lets them pine, and lets them starve, as much as if there had been no pro vision. The earth does not reveal its secrets except to those that search for them; and the rains, and the sun, and the soil, do nothing, except to the seed that is hid in the crevices of the ground. The summer is barren to the sluggard. There is provision enough for all the wants of men, if they accept them on the conditions on which they are proffered; but if they do not accept them on these conditions the abundance does not insure to their benefit. When men violate the laws of their being, however innocently or ignorantly, they are made to suffer the penalties of those violated laws, and sickness and pain come in. And when a man is sick, though all remedies are provided, and though the most skilful physicians are called to their bedside, these will do no good if he will not accept the remedies that skill has found out, and that kindness is proffering. These facts are familiar to us. They go to illustrate and confirm the general statement that something more is required than a provision and a proffer. Thus far I have spoken of the physical laws of nature. It may be said that this is not in the moral realm, and that the analogy is not a fair one. Therefore, I proceed to show that in the moral realm the constitution of things is even more marked than in the physical realm. We know that a man’s happiness or misery in this life depends upon the manner in which he exercises his faculties. That is to say, it is not a matter of indifference which way a man uses the powers of his mind, any more than which way a man turns the key when he winds his watch. Turning it one way ruins it, and turning it the other way expedites it. It makes a difference which side of the blade of a knife you use if you would cut wood. It makes a difference which way you work a machine. One way of working it agrees with its nature, and the other way of working it disagrees with its nature. And so it is with a man’s mind. It was meant to act in conformity with certain definite principles and results. If it conforms to these there is happiness, and if it does not there is misery. We also see in human society--which is as divinely-ordained as is human life itself; for a man’s organs are no more fitted to be put together to make the individual man than individual men are fitted to co-operate together in society--we see in human society this same law evolved with terrible certainty at large. If men seek happiness, honour, love, there is abundant provision for them in society. All things are ready. They are accessible by right conduct. If men neglect the provision for happiness, and honour, and love, they will miss these ends, and that, too, although God is good and kind, although there is a providence that is supervising human society--a Providence that will not suffer a sparrow to fall to the ground unnoticed--a Providence that knows that we are in need of raiment, and shelter, and food, and nourishing care. If men do not accept voluntarily the provision of these things which is made in society, there is no providence that will rescue them from the wretchedness that will ensue from disobedience. The administration of God is full of goodness; but goodness in the Divine administration is employed according to law. All philanthropy, all humanity, and all sympathy and succour, carried down to grog-shops and to the Five Points, will not assuage one pang, and will not rescue one wretch, unless he is willing to return and co-operate, and bring himself under the influence of remedial law. Now, at this point we reach again the Word of God, and are prepared to receive its declarations, with all corroborations and presumptive analogies in its favour. The feast of the gospel is spread. The King, in His great bounty, sends His servants forth to say to all, “Come to the marriage supper.” To lay aside the figure, God makes the proffer of forgiveness, of amnesty for the past, and of unbounded joy and happiness for the future. If you accept the provision, which is ample enough for every human being on the globe, you are blessed; but if you neglect it, or refuse it, that provision, if multiplied a myriad times, would be of no more avail to you than light to the blind, sound to the deaf, or food to the dead. It is a provision that is invalid if you fail to accept it. If you take it you live; if you reject it you die. Although, then, the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God is one of the most blessed doctrines of the Bible, and one of the most animating to our hope, we must not pervert it, and suppose that, because God administers as a universal Father, therefore, all sorts of men, under all sorts of circumstances, are perfectly safe. I would not take away one single whit of the beauty, or attractiveness, or encouragement of the thought that God loves, and that everything that love can do will be done to make men happy here, safe in death, and glorious hereafter; but I warn you not to suppose that everything can be done merely because God loves. There are limitations even in an infinite God. (H. W. Beecher.)
The great supper
I. “A certain man made a great supper”--the movement originated with himself, in his own mind--HIS OWN FREE BOUNTY--his own generosity--his unsolicited willingness to make others partakers of his richenjoyments. The man here supposed represents Almighty God Himself; and the action here ascribed to Him represents the preparation of Christianity--that rich and saving feast for a perishing world. It originated (if aneternal purpose can properly be said to have had a beginning) in His own mind, His own free love, His own unsolicited willingness to make fallen men partakers of His own happiness, “that they might be filled with the fatness of His house--that they might drink of the river of His pleasures” Psalms 36:8). See, then, the nature of the preparation. It is the mode adopted by Divine wisdom to render it a right thing--a righteous thing--for a sovereign Lawgiver and upright Judge to deal with convicted rebels as a pardoning father and a sympathizing friend; it is, in the language of St. Paul, that “God may be just, while He justifies the ungodly” (Romans 3:19-26; Romans 5:6-8). Behold, also, the extent of the preparation. It knows no earthly bounds, it extends to heaven; its value is not to be measured by earth, but is to be found in the harmonized perfections of God.
II. Now look at the INVITATION TO IT. He said to his servant, at the supper time, Go and “say to them who were bidden, Come; for all things are ready.” This represents the commission to preach the gospel. St. Paul was determined to know nothing else, and preach nothing else. He accounted it the most distinguishing and the most exalted of the favours bestowed upon him, that he should declare among the Gentiles the “unsearchable riches of Christ”--in other words, the preparation of the Great Supper. And he exhorted--i.e., he pressed the invitation upon men--earnestly, that they might “not receive the grace of God in vain”; and urgently, because the time was short: “Now,” he said, “is the appointed time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
III. And now having so spoken of the preparation and the invitation, our next theme is a painful one--THE RECEPTION THAT THIS INVITATION MET WITH. The force of this portion of the parable lies in this--that the objects which, in their effects, became destructive, were in themselves lawful and right. The contrast is not between sin and duty, but between duty and duty--between duty number two and duty that ought always to be numberone. The contrast is not between the house of gambling and the house of God--it is not between intemperance and uncleanness on the one side, and prayer and praise on the other; no, it is not that phase of human guilt that is exhibited; the contrast is rather between the countinghouse and the church, the shop and the house of God, domestic enjoyments and secret prayer. The contrast is between the attractions which the lawful occupations of this world possess for the natural heart of man, and the secret repugnance felt by that heart to the enjoyments of God.
IV. But the parable does not end there; the servants came in and repeated this answer, and the master was not satisfied; then he told the servants “to go out into the streets and lanes of the city, and to bring in the poor and the maimed, and the halt and the blind.” There is an intimation in this part of the parable that a power would accompany the invitation such as would not be refused--such as would secure a company--such as would not leave the seats around the Master’s table unoccupied, but, on the contrary, that his house should be filled. Now, think of this secret power. Here, again, we refer to the persons and resources of the Godhead. Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” He shall present the preparation for the supper, and He shall urge the invitation, so as to supersede all pre-engagements, and put an end to all excuses. He has power to secure a gracious result without the slightest interference with the free operation of the moral machine that He has made. Nothing else can secure this; there is to be no force, and yet the result is to be secured; no action constrained, and yet the character totally altered. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalms 110:1-7.). The will rules the man; and who rules the will? There is revelation of a secret power, which, touching the will, secures all that follows in the man’s life with perfect freedom. Look at a large and complicated machine under the control of a little fly-wheel; that locked, the machine is stationary; that liberated, the machine goes on. See, the machine is stationary, and ignorant violence is made use of to make it go on, but in vain--blows are aimed at it to make it go on, in the wrong place, all in vain--it may be broken, but it cannot by violence be made to work--sledge-hammers are raised on it in vain; but see, a little child, properly instructed, with a little finger frees the fly-wheel, and the whole machine goes forward in its work; every arm, and every lever, and every wheel performs its appointed action duly and freely. It was that touch that did it--that touch is promised, of God, to us--in hope of it we preach,without it we preach in vain; all is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal without this. (H. McNeile, D. D.)
A great feast
I. With regard to THE NATURE OF THE FEAST. “A certain man made a great supper and bade many.” What, then, is this feast which our Lord has provided, and of which He has sent His servants to invite men to come and partake? First, as bread satisfies hunger, and is necessary to sustain life, so Jesus Christ is that true bread which cometh down from heaven--the bread of the soul--the bread that alone can satisfy and sustain the spiritual and eternal life of man. His flesh is given as meat, and His blood as drink; and this is the feast. I cannot enlarge upon the particulars of this feast, but observe that a feast is not merely bread, it is fulness of bread; it is a rich provision--there is variety of provision. This the gospel gloriously attests; here is everything that man can want; here is not only pardon for the guilty, reconciliation for him that is at enmity with God, but all the rich provision of grace, all the fulness and comfort of the Spirit of God; all the plenitude of His promises is here; there is nothing that the soul can eat or desire, in any state or condition in which it is seen, but is to be found here; in the gospel feast there is all that is wholesome, suited to its tastes, its appetites, its desires, its lofty capacities, and capable of fully and eternally satisfying them. Here, then, the children of God see their privilege. The Saviour is an omniscient Saviour and an omnipresent Saviour--a Saviour present with the Church, knowing every case, every heart, and every want; and He has in Himself fulness to satisfy every longing desire or wish.
II. We are to consider THE CONDITION OF THOSE WHO WERE FIRST BIDDEN TO THIS FEAST, AND FOR WHOM IT WAS SPECIALLY PREPARED. I say specially provided; for you will recollect that these persons were the children of the promise--the heirs of the covenant. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” So St. Paul says, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first.” The three principal grounds on which men slight the gospel are here referred to--they are common, not to the Jews only, but common to the Gentiles. The first ground is wealth. The first said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it.” The disposition of mind by which a man is induced to seek the increase of wealth is opposed to the gospel This disposition is so fatal to many that it operates, as in the ease of the parable, utterly to exclude them from tasting the supper. It does not so fill and choke up the appetite--it does not so corrode the taste as to prevent their enjoying, as to prevent their fully partaking of this blessing, but it eats them off altogether--they cannot taste of this supper. Is it not so with your hearts, while you are coveting the world? Can you enjoy Christ? You cannot!
2. The second disposition of mind which excludes men from tasting the supper of the gospel grace, is that which involves them in the vortex of this world’s cares. This is figured in the parable by the yoke of oxen--“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and must needs go and prove them.”
3. Another said, “I have married a wife”; and therefore he was in a greater strait than the other two--he said positively, “I cannot come!” This parable is against those moral people--those honest people--those people whose lives are so irreproachable and blameless in everything except the matter of their salvation. It applies to those that are comparatively enlightened, to those that would be shocked at gross immorality, to those who would not exhibit in their lives, on any account, those vices which they condemn in others; but sin sits enthroned in their heart, in the shape of a secret and subtle covetousness, in a character that absorbs them in their pleasures, and steals and weans their affections from God. And this is, perhaps, the most awful case of all. Go and preach the gospel to those who have no ground of justification; and if you can get them to listen to the gospel, they will fall down at your feet and confess their sin. Examine, trace in your hearts the working of this worldliness, consider the objections that hold you back from Christ, and you will find that they resolve themselves into the excuses of those who were first bidden to this feast. It is the land and the oxen, it is the pleasure of this world, all which perish in their using, and will leave you hungry and naked, and poor and wretched at the bar of God! I come now to speak of--
III. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO REALLY DID ENTER IN AND PARTAKE OF THIS SUPPER. You will observe that those who were thus bidden the second time were described by this character, which marked the destitution of man: “Bring in hither the poor and the maimed, and the halt and the blind”; for this was the spiritual condition of the Gentile world. It marks their destitution--they are poor, they are without God and without hope in the world. In the heathen countries they were without Christian ordinances, without Christian Sabbaths, without Christian instruction. The verse also relates to those who might justly make excuse upon any ground than that of the gospel invitation; who might by self-abasement and humility of spirit say, “How can it be? How can it be that the Prince, the King, and Lord of this supper should send for me? You must be deceiving, you must be making game of me--you must intend some derision; the invitation cannot be for me.” “Go,” says the King, “and compel them to come in; go and tell them how large the offer is.” (J. Sutcliffe.)
The feast only for those who can appreciate it
Now why is it difficult to us to represent to ourselves this unwillingness? Because we always think of the great supper simply as so much unmeasured happiness, so much unmixed delight. It will be happiness, it will be delight, but only to those who can appreciate it; not to the base, not to the selfish, not to the false, not to the weak, not to the impure. It will be the highest happiness of which human nature is capable; but it can only be tasted by those who are of kindred nature to Him who gives it. Those who would not come when they were invited would not have found it a happiness if they had come. Now this, the very principle of the parable, is just as applicable to our daily life as it is to any such critical moment as the parable supposes. We are invited to a spiritual feast; to a feast of that happiness which is got from perfect self mastery, from peace with our consciences, from having no cloud between us and those whom we love, from having no cloud between us and God. We know perfectly well that this is a very real happiness. We have had foretastes of it now and then, quite enough to show what it is like. But this duty, which thus seems ever to pursue us and give us no rest, it is so exacting, it is so dull, it is so unrewarded, what wonder that we turn away? No, indeed it is not. There are those who find it so; those, namely, who refuse the invitation, and go to this and to that; and then--not in repentance, but in sullen acquiescence; not because their hearts are touched, but because they fear consequences, and because they are disgusted with the pleasure which they have preferred to duty--come back, like Balaam, to obey in deed but not in spirit. Such men learn what is meant by the words “None of those men who were bidden shall taste of My supper.” To them the supper is no supper at all. To them that obey in an unloving, discontented, sulky mood there is indeed no happiness in obedience. They obey, and find no peace in obedience. They deny themselves for the sake of others, and instead of loving those whom they thus benefit all the more, they love them all the less. They conquer the outburst of temper, and substitute an inward brooding of ill-will. They resist temptation, and feel a kind of resentment against Providence for having put this hard task upon them. They come, but they do not taste the supper, for they refused it. But it is a real pleasure, a pleasure above all other pleasures, to those who come heartily and gladly, who make the needful sacrifice with a ready spirit and with a resolute cheerfulness, forcing away from their minds all gloomy suggestions and all discontented feelings, recognizing in the trifle which calls them as sure a summons from the Great King as if it had been the royal messenger Death; seeing in each invitation to Christian effort a call, not to pain, but to joy; not to a task, but to a supper; not to a loss, but to a service in the King’s court. (Bishop Temple.)
The gospel feast
I. A TYPE OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
1. Of the nature of the gospel. A supper. It is God’s provision to satisfy the soul’s hunger.
2. Of the abundance of God’s provision in the gospel. A great supper.
(1) Every want of the soul can be satisfied by the gospel.
(2) Satisfied for ever.
3. Of the freeness of the gospel.
(1) In the grace which provided it.
(2) In the generousness which invites to it.
II. A TYPE OF THE TREATMENT THE GOSPEL RECEIVES.
1. The term used to express this treatment is very noticeable. Excuse. Not positive refusal, yet not acceptance.
2. The excuses mentioned are noticeable.
(1) Though often rendered, how untenable. Feast occurring probably in evening, would not have interfered with land speculator or enterprising farmer; and the young husband could have taken his bride with him.
(2) Though differing in their phases, how similar in spirit. Setting personal gratification above the claims of God.
III. A TYPE OF THE EFFECT OF THIS TREATMENT ON THE DIVINE MIND.
1. The Divine resentment is here stated.
2. Fresh orders are given.
3. New decree declared. Lessons:
1. The provision God has made for us in Christ--how satisfying and abundant.
2. Excuses for procrastination--how common--how dangerous.
3. When God says, “None of those who were bidden shaft taste,” etc., seals the doom of such. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
On receiving the grace of the gospel
The eating of bread mentioned in previous verse imports the enjoyment of eternal goods, both for necessity and delight, in heaven. But our Lord here takes that man off, and us in him, from a general admiration of their happiness in heaven, to a particular application of the means conducing to that happiness, even the receiving the grace of the gospel. They that would eat bread, or enjoy fellowship with God in heaven, must first eat bread, or partake of the gospel-provision here on earth.
I. THE WAY TO ENJOY THE ETERNAL, GOOD THINGS IN THE KINGDOM OF GLORY IS TO CLOSE WITH THE SPIRITUAL GOOD THINGS IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE.
1. “Eating bread” implies most intimate and immediate union with God.
2. It denotes the abundant supply of all wants.
3. The full and familiar enjoyment of good company.
4. Complete satisfaction in the fruition of all contents and delights.
II. WHAT ARE THOSE SPIRITUAL GOOD THINGS WHICH WE ARE TO CLOSE WITH IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE?
1. Spiritual privileges provided for us in the grace of the gospel (IsaZec 13:1). Reconciliation, adoption, remission, sanctification, vocation, salvation. This gospel provision is the plank after the shipwreck, or the ark in the midst of the deluge. No other way of escaping destruction or obtaining salvation.
2. Spiritual ordinances for the conveying of spiritual privileges, and ensuring them. Preaching. Sacraments.
3. Spiritual graces for the improvement of spiritual ordinances Galatians 5:22). These are the clusters of grapes to make us in love with the Holy Land, notwithstanding oppositions. This fruit grows nowhere but in Christ’s garden. The Vine which bears it is Himself.
4. Spiritual duties for the expression of spiritual graces. Praying; hearing; exhorting one another, etc.
III. HOW ARE WE TO CLOSE WITH THESE SPIRITUAL GOOD THINGS
1. We are to receive them by faith, embracing the grace of the gospel John 1:12).
2. We are to walk as we have received Christ (Colossians 2:6); leading a holy life by virtue drawn from Him through our union with Him; giving the world a proof in our holy life of the virtue in Christ’s death for rectifying our crooked nature.
IV. WHY WE MUST CLOSE WITH SPIRITUAL GOOD THINGS, IF WE WOULD ENJOY ETERNAL. Because the one is part of the other. Saints in heaven and saints upon earth make up but one family. Grace is the beginning of glory; some compare it to the golden chain in Homer, the top of which was fastened to the chair of Jupiter. Grace will reach glory, and it must precede glory.
Use 1. This informs us--
(1) That it is good for man now to draw near to God (Psalms 73:28). It tends to his everlasting happiness.
(2) See their vanity who draw back from God, or bid God depart from them when He comes near them in the means of grace vouchsafed to them Psalms 73:27; Job 21:14). Sin divides between God and the soul.
Use 2. Yet this doth not make, but many may partake of gospel mercies in the kingdom of grace, and yet never come to glory. Those who have slighted their privileges and advantages will receive the greater condemnation.
Use 3. Would you come into the kingdom of glory?
(1) Come into the kingdom of grace.
(2) Live as under the laws of this kingdom of grace.
(a) Perform allegiance to God, yielding yourself to Him.
(b) Expect protection from God, and draw nigh to Him (James 4:8).
(c) Pray that the territories of the kingdom of grace may be enlarged more and more upon the face of the earth.
(d) Prepare for the translation of the kingdom of grace into the kingdom of glory (1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:28). (John Crump.)
Refusing the Divine call
The election of the just, and the reprobation of the wicked, are inscrutable mysteries. Yet, as much as is necessary for us to know, Jesus reveals to us in this parable, without satisfying vain curiosity.
I. ON THE CALL EXTENDED TO MEN.
1. Nature of this call.
(1) It is Divine.
(2) It is holy.
(3) It is a free call.
(4) it is a universal call.
2. Manner of this call.
(1) God calls men outwardly: by teaching and preaching, in order to take away the darkness of understanding caused by original sin.
(2) God calls me inwardly: by the inspiration of Divine grace.
II. ON THE DECLINING OF THE INVITATION.
1. Cooperation with the Divine call is necessary.
2. Man often refuses to co-operate with the Divine call:
(1) Because he is attached to earthly things.
(2) Because he is enslaved by the vice of pride.
(3) Because he is the slave of his own flesh.
As the Jews lost all taste for the manna, because they longed for the fleshpots of Egypt, so all taste for the sweetness of spiritual joys is lost by carnal lust.
III. ON REPROBATION. Most awful is the judgment of being excluded from Divine charity and communion; but, at the same time, it is most just.
1. The wrath of the king against those who were invited, but who refused to come, was just. With God, wrath is not the eruption of passion, but the zeal of justice, directed against him who, by not accepting His loving invitation, has insulted His infinite majesty.
2. The sentence pronounced by the king was just.
(1) God does whatever is necessary for our salvation.
(2) But man, the sinner, is not willing to be saved (Matthew 23:37). Man must do what he is able to do, and pray for what he is not able.
3. His sentence of reprobation is most just.
(1) He gives them up to the desires of their heart, as He suffered those who were invited to go after their business (Romans 1:23, etc.).
(2) God invites others instead of those who were first invited, that His house may be filled, and that the latter may be for ever cut off from the hope of recovering their place. Thus David was elected instead of Saul; Matthias instead of Judas.
(3) He condemns irrevocably those who decline the invitationProverbs 1:24-26; Proverbs 1:24-26). (Nicolas de Dijon.)
The great supper
I. THE INVITATION.
1. The time of the invitation. Evening. At the introduction of the gospel dispensation.
2. The nature of the invitation--“Come.”
3. The persons by whom the invitations were sent--“His servants.” Apostles, disciples, etc.
II. REJECTION OF THE INVITATION.
1. The unanimity of their refusals.
2. The various reasons which they assigned.
(1) The inspection of new-bought property.
(2) Engrossing business.
(3) Domestic duties.
III. FURTHER INVITATIONS ISSUED.
1. How extended the commission.
2. How benevolent the arrangement.
3. How urgent the appeal.
(1) That in the gospel, abundant provision is made for the spiritual wants of mankind.
(2) That the invitations of Divine mercy include all ranks and conditions of men.
(3) That these invitations are free and full, and urgently and sincerely presented by the Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) That only self-excluders will be refused a place at the feast of salvation.
(5) That it is the duty and interest of all, immediately and gratefully to obey the invitation and sit down at the gracious banquet. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The great feast, and its Maker
I. THE MAKER OF THE FEAST. Christ God-Man, or God in Christ, is a bountiful Benefactor to man. God in Christ is here called a Man--
1. By way of resemblance; those properties of any worth appearing in man, or spoken of man, being more eminently in God: as
2. By Ray of reality.
(1) In respect of Christ, by whom this gospel-provision is, wherein God shows Himself such a Benefactor. Christ has
(a) the blood of a man;
(b) the bowels of a man;
(c) the familiarity of a man.
(2) In respect of man for whom this gospel-provision is, wherein God shows Himself such a Benefactor. The grace of the gospel is called “the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man.” And that--
(a) by way of distinction from other creatures in general;
(b) by way of opposition unto fallen angels in particular.
(3) In respect of the ministers of the gospel, through whose hands this gospel-provision is distributed. Uses.
1. Observe the condescension of God.
2. The advancement of man.
II. THE FEAST. Supper--chief meal of the day: intimating the abundance of the provision made for the recovery of lost man.
1. What is this gospel-provision for the good of souls? It is the only way of man’s salvation since the Fall, begun in grace, and swallowed up or perfected in glory.
2. How does the provision appear to be so plentiful?
(1) Look at the Maker of the feast. God, rich in mercy, great in love.
(2) The materials. Christ Himself. The sincere milk of the word. The promises. Work of grace in soul. Sum up all this: here is solidity, plenty, variety; here is for necessity and delight, for health and mirth. ‘Tis a great supper.
(3) The vessels. Ordinances: “golden vials full of odours.”
(4) The guests. Such as are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Kings and priests unto God.
(5) The attendants. Ministers instructed by God.
III. THE PERSONS BIDDEN.
1. Adam was invited, and with Him the whole race of mankind.
2. Noah was invited, and with him the old world.
3. Abraham was invited, and with him the whole nation of the Jews.
4. Moses was invited, and with him the Jews had a fresh invitation under that pedagogy of his which was to bring them to Christ.
1. Information. This shows us God’s desire for man’s happiness. He not only propounds a way for man to be happy, but invites man to accept of it. How inexcusable, then, is man if he refuse.
(1) Though men are thus generally invited, yet other fallen creatures have not so much as an invitation; so that there is somewhat of distinguishing mercy in the very invitation (Hebrews 2:16).
(2) Though men are thus generally invited, yet they are very hardly persuaded really to close with the invitation.
(3) Though men are thus generally invited, yet they will not be continually invited.
(4) Though men are thus generally invited, yet they will be as generally rejected, if they continue slighting God’s invitation.
3. Be exhorted to hearken to this call and invitation of God. To move you to accept: consider seriously--
(1) God communes with us in a way of familiarity (Isaiah 1:18).
(2) God commands us in a way of authority (1 John 3:23).
(3) God beseeches us in a way of entreaty (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(4) Upon refusal, God threatens us in a way of severity
Proverbs 1:24; Proverbs 1:32).
They who will not fecal upon these gospel dainties, “shall eat of the fruit of their own way.” They that sow the wind of iniquity shall reap the whirlwind of misery. (John Crump.)
The gospel feast
I. WITH RESPECT TO THE INVITATION. Although the dispensations of God to Jew and Gentile may be different, the declaration of the gospel is the same. It is especially worth noting how perfectly free from all impossible conditions, on the part of man, is the gospel invitation.
II. Now look at THE WAY IN WHICH THIS INVITATION WAS RECEIVED. “They all with one consent began to make excuse.” They wanted to do something else instead. And in this reply we see a lesson, how, when the passions of man are set against the truth, how additionally hard and presumptuously bold they make the heart. The spirit which actuated these excuses was worldliness--preferring something to God. And this is strictly true of every one who has not really closed with the gospel invitation now.
III. Observe again, that THE PERSONS ETERNALLY EXCLUDED FROM THE GOSPEL-FEAST ARE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BIDDEN TO IT; the invitation is, therefore, real: God means what He says. It was in all good faith that the invitation was given, and it is in all seriousness that God speaks when the invitation has been refused. I warn you against making excuses to-day, lest when you would accept the Lord’s gracious invitation, you cannot; lest you become too blind to read, too lame to go to the house of God, and too deaf to hear--altogether too infirm to get any good. Now, I repeat to you, you know these things are true; you understand these things; you are perfectly well aware that what I say is the exposition of the parable, and you are perfectly aware that as long as you neglect God’s invitation, you are wrong. You cannot say, “Lord, forgive me, for I know not what I do.” You do know; your conscience speaks to you now: do not harden it by neglect.
1. I would, in conclusion, say, take these four considerations home with you: Consider, first, to-night, dear brethren, before you lay your heads upon your pillows, the greatness of the Host that invites you. Consider His love, His power, if you apply to Him, to overcome every hindrance, His grace to give you all needful strength, His mercy, which will embrace you in His arms, and take you to His heart.
2. The excellence of the feast. He sets before you salvation, pardon, peace, eternal life. Are not these things worth having? Are they not necessary to the welfare of your soul? Where can you get them, but in the way you are called to accept now?
3. The blessedness of partaking of this gospel-feast.
4. The misery of refusing--of never tasting the gospel-supper--never, never!--never knowing pardon of sin--never knowing peace of conscience. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)
The great supper
I. THE FEAST. This is the gospel which God has provided for mankind and sinners. Great preparations had to be made before it was available for men. The law which we had broken had to be satisfied; the penalty which we had incurred had to be endured; the obedience in which we had failed had to be rendered. None of these things, however, could be done by man for himself. Christ therefore took human nature, etc.
1. A feast in respect of the excellence of the provision which it sets before us. Pardon of sin, favour with God, peace of conscience, renewal of the heart, access to the throne of grace, the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the exceeding great and precious promises of the Scriptures, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life.
2. A feast in respect, of abundance, for the supply is inexhaustible.
3. A feast in respect of fellowship. The blessings of the gospel are for social, and not simply for private, life; and what circle of earthly friends can be put into comparison with that into which we enter when we seat ourselves at the gospel table? Communion, not only with best and wisest of earth, but with redeemed before throne; yea, fellowship with Father, and His Son Jesus Christ.
4. A feast in respect of joy. The Giver of it and the guests at it rejoice together.
II. THE INVITED GUESTS. The invitation to this feast is given to every one in whose hearing the gospel is proclaimed. A great privilege, also a great peril. God’s invitation is not to be trifled with or despised. In the court language of Great Britain, when a subject receives an invitation to the royal table, it is said that her Majesty “commands” his presence there. So the invitations of the King of kings to His gospel banquet are commands, the ignoring of which constitutes the most aggravated form of disobedience.
III. THE RECEPTION GIVEN BY THOSE FIRST INVITED, TO THE CALL, WHICH HAD BEEN ADDRESSED TO THEM. Animated by one spirit, moved by one impulse, under the influence of the same disposition, they all began to make excuse. Each of them considered some worldly thing as of more importance to him than the enjoyment of the feast; and that is just saying, in another way, that they all treated the invitation as a matter of no moment. Their excuses were all pretexts. If the heart is set on anything else, it cannot be given up to Christ; and every excuse that is offered for withholding it, whether the excuse itself be true or not, does not give the real reason for His rejection. That must be sought in the fact that the heart is set on something else which it is not willing to part with, even for Him. It is the old story. “One thing thou lackest:” but that one thing is everything, for it is the love of the heart.
IV. THOSE WHO PERSISTENTLY DECLINE TO COME TO THE FEAST SHALL BE FOR EVER EXCLUDED FROM ITS ENJOYMENT.
V. NOTWITHSTANDING THE REJECTION OF THIS INVITATION BY MULTITUDES, GOD’S HOUSE SHALL BE FILLED AT LAST. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The love of this world is a hindrance to salvation
I. REASONS WHY THE LOVE OF THIS WORLD IS A HINDRANCE TO SALVATION.
1. On account of its power over the heart.
(1) It is not attentive to the greatness of Divine grace.
(2) It disregards the means of this grace, through which the sinner must be brought to the fellowship of it.
(3) It hardens the heart against the repeated invitations of God.
(4) It does despite to the free grace of God, which has at once provided everything necessary for our salvation, and invites us to partake of it without any personal desert.
2. On account of its nature.
(1) It is directed to what is earthly, perishable.
(a) To goods and pleasures.
(b) To honour, influence, and consideration.
(c) To ties and connections.
(2) It prefers that to what is heavenly and eternal.
(3) It lays claim, in doing so, to a right frame of mind (Luke 14:18-19), considering itself to have a proper excuse, and thus manifests its ingratitude, levity, and obstinacy.
II. PROOF THAT THE LOVE OF THE WORLD IS SUCH A HINDRANCE.
1. From the consequences resulting to the despisers.
(1) They draw upon themselves the anger of God.
(2) They forfeit the offered salvation.
2. From the subsequent procedure of God, who still manifests His mercy and grace;
(1) In that He continues to invite men to the blessings of salvation;
(2) and even the most wretched of men;
(3) and all, without exception, in the most pressing manner. (F. G. Lisco.)
The gospel feast
Though this parable resembles, in some respects, that of the marriage feast in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew, it is a distinct and independent parable.
1. What those gospel blessings are to which we are here invited under the comparison of a feast. We are invited, then, to partake of the blessing of knowledge, saving knowledge, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the truth.
2. Let us observe what is implied in coming to this feast. It supposes, then, a desire and endeavour to obtain these blessings, and an actual acceptance of them just as they are offered.
3. God employs His servants to invite persons of all descriptions to this feast.
4. We are reminded by this parable that multitudes reject the gospel invitation with vain excuses.
5. Once more, this parable teaches that, however many may have hitherto refused the invitation, ministers are bound to persevere in most earnest endeavours to bring in sinners. The office of ministers, in this respect, is weighty and responsible. (James Foote, M. A.)
From the earliest ages it has been common to speak of God’s merciful provisions for fallen men under the imagery of a fast. Thus Isaiah sung: “In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a fewest of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” And so familiar was this conception to the ancient Jews, that many of them were led to indulge the grossest notions about feasting and banqueting in the kingdom of the Messiah. Many of the Rabbins took it literally, and talked and wrote largely about the blessed bread and plenteous wine, and delicious fruits, and the varieties of fish, flesh, and fowl, to be enjoyed when once the Messiah should come. It was to this coarse eating and drinking that the man referred whose exclamation--“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God”--called forth this significant parable. But, although the Jews much perverted the idea, it still was a proper and expressive figurative representation of gospel blessings. The Saviour Himself takes up the idea, approves and appropriates it, and proceeds to speak of the provisions of grace as a δειπνον--a supper--a feast--a banquet. Very significant also is this imagery.
1. A feast is not a thing of necessity, but of gratuity. If a man makes an entertainment to which he invites his friends and neighbours, he does it out of favour and good feeling towards them. It is because he takes an interest in their happiness, and is pleased to minister to their enjoyment. And precisely of this nature is the blessed gospel.
2. Again: a banquet is furnished at the cost of him who makes it. And so the gospel comes to men free of expense to the guests. All that it embraces is proposed without money and without price.
3. A banquet also implies the spreading of a table, plentifully supplied with all inviting, wholesome, and pleasant viands. It is an occasion when the very best things, and in the greatest profusion, are set before the guests. True, “the kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink”; but it is to our inner life what the most precious viands, are to the body. The soul has appetites, and needs meat and drink as well as the physical man. It must be fed, nourished, and refreshed with its appropriate spiritual aliment, or the man must starve and die, notwithstanding the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And this life-giving spiritual food is what God has provided for us in the gospel.
4. A banquet is also a social thing. It involves the coming together of multitudes to exchange civilities, to form and strengthen fellowships, and to enjoy communion with each other, as well as with the maker of the feast. The gospel embraces a holy fellowship of believers with believers, and of each with God. It embraces a coming together of men in common brotherhood and communion with each other and with the Master, as full of sweetness, cheer, and blessedness as the viands of which they are invited to partake. Christianity is a social religion. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Come; for all things are now ready
The gospel invitation
I. THE FEAST.
1. The author of this feast.
2. The provisions.
3. The characteristics of the feast.
(1) It is a sacrificial feast.
(2) It is a great and universal feast.
(3) It is a gratuitous feast.
(4) It is a heavenly feast,
II. THE INVITATIONS--“Come.” Now this implies distance. All men far from God, etc. Prodigal
1. To what must they come? To the Word of God. To the preached gospel Romans 10:15).
2. How must they come? By repentance. Humbly, believingly, unreservedly, immediately.
3. To whom may this invitation be addressed? To the young, middle-aged, and to the old. To the moralist, profligate, and backslider. To the rich and poor, the learned and illiterate.
III. THE MOTIVE URGED--“For all things are now ready.”
1. The Father is ready. To embrace the repenting prodigal.
2. The Son is ready. To speak forgiveness and peace.
3. The Spirit is ready. To regenerate and save.
4. Ministers are ready. “And now then as ambassadors,” etc.
5. The ordinances are ready. And you are freely welcome.
6. The Church is ready. To own you as her sons, etc.
7. Angels are ready. To bear the tidings of your repentance to glory. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The gospel invitation
The invitation to come is in harmony with the kingdom of heaven, and in harmony with the character of man. An invitation implies a happiness. When a calamity or a sorrow is before us, we are not invited to it--we are drawn hither by an irresistible power. But when earth has a joyful event, or one that promises happiness, invitations are issued, because it is not conceivable that man would need to be driven toward happiness. Thus the invitation harmonizes with the kingdom of Christ, for it is a happiness. Whether you contemplate that kingdom as reaching through eternity with its blessedness, or as filling earth with its virtue and faith and hope, it is the highest happiness of which we can conceive. It is, indeed, a feast of love, of knowledge, of virtue; and hence is a blessedness worthy of the word “Come.” The word is also in harmony with the character of man, for, being a free agent, he is not to be forced towards blessedness, but only invited.
I. Now this word “COME” CONTAINS NO DEEP MYSTERY. It is not a tantalizing request to do what we cannot do. It is not irony, as though one should say to a blind man, “See this rose!” or a deaf mind, “Oh! please hear this music.” The Bible is the last book in the world to be accused of trifling with the soul, for it is the soul it loves, and for it it prays and weeps. It is not to be inferred from this that the heart can correct itself and forgive itself and sanctify itself; but what is to be inferred is that the will is not a mockery, not a dead monarch, but is a king upon a throne, and can command the soul to go many a path that leads to God. You can all start upon a heavenly road, for there is not a movement of the heart toward God that is not a part of this large “Come.” Where the human ends and the Divine begins no one can tell, any more than in nature one can tell where the rain and earth and sunshine cease to work in the verdure, and where they are supplanted by the presence of God. There is no tree that stands in the woods by its own act. God is there. So no Christian stands up strong in his own sole effort. God’s grace is somewhere. But yet, for all this, great is the power and responsibility of the soul. Nothing in religion can be true that renders void the law of personal effort.
II. But we pass by this “coming,” and go to the second thought--“ALL THINGS ARE READY.” I shall not restrict myself here to the exact import of the text, but shall accept of the words in all their breadth and application.
1. Religion is ready for you. Having passed through myriad shapes--Pagan, Mosaic, Grecian, Roman--religion seems to have found in the gospel of Christ a final readiness for human use. Reason may learn to deny all religion, science may hear and then teach atheism, but when the thought turns to a positive religion, there is at last one ready, the religion of our Lord; it is ready for you and me. But when we have declared it ready as a philosophical system, we have only told half the truth, for to this it adds the readiness of an ever-living Father and Saviour standing by each of you as a mother, and waiting to welcome you.
2. Let us proceed now to our second head: You are ready for this religion. I do not mean that you feel ready, for there are doubts and sins that stand between the soul and religion. The obstacle is not in the world without, but within. But I have said you are ready. In what sense? In this: that your life has come to its responsible, intelligent years. The lineaments of God--knowledge, wisdom, reason, love, hope, life--have all unfolded, and here we are all to-day, moving in all the spiritual qualities of Deity, and yet are willingly in the vale of sin. The ignorance of youth has passed away: we are children no more. Vice has revealed her wretchedness, and virtue her utility and beauty, and with intellects so discerning, and with an experience so complete, and then clothed with the attributes of God, we are all marching to the grave, a solemn gateway between action and judgment, between time and eternity. These facts make me declare we are ready for that sentiment called religion, that makes man one with God. I confess that we all are ready for the gospel of Christ--ready for its virtue, its mediation, its sunny hopes.
3. Society is ready for you to accept the gift. I hope that old day has wholly gone when men were afraid to profess Christianity lest an outside world might ridicule the “new life.” Little of this fear is any longer per ceptible. I imagine that the growth of individual liberty--the growth of the consciousness of it, rather--has silenced both the ridicule and the sensibility to it. It is only ignorance and narrowness that ever ridicule the profession of religion. But we pass from this conscious readiness to that of need and fact. Society is toiling to-day under the awful calamities of vice, slavery, dishonour, and crime, and is sorrowfully ready for millions of wicked ones to read and imitate the life of Jesus Christ. When society was ruled by brute force, as in the days of Caesar or Peter the Great, it mattered little what might be in the hearts of the populace, for, if it was crime, there was a policeman for each citizen; and if it was sorrow in the heart of woman or child or slave, nobody cared. But in our day, when the vice of the heart breaks out, and there is more reliance upon education than upon the knout or chains, and when the upper classes have reached an education that makes indifference to sorrow impossible, in such an age society begs the Christian religion to come to its help. In the old empire of Cyrus there were, all along the highways, criminals with hands or feet cut off, or heads of offenders raised up, to keep the populace in constant fear. What that age demanded in its heart was not a gospel, but an ever-present police. It did not know of anything better. But our land, based upon the nobleness and equality of man, and springing up out of brotherly love, and every day strengthening this sentiment by education, silently begs that its millions, high and low, shall come unto Jesus Christ. (David Swing.)
1. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is ready. No banqueter ever waited for his guests so patiently as Christ has waited for us.
2. Again, the Holy Spirit is ready. That Spirit is willing to come to-night at our call and lead you to eternal life; or ready to come with the same power with which He unhorsed Saul on the Damascus turnpike, and broke down Lydia in her fine store, and lifted the three thousand from midnight into midnoon at the Pentecost. With that power the Spirit of God this night beats at the gate of your soul. Have you not noticed what homely and insignificant instrumentality the Spirit of God employs for man’s conversion? There was a man on a Hudson river-boat to whom a tract was offered. With indignation he tore it up and threw it overboard. But one fragment lodged on his coat-sleeve; and he saw on it the word “eternity”; and he found no peace until he was prepared for that great future. Do you know what passage it was that caused Martin Luther to see the truth? “The just shall live by faith.” Do you know there is one--lust one--passage that brought Augustine from a life of dissolution? “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.” It was just one passage that converted Hedley Vicars, the great soldier, to Christ: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” Do you know that the Holy Spirit used one passage of Scripture to save Jonathan Edwards? “Now, unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory.”
3. The Church is ready.
4. The angels of God are ready.
5. Your kindred in glory are all ready for your coming. Some of these spirits in glory toiled for your redemption. When they came to die, their chief grief was that you were not a Christian. They said: “Meet me in heaven”; but over their pillow hung the awful possibility that perhaps you might not meet them. (Dr. Talmage.)
God’s anxiety for man’s salvation
I. GOD IS VERY URGENT WITH MEN TO ACCEPT OF GOSPEL-PROVISION FOR THE GOOD OF THEIR SOULS. He speaks once and again (Jeremiah 7:25). This truth will thus appear:
1. By the several acts of God put forth in gospel-provision for man’s salvation.
(1) He has prepared the provision without any desert or desire of ours Titus 3:4-5).
(2) The means of grace are vouchsafed to many that do not improve them Matthew 11:16-17; Matthew 11:21).
(3) God propounds a way, and offers help to do us good, before we inquire after it (Isaiah 65:1).
(4) God forbears His wrath when we do not presently close with His mercy. He stays, though man lingers.
(5) God reproves where we are defective, and happy are the wounds of such a friend. He who first reproves is unwilling to punish.
(6) God stops our way when we are running headlong to our own misery Hosea 2:6). Many times He keeps us short that He may keep us humble.
(7) God makes us consider our ways, and recollect our thoughts, whither our course tends (Haggai 1:5).
(8) Notwithstanding our obstinacy, God persuades us by a sweet and holy violence. He not only stops our way, but changes our wills.
2. By the manner of God’s speaking to sinners in the Scriptures.
(1) By way of interrogation--“Why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 18:31).
(2) By way of lamentation (Luke 19:41-42).
(3) By way of protestation with the strongest asseveration (Ezekiel 33:11).
1. This informs us that the destruction of man is a thing displeasing to God.
2. But though God be thus urgent about the salvation of man, yet He is quick and peremptory in the destruction of many. Although He seem to come slowly to punish man, yet His hand will fall heavily upon those who abuse His patience.
3. Answer God’s urgency with you to accept of gospel-provision.
(1) Be urgent with your own hearts to turn to the Lord by faith; and then be as urgent to bless His name for turning them.
(2) Urge your hearts to turn from all sin by true repentance.
II. THE SERVANTS SENT OUT.
1. All the prophets.
2. Pre-eminently, Christ Himself.
3. The servants of Christ.
III. THE TIME OF SENDING THE SERVANTS. Supper-time; the fulness of time, the very nick of time for man’s redemption. Now is the accepted time; improve it.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE MESSAGE IS TO BE DELIVERED. By word of mouth. Uses.
(1) The gift of utterance is very requisite for a minister (Ephesians 6:19).
(2) The calling of the ministry is very useful (Titus 1:2-3).
2. Ministers should not only preach with their tongues, but likewise with their hearts feelingly, and with their lives.
3. Let us be thankful to God that the Word of faith is so nigh us in the preaching of the Word (Romans 10:6-8). Manna falls at our very doors; we have but to step out and take it up.
V. THE WORD OF INVITATION--“Come.”
1. Whither God would have us come.
(1) To ourselves (Luke 15:17).
(2) To His people (Hebrews 12:22).
(3) To Him.
(a) The Father would have us come (Jeremiah 4:1).
(b) The Son would have us come (Matthew 11:28).
(c) The Spirit would have us come (Revelation 22:17). He comes to us, that we may come to Him to get victory over our sin.
2. By what means we should come.
(1) By the use of all means of grace (Psalms 95:6).
(2) By the exercise of the truth of grace, and especially the acting of faith Hebrews 11:6).
(3) By pressing forward towards the perfection of grace (Philippians 3:12).
3. In what manner we should come.
(1) Humbly (Luke 15:19).
(2) Speedily (Luke 19:6).
(3) Joyfully, as we come to a feast.
VI. THE READINESS OF ALL THINGS.
1. The mind of God, concerning the salvation of all His elect, is ready 2 Timothy 2:19).
2. The work of Christ for the recovery of lost man is ready (Hebrews 10:12). The incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, are all over.
3. The remission of sin upon the score and account of Christ is ready Nehemiah 9:17; 2 Corinthians 5:19).
4. The glorious inheritance in heaven is now ready (Hebrews 2:16).
1. For information. Man has nothing to do toward his own happiness, but to receive what God has prepared, and to walk as he has received it. The receiving is by faith.
2. For caution. Though all things be said to be “now ready,” we must not think, as if all were hut now ready: we must know that Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), so that Christ’s blood in its virtue, and God’s acceptation was of force for man’s salvation long before He came personally into the world. Then, again: though all things are said to be “now ready,” yet there is much to be done before all the elect come to heaven; many enemies of Christ must be pulled down, etc.
3. Be exhorted to answer this readiness of God.
(1) Be ready to receive this grace of the gospel.
(2) Be ready to express this grace of the gospel.
(a) In acts of piety towards Him.
(b) In acts of charity towards men. (John Crump.)
Now we come to our Lord’s description of what a really religious life is. He gives it to us under the figure of a feast. Let us try and get some lessons from this; for when our Lord employs a figure, we may be sure He has a meaning in it. What are the thoughts connected with the figure? In the first place, A FEAST IS DESIGNED FOR THE SATISFACTION OF OUR NATURAL APPETITES, is it not? We go to a feast, not that we may be hungry, but that we may be fed. Wherever Christ goes, the first thing He proposes to do, my dear friends, is to satisfy the wants of our souls. He knows better than we what those wants are, and how incapable we are of satisfying them; and you know it too, if you will but reflect. Is there not in your daily occupations, and pleasures, and cares a certain secret sense of something wanting? When you succeed in life, do not you feel strangely disappointed with the results of success? How little pleased you are with that which you thought might be expected to give the most exquisite pleasure! Oh, my young friends, how strange it is that we all fall into the fallacy, or, at any rate, so many of us do, of supposing that we can make up in quantity for that which is radically deficient in quality. You understand what I mean. Here is a boat-load of shipwrecked mariners, tossing about on the wide waste of waters. We will suppose that one of them, burning with thirst, dips his fingers into the briny ocean, and just puts two drops of the water on his tongue; does that satisfy him? Not a whit; on the contrary, it increases his thirst. Suppose the man thinks, “What I want is increased quantity; two drops will satisfy no man’s thirst; if I can only get enough I shall surely be satisfied.” And suppose he were to lean his head over the gunwale of the boat, and take a deep draught of the brine, would that satisfy him any more than the two drops? Some time ago a friend of mine was coming home from Australia in a ship that took fire. Those on board were saved in two boats one a large and the other a small one. On board the smaller boat was this gentle man and his wife, and into it had been cast, in the conclusion and hurry of the moment, several cases containing solid gold to the value of many thousand pounds in each. In the large boat there was a considerable quantity of provisions, but in the smaller boat there was a very slender supply of provisions, but a large amount of gold. The men pulled away from the burning ship; there was a stiff breeze rising, and they knew that in all probability they should not see each other in the morning dawn; so just before they separated for the night, they began to overhaul their provisions. The men on board the smaller boat found that they had only a meagre supply. My friend remarked that he should never forget the moment when three or four stalwart sailors lifted up a huge case of gold, held it before the eyes of the men in the other boat, and shouted across the water, “Ten thousand pounds for one cask of bacon!” A big price, was it not? The men would not look at it! That one cask of bacon was worth all the gold in the world to them. Why? Because the meat was congruous to their natural appetite, and the gold was not; they could feed themselves with the one, but not with the other. Now, young man, the world is whispering in your ear: What you want is, not to change your mode of satisfying your appetite, but to have a little more. You are not very rich, you cannot indulge yourself in going to the theatre every night? perhaps you can only go once a fortnight or once a month; make a little money; get on in life; set up in business for yourself, and then you will be able to go every night in the week if you like.
2. Then again, a feast is not only an occasion for satisfying our wants; IT IS ALSO USUALLY AN OCCASION FOR MERRIMENT, HILARITY, ENJOYMENT, IS IT NOT? We do not go to a feast to wear very long faces, to look very mournful and miserable. It is true, men sometimes do look very grave at feasts, because they are so unlike what feasts ought to be; there is so much form and ceremony, and so little social enjoyment in them. Everything is real that God gives. Blessed are they who are permitted to sit down at the board which has been spread by the hands of Jesus. But you say, “Do you really believe it? Is it true? Do you mean that it is all a lie that the devil has been telling us--that if you become a real Christian, you will grow so gloomy, and look so sad, and that life will lose all its charm? Is that really false? Surely it never can be.” Why do so many people say this? I will tell you. Look yonder. There is a man who is a Christian--at any rate, he calls himself so; and, dear me, what a miserable sort of being he is! Yes, with shame and sorrow I admit it; there we discover the foundation of the devil’s lie. The truth is, there are so many of us who name the name of Christ, but do not give ourselves wholly up to God. There are many people who call themselves Christians, but who give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme. There is many a Christian, for instance, who does not walk by faith, but by unbelief. Look at a man like Paul; there you find one who has committed himself to God’s will. At first sight the man of the world might say, “Well, he gets a rough life of it. I should not like to lead such a life, tossing about to and fro over the wide world like a waif and stray in human society, with nobody to say a kind word to him, sometimes shipwrecked, sometimes exposed to perils of robbers, sometimes thrust outside the city. Dear me, I should not like to lead such a life!” Would you not? Look a little closer, my dear man. Look at the man’s face; listen to some of the openings of his heart. Amid all his outward trials, difficulties, and persecutions, he says he is always rejoicing. Are you always rejoicing? Where is the worldly man in London who is always rejoicing? Ah, who are so happy as real Christians? Young man, when you form your idea of a Christian, take care that you get hold of the genuine article. Suppose I were to say, “Have you ever seen a rose?” “Well, no,” you might reply; “I have heard a good deal about the rose, but I have never seen one.” And suppose I were to say, “I will show you one; come along with me,” and then were to take you down to one of the purlieus of London, to some miserable, sodden-looking, uncultivated little garden, and show you a poor, half-dead, struggling plant, just trying to put out a few little crimson leaves, which were already being mercilessly nipped and shrivelled up by the chemical compounds which make up the air of this city of London. The thing is already decaying; there is no fragrance about it, no beauty, no perfection or symmetry of form. Suppose I say, “There is a rose I did you ever see such a beautiful thing in your life?” And suppose there was a friend from the country beside us; would he not say, “Don’t call that a rose. The man will turn back, saying, ‘I have seen a rose; but I wouldn’t go a couple of yards to see another.’ Take him clown to my garden in the country, and show him the standard rose-bush outside my door; he will remember that if he has never seen one before. Come with me, my lad, and I will show you what a rose is like.” Now, when you form an idea about a Christian, don’t get hold of some poor, blighted Christian, shrivelled up by the east wind of worldliness; don’t get hold of a Christian who tries to serve two masters--God and the world too; don’t get hold of a Christian who leads a life of chronic unbelief, a sort of asthmatic Christian, who cannot get his breath at all. No, no; get hold of a Christian in good, sound health, who can honestly say, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Then compare his life with your own; and if you do not come to the conclusion that that man is, all round, a hundredfold happier than you are, or ever can hope to be, so long as you remain a child of the world, then I will say that my gospel is no longer worth preaching, and the Word of God no longer worth trusting. But you will be constrained to make the admission.
3. Again, what is a feast? It is a time for feeding the body, a time for enjoying ourselves; IT IS ALSO A TIME FOR PLEASANT SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. I find that a great many people are kept back from Christ, especially young men, because they think they would have so much to give up in the way of friends. Not very long ago a gentleman said to me, “One of the things that struck me most after my conversion was the effect on my relations with other people. I always passed for an affectionate husband, and loving father; but really, really, as I looked at my wife and my children, it seemed as if I loved them with an entirely new affection, as though I had never really loved them before. I loved them with such a new and mighty love, that it just seemed as if I had become their father or husband over again.
But that was not all. When I came into contact with other Christians, I found out that I got to know more of, and to be really more attached to, men whom I had only known ten days or a fortnight--real Christians--than I was to men whom I had been meeting day after day in business, or social life, and coming constantly in contact with, long, long years before. I seemed to know more of a man in a week than I had been able to know of a man of the world in a twelvemonth before. So wonderful was the change in my own personal feelings towards others, that I felt that the number of my brothers was indefinitely multiplied.” My friends, it will be so. Believe me, where the grace of God gets into the human heart it makes us brothers. (W. H.Aitken.)
Let us, then, consider the readiness of all things as a reason for coming to Christ now. And as the simplest way of doing this, let us consider what it is that hinders us from coming. No external force; you act freely in refusing to come. What inward cause, then--why do you not come? Alas! I need not ask; for in the way of every sinner who knows what it is to think, there always rises up one barrier which effectually stops his course till God removes it; it is guilt--the paralyzing and benumbing sense of guilt. The very same thing that creates the necessity of coming, seems to render it impossible. God is a holy God, a just God, and a Sovereign. But, perhaps, your way is not yet open; your obstacles are not yet all removed. Whatever you may think of the benevolence of God, you cannot lose sight of His justice. However His compassion might consent, His holiness, His truth, His righteousness, still stop the way. But now, perhaps, you feel another hindrance, one of which you took but little note before. Though God be ready to forgive you for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, you find a hindrance in yourself, in your heart, in your very dispositions and affections. Expiation, pardon, renovation, the grace of the Father, the merit of the Son, the influence of the Spirit, the Church on earth, and the Church in heaven, safety in life, peace in death, and glory through eternity, a good hope here, and an ineffable reality hereafter--all things, all things are now ready. Will you come? If not, you must turn back, you must retrace your steps, and take another view of this momentous invitation. Higher we cannot rise in the conception or the presentation of inducements. If you must have others, they must be sought in a lower region. The feast is a figure for salvation or deliverance from ruin. To refuse it, therefore, is to choose destruction. This must be taken into view, if we would estimate the motives here presented. Such is the brevity of life, and such the transitory nature of the offer of salvation, that even the youngest who decides this question, may be said to decide it in the prospect of death’, and on the confines of eternity. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
Gospel invitations should be personal
Do you know why more men do not come to Christ? It is because men are not invited that they do not come. You get a general invitation from your friend: “Come around some time to my house and dine with me.” You do not go. But he says, “Come around to-day at four o’clock and bring your family, and we’ll dine together.” And you say: “I don’t know that I have any engagement; I will come.” “I expect you at four o’clock.” And you go. The world feels it is a general invitation to come around some time and sit at the gospel feast, and men do not come because they are not specially invited. It is because you do not take hold of them and say, “My brother, come to Christ; come now! come now!” How was it that in the days of Daniel Baker, and Truman Osborn, and Nettleton, so many thousands came to Jesus? Because those men did nothing else but invite them to come. They spent their lifetime uttering invitations, and they did not mince matters either. Where did Bunyan’s pilgrim start from? Did he start from some easy, quiet, cosy place? No; if you have read John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” you will know where he started from, and that was from the City of Destruction, where every sinner starts from. Do you know what Livingstone, the Scotch minister, was preaching about in Scotland when three hundred souls under one sermon came to Christ? He was preaching about the human heart as unclean, and bard, and stony, Do you know what George Whitefield was preaching about in his first sermon, when fifteen souls saw the salvation of God? It was this: “Ye must be born again.” Do you know what is the last subject he ever preached upon? “Flee from the wrath to come.” Oh! that the Lord God would come into our pulpits and prayer-meetings, and Christian circles, and bring us from our fine rhetoric, and profound metaphysics, and our elegant hair-splitting, to the old-fashioned well of gospel invitation. (Dr. Talmage.)
Attendance on Holy Communion
I. In the first place, then, WHAT IS NOT PRESUMPTION WITH REFERENCE TO THE MATTER BEFORE US? The invitation--“Come, for all things are now ready,” may be applied to that Holy Communion to which all who flee to Jesus are invited.
1. And I would observe, in the first place, that it is not presumption to be obedient to the Lord’s command. Knowledge ought to induce obedience. The victim is slain, the sacrifice is offered; Jesus has “died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” He who has done all this as our Surety enjoins this ordinance upon us, and tells us to “do it in remembrance of Him?” Gratitude should induce obedience. “All things are ready.”
2. But, secondly, it is not presumption to accept the invitation of our heavenly King. If we are invited there is no presumption, and there can be no presumption in accepting the invitation.
3. And so, I observe, thirdly, that it is not presumption to come to the Holy Communion, as all other worthy communicants do come. How do those who are worthy come? that is, those whom God esteems to be worthy? Do they come because they are holy? that is, because they are perfectly free from sin? because they have no temptations around them, to which sometimes they feel inclined to give way? No; it is that, feeling their weakness, they flee to God for grace in this holy sacrament of His own appointment.
II. But now, let us look at the other side of the question, and examine WHAT IS PRESUMPTION IN THIS MATTER OF WHICH WE ARE SPEAKING.
1. I answer, then, to this inquiry, that it is presumption for any one to profess practically to be wiser than God. This is what those do, who neglect Holy Communion.
2. But further, it is presumption, I will allow, to attend this holy ordinance in thoughtlessness and willing ignorance.
3. Then, thirdly, it is presumption to attend this holy ordinance while living in wilful and acknowledged sin.
4. Lastly, it would be presumption to come to the Lord’s table in an unforgiving spirit. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
All things are ready; come
I. IT IS GOD’S HABIT TO HAVE ALL THINGS READY, whether for His guests or His creatures. You never find Him behindhand in anything. He has great forethought.
1. God’s thoughts go before men’s comings. Grace is first, and man at his best follows its footsteps.
2. This also proves how welcome are those who come.
II. THIS READINESS SHOULD BE AN ARGUMENT THAT HIS SAINTS SHOULD COME continually to Him and find grace to help in every time of need.
1. All things are ready; there fore come to the storehouse of Divine promise.
2. Come to the mercy-seat in prayer; all things are ready there.
3. Christ is always ready to commune with His people.
4. For a useful life in the path of daily duty, all things are ready.
5. For a higher degree of holiness all things are ready.
III. THE PERFECT READINESS OF THE FEAST OF DIVINE MERCY IS EVIDENTLY INTENDED TO BE A STRONG ARGUMENT WITH SINNERS WHY THEY SHOULD COME AT ONCE.
1. All things are ready.
2. All things are ready.
3. All things are now ready. Therefore, come now.
IV. THIS TEXT DISPOSES OF A GREAT DEAL OF TALE ABOUT THE SINNER’S READINESS OR UNREADINESS. He only needs to be willing. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Form of Eastern invitations
When a person of respectable rank in society proposes to celebrate a feast in his house, he forthwith circulates his invitations to the friends he wishes to be of the party, either by card or by a verbal message, carried by a servant of the house, or a person hired for the purpose, and superbly decked, according to the rank of his employer. The following is a specimen of the form of invitation: “Such a person [naming him] sends best compliments to such another person [naming him also], and begs to inform him that as to-morrow there is a little gaiety to take place in his house, and he wishes his friends, by their presence, to grace and ornament with their feet the house of this poor individual, and thereby make it a garden of roses, he must positively come and honour the humble dwelling with his company.” Having after this fashion gone to all the houses, and returned with assurance from the invited friends of their intention to come next day, a messenger is again despatched for them at the appointed time, to inform them that all the preparations for the banquet are completed. This second invitation is included by our Lord, and is very characteristic of Eastern manners. When Sir John Malcolm was invited to dine with the eldest son of the Shah, the invitation was given two days before, and one of the prince’s attendants was despatched at the hour appointed for the banquet to tell him that all things were ready. And Morier also informs us, that having been engaged to dine with a Persian Khan, he did not go till his entertainer had sent to the English ambassador and his train to say that supper waited. After the same manner, the invitations to the great supper described in the parables, seem to have been issued a considerable time before celebration; and as the after invitation was sent, according to Eastern etiquette, to the guests invited, they must be understood as having accepted the engagement, so that the apologies they severally made were inadmissible, and could be regarded in no other light than as an affront put upon the generous entertainer, and an ungrateful return for all the splendid preparation he had made for their reception. (Biblical Things not Generally Known.)
Amongst the ancient Chinese an invitation to an entertainment is not supposed to be given with sincerity until it has been renewed three or four times in writing. A card is sent on the evening before the entertainment; another on the morning of the appointed day; and a third when everything is prepared. The invitation to this great supper is supposed to have been given when the certain man had resolved upon making it; but it is again repeated at supper-time, when all things are ready. Now, as it does not appear that the renewal of it arose from the refusal of the persons invited, of which no hint is yet given, it is clear that it was customary thus to send repeated messages. The practice is very ancient among the Chinese, and no doubt it prevailed amongst the Jews; it certainly gives a significance to the words not otherwise perceived.
They all with one consent began to make excuse
The reasons why men are not Christians
I. Our first point relates to THE CAUSES OR REASONS WHY MEN ARE NOT CHRISTIANS, OR IN OTHER WORDS, WHY THEY WISH TO BE EXCUSED FROM BEING CHRISTIANS--which is the form in which it is presented in the text. There is something remarkable in the aspect which the subject assumes on the first view of it. Men ask to be excused, as if it were a matter of favour. It is natural to ask, From what? From a rich banquet, says the parable from which my text is taken. From the hope of heaven through Jesus Christ. From loving God and keeping His commandments. From that which is fitted to make a man more useful, respected, and beloved in life, remembered with deeper affection when he is dead, honoured for ever in heaven. In searching for the causes or reasons why men wish to be excused from becoming Christians, I may be allowed to suggest that they are often under a strong temptation to conceal those which are real, and to suggest others which will better answer their immediate purpose. My idea is, that the real cause is not always avowed, and that men are strongly tempted to suggest others. The actual reason may be such as, on many accounts, a man would have strong reluctance to have known. The grand reason why men are not Christians, as I understand it, is the opposition of the heart to religion; that mysterious opposition that can be traced back through all hearts, and all generations, up to the great apostasy--the fall of Adam.
1. A feeling that you do not need salvation in the way proposed in the gospel; that you do not need to be born again, or pardoned through the merits of the Redeemer. The feeling is, that your heart is by nature rather inclined to virtue than to vice, to good than to evil; that the errors of your life have been comparatively few, your virtues many.
2. You suppose that in your case there is no danger of being lost--or not such danger as to make it a subject of serious alarm. The idea is this, that if the duties of this life be discharged with faithfulness, there can be no serious ground of apprehension in regard to the world to come.
3. A secret scepticism about the truth of Christianity. The mind is not settled. The belief is not firm that it is a revelation from heaven.
4. A fourth class are deterred by a feeling that the Divine government is unreasonable and severe. In one of His parables the Saviour has taught us expressly that this operated in preventing a man from doing his duty, and being prepared for His coming (Matthew 24:24-25).
5. A fifth class are deterred from being Christians by hostility to some member or members of the Church.
6. A sixth reason which prevents men from becoming Christians is worldliness--the desire of this world’s goods, or pleasures, or honours.
II. Our next point is, TO INQUIRE WHETHER THESE REASONS FOR NOT BEING A CHRISTIAN ARE SATISFACTORY. Satisfactory to whom? you may ask. I answer, To conscience and to God. Are they such as are sufficient reasons for not loving God?
1. You dare not yourselves urge them as the real cause why you do not attend to religion, and embrace the offers of mercy. They are so little satisfactory to your own minds, that when we come to you and urge you to become Christians, we are met with other reasons than these. You resort to some difficulty about the doctrine of ability, and the decrees of God, some metaphysical subtlety that you know may embarrass us, but which you think of on no other occasion. Who will dare to urge as a reason for not becoming a Christian the fact that he is sensual, or proud, or worldly-minded, or ambitious, or covetous, or self-righteous, or that he regards God as a tyrant?
2. These excuses will not stand when a man is convicted for sin. All, when the hour comes in which God designs to bring them into His kingdom, confess that they had no good reasons for not being His friends, and for their having so long refused to yield to the claims of God.
3. The same thing occurs on the bed of death. The mind then is often overwhelmed, and under the conviction that the excuses for not being a Christian were insufficient, the sinner in horror dies. But I will not dwell on that. I pass to one other consideration.
4. It is this. These excuses will not be admitted at the bar of God. (A. Barnes, D. D.)
I. ALL EXCUSES FOR DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD ARE VAIN.
1. One is, God makes us sinners, either by creating sin as a substantial property of the soul, or by the laws of propagation, just as the other properties of the mind, or as the members of the body are propagated. But can this be so? No. Sin is man’s work. Sin is moral action--the act or exercise of the heart. God creates the man a free moral agent; and the man makes himself a sinner. “O, Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.”
2. Again, it is a sort of standing excuse with some sinners, when urged to perform their duty, to reply, We cannot. But what is the nature of the inability? Their own consciousness, and the Word of God, alike testify that it is the simple inability of disinclination.
3. Others say there are so many hypocrites in the world, that we have our doubts whether, after all, religion be a reality. But why should there be hypocrites, if religion itself is not a reality? If there were no true bank notes, no bank, would there be counterfeits? Do you excuse one debtor from the payment of his debts, because others have paid you in base coin? There is one principle which exhibits them in all their vanity. God has not revealed His law and precepts for men to alter. He knew all the reasons which would or could exist to impair the obligations of each, to extenuate the guilt of transgression; and as a righteous Sovereign, if one such reason could exist, would have made the exception. But He has not made it.
II. ALL EXCUSES FOR DISOBEDIENCE TO THE WILL OF GOD ARE CRIMINAL. To make an excuse for what we have done is impenitence, and for not doing what we ought to do, is determined disobedience.
III. THIS PRACTICE IS MOST RUINOUS. The real nature of disobedience to God cannot be altered by any delusive covering we can give it. To that heart which “is deceitful above all things,” self-delusion is an easy task. Nor is there any form in which it can prove more certainly fatal than by leading us to make habitual excuses. And who shall hope to conquer his sins who refuses to see them; who shall turn from and escape the danger on which he shuts his eyes? The sinner must take the shame and guilt of sin to himself, and clear his Maker, or nothing can be done for him. Concluding remarks:
1. How infatuating is the power of sin.
2. How opposite is the spirit of excuses to the spirit which the gospel inculcates. The one is the spirit of treachery and impenitence--the ether, of frank, open confession, and of devout contrition. The one a spirit of determined perseverance in sin, the other a spirit of prompt, cheerful obedience. The one prays, “Have me excused”; the other, “Search me, O God!”
3. Let all self-excusers reflect how they must appear at the judgment of the great day. Should they be permitted to offer these excuses at the bar of God, how will they look? You plead your inability to love God. Plead it, then, at the judgment-seat of Christ. Go there and expose your ingratitude and enmity, by telling the Judge on the throne, the Saviour that died for you--that you could not help trampling His blood underfoot, by not believing the record of His Son. Plead the incessant occupation of your time--exhibit then its results--shew your bags of gold, your houses, your farms, your shops, and tell Him these so occupied you, that you had no time for the concerns of your soul. Bring forward these and other apologies. Will they dazzle the eye of Omniscience--will they beguile the
Judge of the quick and the dead? You know it will not. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)
1. Some men will say they have no need to come to Christ. This arises from insensibility, and ignorance of their lost condition.
2. Others imagine they are already come to Christ; and the act being performed, they have no need to repeat it. Their hope is too firmly fixed to be shaken, and their confidence too deeply rooted to be overthrown. Is there not daily need of Christ? Have there been no departures? and do they not call for a return? Is faith to be exercised but once? Why, then, are we told, that “the just shall live by his faith”?
3. Pre-engagement is another excuse which sinners make for not coming to Christ.
4. Some say they have tried, but cannot come to Christ.
5. Others, who are deeply bowed down in spirit, do not so much plead their inability, as their unfitness and unworthiness. They do not say they cannot come, but dare not come. There are some preparations and dispositions necessary, and they are destitute of them. Willingness is the only worthiness that Christ looks for: so that we are to come to Him not with qualifications, but for them.
6. Some stumble at the austerities of religion, and the dangers to which it will expose them. They own that it is glorious in its end, but complain that there is something very discouraging in the way.
7. It is the fear of some, that if they do come to Christ, they shall either be rejected, or dishonour Him.
8. Many who do not come to Christ now, purpose to do so hereafter. What is hard to-day will be harder to-morrow; and it is only the present hour, the present moment, that we can call our own. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
A bad excuse is worse than none
I. Let us try to ACCOUNT FOR THE FACT, THE SAD FACT, THAT MEN ARE SO READY TO MAKE EXCUSES RATHER THAN TO RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD. We account for it in the first place by the fact that they had no heart at all to accept the feast. Had they spoken the truth plainly, they would have said, “We do not wish to come, nor do we intend to do so.” If the real secret of it was that they hated Him and despised His provisions, is it not melancholy that they were not honest enough to give Him a “nay” at once? It may be that you make this excuse to satisfy custom. It is not the custom of this present age to fly immediately in the face of Christ. There are not many men of your acquaintance or mine who ostensibly oppose religion. It may be you make these excuses because you have had convictions which so haunt you at times that you dare not oppose Christ to His face. Satan is always ready to help men with excuses. This is a trade of which there is no end. It certainly commenced very early, for after our first parents had sinned, one of the first occupations upon which they entered was to make themselves aprons of fig-leaves to hide their nakedness. If you will fire the gun, Satan will always keep you supplied with ammunition.
II. We come to RECOUNT THESE EXCUSES. Many will not come to the great supper--will not be Christians on the same ground as those in the parable--they are too busy. They have a large family, and it takes all their time to earn bread and cheese for those little mouths. They have a very large business. Or else, if they have no business, yet they have so many pleasures, and these require so much time--their butterfly visits during the morning take up so many hours. Another class say, “We are too bad to be saved. The gospel cries, ‘Believe in Jesus Christ and live,’ but it cannot mean me; I have been too gross an offender.” Then comes another excuse, “Sir, I would trust Christ with my soul this morning, but I do not feel in a fit state to trust Christ. I have not that sense of sin which I think to be a fit preparation for coming to Christ.” I think I hear one say, “It is too soon for me to come: let me have a little look at the world first. I am scarce fifteen or sixteen.” Others will row in the opposite direction, pleading, “Alas! it is too late.” The devil first puts the clock back and tells you it is too soon, and when this does not serve his turn, he puts it on and says, “The hour is passed, the day of grace is over; mercy’s gate is bolted, you can never enter it.” It is never too late for a man to believe in Jesus while he is out of his grave. Here comes another, “O sir, I would trust Christ with my soul, but it seems too good to be true, that God should save me on the spot, this morning.” My dear friend, dost thou measure God’s corn with thy bushel? Because the thing seems an amazing thing to thee, should it therefore be amazing unto Him? “Well,” says one, “I cannot trust Christ, I cannot believe Him.” It means, “I will not.” A man once sent his servant to a certain town to fetch some goods; and he came back without them. “Well, sir, why did you not go there?” “Well, when I got to a certain place, I came to a river, sir, a very deep river: I cannot swim, and I had no boat; so I could not get over.” A good excuse, was it not? It looked so, but it happened to be a very bad one, for the master said, “Is there not a ferry there?” “Yes, sir.” “Did you ask the man to take you over?” “No, sir.” Surely the excuse was a mere fiction! So there are many things with regard to our salvation which we cannot do. Granted, but then there is a ferry there! There is the Holy Spirit, who is able to do all things, and you remember the text, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” It is true you cannot make yourself a new heart, but did you ask for a new heart with sincerity and truth? Did you seek Christ? If you say, “Yes, I did sincerely seek Christ, and Christ would not save me,” why then you are excused; but there never was a soul who could in truth say that.
III. HOW FOOLISH THUS TO MAKE EXCUSES. For first remember with whom it is you are dealing. You are not making excuses before a man who may be duped by them, but you make these excuses before the heart-searching God. Remember, again, what it is you are trifling with. It is your own soul, the soul which can never die. You are trifling with a heaven which you will never see if you keep on with these excuses. Remember, again, that these excuses will look very different soon. How will you make excuses when you come to die, as die you must? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The recusancy of the guests
I. GOSPEL-PROVISION, AS IT IS GENERALLY OFFERED, SO IT IS GENERALLY REFUSED.
I. Refused by most of the
(1) Rulers (John 7:48; 1 Corinthians 2:8);
(2) Learned men (Acts 17:18);
(3) Common people.
2. In what respects this refusal is general.
(1) In respect of the doctrine of the gospel, which men generally look upon as strange and incredible, and so will not believe, but rather scoff at it.
(2) In respect of gospel discipline, which seems hard, and so men will not submit to it.
(3) In respect of gospel professors. Men generally despise them, and care not for their company (John 7:49).
3. Why this refusal is so general. The three grand enemies of man’s salvation are opposed to the gospel.
(1) The world, or the powers of the earth without us.
(2) The flesh, or the power of corrupted nature within us.
(3) The devil, or the power of hell beneath us.
1. Information. Christ’s flock is a little flock (Luke 12:32). Multitude is no true note of a Church.
(1) Though men generally refuse true happiness, yet men generally desire some kind of happiness (Psalms 4:6). Their natural desire is a stock to graft the plant of grace upon.
(2) Though men generally refuse the gospel, yet there may be more receive it than we are aware of (Romans 11:3).
(3) Though men generally refuse the gospel, yet many do receive it Hebrews 2:10):
(4) Though the Jews generally refused the gospel, yet they shall generally receive it (Romans 11:26).
3. Exhortation. Do not follow a multitude to do evil.
II. UNANIMITY OF CONSPIRACY IN REFUSAL.
1. The refusers of the gospel agree in that, though they may differ in many respects, such as nation, religion, affection, etc.
2. How they agree. This will appear--
(1) In the design they drive at, which is to oppose the power of godliness.
(2) In the principle they act from: natural light, carnal reason, which is not only dim-sighted about, but prejudiced against, spiritual things.
(3) In the rule they walk by, which is their own will, their lust their Ephesians 2:2-3).
(4) In the way which they take to carry on their opposition to the gospel.
(a) They lay their heads together as one in a way of consultation.
(b) They join their hearts together in a way of approbation, taking pleasure in the sins of one another (Romans 1:32).
(c) They strike their hands together as one, in a way of confederation (Psalms 83:5).
III. READINESS TO REFUSE.
IV. THE PLAUSIBILITY OR HYPOCRISY OF THE EXCUSES. Men will have none of Christ, and yet would put it off fairly if they could (Psalms 36:2).
1. What are the excuses or pleas which sinners make?
(1) They plead multiplicity of worldly business.
(2) The frequency and urgency of outward temptations.
(3) They plead the society and fellowship of others in their way.
(4) The weakness of their nature.
(5) The smallness of the sin.
(6) Their good intentions.
(7) The unnecessariness of such strictness in religion.
(8) The impossibility of fulfilling God’s law.
(9) The inequality of God’s ways.
2. Why do stoners make excuse?
(1) It is the nature of fallen man to do so (Genesis 3:12-13).
(2) Sin is so ugly that sinners will not have it appear in its proper colours; therefore foul sins must have fair names to make them go down the better.
If sin were to appear in its cursed nature and wretched effects, it would so frighten men that they would take no pleasure in committing it. Uses.
1. This informs us of the madness of wickedness.
2. Though sinners excuse their sin, yet their sin will accuse them.
3. Do not deceive yourselves by vain excuses or false reasonings James 1:22). (John Crump.)
A common sin
The making of idle excuses is the oldest, as it is the commonest of sins. It began with Adam in Paradise, and ever since that time men have, more or less, continued with one consent to make excuse.
First, let us look at some excuses which people make for putting off repentance. Now listen to the story of one who repented late, but in time. During the London Mission, a lady, one of the Church workers in a certain parish, noticed a young girl lingering one night by a church door, where the mission service was about to commence. She invited the girl to enter, but she excused herself on the plea that she had no Bible. The lady offered her own, and accompanied the girl into church, where she was evidently much affected. On leaving the church, the lady begged her companion to accept the Bible, in which her own name was written, and the girl passed out of her sight. Next morning the lady visited a hospital, where she was accustomed to read to the patients, and a nurse informed her that they had a Bible bearing her name which had been brought in on the previous night. The young girl, after leaving the mission service, had been run over, and taken mortally injured to the hospital, carrying the Bible with her. She died the same night, and her dying words were these: “Thank God it was not before last night.” Another common excuse for delaying repentance is this, “I am no worse than others.” I was speaking lately to a mother about the sin of her daughter, and she excused her on the plea that she was no worse than others in a higher position, and instanced a lady who had sinned in the same way. But, my brethren, surely sin is none the less a sin because it is committed in the company of others. Again, people excuse themselves by saying, “It is so hard to repent.” But it is still harder to die in our sins, and receive the wages of sin, which is death. It is hard to give up bad habits, but it is harder still to be ruined by them. Now let us look at another class of excuses which people make for staying away from church. One of these excusers says, “Church-going will save no one.” That is quite true. You may come to church in a wrong state of mind, or from an unworthy motive, and no good will come out of it. Attendance at church is a means of grace, not grace itself. If rightly used it is a means of placing us in the way of salvation, and of keeping us there. If you get into a railway carriage at the station, the mere act of doing so will not take you to London, but if you do not first get in, the train cannot carry you there. Another self-excuser says, “Churchgoing is a mere form and show; pure religion is not outside, but inside one.” It is perfectly true that pure religion is inside, and not outside. But surely we must show outside what we feel inside. Suppose that your landlord were to reduce your rent 20 per cent because of the bad times, and were to give your children ,, handsome present as well, you would, I think, go up to his house to thank him, and you would not consider it a mere show. You would not leave him to imagine the gratitude inside you. Well, one of the chief reasons why we come to church is to thank God for His goodness, and to openly declare “the wonders that He doeth for the children of men.” Another meets us with the old, old plea, “I was not very well on Sunday.” It is a curious fact that more people are unwell on Sunday than on any other day of the week. They are quite able to attend to business on Saturday, and are quite fresh and ready for work on Monday, but they are poorly on Sunday. I am afraid the disease is one of the will rather than the body. I will only speak of one more excuse, as common as it is foolish. “I don’t go to church myself,” says a man, “but my wife goes.” So much the better for the wife, so much the worse for the husband. You cannot do your duty by deputy, and you cannot save your soul by deputy. Every one of us must answer for himself. There is an old legend of a man who never attended church, but whose wife went regularly. Both died, and when they came to the gates of Paradise the woman passed in. But when the husband presented himself, the keeper of the gate said, “Your wife worshipped God for both of you, now she has gone into Paradise for both of you, you cannot enter here.” My friends, you who have been trying to excuse yourselves from doing what is right, think on these things. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
There is scarcely a sin which we can commit, for which, to ourselves if not to others, we cannot find some excuse. If we have told a direct falsehood, we say to ourselves that we were surprised into it: we were asked a question on the sudden; and in the hurry, taken off our guard, we answered it one way when we should have answered it another: it was the fault of the master who asked such a question; why could he not have let it alone? For other acts of sin there is the excuse of temptation: we should not have done it but for bad example, or the suggestion or solicitation of another; it was scarcely our act; circumstances caused it; and so Providence itself is sometimes made to share the blame with us. So much for sins of commission; each has its appropriate excuse. And even more is this so with our omissions. We scarcely ever neglect a private duty without making to ourselves some excuse for it. We omit or post pone our morning prayer; which of us does not excuse this for the time, and then find that the excuse extends itself indefinitely to other times? The Bible is left unread one day; we have an excuse for it; the next day it is still less thought of, still more easily let alone. But excuses made for these single acts of neglect are only examples of those with which we palliate a life of neglect. Do not matte excuse for forgetting God. Think of it as a sin, a daily, hourly sin. Think of it too as a toss, a daffy, hourly diminution or deprivation of happiness. Think that, if you continue thus, you are undone; that it is only by turning to God that you can escape. This, which sounds little, is a great thing. Put away excuses. Attempt none to yourselves; attempt none to God. No man will make an excuse to himself for not being happy; then do not you. Excuses will never cease till earth ceases. Then they will. Before the judgment-seat of Christ no excuses will be heard; none will be attempted. Then, in the words of Scripture, “every mouth will be stopped.” (Dean Vaughan.)
If I invite you to my house: “My friend, on Tuesday evening I shall be at home, amid my pictures you admire, with music which you love, gathering a circle of gentlemen whom you like: will you make one of us?” Then, if you do not care a straw for my friendship, had as lief as not I rate you a boor, you would probably return me no answer, or tear up my message in the face of the messenger, or say, “Go tell him I won’t come--and that’s all.” But if you return me an excuse, you acknowledge our friendship and yourself a gentleman. Perhaps the above is a small class; at any rate it is not a class to be reached by kind appeals. Such persons do, indeed, become converted, but it is through some fear, by the lash, by some shock. You are, however, not of that class; you render an excuse. Observe, then; taking up my former homely illustration, which, lest I offend, we will transpose. You invite me to your pictures, music, board, entertaining. I read, thinking: “This man would do me a favour, would make me happy; he is my father’s friend and mine; has seen me in trouble, coming to me: now sees me prospered, and would rejoice with me, going to him; but my feet are slippered, I am sitting at my ease, by my own grate, with Motley or Dickens. I prefer home.” Is this an excuse sufficient, and would our friendship outlive such a truth-telling? No; I might lie: “I am sick, excuse me, have an imperative engagement.” These society lies!--and these are good reasons, if real reasons. You cannot see my heart to detect the truth or falsehood. Neighbours, hear me, for eternity’s sake, receive it. Christ’s word is: “Come, for all things are now ready.” Your excuse must be a sufficient excuse; and it must be an honest excuse, for He can see clean through camel’s hair and silk, through Melton and broadcloth, to the secret reason written on the heart. “My business is such that I pray Thee, O Christ, have me excused.” Well, let us suppose you are, in this, sincere. Is yours an immoral business? No. Do you transact it in a dishonest or otherwise immoral way? No. What, then, do you mean? I mean this: Times are hard, trade must be watched. “I am well enough off now:” and this time it is a woman who speaks. Why should she worry herself? She has a good husband; to be sure he is not a Christian, but where is a nobler man? What lacks she yet? Nothing. Good lady, may I ask, dare you put that in a prayer: “O Lord, because I lack nothing, I pray Thee excuse”? Dare you say in good English, “Lord, my heart is full. That husband! If I was widowed, childless, roofless, desolate, then I--“? You ask me if I mean to hint that you love these too much? A thousand times then, no; but that you love the Giver too little, yes. “I pray Thee have me excused, because I am good enough now; I need no conversion.” Well, neighbour, that means something or nothing. Tyndall calls me to his marvellous evenings of experiment with light. It is from the point very far from me to profess a knowledge of grammar, addition, subtraction, as thorough as my neighbour. Can the great philosopher teach me ought--no matter how much I know of algebra? Christ professes to have come not to recall the righteous but sinners. They that be whole need not a physician, but the sick. And I humbly urge upon you, the purest moral man of this good audience, that this call is sent for your ears. He invites you to His heart-feast. If now you can truthfully say: “Christ, I am good enough; my soul is as beautiful as Your soul; my thoughts, are as lofty as Your thoughts; the walls of my spirit are hung with pictures as rare as Your own, and the feast of my heart at its own board leaves nothing to be desired,” then your excuse means something. You ought to be excused. Indeed, you are not invited. No, ninety and nine of a hundred do not mean what they say when declaring that they are good enough, needing no conversion. It is too bare conceit. “I could not hold out; have me excused.” Friend, be honest; such is not your real reason. You are not the man to undertake and fail; or to refuse to undertake what you really desire. The truth is, you do not desire to follow Christ. “I do not believe in the Book.” Be honest. You have tried to disbelieve ever since you backslid, five years ago; yet you do believe in the Bible. The truth is, your proud heart will not say “Forgive.” (E. J.Haynes.)
Invitation and excuse
Excuses are specified by our Lord, and these all relate to necessary and even laudable things. These excuses may be taken as in division or in succession; that is to say, one man may be supposed to make one excuse, and another man another, or you may suppose the same man making all these excuses one after another. For Truth does not make to a man one good offer, and then no more; but if we are invited by Truth, we are invited again and again. Perhaps it will be most useful to ourselves to think of these excuses as made in succession. Thus, we are under an engagement to give our attention to things just and true; we are under it by virtue of our training, by virtue of our own voluntary effort directed to good; we are under an engagement to attend at the banquet of Truth. Well, now the hour arrives; Truth wants us, and the messenger comes. We are very sorry, but that “piece of land”;--still we consider ourselves under the engagement; we shall be more fortunate next time; for, after all, it is we that have to regret our failure. Another time, then, arrives; we are very sorry, but that “piece of land” has engaged us so much, that we have found it necessary to obtain several “yoke of oxen” to bring it into proper condition; we are very sorry; still we consider ourselves under the same engagement, and we hope to be more fortunate the next time. Then the messenger comes a third time: our services are indeed wanted now; our presence cannot be dispensed with; and now we say, “This is unfortunate. Our land is in excellent condition; indeed we have had so much to look after, that we have felt it necessary to take a wife, in order that our domestic affairs may be superintended. We have met with an amiable person, possessing an agreeable fortune, and we have concluded a domestic and commercial arrangement.” And now, perhaps, Truth leaves us, and “lets us alone.” But three times may represent any number of times, and Truth often comes more than three times. Let, then, Truth be supposed to come a fourth time. Well, now we are all very much engaged; the whole house is in a flutter of delight; there is a feast to celebrate the birth of our firstborn! So, then, Truth comes a fifth time, just when one of the children is sick of fever; and we look at Truth quite reproachfully, and say, “You would not expect me to come now, would you?” And once again Truth comes, for the last time; and now the house is in confusion, and there are signs of distress, and Truth is informed that we were not content, though we were prospering exceedingly well; but that, hearing of some gold-diggings, we had gone out, and whilst we were in the golden pit,. a great piece of quartz rock had fallen and crushed our chest right in, and there was a nugget found in the very middle of our heart, and so an end of us I That is a plain picture of what happens again and again. There are all sorts of nuggets--they need not be made of literal gold--there are all sorts of nuggets upon which a man sets his heart; and often the very attainment of the nugget, when he gets it right into the centre of that heart, is his utter destruction. For now the world will never get any more benefit of him; and Truth has visited him for the last time. (T. T. Lynch.)
Business hindering religion
I said one day to a respectable tradesman, “When are you going to begin to think of eternity and come to the house of God?” His reply I shall never forget. “I know, sir, that I ought to come; but it’s no use; my mind is so full of business, I can think of nothing else.” (Thain Davidson, D. D.)
Human depravity at the bottom of all excuses
I was at a conference held about the state of the people in Liverpool. It was a large conference, with the Mayor in the chair. They were conferring about why it was that so many of the working people particularly would not go to church or chapel, but would lie about on Sundays and seem to have nothing but an animal life. One man after another made a speech about it. You never heard such a number of reasons given: too hard work on Saturdays--which seemed to me to be a strange thing; or they had no place near them which suited them; or the preachers did not preach well enough; or the sermons were too long; or they did not like pews; or they did not get the best seats when they went to church; or pew-rents were required. You never heard such a number of reasons--the people that did not go to church were not to blame, it was always the people about the church, or in the church, who were to blame, till at last an old man got up (I think from his speech he was a Scotchman, and said, “Mr. Mayor, there is one reason that strikes me that I have not heard a word about yet”--they had spoken for an hour and a half--“I think it is the reason of the whole thing.” We were all struck dumb to hear what this was. “What I have to say is that the most of it comes from human depravity.” (D. Fraser, D. D.)
Distinguish between reasons and excuses
An “excuse” is an entirely different thing from “a reason.” “A reason” comes into the mind before a conclusion; “an excuse” follows after. The conclusion rests upon the “reason.” Its only wish is to appear to rest upon the “excuse.” “A reason” is a reality; an “excuse” is, generally, an invention: or, at the best, an “excuse” is the second or inferior “reason.” It is not the primary, actuating motive. The “reason” Adam ate the fruit was that he liked it; the “excuse” was, “She gave it me.” The “reason” why the man “hid his talent,” was, that he was indifferent and lazy--“a wicked and slothful servant”; the “excuse” was, “I knew thee--thou art an austere man.” The “reason” the Jews killed Christ, was, because they were jealous of Him; and hated Him for His holiness and His reproofs; the “excuse” was that He spoke against Caesar, and uttered blasphemy. The “reason” why all the men who were “bidden to the great supper” refused to come, was that they did not care for it; or preferred something else; the “excuses” were the same--of duty, and prior or more important engagements. If you knew God--and what those “things” are “which He has prepared for them that love Him,” all “excuses” would be flung to the winds. It would not be, “Have me excused!” but, “I come!… I come!” “Me first--me now--me for ever! Lord, bid me--Lord, let me--Lord, make me come!” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
God’s supper is ready, and the call to it is pressed with urgency, but people make excuses, and do not come. People have no mind for salvation. The many have too much to do, too many pressing cares, too many honourable engagements pre-occupying their attention, and so cannot comply with the calls of God. Such useful citizens, such respectable men of business, such thinkers for the comfort of their fellow-citizens, and for the welfare of the State, are, forsooth, not to be expected to give their time and thoughts to piety and to God! Of course, they are to be excused! But, alas for thee, deluded man, if with thy lands, or thy oxen, or thy “material interests,” or even with thy learned investigations, though they should be in divinity itself, thou hopest to compensate for thy neglect of the calls and invitations of thy Maker! But others are so happy in the objects of their earthly affection, so blessed with things of their own, that they see no reason to disturb or burden themselves with attention to these sacred matters. Why, the world was made to be enjoyed! God would not have created for us all these pleasant things if it were not excusable in us to make the best of them while we can! Why should we incommode our pleasant homes and joyous circles with religion’s rigid rules? Surely the good Father in heaven does not wish to make us unhappy. He will not be offended with what harms no one, and yet is so delightful to us! He will excuse us! “Alas, they have married themselves to earthly loves, and lusts, and vanities; and so they “cannot come.” Effeminate pleasures, though mingled with pains, and transient as the honeymoon, are their apology for letting go their chance to secure the eternal blessedness of heaven. (J. A.Seiss, D. D.)
“I pray thee, have me excused.” I do not think you can offer a worse prayer than that. Of all the prayers that ever left human lips, and of all the desires that ever formed themselves within human hearts, I think this is the most fatal. Must I not go as far as to say that such a reception of the offer of God’s mercy constitutes the grand crowning sin of man? One might have expected there would have been quite a demand for invitations, that everybody would have been besieging the house and asking the chamberlain, or the secretary, or the great person, whoever he might be, “Can you give us an invitation to the feast?” When one of our princes is married, only a certain number of invitations are issued; and only a certain number of people can be present on the occasion. Supposing the tickets for such a ceremony could be sold, I wonder what they would fetch. I should not be surprised if some gentlemen in London would be ready to pay down a hundred or five hundred pounds, just for the privilege of being present and being able to say, “I saw Prince So-and-so married.” But the honour cannot be bought for money; you must occupy a high social position before you can get such an invitation. Whoever heard of a man in such circumstances making an excuse? Now about these excuses. I want you to observe, my friends, how these men received the message. In Matthew’s Gospel we read of some who “entreated the servants spitefully, and slew them.” And there has been always a class of that kind--I mean to say, that there is always a certain number of persons bitterly hostile to religion. They hate it. If they could, they would kindle the fires of Smithfield again. There was another class of persons to whom the invitation came; and who are they? The man whom he now addresses is a most polite and civil person, a perfect gentleman. Oh, dear me, no! Say a rough word! Never thought of such a thing. “My good sir, now I hope you will understand that the very last thing I wish is, to convey to the mind of that admirable person who sent you on your errand anything like a feeling of contempt for the kind invitation which he has been good enough to offer me. On the contrary, I have the greatest possible respect for him. I should be very sorry indeed if anything I said hurt his feelings in the least degree; but the real plain truth of it is, that you know, sir, I am in a very awkward position. I should be very glad to go to the feast; I have no doubt it is an excellent feast. It is a great honour to be asked to go to such a place; at the same time, it so happens very unfortunately that I have got something else on hand. I have just bought an estate over there; I am just going to start to see it. That is the way it was done--civilly, respectfully, I may almost say, reverently: but it was done all the same. And that is just the way it is done by many still. When I ask the question, How is the Lord Jesus Christ rejected in our England in the nineteenth century? I find my answer, not merely in the open blasphemy, not merely in the atheism and unbelief. I find the terrible answer coming back to me, “He is rejected by the people who go to church, who hear the message of salvation sounded in their ears from Sunday to Sunday, who have had great privileges, and who will tell you they have great respect for religion.” They subscribe to the Church Missionary Society, or to any other society they think will do good. Now observe the excuses that these men made did not refer to things evil in themselves. Then, observe, once again--and this seems to me to be a very interesting and instructive point--it was not, after all, the pressure of necessary engagements that kept these people back from the feast. That is a very remarkable thing. The man does not say, “I am just on the point of transacting a bargain for a piece of land; but the deeds are waiting to be signed; and I cannot sign the deeds before I see the piece of land.” It is not a ease of necessity of that kind. Observe the lesson. It is not the necessary occupations of life that keep men back from Christ. What is it? What did the man want to go and see his land for? In order that he might gloat over his acquisition. He might look round and round and say, “Dear me I it is a nice snug place after all--as sweet a little house as ever I saw--nicely situated; the land, too, is the best in the country side. I have made a very good bargain; I think I shall make myself very comfortable here.” The man’s mind is given over to the thing, and he has no time to accept the invitation to the feast. So it is with many a man still. It is true to life, as God’s Word always is. There is no harm in domestic happiness; but how many a man there is that allows the pleasures of his home to take the place that belongs to God; that puts those home comforts before his soul as a kind of substitute for the presence and power of God in his heart? Whenever a man does that, he turns the pure and holy relationships of life into the devil’s own snare, and the things which were for his peace become to him an occasion of falling. So they made their decision; and that decision was--“I pray thee have me excused.” What I said at the start of my sermon, I say again; it is the worst prayer ever offered, and, like many a bad prayer, my friends, it was a prayer that was answered. And I am persuaded that whenever men offer such a prayer, they will get an answer. “Yes, not one of them shall taste of My supper.” So they were excused; and by-and-by the table was spread, and the guests were gathered together: and the minstrels tuned their harps, and the song commenced, and the feast, and the joy, and the pleasure; and the King came in to see the guests. Yes, and all the while these men were excused. That man over there is walking round and round his land, until at last I think I can hear him saying to himself, “Well, after all, there isn’t much to be got out of a field.” Ah, he is beginning to tire of it already! And the other man feels it, too. After all, you cannot make a heaven out of five yoke of oxen. And my eye follows the man that had married his wife--where is he now? Look! he and his wife are bending over the corpse of their firstborn child; and the hot, scalding tears are falling. He has found it out now; after all, domestic happiness is a very different thing from heaven. My brothers, are there any of you that are saying in your hearts, “I pray Thee have me excused”? Well, let me ask you, what are you asking the Lord to excuse you from? “O Lord, I pray Thee have me excused from being happy. I want to go on in my misery; let me alone. O Lord! I have got a load of unforgiven sin in my heart; I don’t want to part with it just yet. ‘I pray Thee have me excused.’” My young friend there went to the meeting, last night, at Exeter Hall, and cast his burden on his Saviour. I met him in the street; I scarcely knew him. “Have you heard the news, old fellow? I am a new man.” He was evidently very happy; I never saw a man so happy. Lord, I pray Thee have me excused from such happiness. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
I have often wondered at the cleverness with which people make excuses for neglecting heavenly things. A poor woman was explaining to me why her husband did not attend church. “You see, poor working folks nowadays are so holden down and wearied out, that they are glad to rest a day in the house when Sabbath comes.” An unopened letter was lying on the table, which she asked me to read, believing that it was from her sick mother. It was a notice to her husband that the football team, of which he was captain, was to meet on Saturday at 3 p.m., and that, like a good fellow, he must be forward in good time. And that was the man for whom my pity was asked, as being so worn out with his work that he could hardly creep up to the church! Another woman admitted to me that she never read her Bible, but pleaded that she was too busy, and had too many cares. My eye caught a great bundle of journals above the clock. She confessed that these were novels, on which she spent twopence halfpenny every Saturday, and that she read them on the Sabbath. If you wish an excuse, the smallest thing will give you stuff enough for the weaving of it. (J. Wells.)
Excuses of non-communicants
I. First, then, it is not uncommon for people to say, “I do not pretend to be a scholar, and I do not understand the meaning of this sacrament.” Can you really say that you have been earnest to gain instruction? or have you not rather been well satisfied to be ignorant? Let me ask you, dear brethren, if the life of your body depended on your knowing how to plough, or sow, or reap, would you not take pains to learn? Should you not think yourselves justly blamed if you did not?
II. I come now to consider another excuse, which is most commonly made, for not attending this sacrament--“I am not fit to come.”
III. Another excuse is, “I am now too much troubled with worldly cares; I cannot attend as I ought to my soul; but I hope the time will come when I shall be more at liberty.”
IV. Again, youth is made an excuse for not coming to the Lord’s table. God says in the Bible, “Those that seek Me early shall find Me.” Proverbs 8:17). (E. Blencowe, M. A.)
On the Lord’s supper
The causes which prevent men from observing this ordinance of our religion are various It may be presumed that a leading cause of the neglect of this ordinance is a thoughtlessness of its nature and obligations.
1. The pressure of the business and cares of this world is urged by many as a reason why they neglect to receive this sacrament.
2. Further. A sense of sinfulness deters many from approaching the table of the Lord. They are so oppressed with the consciousness of having transgressed many commands, and omitted many duties, that they dare not go to so holy an ordinance.
3. There are many persons, who have a lively sense of the holiness of this ordinance, and wish to join in the celebration of it, who are deterred by a fear that they shall not be able afterwards to live up to their obligations.
4. Another cause which prevents men from receiving this sacrament is the existence of anger and animosity in their bosoms--the consciousness of ill-will between them and some of their fellow-beings.
5. It is urged by some who neglect this ordinance that they see many go to the Lord’s table who seem not in any respect to be benefited by it. There are many persons deterred from receiving this sacrament by a particular passage of Scripture, which is frequently misunderstood. I mean that striking observation by St. Paul, that “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” There are two causes from which the misapplication of this passage proceeds--from affixing a meaning to the word “damnation,” which in the original it does not bear, and from indefinite or erroneous ideas of the unworthiness which the apostle condemns. By damnation is not here meant, as by many is supposed, everlasting destruction, but immediate disapprobation, the displeasure of the Most High; which displeasure is manifested, as the apostle states, by visiting the unworthy recipients with divers temporal judgments; and this too in order to their final salvation; if, haply, being chastened of the Lord, they may not be condemned with the world. And, accordingly, the same word which is here rendered “damnation” is rendered in one of the following verses of the same chapter, by “condemnation.” Moreover, we should have definite ideas what it is to eat and drink unworthily. The Corinthians, whom the apostle here addresses, had fallen into an irreverent, and in some cases profane, manner of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They brought their own bread and wine; they blended this sacred mystery with their common feast; the rich waited not for the poor; the poor were jealous of the rich. (Bishop Dehon.)
Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city
I. THE PARTIES TO WHOM THE SERVANT WAS DIRECTED TO MAKE KNOWN HIS BENEVOLENT COMMISSION. Stripped of its figurative clothing, the passage intimates to us the calling of the Gentiles upon the rejection of the gospel by the Jews. But the compassion of the Lord was as large as His provision and the creature’s necessity; therefore the servant was sent further from home--he was to “go out into the highways and hedges,” to pick up the vagrants and the wanderers, to address those for whose condition no man had eared, and to invite and urge them to partake of the banquet of heavenly mercy. The parties to whom our attention is to be directed are presented to us under a twofold aspect. They are described--First, by the nearness of their residence to us. They are the miserable and the distressed in the streets and lanes of the city. Next to our own individual conversion to God, our attention is to be directed to the conversion of those around us. But the persons to whom this merciful attention is to be directed are described--Secondly, by their miserable and destitute condition. The dismal description which is given us of these wretched beings in the parable is borrowed from temporal things, and is expressed in terms which convey a lively picture of misery and wretchedness.
II. THE METHOD TO BE EMPLOYED BY THE SERVANT IN ORDER TO BRING THESE PERSONS TO THE ROYAL BANQUET. He was to “bring” them in, and “compel” them to come.
1. The servant must “compel” sinners by setting before them their guilty and perishing condition.
2. There must be, in connection with this, an exhibition of the Saviour’s grace.
3. He must “compel” sinners to come in by unfolding the encouragement which is given to comply with the invitation and to believe the gospel. And these encouragements are neither few nor small.
4. The servant of the Lord must “compel” men by a solemn testimony of the guilt and danger of a refusal. (J. E. Goode.)
The kingdom of God thrown open
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS OPENED AMONGST MEN. It is here now. We have not to go to it--it has come to us. There is nothing to wait for; all things are ready. The love, the light, the pardon, the mercy, the sonship, the welcome, the plenty, are all waiting.
II. GOD INVITES ALL MEN INTO HIS KINGDOM. The feast was always intended for all. God’s own people were to be admitted first, as being members of His household; and they were expected to entertain the strangers who should afterwards come in. But when the time came they failed. So without them, instead of through them, the gates of the kingdom had to be thrown open, and the universal invitation given. They shut themselves out, but not, therefore, would God permit the despised and perishing everywhere to remain uninvited. The feast should not therefore spoil. The abundance of the feast shows it to be for all. The freeness of it says it is for all. Those for whom it is prepared--the stricken and needy everywhere-show it to be for all. Can infinite love be restrictive? Can infinite pity be elective?
III. THE KINGDOM IS NOT YET FULL. We need not be afraid of inviting; and we need not be afraid of coming. There is room yet. Grace will endure a vacuum as little as nature. (W. Hubbard.)
Personal labour for souls
“How shall we gain the masses?” “Go for them!” was Moody’s rough but sensible response. Let the text be our guide. Scripture, reason, history, and experience corroborate it. There is a vast work outside our ordinary Church connection. Those whom we daily meet in business, in the neighbourly intimacies of life, or in circles of pleasure--many of them are neglecters of God and His worship. Shall we let them die? Our Christianity needs to be more abundant in labour; our prayers need feet!
1. This work is to be done by you, or the blood of souls will be found on your skirts.
2. You have the facilities for doing it. Let not religion be the last thing on your tongue in “society.” Remember, you must give account for your opportunities.
3. It is inhumanity to neglect this work.
4. It takes but little time.
5. It is the most successful kind of work. It builds up Sunday-school, prayer-meeting, Christian character.
6. No special talents are needed. Only a special consecration. The diversity of works fits to the varied talents we have, as one cog-wheel works into another. But only the gifts that are on the altar can God use. (J. L. Peck, D. D.)
The power of earnestness in converting souls
I once knew a wonderfully successful winner of souls. Few were so blessed. Yet he could not speak six words without stuttering and stammering painful to hear. Everybody would have said, “He’d better keep still”; but everybody would be wrong. The love of Christ will burn up the chaff of your excuses. The angel was terribly in earnest when he laid hold of Lot and brought him out of Sodom. If you are thus roused, then your vigils of prayer and hand-to-hand labour for souls will prove the reality of your Christian life. A gay girl went to Troy to buy a ball-dress, fell in the way of a newly-converted companion, and came under the power of an endless life; returned home, roused her father out of his formal piety, and then sought out and led to Christ the pastor’s daughter. These two girls started a prayer-meeting, and in ten days from the time that the unworn, now useless, ball-dress was brought home, so mighty a work of grace had begun that the pastor sent to Troy for help in the new and unlooked-for burdens thrown upon him. “Go ye out into the highways. Compel them to come in; for yet there is room.” (J. L. Peck, D. D.)
The gospel feast is free to the vilest
Christ has spread the table, and our poverty, our imperfections, our limping steps, our blindness of spiritual sight, are the reasons why He would have us come. The island of Molokai, in the Hawaiian Archipelago, is set apart for the occupancy of lepers. These poor, filthy beings stagger about there in all stages of disease, a most pitiful sight. Now, suppose a famous physician lands upon the island, and sends out his invitations through the community. He has spread a table large enough for all, and on it placed a variety of delicacies such as none there had ever tasted, which are a sovereign specific against the prevalent disorder. “Come,” says he, “poor diseased company, and sit at my table just as you are. This feast will cure you. You are incurable otherwise.” All Molokai is in commotion. The lepers gather in knots and talk the matter over. “Oh,” say they, “what a looking company are we to sit down at a rich man’s table! We had better wait awhile. By and by, perhaps, we shall be more presentable, and then we will go.” So they send up a delegation to the doctor, with their compliments and thanks, but beg to be excused till they are more deserving of the honour. And so the good man sadly turns away, leaving the islanders slowly to rot into their graves. The passage before us presents a case precisely parallel. Christ invites a sin-stricken world to His feast. The fact that we are sin-stricken, unworthy, lost, helpless, and hopeless is why He asks us to come. (A. P. Foster.)
Fetch them in
Samuel Martin tells this beautiful story of a ragged-school teacher who went out into the streets to bring in neglected children. He found a child, the very incarnation of wickedness and wretchedness, and led her to the school. There she heard expounded and applied the parable of the Prodigal Son. Shortly after the child was seized by fever, and the teacher visited her. In one of his visits he read this parable, and when he came to the words, “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him,” the child exclaimed, “Oh! that was just like me! That’s good; say it again. ‘A great way off’; what, ever so far away, away, like me with the devil? That must be far from God and the Lamb. Yes! I was a great way off. How good! How kind! But I’m afraid I have been worse than that bad son. Still I have said, ‘Dear Jesus, I want to love You, I want to get away from the devil; please help me.’ And I think He heard me, for I have felt somehow different ever since. I am not afraid now; no, not one bit.” When death was so near that it was supposed all power of utterance was gone, she aroused herself, and said in a clear and distinct voice, evidently referring to destitute children allowed still to wander through the streets and lanes of the city, “Fetch them in! Oh! be sure and fetch them in. Fetch them in, and tell them of Jesus, tell them of Jesus; oh! be sure and fetch them in.”
Yet there is room
The gospel feast
“Yet there is room.”
1. In the merits of Christ’s sacrifice.
2. In the grace of God’s Spirit.
3. In the mansions of God’s house.
4. In the love of God’s heart. This is best of all. (J. Dobie, D. D.)
Yet there is room
“Grace no more endures a vacuum than nature,” says a shrewd commentator on this passage. The fact that there is room is the very strongest invitation; those words on God’s lips are the mightiest appeal.
1. There is room in the Saviour’s heart. Till that heart is full, till the largest desires of that love are satisfied, there is not a call only, there is a claim on you to come.
2. There is room in the great Father’s home. The Father is the head of the home. Take your own fatherhood, motherhood, sisterhood, or brotherhood, to help you to understand the cry of that Father’s heart, “there yet is room.” Do not misunderstand the matter. Love may be outraged finally. There may come a point where even the wisest, most patient, most loving father is bound to cut off the son from his family, and extirpate each tender memory from his heart. But He has not cut you off. Your place still waits for you. Sin-sick, wretched one, there yet is room.
3. There is room among the blessed ones on high. Believe that the whole spiritual world throbs in sympathy with the Father and with Christ. Saints and angels, cherubim and seraphim, watch with rapt expectation the issues of a work which cost so much sacrifice, and expends so much love. It is the one theme on high; how heaven is to be filled, filled with the fruits of the Redeemer’s travail and the trophies of His grace and love (Revelation 7:9-12). (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
And yet there is room
I. FOR WHAT IS THERE ROOM? There is room for the most agreeable and delightful entertainment and improvement of all the faculties of a reasonable and immortal soul in this life, and for its eternal satisfaction, exaltation, and rapture in the next.
II. FOR WHOM IS THERE ROOM? There is room for sinners of all nations, wherever the gospel comes. There is room for sinners of all ranks and degrees, and of all characters in the moral, civil, and natural life; for younger and older sinners; for greater and lesser sinners. There is room for such as might be thought of all others the most unlikely, the most miserable, the most unlovely, and the most unworthy, even for the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind, as they are represented in the verse before our text.
III. WHERE IS THERE ROOM? And you may take some account of this in the following particulars.
1. There is room in the heart of God.
2. There is room in the provisions of Divine grace.
3. There is room in the encouragements of the gospel.
4. There is room in God’s house.
IV. HOW IS IT TO BE UNDERSTOOD THAT YET THERE IS ROOM?
1. There still continues to be room.
2. There will not always be room.
I. By way of encouragement. If there is still room for all sorts of sinners, you that are yet young, may be assured with advantage that there is room for you.
II. By way of caution as to three things.
1. Take heed of every kind of refusal.
2. Take heed of attempting to come in thine own strength.
3. Take heed of expecting to be entertained on account of thine own worthiness, because thou art not so old a sinner as others. (J. Guyse, D. D.)
The door of hope yet open
I. WHERE there is room, viz
1. In the mercy of God.
2. In the merits of Christ.
3. As to the efficacy of the Spirit to change the heart.
4. In the covenant of grace.
5. In the household of faith.
6. In the mansions of glory.
II. FOR WHOM there is room. In general for all sorts and degrees of men. Particularly--
1. For the meanest and most despicable in the world.
2. For the rich.
3. For the afflicted.
4. For such as have long stood out.
5. For backsliders.
6. For the chief sinners.
1. How justly may the gospel be called a joyful sound; and with what thankfulness should it be heard and entertained. How joyful a sound would it be reckoned by the spirits in prison, could it be proclaimed among them with truth, that the door of hope was still open.
2. With what cheerfulness should gospel-ministers address themselves to the work of winning souls upon this ground, that yet there is room: which they may firmly conclude the wisdom and goodness of God Will, in the fittest season, fill up.
3. Let none take encouragement from hence to make light of the gospel-invitation, or delay to close with it. Yet there is room, but you know not, as to particular persons, how long or little while it may be so. (D. Wilcox.)
Yet there is room
I. IN THE CHURCH MILITANT, yet there is room.
1. In the hearts of the faithful preachers of the gospel. They wish well to the souls of their hearers (2 Corinthians 6:11-12).
2. In those ordinances that are dispensed by the ministers of the gospel. Wisdom’s gates are wide enough to receive all that come (Proverbs 8:34).
3. In the virtue of Christ’s blood, and riches of God’s grace, which is held forth in the ordinances (Romans 5:20-21).
II. IN THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT, yet there is room. Many mansions John 14:2). There is room enough--
1. Objectively: without us. God fully communicates Himself to the saints 1 Corinthians 15:28).
2. Subjectively: within us. The understanding widened, clearly to know God; the will widened, fully to love God.
1. This informs us, that when any who hear the gospel perish, it is not through any scantiness of the gospel-provision, but for want of applying that provision. This also informs us that there is more room than company, more provision than guests, at the gospel feast. Like a fountain, out of which there is more water runs waste than is used.
2. Though yet there is room, yet we know not how long there may be any room for us. We had need therefore be careful, lest any should seem to come short of it (Hebrews 4:1).
3. Then do not perish in the midst of such plenty: turn not the grace of God into wantonness, as some do to their own destruction; do not transpose or remove it from its ordinary end and use, from gospel ends, so as to cast off obedience to the law of God. (John Cramp.)
Room at God’s feast for all
I. THE PROVISION WHICH HAS BEEN PREPARED BY DIVINE MERCY FOR THE WELFARE OF MANKIND.
1. Man is in a slate of spiritual want and destitution.
2. It is on this condition of man as a sinner, “without hope in the world,” that God looks in mercy, and provides the abundant supplies of His grace.
3. This provision is made in the gospel.
(1) The gospel is the means of communicating spiritual truth.
(2) Pardon of sin.
(3) All spiritual blessings, and the final happiness of heaven.
II. THE PROCLAMATIONS ISSUED BY THE DIVINE COMMAND TO BRING MANKIND TO A PARTICIPATION OF THE BLESSINGS PROVIDED. Those persons who are sent out by God must make it the object of their anxiety--
1. To give an accurate statement of the nature of the gospel provision as it really exists.
2. To deliver the message in the spirit, and to the extent demanded by the spirit and extent of the gospel itself.
III. THE AMPLITUDE OF ACCOMMODATION BY WHICH THE PROVISIONS OF THE GOSPEL ARE DISTINGUISHED--“Yet there is room.” And from whence does this amplitude arise? From the infinite merit of the atonement of the Son of God.
1. What effect should this produce on the mind of a minister? The effect should be powerful. There is an amazing provision made, and all people and all nations may come and partake; then am I a minister; let me place no limits to my invitations; wherever I find men, let me tell them bow they may be saved.
2. This view of the subject ought to have powerful effects on the minds of penitents; on those who are sorrowful, being convinced of sin.
3. This view of the amplitude of the gospel should enkindle our hopes for its universal propagation. (James Parsons.)
Yet there is room
I. WHERE there is room.
1. At the feast of the gospel.
2. In the grave.
3. In heaven.
4. In hell.
II. WHAT there is room for.
III. FOR WHOM there is room yet.
1. Those who have lost early impressions.
2. Those who still delay to come to Christ.
3. All. (Mark Cooper, M. A.)
Room enough in the gospel
On one of the hottest days of a sultry July, two of us, weary and worn from a long and dusty, tramp along the Portsmouth road, reached at length the top of Hindhead. Not a tree or a shrub within hail, and the sun pouring down remorselessly a flood of fire, there was no sign of shadow except from a large stone cross which garnished Hindhead’s summit. Theft cross was elaborately adorned with Latin inscriptions, and in form was accurate and classical; but its shadow was too narrow to furnish perfect shade even for one, much less for two. The shadow was most refreshing, but there was not enough of it, and one traveller must, parched as he was, stand or lie down beneath Sol’s blazing beams, for there was no room for him within the cooling shade. Thus may it be with the gospel of Jesus as set forth by some ministries. Jesus is eloquently talked of, but the freeness of His grace and the abundant power of His blood are not enforced; or it may be systematic theology is the preacher’s idol, and Christ is narrowed down to the creed; accuracy of doctrine is fostered, but the Christ who is set forth has no breadth of love, no vastness of shade for the refreshment of weary sinners. At the-same time too many take away the solid character of the atonement altogether, and, while aiming at breadth, give us instead of a granite cross a mere gauze with no shade at all. The true scriptural idea of the atonement is “The shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” The motto of the gospel of Jesus is, “And yet there is room.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Compel them to come in--
I. SINNERS NATURALLY ARE OUT.
II. It is the great errand of the friends of the bridegroom to BRING THEM IN THAT ARE OUT.
III. SINNERS MAY COME IN.
IV. SINNERS ARE DESIRED TO COME IN. Will ye then refuse?
V. SINNERS MUST COME IN. Compel them to come in.
VI. SINNERS SHALL COME IN. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Compel them to come in
I. First, I must FIND YOU OUT. Yes, I see you this morning, you that are poor. I am to compel you to come in. You are poor in circumstances, but this is no barrier to the kingdom of heaven, for God hath not exempted from His grace the man that shivers in rags, and who is destitute of bread. But especially I must speak to you who are poor, spiritually. You have no faith, you have no virtue, yea have no good work, you have no grace, and what is poverty worse still, you have no hope. Ah, my Master has sent you a gracious invitation. And now I see you again. You are not only poor, but you are maimed. There was a time when you thought you could work out your own salvation without God’s help, when you could perform good works, attend to ceremonies, and get to heaven by yourselves; but now you are maimed, the sword of the law has cut off your hands, and now you can work no longer. You have lost all power now to obey the law; you feel that when you would do good, evil is present with you. You feel that you are utterly undone, powerless in every respect to do anything that can be pleasing to God. There is yet another class. You are halt. You are halting between two opinions. You are sometimes seriously inclined, and at another time worldly gaiety calls you away. And yet I see another class--the blind. Yes, you that cannot see yourselves, that think yourselves good when you are full of evil, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, darkness for light and light for darkness; to you am I sent. Now, I pause after having described the character, I pause to look at the herculean labour that lies before me. Well did Melancthon say, “Old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon.” As well might a little child seek to compel a Samson, as I seek to lead a sinner to the Cross of Christ. If God saith do it, if I attempt it in faith it shall be done; and if with a groaning, struggling, and weeping heart, I so seek this day to compel sinners to come to Christ, the sweet compulsions of the Holy Spirit shall go with every word, and some indeed shall be compelled to come in.
II. And now to the work--directly to the work. Unconverted, unreconciled, unregenerate men and women. I am to COMPEL YOU TO COME IN. Permit me first of all to accost you in the highways of sin and tell you over again my errand. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Be entreated to come in by the consideration of your naturally miserable and perishing condition.
2. Be entreated to come in by the consideration that “all things are ready.”
3. Be entreated to come in by the consideration that already many excellent and honourable guests have entered.
4. Be entreated to come in to this feast by the consideration that “yet there is room.”
5. Be entreated, therefore, finally, to come in by the consideration that if you reject the invitation to the feast of gospel grace here, you shall be excluded from the feast of heavenly glory hereafter. (James Footer M. A.)
The urgent invitation
I. THE FREENESS OF THE GOSPEL. “Highways”: every class invited.
II. THE FULNESS--“All things ready.”
III. THE BANQUET IS THE PROVISION OF LOVE AND THE EXPRESSION OF LOVE. “Compel” means, use strong persuasion. No principle is so urgent as love. It reasons with the soul.
IV. GOD, IN SENDING OUT HIS INVITATIONS, BACKS THEM WITH THE AUTHORITY OF FATHERHOOD.
V. THE DOOM OF THOSE WHO REFUSE TO ACCEPT. The door is shut as effectually through your neglect as through your refusal.
VI. PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS.
1. God constrains souls to come to Him by a great many methods. Prosperity, trials, etc.
2. Hunger ought to send to that feast--soul hunger.
3. It is the duty of Christ’s people to make the religion of Christ attractive. An invitation to a cold, cheerless house, would not win even a beggar.
4. The refusal of Christ’s invitation is a terrible insult and injury.
5. The time to accept is very short. Come. The banquet wails. (T. L.Cuyler, D. D.)
“Now,” said the great man of the feast, “I will not be defeated in this matter; I have with an honest purpose provided a banquet, and there are scores of people who would like to come if they were only invited.” We must take care how we give the invitation. My Christian friends, I think sometimes we have just gone opposite to Christ’s command, and we have compelled people to stay out. Sometimes our elaborated instructions have been the hindrance. We graduate from our theological seminaries on stilts, and it takes five or six years before we can come down and stand right beside the great masses of the people, learning their joys, sorrows, victories, defeats. We get our heads so brimful of theological wisdom that we have to stand very straight lest they spill over. Now, what do the great masses of the people care about the technicalities of religion? When a man is drowning he does not want you to stand by the dock and describe the nature of the water into which he has fallen, and tell him there are two parts hydrogen gas and one of oxygen gas, with a common density of thirty-nine Fahrenheit, turning to steam under a common atmospheric pressure of two hundred and twelve. He does not want a chemical lecture on water, he wants a rope. Oh, my friends, the paralysis of God on the Church, it seems to me, in this day, is metaphysics. We speak in an unknown tongue in our Sabbath schools, and in our religious assemblages, and in our pulpits, and how can people be saved unless they can understand us? Oh, for the simplicity of Christ in all our instructions--the simplicity. I think often in our religious instructions we compel the people to stay out by our Church architecture. People come in and they find things angular, and cold, and stiff, and they go away, never again to come; when the Church ought to be a great home-circle, everybody having a hymn-book, giving ha]f to the one next him, every one who has a hand to shake hands, shaking hands--the Church architecture and the Church surroundings saying to the people, “Come in and be at home.” Instead of that, I think all these surroundings often compel the people to stay out. I read of a minister of the gospel who was very fond of climbing among the Swiss mountains. One day he was climbing among very dangerous places, and thought himself all alone Then he heard a voice beneath him say, “Father, look out for the safe path, I am following,” and he looked back and saw that he was climbing not only for himself, but climbing for his boy. Oh, let us be sure and take the safe path! Our children are following, our partners in business are following, our neighbours are following, a great multitude stepping right on in our steps. Oh! be sure and take the right path! Exhibit a Christian example, and so, by your godly walk, compel the people to come in. I think there is work also in the way of kindly admonition. I do not believe there is a person in this house to-day who, if approached in a kindly and brotherly manner, would refuse to listen. If you are rebuffed, it is because you lack in tact and common-sense. A Christian physician who is a friend of mine, one day became very anxious about the salvation of a brother physician, and so he left his office, went down to this man’s office, and said, “Is the doctor in?” “No,” replied the young man waiting; “the doctor is not in.” “Well,” said the physician, “when he comes in tell him I called, and give him my Christian love.” This worldly doctor came home after a while, and the message was given to him, and he said within himself, “What does he mean by leaving his Christian leave for me?” And he became very much awakened and stirred in spirit, and he said after a while, “Why, that man must mean my soul.” And he went into his office, knelt down, and then took his hat and went out to the office of this Christian physician, and said, “What must I do to be saved?” and the two doctors knelt in the office and commended their souls to God. All the means used in that case was only the voice of one good man, saying, “Give my love to the doctor.” The voice of kindly admonition. Have you uttered it to-day? Compel them to come in. I think there is a great work also to be done in the way of prayer. If we had faith enough to-day, we could go before God and ask for the salvation of all the people here assembled, and they would all be saved, here and now, without a single exception. At the close of a religious service, and when the people had nearly all left the building, a pastor saw a little girl with her head bowed on the back of the pew, and, passing down the aisle, he said to himself, “The little child has fallen asleep.” So he tapped her on the shoulder and said, “The service is over.” She said, “I know it is over; I am praying, sir, I am praying, sir, I am praying.” “Well,” said the minister, “Whatsoever ye ask of God, believing ye will receive.” She said, “Is that in the Bible? Yes,” he said, “there is a promise of that kind in the Bible.” “Well,” she said, “let me see it.” So he turned over the Bible until he came to the promise, and she said, “That’s so, is it? Now, O Lord bring my father here to-night.” While she was praying her father passed into the door of the church, and came down by his child and said, “What do you want of me?” When that child had begun to pray one hour before for her father, he was three miles away; but by some strange impulse that he could not understand, he hastened to the church, and there the twain knelt, the father’s arm around the child’s neck, the child’s arm around the father’s neck, and there he entered on the road to heaven. “Whatsoever ye ask of God, believing, ye will receive.” That was an answer to the child’s prayer. What did she do? She compelled him to come in. (Dr. Talmage.)
The compulsion of love
What is the sense of the word “compel”? It is quite vain for us to seek the sense of a word unless we have sense in ourselves. “Compel”! Did not Stephen compel those to whom he spoke to listen? He could not so far tams their ferocity that they should cast away the stones upon the ground, and spare him; but they could not resist the power of the Spirit with which he spoke. There is always some compulsory force in wisdom and in spirit, and how much is there in love! But observe, the guests first of all invited were not compelled to come in; he sent his servants to say, “All things are ready.” “They may be,” said these distinguished people, but we are not. He did not send his servants to compel them to come in; no, in his anger he “let them alone.” “Compel them to come in” is spoken of the outcast--the necessitous--those that are beyond the very circle of the city, and not merely in its lowest places. “Compel,” as spoken of these, hints at once to us that persuasiveness and urgency are necessary to effect conversion, and also that most potent means of conversion will be found stored up in the gospel as we go outwards, and try to conquer the world. Therefore, this word “compel” is like a promise given by God. Of course, there is nothing here against human liberty. It is the happiest way of being overcome, to be persuaded that somebody loves us, and so made to go, in willing captivity, to receive his love. (T. T. Lynch.)
Compel them to come in
There are three ways of compelling men to come in, that is, of bringing persons over to our communion, and to our opinion, in matters of religion. The first is, by ill usage and persecution, the unlawfulness of which I propose to show. The second is, by persuasion, instruction, and conviction. The third way is of an ambiguous kind, which it seems difficult to appraise; for it is neither so good as to deserve to be cried up for a virtue, nor yet so bad as to be condemned for a vice. It is overcoming men by kindness and courtesies, alluring and proselyting them by favours, honours, profits, gifts, and rewards. Now let us consider the vile nature and the pernicious effects of persecution.
1. It is not a probable way to make men good. If we would serve God in an acceptable manner, it is requisite that we know the will of God, and that we pay Him a cheerful obedience.
2. Persecution will probably make men more wicked than they were, whilst they lived in error unmolested.
3. Persecution is contrary to the spirit of Christianity. The religion of our Saviour is a religion like its Author, full of humanity, lenity, and universal benevolence.
4. The consequence of supposing persecution to be recommended by the gospel, is, that all sects of Christians would have the same call to plague and destroy those who differ from them. All sects of Christians are the true Church in their own opinion, and would apply such a commission to themselves, as their right, or their duty.
5. It is very strange that Christians in these latter ages can find the doctrine of persecution so plainly laid down in the New Testament, when the first Christians could see no such thing there.
But let us not altogether pass over their more plausible arguments.
1. They tell us that it is good to punish men who are in error, to make them bethink themselves, to put them upon an examination of facts and reasons, which else they would not have considered.
2. Persecutors frequently object, that, by permitting liberty of conscience, encouragement is given to scurrility and profaneness.
3. Persecutors object also, that by such indulgence heresies are propagated to the eternal destruction of those who are deluded, and that therefore the utmost rigour is true Christian charity, and, by the punishment of a few, saves many from everlasting misery.
4. Another argument of which persecutors make great use, is taken from the laws which God gave to the Jews, by which idolaters and false prophets were to be put to death; and from the practice of those kings of Israel and Judah who put these laws in execution. Divine wisdom alone can authorize them, and not public wisdom, as some mightily love to call it, which is too often public folly. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
Against persecution for religion
I. Our Saviour, in this parable, compares the kingdom of heaven to a king making a marriage-feast for his son. It is evident that when our Lord, in the text, bids the preachers of His gospel go into the highways and hedges and compel men to come in, His meaning is not, Compel them by force of arms; but, Compel them by irresistible clearness of reason, by strength of argument, and affectionate admonition; convince, persuade, entreat them; set before them the certainty of a future judgment, the promises and the threatenings of the Lord; prevail with them by your own good example; urge, press, inculcate upon them the necessity of religion (2 Timothy 4:2).
II. To show to what a wicked sense they have sometimes been perverted by men of corrupt and ambitious minds. Compel them to come in: that is (in their explication), compel them by violence and force of arms, by racks and tortures, by dragoons and inquisitions, by fire and sword. As if religion, whose great end is peace and love, the universal reconciliation of men to God and to each other, could itself be propagated by the highest oppressions, and most inhuman cruelties; and be made to authorize and to sanctify such practices, the preventing whereof is indeed the very chief design of all religion both natural and revealed. But to be more particular.
1. It is originally, in the very nature of things, inconsistent and absurd to think that a right sense of religion can be put into men’s minds by force of arms. For what is religion but such a persuasion of mind towards God as produces obedience to His commands; arising from a due sense of Him in the understanding, a just fear and love of Him in the affections, and a choice or preference of virtue in the will? Now to attempt to influence the will by force, is like applying sounds to the eyes in order to be seen, or colours to the ears in order to be heard.
2. As force is inconsistent with the nature of religion in general, so is it much more opposite to the spirit of Christianity in particular.
3. As force is inconsistent with the nature of religion in general, and still more opposite to the spirit of Christianity in particular; so it is in Scripture still further made the distinguishing character of the great apostasy foretold by Christ and His apostles. (S. Clarke, D. D.)
A young man, deeply concerned for the conversion of his brother, while listening to a discourse addressed by me to the young, was strongly possessed with the idea that if he could obtain permission to publish it, his brother, who was a compositor in a printing-office, might be led to read it first for the press, and afterwards for publication, and thereby the subject might arrest his attention, and impress him with its truth and importance. The success was even beyond his expectation, and he lived to see that brother united to the Church of which he himself was a member, and also employed in missionary labours, in which he has now been successfully engaged for many years. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)
Earnestness in seeking to save
Simeon was once summoned to the death-bed of a dying brother. Entering the room, the relative extended his hand, and with emotion said: “I am dying, and you never warned me of the state in which I was, and of the great danger I was in of neglecting my soul.” “Nay, my brother,” said Simeon, “but I took every reasonable opportunity of bringing the subject of religion before you, and frequently alluded to it in my letters.” “Yes,” said the dying man, “but you never came to me, closed the door, took me by the collar of my coat, and told me that I was unconverted, and that if I died in that state I should be lost; and now I am dying, and, but for God’s grace, I might have been for ever undone.” It is said that Simeon never forgot the scene. (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)
No provision made for defeat
It is a remarkable thing in this parable, that Christ makes no provision for defeat. He does not say what we are to do if they refuse to come in. He takes it for granted that we must overcome if we are in earnest. It used to be said of the Duke of Wellington, that it was a characteristic of his career that in the orders which he issued to his brigadiers he never made any provision for defeat. He said, “Go and capture that hill from the French,” or, “Go and drive the enemy from that house”; and he never told them what to do if they failed. It was their business to do it, and he never made any provision for defeat; and they did succeed. So, too, Christ makes no provision for defeat. He assumes that we shall not fail. Cheerful, audacious, Christian work cannot fail. It was said by a great Latin historian of Alexander the Great, that the secret of his marvellous victories, by which the world was brought to his feet was this: he wisely dared to think nothing of imaginary dangers I All sorts of reports reached him with respect to the difficulties of invading Asia, and so forth, but he put them all on one side. Oh, that we may be filled with the same glorious spirit--that we may think nothing of imaginary dangers I The devil is always ready to exhibit a few ghosts of difficulties to terrify weak saints. Let us despise the ghosts; there is nothing in them. We cannot fail if our heart is full of love to God, and of sympathy with our fellow Christians. The only real hindrance to the progress of the gospel is unbelief, in the form of downright selfishness. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
If any man come to Me, and hate not, etc
The statute-law of discipleship
THE NATURE OF THIS NECESSARY QUALIFICATION OF A TRUE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.
1. An esteem of Christ above all.
2. The heart renounces its property in all things of the world, in the day of its closing with Jesus Christ.
3. The soul resigns all to the Lord; lays down all at His feet, to be disposed of as He will.
4. The soul accepts of Christ for, and instead of the things resigned.
5. The soul is disposed to part with them, when the Lord calls for them; has an habitual readiness to part with them for Christ.
6. There is in the soul a new power of living, without them, on Jesus Christ; a life which is an absolute mystery to every Christless soul (John 6:57). We now proceed--
II. To confirm the doctrine of the text, or show, that no man can be a true disciple of Christ, to whom Christ is not dearer than what is dearest to Him in the world. For this purpose, consider--
1. That the soul cannot truly lay hold on Christ, hut it must of necessity part with the world--“No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
2. It is impossible that the love of God, and the love of the world (the persons and things of the world), can at the same time be predominant in the heart. One of them must of necessity be uppermost.
3. That if Christ be not dearer to us than the world, fhere is no universal resignation, which is necessary to prove the sincerity of the heart.
4. That if Christ is not loved supremely, there is a root wanting, the fruit of which is necessary to evidence sincerity. Because of the deceitfulness of your heart, it will be good to be very distinct and particular in this point, on which eternity depends. In consequence I would advise you--
(1) To give up with all your lusts. You have held the grip long, let it now go--“Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” Hosea 14:8).
(2) To lay down at the Lord’s feet your nearest and dearest relations, so as that you may never break with Christ for them: His favour, truths, and ways, must be dearer to you than they. And sure I am, ii thou meetest with Christ at His table, thou wilt say, “Henceforth know we no man after the flesh.”
(3) Lay down at the Lord’s feet your substance in the world, be it great or small, houses and lands, goods, etc., that He may dispose of them as He may see meet.
(4) Lay down at the Lord’s feet your credit and esteem in the world. This is often a great idol, and goes betwixt many a man and Christ.
(5) Lay down at the Lord’s feet your ease and liberty (Acts 21:13).
(6) Lay down at Christ’s feet your desires. Your desires shall be to your spiritual Husband, who shall choose for you your inheritance (Psalms 47:4).
(7) Lay down at the Lord’s feet your life. Let your bodies be given now to the Lord, not only for service, but also for a sacrifice, if He requires it. I now proceed--
III. To offer some reasons why Christ is dearer to His true disciples than what is dearest to them in the world. Among other reasons the following are mentioned.
1. Because to every true disciple, sin, of all bitter things, is the bitterest.
2. That God is man’s chief end; and when He made him, He made him pointing towards Himself as His chief end (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
3. That as there unquestionably is, so they have seen, a vanity and emptiness in all things of the world, even the things that are dearest to Psalms 119:96).
4. Because they find Christ of all objects the most suitable to them, and therefore He cannot but be dearer to them than the dearest thing in the world.
5. Because He is their greatest benefactor; His unparalleled benefits command their hearts to be all His: He has done for them what none other could do.
6. Because they are sensible that whatever they have in the world, they have it through and by Him. And so they behold Him as the fountain of all their mercies. Thus--
(1) They have the enjoyment of their blessings through Him.
(2) They have the comfort of them through Him.
7. Because, if it were not so, Christ would have no Church in the world. If imprisoning, banishing, spoiling of goods, fields and scaffolds reeking with the blood of the saints, would have deterred all persons from following Christ, there had been no Church in the world this day. But God will have a Church in spite of devils and wicked men. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Christ worthy of our highest esteem
I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE LOVE HERE SPOKEN OF.
1. An esteem and valuation of Christ above all worldly enjoyments whatsoever.
2. A choosing Him before all other enjoyments.
3. Love to Christ implies service and obedience to Him; the same love that when it is between equals is friendship, when it is from an inferior to a superior is obedience. Love, of all the affections, is the most active; hence by those who express the nature of things by hieroglyphics, we have it compared to fire, certainly for nothing more than its activity. The same arms that embrace a friend, will be as ready to act for Him.
4. Love to Christ implies an acting for Him in opposition to all other things; and this is the undeceiving, infallible test of a true affection.
5. Love to Christ imports a full acquiescence in Him alone, even in the absence and want of all other felicities: men can embrace Christ with riches, Christ with honour, Christ with interest, and abundantly satisfy themselves in so doing; though perhaps all the time they put but a cheat upon themselves, thinking that they follow Christ, while indeed they run only after the loaves.
II. THE REASONS AND MOTIVES THAT MAY INDUCE US TO THIS LOVE.
1. That He is best able to reward our love.
2. That He has shown the greatest love to us.
III. THE SIGNS, MARKS, AND CHARACTERS WHEREBY WE MAY DISCERN IT.
1. A frequent and indeed a continual thinking of Him. “Where your treasure is,” says our Saviour, “there will your heart be also.” That is, whatsoever you love and value, that will be sure to take up your thoughts.
2. The second sign of a sincere love to Christ, is a willingness to leave the world, whensoever God shall think fit to send His messenger of death to summon us to a nearer converse with Christ. “I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,” says St. Paul.
3. A third, and indeed the principal sign of a sincere love to Christ, is a zeal for His honour, and an impatience to hear or see any indignity offered Him. A person truly pious will mourn for other men’s sins, as well as for his own. (R. South, D. D.)
Loving Christ above all, the character of His true disciples
I. Let us consider WHAT IT IS TO BE WORTHY OF CHRIST. And this we find is very well explained in the passage just now referred to by this expression, “he cannot be My disciple”; that is, ha cannot be a sincere Christian; he may call himself by that name.
II. To consider THE LOVE OF CHRIST AS IN COMPARISON WITH, AND OPPOSITION TO THE LOVE OF FRIENDS, and all other worldly interests. Such affections have deep and firm foundation in nature and reason. As this may be justly attributed to God as its Author, and His wisdom and goodness shine in it, religion is not intended to root it out, or in any degree to weaken the bonds of humanity. But the immediate ends of these natural relations are not the highest ends of our being. We are capable of nobler pursuits and higher enjoyments than the ease and conveniences of our present condition. It is the predominant affection which constitutes the character and temper of a man. The covetous is he in whom the love of wealth prevails over all other inclinations; the ambitious, in whom the love of honour; the voluptuous, in whom the love of sensual pleasures. Each of these will sacrifice every other interest to his idol, and every other desire, which is even natural to him, yet not so strong. But to preserve an universal harmony in the mind of man, and to constitute a truly religious and virtuous character, the love of God and of goodness ought to be predominant. Other affections are not to be rooted out, but this must be supreme; and they gratified and indulged only by its permission, and so far as not to be inconsistent with it. This is the true meaning of my text. For what I would principally observe for illustrating this subject is, that the love of Christ, and the love of God and goodness, is just the same. And as moral excellence is the inseparable character of the Deity, so it is absurd to pretend that we love Him without loving it; that we love the holiest and best of all Beings without loving holiness and goodness itself. Again, let us consider that to be worthy of Christ, to be His true disciples, and obtain His acceptance, it is absolutely necessary that we should adhere to Him inviolably, that we should hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be stedfast and immovable in good works. For they only who endure to the end shall be saved, and to them alone who remain faithful unto death, the crown of life is promised. Now, the only possible security of this stedfastness, is love to Christ, and to religion and virtue above all. I shall only add that a stedfast and universal obedience to Him is imported in our being worthy of Christ, or His sincere disciples. It remains now that we make some application of this subject; which may be the better done, because our Saviour Himself has gone before us in applying it to one of the highest and most difficult points in the practice of religion, that is, to the case of suffering persecution. For can there be any sincere affection to God, to our Saviour, and to His cause of pure religion and virtue, if it be not a prevailing affection, stronger than any other, which opposes it in the heart? But, we may apply this also to other and mere ordinary purposes in the practice of religion. If the commanding love of Christ be a sufficient defence against the strongest temptations, it may well support the mind against lesser ones. Our affection to our friends and worldly interests may mislead us by flattery as well as terror: and their insinuating smiles may prove a snare as well as their frowns. Besides this, there are other temptations which derive their force from the same root, the love of our intimate friends; and are only defeated by the same principle, a superior affection to Christ. There is nothing more common in the world than for men’s families to be snares to them; while to make a large, or (as they pretend) a competent provision for them, they violate their consciences, and sin against God, either by direct injustice, or, at least, by such immoderate solicitude and incessant toil as is inconsistent with piety, leaving no room for the exercises of it; or by such narrowness, and withholding more than is meet, as is directly contrary to charity. But let us remember that this is to render ourselves unworthy of Christ, by loving sons or daughters, or other worldly interests more than Him. Besides, distresses befalling our friends, their deaths and misfortunes, which, considering the vicissitude of human affairs, are always to be expected, and they are to some minds, at least, among the most sensibly affecting trials in life; these are to be supported on the same principle. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
Lore for Christ greater than love for a sister
There is a beautiful story, which some of you will probably know, as it forms the groundwork of one of the best tales of modern times, and which affords a noble example of what I have just been saying. The daughter of a poor Scotch farmer--her name was Helen Walker--after her father’s death, supported her mother by her unceasing labour, and by submitting to every privation. She had a sister, many years younger, whom she brought up and educated, and loved as her own child. This sister, however, brought great grief and shame upon her. She fell into foul sin. She was delivered of a child. The child was found dead. The mother was tried for child-murder. This trial was a terrible one for poor Helen. Notwithstanding her sister’s sin, she could not forget how she had loved her; she could not cast her out of her heart: she longed that her sister’s life should be spared, so that she might have time to repent. A fearful temptation assailed her. It seemed as though her sister’s life hung upon her word--a single falsehood might save her. If she would but say that her sister had made any preparations for the birth of the child, or had ever mentioned it to her, her sister would be acquitted. Her sister implored her; her love for her sister rent her heart; but Helen said, It is impossible for me to swear to a falsehood. Whatever betide, I must speak the truth. Thus the sister was condemned to death; and the thoughtless looked upon Helen as hardhearted. But she had shown that she loved God above her sister. She now showed how deeply she loved her sister, with a love far deeper than it would have been, had she attempted to save her life by a lie. She resolved to take up a petition herself to the King, to spare her sister’s life.
She walked to London barefoot, a journey of above four hundred miles; such a journey in those days, a hundred years ago, being far more difficult and dangerous than it is now; and though she was only a poor, helpless peasant, such was the energy and boldness with which her love inspired her, that she gained the King’s pardon, carried it back on foot, and arrived just in time to save her sister’s life. I have told you this story, because it is such a beautiful example of the right proportion between love and duty, whereby both are greatly strengthened--of the right proportion between our love to God and our love to our earthly friends. It is an example too, which if we kept it in mind, might often help to admonish us of our duty. For the temptation which Helen Walker resisted is a very common one, and comes across us in a number of shapes. We are often tempted to do something that is not quite right, to say something that is not strictly true, for the advantage, as we deem it, of those whom we love; and because our love is feeble and shallow, and shrinks from pain and sacrifices, we yield to the temptation. Sometimes the temptation may be very strong. You, who are fathers, may see your wives and children suffering from want. At such a time evil thoughts will rise up; you will think you may do anything to save your wife and children from starving. So you may, and ought to do everything, everything in your power, and even beyond your power, provided it be not against the law of God. Whatever is, you should shrink from, remembering our Lord’s words, that, unless you love Him above wife and child, you cannot be worthy of Him. (J. C. Hare, M. A.)
Love of Christ greater than love of relatives
While discussing this passage one day, I noticed that a beam of sunlight had fallen upon the mass of glowing coal in the grate, and where the sunlight fell the bright redness was turned into absolute blackness. “Ah!” thought I, “there is the meaning of this passage.” As the glowing coal appears black beneath the far more intense light of the sun, so Christ asks that the light of our love for Him should be so intense as to render our earthly loves even as hatreds in comparison. In reality, although the red coal appears black under the sunlight, it is still as hot as before, yea, hotter than before, because of the added heat from the sun; so our love for friends and relatives, though it should appear as hatred beneath our love for Christ, will not be quenched by it, but added to, and rendered deeper and purer. (H. Stanley.)
Christ demanding hatred
The word “hate” is a strong word, and I believe that it points both to strong feeling and strong action. The words “hate his own life also” are the key to the whole aphorism. A disciple is to hate his relatives and friends in the same sense in which he is to hate himself. In what sense, then, can a man hate himself? He can hate what is mean and base in himself. He can hate his own selfish life. To cling to life is natural; to desire ease and comfort is natural; to gratify the appetites is natural; but all this natural life, whenever it comes into collision with the spiritual side of our being, may be even hated. It is not merely that the Christian may, after a struggle, prefer to remain true to God and Christ, rather than gratify the selfish cravings of his own natural life; he may positively hate these selfish cravings when they are tempting him to forsake his duty. The word may be paradoxical; but is it too strong? Have we never felt disgusted at our own selfishness? Have we never experienced a strong revulsion of feeling when we have been tempted by “our own life”--by our natural liking for what is agreeable to that life--to shirk our duty, and to do something mean and base? In the old Greek drama, Admetos is disgusted with the life which, in selfish cowardice, he has purchased by the sacrifice of his wife Alkestis. And we can well conceive that many a Christian martyr may have felt disgusted with his own life, when he was tempted to preserve it at the cost of denying his Lord. It is thus, then, that a man may hate himself. Not in the bald, literal sense; for he still cares for his own true best life, and wishes that to be developed and strengthened. But he does: in a sense, hate himself when the self in him rises in rebellion against God and Christ and duty. Now, in this sense also, a man may hate his relatives and friends. He may hate that in them which is mean and base. He may hate that in them which seeks to drag him away from Christ. (T. C.Finlayson.)
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, etc
On taking up the cross
Christiani sunt cruciani, says Luther, Christians are cross-bearers.
It is in their hearts to bear the cross, whatever it be, whensoever Christ shall require it; and they do actually bear it whenever they are called to it. They do not flinch from it, nor decline it, nor turn from it, by any indirect or unlawful course.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE CROSS.
1. The cross includes loss and damage, the greatest losses as well as the least; the loss of all outward things, as well as the loss of any. When Christ was nailed to the cross, He was bereaved of all, and fastened to it naked; He had not so much as His garments left; they who brought Him to the cross divided these amongst them. He that is not willing to part with all, to follow Christ, when he cannot fully and faithfully follow Him without quitting all, he is not worthy of Him, unworthy the name of a Christian.
2. It speaks shame and reproach. It was serviie supplicium, a base ignominious suffering, to which none were exposed but the vilest of men. It was a suffering proper to slaves and fugitives; there was not the meanest freeman amongst the Romans but was above it. Hence shame and the cross are joined together (Hebrews 12:2). Hence that expression, “bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13), i.e., bearing the cross. No coming to Christ but in this posture, when the Lord calls to it.
3. It imports pain and torture. The cross was a most grievous and painful suffering. Ausonius calls it paenae extremum, the extremity of torture. And Cicero, crudelissimum teterrimumque supplicium, the most cruel and horrid suffering. When Ignatius was going to be exposed to the fury of wild beasts for the name of Christ, he cries, “Now I begin to be a disciple.”
4. It imports death itself. The cross was ultimum supplicium, the last thing that could be suffered. Cruelty was herein terminated, and could go no further, at least to the sense of the sufferer. It was the worst kind of death.
II. WHAT IT IS TO BEAR THE CROSS.
1. You must make account of it. Calculate what it will cost you.
2. A resolution to bear the cross, whatever it be, how heavy, or grievous, or tedious soever it may prove; a firm, and hearty, and settled resolution to bear it, is a virtual bearing of it beforehand (verse 33).
3. You must be always ready for the cross, always preparing for it, whether it seem near, or whether it seem further off. One paraphraseth the words thus, “Whosoever doth not come to Me with a preparation of mind to suffer anything rather than part with Me, he is not for My turn.” This is to bear the cross daily, as Christ requires (Luke 9:1-62.). Though every day do not afford a cross, yet every day we bear the cross by daily preparing for it 1 Corinthians 15:31). Even when the cross seems far off, much more when it is in view, you must be preparing for it, if you be Christians indeed; and the Lord will take your readiness to bear it for a bearing of it, when He sees good to prevent it.
4. It speaks actual undergoing it when it is laid on us. But when the Lord brings it to us, we must actually take it up. He is no disciple for Christ that will not do it.
III. THE MANNER OF BEARING THE CROSS.
1. A Christian endeavours to bear the cross patiently. That while the cross oppresses his outward man, he may possess his soul in patience. Not the patience of the Stoics, a senseless stupidness; nor the patience of the heathen, a mere yielding to necessity; but a due sense of the pressure, with a quiet submission to the hand of God, whoever be the instrument, without murmuring, repining, disquietment, or despondency.
2. He endeavours to bear it cheerfully. That which is bearing the cross here is taking up the cross (chap. 9.). Christ bore His cross willingly; Simon of Cyrene was compelled to bear that cross. Christ would have us come after Him, bear it as He did. It should not be a forced, but a voluntary act.
3. He endeavours to bear it fruitfully. The cross is dry wood, and so was Aaron’s rod; but as that blossomed, so does this bring forth fruit, when improved (Hebrews 12:11). This puts the followers of Christ upon seeking the sweet fruits of peace and holiness in the bowels of devouring calamities; to get spiritual gain and advantage by outward loss; to grow richer unto God by worldly impoverishment; to converse more with God when separated from friends and relations; to value more the love of Christ when they smart by the world’s hatred; to partake more of holiness when he partakes less of the ease, peace, plenty of the world; to make use of the cross for the crucifying of the flesh; to make sin more hateful and dreadful, the conscience more tender, the world less tempting, more contemptible, grace more active and lively, the word more sweet and effectual, prayer more fervent and affectionate, the appearing of Christ more lovely and desirable, the conversation more heavenly. To hear the cross as a disciple of Christ, is to bring forth more fruit in bearing of it. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
The Christian’s cross
I. THE CROSS IS ORDINARILY THE LOT OF CHRISTIANS. Persecution and troubles have always attended the people of God. And the reasons of it are evident.
1. The malice of Satan, who knowing himself to be cast off by God, he hates God with an implacable hatred; and since the Lord is above the reach of his malice, he falls upon those who are dearest to Him, the people of God.
2. The enmity of the world. The world would be sure to cross, to afflict and persecute what it hates; and the disciples of Christ are hated by the John 15:19). Not only that part of the world which evidently lies in wickedness, but the more refined part of it which dresseth up itself in a form of godliness. Those who have no more but the form, hate those that haw the power, because this is a real reproof and conviction of the vanity and insufficiency of outward forms, how specious soever; and that which detects them is hated by them (1 John 5:19).
3. There is a necessity of the cross upon a manifold account.
(1) To distinguish true disciples from hypocrites and pretenders. When Christ may be professed and followed with ease, and safety, and credit, multitudes will follow Him, every man will profess Him whose hearts are not with Him. But when the cross comes, that makes a distinction.
(2) To try His disciples, that He may have an experiment of their affection and faithfulness to Him: “Who is on my side? Who?” says Jehu (2 Kings 9:33). So says Christ, when He brings out the cross; let Me now see who is for Me, let Me see who it is that will bear the cross for Me.
(3) For the advantage of grace. A Christian is not complete unless he have on his whole armour; and it is the cross puts us upon putting of it on; it would lie rusting by us, if we were not roused to the use of it by the frequent approaches of the cross.
(4) To take us off from the world. The cross embitters the world to us, and confutes those vain conceits which make us fond of it. The vizard falls off by which it had deluded us, and now we may perceive what aa impostor it was, when, for all its fair promises, we meet with nothing but vanity, and enmity, and vexation, and hard usage. And will it not seem lovely? Or can we doat on it any longer? The cross lets us not only see, but feel what the world is.
(5) To tame the flesh, and keep it under, which otherwise would grow headstrong, and bear down all the restraints of grace, and hurry us into carnal excess--“Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it” (John 15:1-27.). He lops off the luxuriances of natural corruption. And how is this done? Why, a sharp cross will be effectual to do it, when the Lord takes it into His hand and useth it for this purpose!
(6) To endear heaven to us. The ark was more acceptable to Noah’s dove when she found no rest to the soles of her feet on the face of the earth.
II. A CHRISTIAN CANNOT ORDINARILY AVOID THE CROSS WITHOUT SINNING AGAINST CHRIST.
III. HE THAT WILL ORDINARILY SIN AGAINST CHRIST TO AVOID THE CROSS, CANNOT BE A CHRISTIAN. This being proved, it will appear an evident truth, that he that doth not, will not, bear the cross, is not, cannot be a Christian. (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
For which of you, intending to build a tower
The Christian builder
Our Lord on purpose mentioned a tower rather than any other building, perhaps to signify that the top of our spiritual building must reach to heaven, or otherwise it will be vain to build.
A Christian, then, is a man that builds a tower, a noble building, not a cottage, and therefore should count the cost.
I. WHAT SORT OF A TOWER THE CHRISTIAN BUILDS.
1. A tower is no small building, but a noble structure; and so is the believer’s spiritual building.
(1) Infinite wisdom is the contriver of it.
(2) The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of it.
2. It is a noble building, or a famous tower, because the design of it is to preserve the soul from all its enemies, and from all dangers whatsoever, to eternal life.
3. This spiritual building may be called a tower, because a Christian is a soldier, and this building is to be his fortress; and if he builds on Christ, or rightly upon the only foundation, he need not fear all the gunshot of Satan, sin, the flesh, and the world, though he must expect to be battered severely by these enemies.
4. It may be called a tower, because the Christian builds for another world. He must gradually proceed until he reaches heaven.
II. WHY IS A CHRISTIAN SAID TO BUILD THIS TOWER?
1. Because he is to believe in Jesus Christ, i.e., to build on Him.
2. But note that it is God who finds all the materials.
III. EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD CONSIDER THE MATTER SO WELL AS TO COUNT THE COST. Why?
1. Because it will be a very costly building to him.
(1) He must give up all his cursed sins and lusts, though as dear to him in times past as a right hand or eye.
(2) He must expect it will cost him the loss of whatsoever he once accounted gain.
(3) He must part with all his former companions, and expect they will mock and deride him, and may be his own wife also.
2. Because great storms may rise, and floods come, and beat upon his high tower; and he should count the damage he may sustain in such storms.
3. Because he is not able either to begin, nor to build, or lay one stone by his own strength; and if he knows not this, or does not utterly despair of any power or ability of his own, he will never be able to finish, and then men “will mock him,” etc.
4. He must account how rich, how strong, and able he is in Jesus Christ; and if He knows that Christ is his strength, he counts the cost aright; and if he depends wholly, constantly, and believingly upon Jesus Christ, he need not fear but he shall have wherewith to finish this famous tower, i.e., the salvation of his precious soul.
1. This reprehends all rash and inconsiderate persons, who, through some sudden flash of zeal (which may prove like a lava flood) set out in a visible profession of Christ and the gospel.
2. This may inform us of the reason there are so many who grow cold, and soon falter, and fall off, or decline in their zeal and seeming love to Christ, His truth, and people. They counted not the cost--what corruptions they must mortify, what temptations they must withstand, what reproaches they must expect to meet with, what enemies they may find, and what relations they may enrage and stir up against them.
3. Let all from hence be exhorted to count the cost before they begin to build, and not expose themselves by their inconsiderateness to the reproach of men, either to the grief of the godly, or to the contempt and scorn of the wicked.
4. Yet let none from hence be discouraged, or decline closing with Christ, or with His people; for if they are sincere and gracious persons, they will understand that the almighty power of God is engaged to help them.
5. Count also all the external charge, which a visible profession of Christ may expose you to; for the interest of Christ, and the charge of His Church, must be borne.
6. How great is the work of a Christian. No lazy life.
7. Let all learn on what foundation to build, and not refuse the chief cornerstone. Depend wholly upon God in Christ. His money pays for all. Yet you shall not miscarry for want of money to finish, if in all your wants you go to Him by faith and prayer. (B. Keach.)
Importance of consideration
Nelaton, the great French surgeon, once said that if he had four minutes in which to perform an operation on which a life depended, he would take one minute to consider how best to do it. (Baxendale’s Anecdotes.)
Purposes should be weighed
Before proceeding to any work, we should weigh it. Letters are charged in the post office according to weight. I have written and sealed a letter containing several sheets. I desire that it should pass; I think it will; but I know well that it will not be allowed to pass because I desire that it should or think that it will. I know well it will be tested by imperial weights and measures. Before I plunge it beyond my reach, I place it on a balance before me, not constructed to please my desire, but honestly adjusted to the legal standard. I weigh it there, and check it myself by the very rules which government will apply. So should we weigh our purposes in the balance, before we launch them forth in action. (W. Arnot.)
The religious life exceeds human resource
He is not, in our Lord’s estimation, the true spiritual builder, such as will bring his work to a successful end, who, counting the cost, finds that he has enough, as he supposes to finish the building which he has begun; but the wise and happy builder is he who counts and discovers that he has not enough, that the work far exceeds any resources at his command, and who thereupon forsakes all that he has, all vain imagination of a spiritual wealth of his own; and therefore proceeds to build, not at his own charges at all, but altogether at the charges of God, waiting upon Him day by day for new supplies of strength. (Archbishop Trench.)
Counting the cost
I. TRUE RELIGION IS COSTLY. A poor man is suddenly made a prince; it will cost him the giving up of his former manners, and will involve him in new duties and cares. A man is set on the road to heaven as a pilgrim: does he pay anything to enter by the wicket-gate? I trow not: free grace admits him to the sacred way. But when that man is put on the road to heaven it will cost him something. It will cost him earnestness to knock at the wicket-gate, and sweat wherewith to climb the Hill Difficulty; it will cost him tears to find his roll again when he has lost it in the arbour of ease; it will cost him great care in going down the Valley of Humiliation; it will cost him resistance unto blood when he stands foot to foot with Apollyon in conflict. What, then, is the expense?
1. If yea would be Christ’s, and have His salvation, you must love Him beyond every other person in this world.
2. Self must be hated. I must mortify the flesh with its affections and lusts, denying myself anything and everything which would grieve the Saviour, or would prevent my realizing perfect conformity to Him.
3. If we would follow the Saviour, we must bear our cross. He who has the smile of the ungodly, must look for the frown of God.
4. We must follow Christ, i.e., act as He acted.
5. Unreserved surrender of all to Jesus. If you possess a farthing that is your own and not your master’s, Christ is not your master.
II. WISDOM SUGGESTS THAT WE SHOULD COUNT THE COST.
1. If you do not count the cost, you will not be able to carry out your resolves. It is a great building, a great war. Faith and repentance are a lifework.
2. To fail in this great enterprise will involve terrible defeat. Half-hearted Christians, half-hearted religious men, may not be scoffed at in the public streets to their faces, but they are common butts of ridicule behind their backs. False professors are universally despised. Oh! if you must be lost, be lost as anything but hypocrites.
III. COST WHATEVER IT MAY, TRUE RELIGION IS WORTH THE COST.
1. The present blessings of true religion are worth all the cost.
2. What recompense comes for all cost in the consolation afforded by true godliness in the article of death?
3. Christ asks you to give up nothing that will injure you.
4. Christ does not ask you to do anything that He has not done Himself. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
This parable stands in juxtaposition with that of the Great Supper, and is plainly designed to supplement its lesson, and preclude any perversion of its meaning. In the one you have the freedom of gospel privileges, in the other you have the costliness of gospel responsibilities. You that are following me so readily, says the Saviour, “consider what you do.” As builders of a spiritual house, are you incurring a new and a serious outlay; are you prepared to face it? As warriors on a spiritual campaign, you are challenging new and uncompromising enemies; are you able to confront them? Far better leave an undertaking alone, than, after starting it, have thereafter to abandon it, especially when, as in the present case, it attracts the observation of so many watchful eyes, and provokes the resentment of so many jealous hearts. Beware lest you waken the world’s hostility by your pretensions to strength when you begin, and live to incur its mockery by your confession of weakness when you desist.” That, then, is the drift of this passage. Of course, only one side of the truth is here brought before us. It is not only on account of the views of outsiders, their spitefulness when a man commences, and their contempt when he leaves off, that our Saviour bids those who would join Him count the cost. There are other and worse consequences to be faced by him who begins and who ceases in this matter, than the pointing of a worldling’s finger or the wagging of a worldling’s tongue, and for these we must look elsewhere. But so far as it goes the parable is both pertinent and pungent, the lesson of it plain, the application unavoidable. He that will build a tower necessarily invites attention, provokes scrutiny, sets speculation astir, and these not always of the kindest or most favourable sort. Publicly he succeeds, if success be in store for him; but publicly, too, he must fail. Exactly so is it with the assuming of a Christian position. Let a man bear in mind that for this, if for no other reason, he is wise to think well ere beginning, remembering that the eye of the world is upon him. Not only is this matter of a Christian profession and a spiritual life a necessarily public undertaking; it is also a very costly one. And the higher the ideal we erect for ourselves, the more important and commanding the position we assume, the greater the outlay we must face. True, let me remind you again, the building of the tower may turn out in the end the most gloriously profitable investment that is open to us. When the walls are complete, and the headstone brought forth with shoutings of “grace, grace unto it,” it may prove a magnificent and an everlasting habitation, repaying a thousandfold, both in shelter and in splendour, the disbursements its erection occasioned.
But, meanwhile, these disbursements may be trying. And let every man weigh the solemn fact, the assuming of a Christian profession and the maintenance of the Christian life may in some cases involve a serious price. Nor will any be able to say that the estimates for the building of the tower have been kept in the background by Scripture; they are clearly drawn up, and faithfully presented. And what is the expenditure they specify? This among other things (let the context testify): the hatred of father and mother and sisters and brethren, the losing of one’s own life, the taking up of the cross, the forsaking all a man hath. These be strong words, but, brethren, they are Christ’s, and there are those, many and many a one, who have found them no whit beyond the facts. This brings me to the third point in the parable, for which we are now prepared, namely, the consequence that too often takes place from a rash and ill-considered beginning. For a time the building proceeds. He has founded it in accordance with God’s appointment, he rears it in conformity with God’s plan. But there comes a period when the enterprise gets costly. It touches him on the side of his comfort, touches him on the side of his pride, and the unaccustomed drain begins. It is first a call on his time, time he wanted to use an he liked; next a wrench of affection, the severance of a tie which was dear to the flesh, but which Christian principle forbade; next, the sudden disappointing of desire--desire which only a disciple of Christ would possibly have been asked to deny himself; then an inroad on his purse. And thus there comes a time when in his own heart of hearts the ominous uncertainty begins, even though shame for a time makes him persevere. “Have I not gone too far?” he is now beginning to ask of himself, “and may not this tower of mine bear curtailing, without any loss to the general design? God will make allowance for my poverty, and the world will be unaware of the difference, or approve of it.” So, lesser inconsistencies creep in; lesser incompletenesses make themselves manifest; there is a saving here and a saving there. Already the man’s life has fallen below his profession; the execution of the building is not up to the plan, and the end of it all throws its shadow before. We all know what that was. Alas, he had not sufficiently examined himself; he had not sufficiently counted the cost. He did not know all he was doing when he separated himself from the world’s companionship, and resolved to take up the cross of Christ. Better never to have asserted a superiority to the world at all, than, having assumed the position by leaving it, thereafter to renounce it by going back. When Pliable re-entered the City of Destruction with the mud of his expedition bespattering his clothes, and its terrors still pale on his face, the city was moved round about trim, and we read that some called him foolish for going, and others called him wise for coming back. But I can fancy that even these did not quite take the erring one back to their arms, nor forget the facts of his escapade, and that all the time he went in and out in the midst of them the consciousness never faded from their hearts, the sneer never passed from their lips. And when the man who has begun to build the tower of a religious profession, and is compelled to leave it unfinished, slinks back to the comrades his enterprise has offended, saying, “Brothers, I find I have made a mistake; I am, after all, no better than yourselves; I will henceforth make amends for my folly by dwelling in a house and sitting at a table like your own,” think you that the world will have any sympathy or respect for him? It may applaud him to his face, but behind his back there will ever be the pointed finger and the whispered scoff: “That man began to build, and was not able to finish.” For, oh! here is the solemn thought. The man may change his mind, but the fabric he has reared remains notwithstanding, the monument of his pride and his folly alike, unhonoured, untenanted, and unfinished. There the building stands, in the words of seeming sincerity the man has spoken, in the Christian teaching he has published, in the Christian schemes he has launched, all which he has long since abandoned, because he had failed to lay his account with the difficulties, had forgotten to count the cost. And through all time the unfinished fabric shall remain, the sorrow of the Church and the triumph of the world, ay, and perhaps throughout eternity too, as the rebuke of conscience and the taunt of the lost. Hitherto we have moved only along the strict lines of the parable, and narrowed ourselves to the special thought that the Saviour was enforcing at the time. But there are several thoughts in connection with the passage before us, which, though not exactly in it, are so closely akin to it and so naturally suggested by it, that we cannot quite omit them.
1. And first, are there any among us who have been saying to themselves, “But we have been building the tower. Ours has been a Christian profession ever since our earliest years. And really we have had no experience of the difficulties of which you speak. So far as we know, our operations have wakened no one’s envy, and provoked no one’s hostility.” And do you think, therefore, that the statements already made as to the costliness of a Christian profession are overdrawn and exaggerated, suitable perhaps to the times in which the Saviour spoke, but scarcely suitable to our own. Remember, however, ye who speak thus, that there is an evil quite as bad as unfinished building, and that is unstable building.
2. Then, again, it follows from all this, that we are to be cautious and careful in our judgments as to those around us, whom we might have expected to build, but who seem to hesitate. Of the utterly indifferent, who have never yet faced the matter nor once realized the claims of Christ, we do not, of course, speak. But there are others who have not yet taken up a Christian position, not from want of thought, but rather because they are thinking so deeply. They, at any rate, are sensible of the cost, and are settling down to count it. And that is better than the conduct of the man who complacently offers God a service that costs him nothing, and perseveres in his presumption, or of the man who rashly begins what is costly, and then desists.
3. But thirdly, a word in closing to this very class,--the backward and reluctant. Brother, you are counting the cost. You do well to count it. Christ here counsels you to count it. And you feel, do you, that it is a risk that you cannot honestly face? Far better, do you say, to be a consistent man of the world than an imperfect professor of religion--like him who began the tower, and was not able to finish? True, again; but is your state of hesitation therefore defensible? Do you think Christ bids any man sit down and count the cost of the project only that he may renounce it altogether? Nay, verily; it is only that out of a deep sense of your weakness you may be driven to ask the needed strength from Himself, and, knowing that you have not the wherewithal to carry on the fabric He nevertheless seeks you to rear, you may be thrown on the helpfulness and ready supplies of Him who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. (W. Gray.)
The great fact which our Lord designs to illustrate is this--that numbers embrace the gospel from reasons that are not conclusive, and when stronger reasons, as they appear to them, arise in their intercourse with social life, they lightly renounce a creed they lightly adopted.
I. First, there are THOSE WHO ACCEPT RELIGION MERELY FROM IMPULSE, They are constitutionally the creatures of impulse. One man is the creature of feeling; another is more the creature of intellectual conviction; another is more borne away or decided in his course by fact. The Scotchman must have strong arguments; the Irishman must have eloquent appeals; and the Englishman must have hard matter of fact. Each nation has its idiosyncracy; each individual his peculiar temperament. Men who are the creatures of strong and impetuous emotion, subscribe to a creed, if I may use the expression, on the spur of the moment, and because they feel profoundly, they think they are convinced, and that the creed which they adopt is demonstrable and necessarily true. Now, I answer--this will not be sufficient to keep you steadfast. This is commencing the “tower,” before you have laid a fit foundation; this is plunging into a conflict whilst you have not the weapons that will enable you to conquer. Feeling in religion is right; but feeling must not be all. An eloquent appeal may move you, but it ought not to decide you.
II. In the second place, there is THE RELIGION OF THE CROWD. Many men are religious in a crowd, who are most irreligious when alone. They like what seems to be popular; they can be Christians in the mass, but not Christians when insulated from others. Many a soldier is a coward when alone, but he becomes a hero in his rank and place in the battalion.
III. There is a third sort of religion--THE RELIGION OF MERE CIRCUMSTANCE. People often accept the religion of those they love, and with whom they associate.
IV. There are others whose religion is simply the religion of tradition. An outside robe; not the inner life.
V. There is another religion which may be called, THE RELIGION OF SENTIMENT. This religion is nourished by all the beautiful and the romantic. It is the religion of Athens rather than the religion of Jerusalem--the religion of painters and of poets, rather than the religion of thinking and intellectual minds.
VI. There is another religion which is equally false; and that is THE RELIGION OF MERE FORM. It regards the outer aspect of things; not the inner light. This is not a religion that will stand.
VII. And in the next place let me add, there is THE RELIGION OF INTELLECT. If some profess Christianity from sentimental sympathy with its beautiful parts, and others profess Christianity from admiration of its ritual, or its form, there are others who profess Christianity from deep intellectual apprehension of it; and yet theirs is a religion that will not stand.
VIII. And, lastly, there is another religion which will still more surprise you when I say that it also may be a religion that will not stand--THE RELIGION OF CONSCIENCE. It is possible for conscience to be in religion, and yet your heart not to be the subject of living and experimental Christianity. You will go to the house of God because your conscience would torment you if you did not do so. But is this the beautiful, the blessed, the happy religion of Jesus? Such service is slavery; such duties drudgery; and such a religion is a ceaseless and perpetual penance, and not “righteousness and peace in the Holy Ghost.” (J. Cumming, D. D.)
On counting the cost
THE COST ATTENDING THE CHRISTIAN PROFESSION.
1. In order to be the disciples of Christ, there is much that we must instantly renounce It is a profession of holiness: it, therefore, demands the immediate renunciation of criminal and forbidden pleasures. By His gospel, and by His Son, God has “called us, not to uncleanness, but to holiness”; so that he that despiseth the precepts of purity, despiseth not man but God.
2. The Christian profession is spiritual, and therefore requires the renunciation of the world.
3. In order to be a disciple it is necessary, in the concerns of conscience, to renounce every authority but that of Christ. The connection of a Christian with the Saviour is not merely that of a disciple with his teacher; it is the relation of a subject to his prince. “One is your Master, even Christ.”
4. The cost of which we are speaking relates to what we are to expect. In general, to commence the profession of a Christian, is to enter upon a formidable and protracted warfare; it is to engage in an arduous contest, in which many difficulties are to be surmounted, many enemies overcome. The path that was trod by the great Leader is that which must be pursued by all his followers.
5. The cost of the Christian profession stands related to the term and duration of the engagement--“Be thou faithful unto death.” It is coeval with life.
II. WHY, WE SAY, IS IT EXPEDIENT FOR THOSE WHO PROPOSE TO BECOME CHRISTIANS TO “COUNT THE COST”?
1. It will obviate a sense of ridicule and of shame (see the context).
2. It will render the cost less formidable when it occurs.
3. If it diminishes the number of those who make a public and solemn profession, this will be more than retrieved by the superior character of those who make it. The Church will be spared much humiliation; Satan and the world deprived of many occasions of triumph.
III. THE REASONS WHICH SHOULD DETERMINE OUR ADHERENCE TO CHRIST, NOTWITHSTANDING THE COST WHICH ATTENDS IT.
1. His absolute right to command or claim our attachment.
2. The pain attending the sacrifices necessary to the Christian profession greatly alleviated from a variety of sources.
3. No comparison betwixt the cost and the advantages. (R. Hall, M. A.)
True heroism: counting the cost
The cost of a Christian profession, if it be genuine and true. Alas! to be called Christian, to have the Christian name, to pass muster with the world as a Christian, is a light and little thing; and as John Bunyan well paints in his admirable portraiture of the false as well as the true professor; “There are many By-ends, who like to go with religion when religion goes in silver slippers, who love to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud him, but such By-ends will not pass muster in the great day.” They may be esteemed members of the visible Church, but the question is, “ Will they stand the test in the great day, when the Lord comes to reckon with the servants?” If, indeed, we understand the Christian profession as Jesus portrays it, we cannot suppose it is a thing that does not require to be weighed well. There is a cost, there is a sacrifice to be counted upon, there are difficulties and dangers to be looked forward to, there is much to be borne up against that will be hard to bear, and on these things we are to decide. If a man must thus deny himself in order to be a soldier of his country, how much more must he deny himself to be a soldier under the Captain of his salvation? He requires us to renounce His enemies, who are our foes, let us not forget, though we naturally regard them as our friends. Our sympathies are with them, and our desires and tastes lead us captive after them. A man must make his election; will you have Jesus to be your Redeemer? But we must not glance only at what a man must forego, but at what he must undergo; and here is the part of the cost that many shrink from. For instance, a young man is entangled in the midst of worldly connections, and he begins to look more serious, and to go to church, and to read his Bible regularly, and to find out that he is disinclined to go to the theatre, and to scenes of rioting and revelling, and to join the multitude to do evil. He knows what will follow, but the cross must be taken up. He will be laughed at by the silly and ungodly. And therefore, brethren, there is a cost; a man must undergo shame and the cross; it will not do to dismiss it, to muzzle it, to step over it even in order to escape it, for, as the Master tells us, “If any man will come after Me, he must bear his cross” daily and hourly. If a man counts the cost, he counts also the help and succour he shall find; for he knows his weakness, and he learns his strength; and if he finds himself encompassed with danger, he will not rush into the temptation, but he will nestle beneath the Almighty wings, and shelter beneath the ark of safety. In the first place, if a man count the cost of taking up the standard, and enlisting in the army of Christ, he has to obey the simple claims of Christ as one in whom there is power and authority. And then, brethren, let us not forget that if the service of Christ has its sorrows, it has its joys; if it has its self-denials, it has its self-indulgences; if here there are thorns and briers, the world above has everlasting flowers, and heavenly violets, and sweet-smelling lilies, that shed a fragrance around all and above all; and though the way may be narrow, it is a straight one; it has no pitfalls, no traps, no bitter fears, no dark forebodings, no haunting spirits, but it has the “promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” It saves a man from a thousand snares, it shields him from a thousand dark remorses, it guards him from a thousand fearful misgivings, and enables him to look God and man in the face. Can the world, or the service of the world, do that? Then, to sum up all, if we cast into the balance of gains “life everlasting,” surely that must make the scale touch the ground, and the opposite scale strike the beam. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” “I reckon,” said one, who had large experience of the world’s trials, “that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Can language go further? And that is not the language of a fanatic or a fool, but of the Spirit of God, teaching us through one whom He had taught with Divine wisdom, that overcoming is heroism. The heroism of the Cross--that is true heroism. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
Holiness: the cost
I. WHAT IT COSTS TO BE A TRUE CHRISTIAN.
1. It will cost a man his self-righteousness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another. “Sir,” said a godly ploughman to the well-known James Hervey, of Weston Favell, “it is harder to deny proud self than sinful self. But it is absolutely necessary.”
2. It will cost a man his sins. No truce with any one of them. This also sounds hard. Our sins are often as dear to us as our children: we love them, hug them, cleave to them, and delight in them. To part with them is as hard as cutting off a right hand, or plucking out a right eye. But it must be done.
3. It will cost a man his love of ease. He must take pains and trouble, if he means to run a successful race towards heaven. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life.
4. It will cost a man the favour of the world. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated.
II. WHY COUNTING THE COST IS OF SUCH GREAT IMPORTANCE TO MAN’S SOUL. There are many persons who are not thoughtless about religion: they think a good deal about it. They are not ignorant of religion: they know the outlines of it pretty well. But their great defect is that they are not “rooted and grounded” in their faith. For want of “counting the cost” myriads of the children of Israel perished miserably in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. For want of “counting the cost” many of our Lord Jesus Christ’s hearers went back after a time, and “walked no more with Him.” For want of “counting the cost,” hundreds of professed converts, under religious revivals, go back to the world after a time and bring disgrace on religion. They begin with a sadly mistaken notion of what is true Christianity. They fancy it consists in nothing more than a so-called “ coming to Christ,” and having strong inward feelings of joy and peace. And so, when they find after a time that there is a cross to be carried, that our hearts are deceitful, and that there is a busy devil always near us, they cool down in disgust, and return to their old sins. And why? Because they had really never known what Bible Christianity is. For want of “counting the cost,” the children of religious parents often turn out ill, and bring disgrace on Christianity. And why? They had never thoroughly understood the sacrifices which Christianity entails. They had never been taught to “count the cost.”
III. Hints which may help men to count the cost rightly. Set down honestly and fairly what you will have to give up and go through if you become Christ’s disciple. Leave nothing out. But then set down side by side the following sums which I am going to give you. Do this fairly and correctly, and I am not afraid for the result.
1. Count up and compare, for one thing, the profit and the loss, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly lose something in this world, but you will gain the salvation of your immortal soul.
2. Count up and compare, for another thing, the praise and the blame, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. You may possibly be blamed by man, but you will have the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
3. Count up and compare, for another thing, the friends and the enemies, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. On the one side of you is the enmity of the devil and the wicked. On the other, you have the favour and friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your enemies at most can only bruise your heel. They may rage loudly, and compass sea and land to work your ruin; but they cannot destroy you. Your Friend is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him.
4. Count up and compare, for another thing, the life that now is and the life to come, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. The time present, no doubt, is not a time of ease. It is a time of watching and praying, fighting and struggling, believing and working. But it is only for a few years. The lime future is the season of rest and refreshing. Sin shall be east out.
5. Count up and compare, for another thing, the pleasures of sin and the happiness of God’s service, if you are a true-hearted and holy Christian. The pleasures that the worldly man gets by his ways are hollow, unreal, and unsatisfying. They are like the fire of thorns, flashing and crackling for a few minutes, and then quenched for ever. The happiness that Christ gives to His people is something solid, lasting, and substantial It is not dependent on health or circumstances. It never leaves a man, even in death.
6. Count up and compare, for another thing, the trouble that true Christianity entails, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave. Such sums as these, no doubt, are often not done correctly. Not a few, I am well aware, are ever “halting between two opinions.” They cannot make up their minds that it is worth while to serve Christ. They cannot do this great sum correctly. They cannot make the result so clear as it ought to be. But what is the secret of their mistakes? It is want of faith. That faith which made Noah, Moses, and St. Paul do what they did, that faith is the great secret of coming to a right conclusion about our souls. That same faith must be our helper and ready-reckoner when we sit down to count the cost of being a true Christian. That same faith, is to be had for the asking.. “He giveth more grace” (James 4:6). Armed with that faith we shall set things down at their true value. Filled with that faith we shall neither add to the cross nor subtract from the crown. Our conclusions will be all correct. Our sum total will be without error. (Bishop Ryle.)
On the folly of profession without forethought
I. The entrance upon, and progress in, a religious life, may, with some considerable propriety, be COMPARED TO THE BUILDING OF A TOWER. Something to be done by us. Many graces to be exercised, many temptations to be resisted, many enemies to be vanquished, and many duties to be performed. The power of religion must first be felt, then a profession of it made, and, last of all, care taken to adorn the profession; the whole of which may be compared to building a tower, because--
1. There must be a foundation to support the building. Christ--the foundation of doctrinal, experimental, and practical’ religion.
2. It is a work of labour and difficulty. Requires exertion of all the strength we have, and every day fresh supplies out of the fulness of Christ.
3. A gradual work. A tower reaching to heaven. Patient continuance in welt-doing.
4. A visible work. The Christian is a spectacle to world, angels, and men. His sufferings make him so; his conduct, so different from that of others, makes him so; and though the springs of his life are “hid,” yet the workings and effect of it are manifest to the world. Grace makes a visible change in the temper and conversation.
5. A durable work. True religion is like a strong and well-built tower, secure itself, and a security to its builder. The foundation and materials of it are both lasting.
II. THIS WORK CALLS FOR GREAT CAUTION AND CIRCUMSPECTION.
1. The Christian will consider beforehand the certain and necessary expense.
(1) Remorse for past sin.
(2) Conflict with spiritual enemies.
(3) Corruptions to be mortified.
2. To this he will add the possible and contingent expense. Not only what it must, but what it may, cost him. Friends may desert him, enemies assail, and a thousand obstacles be thrown in the way to discourage him.
3. There is another kind of expense which such a one will also take into account, not only what it will cost him, but what--if I may be allowed to use the expression--it must cost God, before He can finish his work. The Spirit of God must afford him His continual aid, and Christ’s strength must be made perfect in his weakness. No spiritual duty can be performed without a Divine influence.
4. To the labour and expense he is at, he will oppose tim benefits and advantages hoped for. The cross is the way to the crown.
5. Where this caution and circumspection is neglected, it is an instance of egregious folly, and will expose to universal shame and contempt. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Such uncompleted buildings, open to all the winds and rains of heaven, with their naked walls, and with all that has been spent upon them utterly wasted, are called in the language of the world, which often finds so apt a word, This man’s, or that man’s Folly; arguing as they do so utter a lack of wisdom and prevision on their parts who began them. Such, for example, is Charles the Fifth’s palace at Granada, the Kattenburg at Cassel. They that would be Christ’s disciples shall see to it that they present no such Babels to the ready scorn of the scornful; beginning as men that would take heaven by storm, and anon coming to an end of all their resources, of all their zeal, all their patience, and leaving nothing but an utterly baffled purpose, the mocking-stock of the world; even as those builders of old left nothing but a shapeless heap of bricks to tell of the entire miscalculation which they had made. Making mention of “a tower,” I cannot but think that the Lord intended an allusion to that great historic tower, the mightiest and most signal failure and defeat which the world has ever seen, that tower of Babel, which, despite of its vainglorious and vaunting beginning, ended in the shame, confusion, and scattering of all who undertook it (Genesis 11:1-9). (Archbishop Trench.)
Or what king, going to make war
Consider before you fight
First, then, THERE ARE SOME HERE WHO ARE NOT THE FRIENDS OF GOD, and in this case he that is not with Him is against Him. If you could have what you wish there would be no God. If it were in your power you would never trouble yourself again with thoughts of Him. You would like to live, you say, as you list, and I know how you would list to live. It would be anyhow, rather than as God commands. Now, as you are engaged in antagonism with Him, just think awhile--Can you expect to succeed? Let me put a few things before you which may, perhaps, make you think the conflict too unequal, and thus lead you to abandon the thought at once. Think of God’s stupendous power! What is there which He cannot do? Think, again, O rebellious man, you have to deal not only with almighty, but with an ever-encompassing power. Think, again, how much you are personally in His hand! It is well also to remember the mighty army of the Lord of hosts, and that you live amidst the creatures of God, who all are ready to do His bidding. Remember, moreover, what is the extent of God’s wisdom, and that His foolishness is greater than your highest knowledge. Yet there is another matter I want you to recollect, you that are the enemies of God--that you have a conscience. You have not got rid of it yet. It is not put out; and God has ways of making it to become a terrible plague to you, if you do not accept it as a friend. One other reflection, for I must not keep you thinking on this point long--it is this. Remember you must die, and therefore it is a pity to be at enmity with God. Here is this, too, to think of, there is a future state, so that when you die you have to live again. I should not choose to enter upon the realm of spirits without having God to be my friend. Besides, let me say, you cannot hope to succeed, all experience is against you; there never was one yet that, either in this state or the next, has fought with God and conquered.
II. And now we turn the subject, so as to look at THE SECOND CONTEST, IN WHICH I TRUST MANY ARE ANXIOUS TO BE ENGAGED, Some young spirit that has been touched with a sense of its own condition, and somewhat aroused, may be saying, “I will be God’s enemy no longer; I will be His friend.” Bowing the knee, that heart cries, “Oh God, reconcile me unto Thyself by the death of Thy dear Son. I throw down all my weapons; I confess my guilt; I plead for mercy. For Jesus’ sake vouchsafe it to me.” “But,” says that soul, “if I am the friend of God, I must be the foe of Satan, and from this day I pledge myself to fight for ever with Satan till I get the victory, and am free from sin.” My dear friend, I want you to stop. I do not wish you to make peace with the evil one, but I want you to consider what you are at. There are a few things I would whisper in your ear, and one is, that sin is sweet. Remember, again, you may be enticed by friends who will be very pressing. You can give up sin just now, but you do not know who may be the tempter at some future time. If she should allure thee, who has tempted so well before! Then again, remember, man, there is habit. You say you will all of a sudden give up your sins and fight Satan. Do not tell me that; can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Again, you think you will give up sin, but ridicule is very unpleasant, and when the tinges comes to be pointed at you, and they say, “Ah, so you have set up for a saint, I see”; when they put it as they only can put it, in such a sharp, cutting, grating manner, can you stand that! And yet further, let me say to you, you that are for going to heaven so zealously--gain, gain is a very pretty thing, a very pleasant affair. Who does not like to make money? You know, if you can be religious and grow rich at the same time, that will just suit some of you. Think of this then, for the trial will come to you in the shape of yellow gold, and it will be hard to keep yourself from the glittering bait which the god of this world will lay before you. I am putting these things to you, so that you may calculate whether you can carry on the war against the devil with all these fearful odds against you. If I were a recruiting-serjeant I should not do this. He puts the shilling into the country lad’s hand, and the lad may say fifty things. “Oh, never mind,” says the gallant soldier, “you know, it is all glory, nothing but glory. There, I will just tie these ribbons round your hat. There are some long strips of glory to begin with, and then all your days it will be just glory, glory for ever; and you will die a general, and be buried at Westminster Abbey, and they will play the ‘Dead March in Saul,’ and all that kind of thing.” Now I cannot thus deceive or try to cheat men to enlist under the banner of the Cross. I do not desire to raise objections to it; all I want of you is to count the cost, lest you should be like unto him who began to build without being able to finish. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Christian war
The doctrine here is, that a sinner who designs to close with Christ, and become His disciple, should first consult matters well, and then take courage and not fear any enemy, but resolutely pursue his great and good design.
I. SHOW PARTICULARLY WHAT A POOR SINNER, WHO DESIGNS TO ENTER UPON THIS WAR, SHOULD CONSULT.
1. He should consult the charge of this war. He who spares one beloved lust will be worsted and lose the field.
2. He should consult what great hardship he must undergo.
3. He should consult the cause and absolute necessity of the war.
4. He should consult the length or duration of the war.
5. He must consider at whose charge the war is to be carried on and maintained. Christ’s riches and treasures are infinite and inexhaustible.
6. He should carefully consider the manner and time when he must enlist, and what armour he must wear (Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 6:14-17).
7. He must consider the strength, policy, wrath, and cruelty of Satan and other enemies.
8. He must be sensible of his own weakness, and never engage in his own name or strength.
9. He must consider the power and irresistible strength of his Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ.
10. He must consider the covenant of peace, the oath and promises of God the Father to Christ as Mediator, and in Him to all believers; also, how in that covenant all the elect are put into Christ’s hand, not only to redeem them, to renew them, but also to aid, help, and assist, and to fight for them; yea, and to strengthen and support them.
11. He must consider the relation in which they stand to their Captain. He has espoused and married them for ever.
12. They should also know that all their enemies are already conquered.
13. They should consider the honour of God, and the honour, exaltation, and glory of their Captain, and prefer that above their lives. While we seek His glory, He will seek our good.
14. They should consider the nature of the crown for which they fight.
II. SHOW WHY SINNERS SHOULD SIT DOWN AND CONSIDER THESE THINGS BEFORE THEY ENTER INTO THESE WARS.
1. Because man is naturally self-confident, and thinks he can do wonderful things by his own strength; but did he know how weak be is, and how deceitful his heart is, and all the powers of his soul, he would not pride it so in himself, nor ever venture to go forth in his own strength against one who is so much stronger than he.
2. Because all who ever engaged these enemies, not considering their own weakness, but went out in their own strength, were put to flight and utterly beaten.
3. Because our Lord would have none of His soldiers be surprised, either by the power, wrath, malice, or subtlety of the enemy.
4. That we may be better prepared for the worst. Forewarned, forearmed.
1. This informs us that the work of a Christian is no easy, but a very hard and difficult, work.
2. It may inform us what the reason is that so many professors, who seemed zealous in times of peace and liberty, have deserted in an hour of trial and persecution. They did not sit down and consider the strength of their enemies.
3. It may be of use to all poor convinced sinners that purpose to follow Jesus Christ, first of all to ponder and well weigh the nature, troubles, and difficulties of a Christian life.
4. It also may tend to convince us of the great strength and power of Satan and other enemies of our souls, and the need we have to be well armed and to stand always upon our watch and never give way to self-confidence.
5. It shows also the woeful condition of unbelievers, who have not the power of Christ to help and assist them. (B. Keach.)
Unequal to the war
Louis XII., King of France, sent an army into Italy to take the kingdom of Naples, which had been given to Louis XI. by King Rene of Provence. When Alfonso, King of Naples, heard that Louis and other enemies were coming against him, he looked round for help, and actually begged the Sultan of Turkey to aid him. Not getting assistance in this quarter, and having no army fit to oppose that of Louis, he made peace with him, gave up Naples, accepted the Duchy of Anjou, and went to live there.
First weigh, then venture
Count Von Moltke, the great German strategist and general, chose for his motto, “Erst wagen, dann wagon” (First weigh, then venture), and it is to this he owes his great victories and successes. Slow, cautious, careful in planning, but bold, daring, even seemingly reckless in execution, the moment his resolve is made. Vows must ripen into deeds, decision must go on to performance. (H. O.Mackay.)
He cannot be My disciple
Christ requires supreme regard
THE POSSESSIONS WHICH JESUS CHRIST REQUIRES US TO FORSAKE IN ORDER TO OUR BECOMING HIS DISCIPLES. In our text Jesus Christ authoritatively asserts the absolute right and the first claim to all that we have and to all that we are. Ourselves and our possessions are to be His. We are to consider ourselves not as proprietors, but only as stewards.
1. Christ requires us to forsake the world and the things of the world.
2. Christ requires us to exercise self-denial, and to bear the cross daily.
3. Jesus Christ requires us to forsake our own relatives, whenever they would hinder us from following Him.
4. Jesus Christ requires you to forsake even life itself rather than renounce Him and His cause.
II. THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF OUR BEING HIS DISCIPLES IF WE REFUSE TO COMPLY WITH HIS REQUIREMENT. “He cannot be My disciple.” The solemn and authoritative manner in which this decision is pronounced ought very deeply to affect our hearts. Christ, you perceive, does not say that such a man is an inconsistent disciple, or an ungrateful disciple, or a half-hearted disciple; but He says that he is not a disciple at all; nay, says He, “he cannot be My disciple.” He may profess to be a disciple, and he may be acknowledged as a disciple by others, but he is not one: and though men and angels should declare, “Behold a disciple indeed!” Christ would reply, “I know him not!” And this decision, be it remembered, my brethren, is not mine, but Christ’s.
III. THE MEANS AND THE MOTIVES WHICH JESUS CHRIST AFFORDS TO INDUCE AND TO ENABLE US TO COMPLY WITH HIS REQUIREMENT. And here I intend to show that we ought to forsake all for Christ, because it is the most reasonable and advantageous duty that we can discharge.
1. We should forsake all that we have for Christ, because He commands us to do so.
2. We should forsake all that we have for Christ, because He hath loved us and given Himself for us.
3. We should forsake all that we have for Christ, because He has promised to enable us to do so if we ask Him.
4. We should forsake all for Christ, because He can give us infinitely more than we can relinquish for His sake. (J. Alexander.)
An Indian’s all
An Indian, on being asked how it was that he came into the kingdom of Christ so easily, at once replied, “We are commanded to forsake all. The white man have to give up his house; but I have no house. The white man have to give up his riches; but I have no riches. The white man have to give up his farm; but I have no farm. Indian have nothing to give up but his blanket, and I throw off my blanket very easily.”
Yielding all to Christ
In America a farmer felt convinced that he was not living to Christ as he ought, with that warm-hearted earnestness which characterises those who are born again. He was a large farmer, and had a great number of stacks in his yard. He went into the centre one day, and threw himself on his face, and said he would have it out with God. He prayed to Jesus Christ, and found forgiveness through His righteousness. He got up to tell his wife and children. It was Pentecost-like. Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The farmer believed it, and went home, but he had not reached the fence ere he was arrested by a voice which said there was something more. He stopped, and cried out, “O Lord, what more? is there anything more, and I will give it Thee?” He went back to the spot where he was bound to Christ, and reiterated again, “What more, O Lord; is there any more I can do?” And something told him that he had not given up the stackyard to the Lord. He burst out, “Lord, I yield; take the stack-yard--take the horses--take the farm!” He returned to his wife and children. But there was something else; he had a large balance at the bank. He had been a prosperous man, and was counting on the better time when he could hold a palatial residence for himself and family. That money was not given to the Lord; but he cried out, “Take it, Lord; I give it all up.” And instead of building a residence he built a chapel, and supported the ministers of God, and went to the camp meeting, and gave his stack-yard, farm-houses, his wife and children, into the hand of the Lord. He used the money in the bank judiciously, and it is a pleasure to him to lend waggons to his poorer neighbours, and plough their fields. (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)
Salt is good
Salt that is genuine, and salt that is saltless
Among the substances that enter into the composition of this globe of earth, salt is a very important one, being of essential use in the economy of the world, and eminently conducive to the preservation of human life.
It may be regarded as the grand conservative principle of nature, whose office is to keep this earth, the habitation of man, in a wholesome state, to check the progress of decay and corruption, and promote the health and wellbeing of the animal world. To fit it for these important purposes, the All-wise Creator, who communicates to every element its peculiar character, has given it the quality of being soluble in water, and has thus made it capable of diffusing itself over the whole globe, impregnating the various departments of nature, and penetrating the finest fibres of vegetable and animal substances--a hidden agent that, by means of the element that holds it in solution,conveys its salutary influence to every region of creation. Suspended in strong infusion in the ocean, it preserves its immense reservoirs from putrefaction, and makes them the means of conveying health to the shores they wash, and salubrity to the atmosphere that rises above them; while it further serves, by increasing the gravity of the waters, to aid in buoying up the tribes that inhabit and the ships that navigate them. It is largely deposited in the heart of the earth, in rocks and strata. It is also found to enter into the composition of plants, some of which yield it in large quantities, and even to form an ingredient in the bodies of animals. If this element were withdrawn, the great deep, we have reason to think, would become a putrid pool, the air would consequently be a pestilential vapour, and vegetable and animal life would quickly be extinct. Now our Lord here speaks of salt in a figurative sense, using it as an illustration to declare the excellence and usefulness of the Christian character, as exemplified in those who maintain it faithfully and consistently; and the loss of all excellence, the shipwreck of all valuable attainments and of all good hope, in those who forsake and abandon the principles and spirit with which they once started on the Christian race.
I. THE EXCELLENCE AND USEFULNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER The disciples of Christ are destined to the same office in the moral world that salt supplies in the natural--namely, to check the progress of corruption, and diffuse salubrity and health; and while they preserve their appropriate character, they fulfil this high destination. Sound in principle and exemplary in conduct themselves, they serve to arrest corruption in others; savouring the things of God, they communicate the same unction to others; active and beneficent, they extend a beneficial influence around them. The faithful followers of Christ are like “good salt,” in respect of those principles of truth which they embrace and maintain. For error corrupts the mind, and, insinuating itself through its faculties, “will eat as doth a canker,” and blend in all its communications; truth is the healing salt that arrests its progress and defeats the operation of the poison. Again, the true disciples are like good salt in respect of that temper of mind, and those good and gracious affections, which they cherish and manifest. For the truths of the gospel, when received in faith, fail not to renovate the heart and inspire it with corresponding dispositions: they necessarily awaken an unfeigned piety and holy reverence toward God, a simple, child-like dependence on Christ, a genuine benevolence toward men, a true humility, a spirit of sympathy with the afflicted, a desire to do good to all, a disposition to forgive injuries and to overcome evil with good. Now this temper of mind has a healing efficacy: like salt, it is diffusive, and tends to preserve the atmosphere of life from the putrid exhalations of selfishness, envy, and malevolence; it gives also a grateful relish and gracious aspect to society, fostering and maintaining in healthful exercise the substantial blessings of mutual esteem, friendship, and harmony. In a word, the true disciples are like good salt in respect of their whole conduct in life; which, while they act in character, cannot fail to have a beneficial influence, since it both presents a model to be copied, and suggests the motives and arguments that commend it. For their whole manner of life, if candidly interpreted, shows that they are governed by high and heavenly principles--that they are “not of the world, but of the Father.”
II. THE RUINED AND UNHAPPY CONDITION OF THOSE WHO ABANDON THAT CHARACTER. If he who bears the Christian name lose the distinctive qualities of his Christianity--if he relinquish those principles of truth which he has professed--if he forsake the Christian temper--if, forgetful of heavenly things, he immerse himself in the world and live for himself, for gain, for pleasure, and not for Christ--alas! “the glory is departed,” the usefulness of his character as a guide or example is at an end; he becomes, if not a betrayer, yet a deserter, worthless and contemptible, fit only to be “cast out, and trodden under foot.”
1. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians lose their relish for those Divine truths that peculiarly distinguish the gospel and make it what it is.
2. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians lose their relish for the duties of religion.
3. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians imbibe the love and become conformed to the spirit of the world.
4. The salt loses its savour when the professor of religion falls into open immorality. Finally, the salt has lost its savour when the soul learns to vindicate its errors and without shame to persist in them--when reproof is unwelcome, when expostulation is offensive, and the man is anxious rather to defend his character than amend his ways--when, deaf to admonition and rebuke, he wilfully yields himself to the snare of the devil, to be “led captive at his will.” How calamitous such termination of what was hopeful in its beginning! (H. Gray, D. D.)
Grace in crystals
It would take all time with an infringement upon eternity, for an angel of God to tell one-half the glories in salt-crystal. So with the grace of God; it is perfectly beautiful. Solomon discovered its anatomical qualities when he said, “It is marrow to the bones.” I am speaking now of a healthy religion--not of that morbid religion that sits for three hours on a gravestone reading Hervey’s “Meditations Among the Tombs.” I speak of the religion that Christ preached. I suppose when that religion has conquered the world that disclose will be banished. But the chief beauty of grace is in the soul. It takes that which was hard, and cold, and repulsive, and makes it all over again. It pours upon one’s nature what David calls “the beauty of holiness.” It extirpates everything that is hateful and unclean. It took John Bunyan the foul-mouthed, and made him John Bunyan the immortal dreamer. It took John Newton, the infidel sailor, and in the midst of the hurricane made him cry out: “My mother’s God, have mercy upon me!” It took John Summerfield from a life of sin, and by the hand of a Christian edged-tool maker, led him into the pulpit that burns still with the light of that Christian eloquence which charmed thousands to Jesus whom he once despised. Ah! you may search all the earth over for anything so beautiful or beautifying as the grace of God. Go all through the deep mine-passages of Wielitzka, and amid the underground kingdoms of salt in Hallstadt, and show me anything so exquisite, so transcendentally beautiful as this grace of God fashioned and hung in eternal crystals. Again, grace is like salt, in the fact that it is a necessity of life. Man and beast perish without salt. What are those paths across the Western prairies? Why, they were made there by deer and buffalo going to and coming away from the salt “licks.” Chemists and physicians, all the world over, tell us that salt is a necessity of life. And so with the grace of God: you must have it or die. I know, a great many people speak of it as a mere adornment, a sort of shoulder-strap adorning a soldier, or a light, frothing dessert brought in after the greatest part of the banquet of life is over. So far from that, I declare the grace of God to be the first and the last necessity. It is a positive necessity for the soul. You can tell very easily what the effect would be if a person refused to take salt into the body. The energies would fail, the lungs would struggle with the air, slow fevers would crawl through the brain, the heart would flutter, and the life would be gone. That process of death is going on in many a one because they take not the salt of Divine grace. Again, I remark, that grace is like salt in abundance. God has strewn salt in vast profusion all over the continents. Russia seems built on a salt cellar. There is one region of that country that turns out ninety thousand tons in a year. England and Russia and Italy have inexhaustible resources in this respect. Norway and Sweden, white with snow above, white with salt beneath. Austria yielding nine hundred thousand tons annually. Nearly all the nations rich in it--rock-salt, spring-salt, sea-salt. Christ, the Creator of the world, when He uttered our text, knew it would become more and more significant as the shafts were sunk, and the springs were bored, and the pumps were worked, and the crystals were gathered. So the grace of God is abundant. It is for all lands, for all ages, for all conditions. It seems to undergird everything. Pardon for the worst sin, comfort for the sharpest suffering, brightest light for the thickest darkness. Again, the grace of God is like salt in the way we come at it. The salt on the surface is almost always impure--that which incrusts the Rocky Mountains and the South American pampas and in India; but the miners go down through the shafts and through the dark labyrinths, and along by galleries of rock, and with torches and pickaxes find their way under the very foundations of the earth, to where the salt lies that makes up the nation’s wealth. To get to the best saline springs of the earth huge machinery goes down, boring depth below depth, depth below depth, until from under the very roots of the mountains the saline water supplies the aqueduct. This water is brought to the surface, and is exposed in tanks to the sun for evaporation, or it is put in boilers mightily heated, and the water evaporates, and the salt gathers at the bottom of the tank--the work is completed, and the fortune is made. So with the grace of God. It is to be profoundly sought after. With all the concentrated energies of the body, mind, and soul, we must dig for it. Superficial exploration will not turn it up. Then the work of evaporation begins; and as when the saline waters are exposed to the sun the vapours float away, leaving nothing but the pure white salt at the bottom of the tank, so, when the Christian’s soul is exposed to the Sun of Righteousness, the vapours of pride and selfishness and worldliness float off, and there is chiefly left beneath, pure, white holiness of heart. Then, as in the case of the salt, the furnace is added. Blazing troubles, stirred by smutted stokers of darkness, quicken the evaporation of worldliness and the crystallization of grace. Have you not been in enough trouble to have that work go on? But, I remark again, that the grace of God is like the salt in its preservative quality. You know that salt absorbs the moisture of articles of food, and infuses them with brine which preserves them for a long while. Salt is the great anti-putrefactive of the world. Experimenters, in preserving food, have tried sugar, and smoke, and air-tight jars, and everything else; but as long as the world stands, Christ’s words will be suggestive, and men will admit that, as a great preservative, “salt is good.” But for the grace of God the earth would have become a stale carcass long before this. That grace is the only preservative of laws, and constitution, and literatures. Just as soon as a government loses this salt of Divine grace it perishes. We want more of the salt of God’s grace in our homes, in our schools, in our colleges, in our social life, in our Christianity. And that which has it will live--that which has it not will die. I proclaim the tendency of everything earthly to putrefaction and death--the religion of Christ the only preservative. My subject is one of great congratulation to those who have within their souls this gospel antiseptic. This salt will preserve, them through the temptations and sorrows of life, and through the ages of eternity. (De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The salt that has lost its savour
He that is ungodly would be ungodly still. And why? Because the salt has lost its savour. The mischief is not without--it is within. The wretched houses, the rent-books, the pawnshops, are but symptoms--are but the efflorescence of a deep-seated disease--and if we are wise, we shall aim not at putting them to rights, except where grievous distress and impending ruin call for ready rescue; but we shall aim far deeper--we shall be ever musing on and seeking an answer to the question, “Wherewith shall it be seasoned?” And this is just the question which has been occupying so many Christian hearts, and employing so many Christian hands, now for some years in this our land. I called it the most fearful and difficult problem of our times; and every one who has fairly grappled with it will bear me in saying so. No special philanthropic agency will so much as touch the whole matter, however widely and efficiently supported. Each one of these, alone, is but opposing a feeble resistance for a time to the vast and gathering mass as it rolls and plunges downward. “Improve the dwellings of these poor people.” Yes; of all mere remedial measures, doubtless this is the most obvious and lies nearest the surface. But how slow the progress; how distant and almost hopeless the result. Then again: “Improve their Sundays.” By all means. The general observance of the Lord’s day in our land is perhaps the most powerful instrument and the surest pledge for future good, which we possess. But again, How? For here once more we are beset with difficulties. You will be easily able to apply remarks of the same character to those various other agencies which are at work for this most salutary and beneficent purpose. (Dean Alford.)
Christianity the salt of the earth
A wealthy, irreligious, shrewd business man in Illinois was approached by a member of the Church of Christ for a subscription towards building a meetinghouse. He cheerfully put down his name for two hundred dollars, and then remarked, “I give that as a good business investment. I would rather give two hundred dollars every year than not to have the gospel preached in this community.” “How is that?” he was asked. “You do not pay any heed to the gospel. Why are you interested in having it preached?” “Oh,” he replied, “I live here with my family, and my property is around here; without the influence of Christianity the condition of society would soon become such that neither property nor life would be safe. I would not be willing to live in any community where the gospel was not preached!” These views of a hardheaded man of the world are confirmed by all experience. Christianity is the salt of the earth. Only the utterly abandoned would be content to live where its influence had ceased to be felt.
Religion should be practical if it is to be influential
William Smith, a Primitive Methodist local preacher, had a business letter shown to him from a manufacturer of cloth. The concluding paragraph was a rather high-flown rhapsody about revivals, and some sermon that had been to him (as he said) “wines on the lees.” His pair of eyes keenly watched the reader of the letter, to whom he said, when the reading was concluded, “What do you think of that?” Answer: “I don’t think I should have written the last paragraph.” Response: “I should think not; I only wish the fellow would put his religion into his cloth instead of his invoices.”
I. LOOK AT WHAT IS HERE SO EXPRESSIVELY SYMBOLIZED. “Salt is good.” Salt is a necessary of life, and it is an essential element of true altar service. There was no real sacrifice without salt.
1. It is the symbol of the covenant of everlasting mercy, but of ever lasting mercy as the basis of a sinner’s new life. There is a purpose of grace. God wills not the death of sinners, but their re-union with Him as the God of life. That purpose does not change. God pursues it in spite of the infatuation, the wilfulness, the ingratitude of men; and “He will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “Salt is good.” It is the salt of the great sacrifice for sin. “It is the salt of the covenant of thy God.” He receives, and pardons, and renews, and cleanses all who believe on His Son Jesus Christ. No man can be saved but through the Divine mercy, and by an action of the Divine Spirit on mind and heart.
2. Salt symbolizes not only God’s covenant of mercy with man, but man’s covenant with God. Salt was a human offering on the altar, according to a Divine appointment. It meant, on the part of the offerer, the laying aside of enmity; it meant the submission of the offerer to the terms of the Merciful Sovereign; it meant the surrender of the will--of the life--to the Divine service. Salt symbolizes human consecration.
3. Salt is also the principle of counteractive grace. Antiseptic. The new principles of Divine life in the spirit arrest moral decay; work against the downward, earthly, immoral tendencies and temptations of the heart.
4. Salt symbolizes the preventive, corrective, life-nourishing power of the Christian society in the world.
5. Salt is also the principle of peace. “Peace with God” comes of salt within. With surrender to Him reconciliation is “effected; and there is now no condemnation, and no dread, and no discord--man and God live in harmony the perfectest.
II. THE SAVIOUR’S LESSON CONCERNING THE DETERIORATION OF THE SALT. Salt symbolizes God’s covenant of mercy in its unchangeableness; and there can be no deterioration of that; but there may be a careless feeling concerning its excellence, its necessity, and its grace. Salt symbolizes man’s covenant with God--the principle of entire self-surrender; it symbolizes the principle of counteractive grace both in the individual and the Church; and it is the principle of individual and social peace. Of these our Lord declares--
1. The possibility of deterioration. “If the salt have lost its savour.” Rock salt exposed to the atmosphere becomes utterly tasteless and insipid; it comes to lack all the essential characteristics of its own nature. Whatever the truth may be on the Divine side of the great fact of human redemption, on the human side we are obliged to admit the possibility of a fall from grace. It is involved in the very fact that it is a free human spirit which is being dealt with.
2. Christ marks here three things as characteristic of men in this state.
(1) They are useless for any good purpose whatever--useless in the Church, useless in the world. What shall be seasoned with such salt? It is useless to make anything grow. It is a heap and nothing more--neither man nor beast can ever be the better for its existence.
(2) Such characters are utterly contemptible. They are neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, which, if it does not grow itself, helps other things to grow.
(3) And last of all they are rejected with utter disdain. “It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” It must not be allowed even to occupy the place of the real thing. There can be no fellowship between life and death. (The Preacher’s Monthly.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent