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A man named Zaccheus.
Zaccheus the publican
I. THE GRACIOUS ENTRY.
II. A COMMENDABLE CURIOSITY.
1. This curiosity unusual.
(1) A rich man anxious to see Jesus.
(2) A rich man overcoming hindrance that he might gratify such curiosity.
(3) Are there any here anxious to see Jesus?
(4) Are you willing to seek Him now?
III. A WONDERFUL SURPRISE.
1. In the unexpected detection.
2. In the unexpected summons by name.
3. In the unexpected declaration of Jesus.
IV. AN UNUSUAL RESPONSE.
1. In its alacrity.
2. In its obedience.
3. In its sincerity.
(1) What an example to follow!
(2) What blessedness such obedience ever brings!
V. AN UNCALLED-FOR COMPLAINT.
1. In its spirit.
2. In its argument.
VI. A GENUINE PENITENT.
1. Shown in his implied confession.
2. In his sincere reformation.
3. In the fact of his salvation.
VII. THE MISSION AND PURPOSE OF CHRIST. Practical questions:
1. Have you ever desired to see Jesus?
2. Have you ever truly sought to find Jesus?
3. Have you ever believed on Jesus?
4. If not, will you now? (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The Christian not of the crowd
Shall we have no interest in Him? Shall we not desire to see of Him all that we can? We cannot, indeed, with all our endeavours and reaching upward, see His countenance and person, as Zaccheus did, by mounting into a tree; but we may see much more than he did, who saw Him but in the flesh, not yet glorified. We may see Him in spirit, we may behold Him through faith, and in such glory as Zaccheus had not power to conceive. We may have in our hearts the tokens of His presence, and we may receive from Him the earnest of that glory with which He will clothe His people, that they may be like unto Him. But then, again, after they have begun to entertain something like a wish and desire, do not many desist, from the fear of being thought singular, from the dread of appearing unlike other people! They dare not make themselves so conspicuous. And yet what rules of modesty will not people break, what public notice will they not brave, when some attractive spectacle of this world’s pomp and splendour is to be seen I Then the man of gravity, then the female of delicacy, are seen to make no scruples of mounting up above the heads of the crowd into the most preposterous and ludicrous positions. (R. WEvans, B. D.)
The conversion of Zaccheus
I. HOW DID ZACCHEUS HAPPEN TO BE CONVERTED? He wanted to see Jesus, what sort of a man (τίς ἐστιν) He was--a low motive, but it was the salvation of Zaccheus. It is surprising that he should never have seen or heard Jesus, when Jericho was so near Jerusalem, and Jesus was so famous a prophet. The ignorance of intelligent men concerning religion is astonishing. We should encourage people to go to see who Jesus is, pray that they may go, from curiosity if from no higher motive. Taking Zaccheus’s standpoint, the awakening of his curiosity probably explains how he happened to be converted. From Christ’s standpoint we get a different view. He had Zaccheus in mind, so it appeared. When He came to the tree and called his name and bade him come down, He said, “To-day I must abide at thy house.” “I must.” This was among the events in the fixed, predetermined order of those last solemn days. “To-day” the seeking sinner and the seeking Saviour were to meet. “We see from the story,” says Dr. Brown, “that we may look for unexpected con versions.”
II. WHAT CONVERTED ZACCHEUS? Suppose he had been asked the question that evening. He would have given different answers. He would have spoken of the influence of Bartimeus, or of Matthew. Again, he would speak of the call of Jesus, the brief, thrilling words, beginning with his own name. Or, in another mood, he would say, “It was because I heeded, first the voice within, and then that voice Divine. I converted myself. I listened. I came down. I received Him. How fortunate that I took that resolution!” At another time he would emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit. “I never should have taken the first step, the thought of it would never have lodged in my mind, without some power from without moving me. It was not like me. It was contrary to the whole course of my life. It must have been the work of the Holy Ghost.” So it is in the case of every convert. Each answer would contain a phase of the truth.
III. WHEN WAS ZACCHEUS CONVERTED? “Somewhere between the limb and the ground”--Moody. The prodigal was converted when he said, “I will arise,” Zaccheus when he said, “I will go down.” There is no interval between surrender and conversion. If Zaccheus had died as he moved to descend, he would have been saved. God does not delay us. He gives when we take.
IV. WHAT WERE THE EVIDENCES OF THE CONVERSION OF ZACCHEUS?
1. He received Christ. Notice that it was Zaccheus who received Christ. We must receive Him before He can receive us (John 1:12).
2. Joyfulness. He received Him joyfully.
3. Zaccheus “stood.” He made, that is, an open confession. It was harder to do this than to climb the tree. This, every true convert will do Romans 10:6-10).
4. Confession and reformation. (G. R. Leavitt.)
The seeker sought
I. THE CHARACTER OF ZACCHEUS. A Hebrew name with a Greek termination, signifying “pure.” A man may have a noble ancestry and an ignoble calling--a good name and a bad reputation. There is an important difference between a man’s reputation and a man’s character. Reputation is what men say about us, character is what a man is.
1. We may learn from this verse something about Zaccheus’s social standing. “He was the chief among the publicans.” Some men are exposed to special temptations from the positions they hold. A dishonest calling blunts our finest sensibilities, hardens our heart, and degrades our whole nature.
2. We may learn from this verse something about Zaccheus’s secular position. “And he was rich.”
II. THE CURIOSITY OF ZACCHEUS. Curiosity, which is commonly regarded as a dangerous disposition, is natural to man, and may be serviceable in the most sacred pursuits. It excites inquiry, it stimulates research, and it leads to the solution of many of the dark problems of life.
1. In this case curiosity awakened an earnest desire to see Jesus.
2. In this case curiosity overcame the difficulties that were in the way of seeing Jesus.
III. THE CALLING OF ZACCHEUS.
1. This was a personal call. Christ not only knew his name, but his nature. He knew the place he occupied, and the thoughts he cherished.
2. This was an urgent call. “Zaccheus, make haste, and come down.” The coming of Christ is unexpected, and His stay brief. He is passing to-day, and may have passed to-morrow. What we have to do must be done quickly.
3. This was an effectual call. “And he made haste, and came down.” What a mighty energy there is in the word of Christ! At His word the blind received their sight, and the dead started to life again.
IV. THE CONVERSION OF ZACCHEUS. “This day is salvation come to thy house.” Personal contact with Christ ensures special blessing from Christ.
When Christ is present with us, there will be light in the eye, music in the voice, and gladness in the heart.
1. This was a present salvation.
(1) What a marvellous change was wrought in his character! The dishonest man became honest, the selfish man became generous, and the sinful man became righteous.
(2) What a glorious change was wrought in his service! Instead of living for self, he began to live for the Saviour; instead of seeking the things of time, he began to seek the things of eternity.
2. This was a practical salvation. “And Zaccheus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.” This is a splendid liberality. He does not give a tenth, not a fifth, but the half. He does not say I will leave at my decease, but I give during my lifetime. When Christ comes to abide in a rich man’s house, he will open his heart to give to the poor. (J. T. Woodhouse, M. A.)
The character of Zaccheus
I. THE MAN.
1. His nationality. A Jew.
2. His official position. Chief among the publicans.
3. His financial condition. Rich. As is too often the case, Zaccheus, perhaps, owed his official position more to his purse than his purity--more to what he had than to what he was. From the view I get of Zaccheus, I am not surprised that “he was rich.” Those who compass chieftancy and riches are the men who know how to step out of the beaten track, and without regard to sneers or criticism, can “run” and “climb,” in order to accomplish their object.
He possessed certain traits of character which are the secret of success in every department of human endeavour.
1. He was self-reliant. He did not passively rely upon others for his inspiration and resolves. He was a man of originality of thought and purpose--a sort of genius in method and movement.
2. He was prompt and persevering. Zaccheus knew how to handle an opportunity. An old Latin maxim says: “Opportunity has hair in front, but behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her but if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her.” By the style of the man, and the fact that his ancestry is not mentioned, I am inclined to think that Zaccheus began life a poor boy. The majority of those who have risen to riches and honour, have come up through the rough regions of toil and poverty, and were not ashamed afterwards to work with their own hands, though possessed of thousands of this world’s goods.
3. His purpose. “To see Jesus, who He was.” Why so anxious to “see”? why not be content with hearing? There were thousands who had seen Him and formed their opinions as to “who He was,” and were not backward in telling them. The Pharisee would have told him: “He is a devil”; the scribe, “a fanatic”; the priest, “a blasphemer”; the Rabbi, “a heretic”; the poor, “a prophet”; the many, “an impostor”; the few, a “God.” Zaccheus could not afford, therefore, to trust to hearsay; and so, like a wise man, he made up his mind to see for himself. He was a good judge of human nature, and could form a pretty correct opinion of a man, by getting a good square look at him. The noblest purpose that can actuate the human heart is expressed in these three little words: “To see Jesus.”
4. His failure. “Could not for the press, because he was little.” Here is a man earnestly trying “to see Jesus,” who is opposed and defeated by obstacles he had no hand in producing, and over which he had no control.
(1) “The press,” and
(2) “Little of stature.” He had no hand in producing either of these, and yet they defeated him. But, was that fair? Has Zaccheus had a fair chance? Whether fair or not, he has had all the chance he will have, unless he makes another.
5. His determination. “He ran before and climbed into a sycamore.” Here we get an idea of the force and fibre of the man. He did not waste his precious time in upbraiding himself for being “little,” or finding fault with his surroundings. He simply started off in search of a better vantage ground. No time is more unprofitably spent than that which is used in finding fault with our instruments and surroundings. Zaccheus never would have been “chief among the publicans, and rich,” if he had not learned to make a virtue out of necessity, and turn even failure into a pedestal from which to reach a grander success. When a man’s conscious littleness compels him to “run” and “climb,” he will master his obstacles and get a better knowledge of things than the men who think they can see all there is to be seen without climbing. In a world like this, where we are all “little” in so many places, no man will reach the highest success unless he feels his littleness and knows how to “climb.” Learn from this narrative that all barriers give way before the man who has made up his mind to see Jesus Christ. (T. Kelly.)
The conversion of Zaccheus
Zaccheus was undoubtedly, up to this time, a worldly, grasping, wicked man; who, though a Hebrew by birth and education, had so far forgotten God, and allowed the love of money to master him, that in his business relations he did not always observe the laws of equity or the principles of righteousness. The impression I get of him from the narrative is, that he was a sharp, shrewd, business man; a man whose judgment in business matters was unusually good, and who, if he did any business at all, would be sure to make money. The love of money, and the conscious power to make it, cannot exist in the same person without great possibilities of evil. Ambition. Rivalry. But though Zaccheus was a grasping, selfish man, yet I am profoundly impressed with his independent spirit and individuality of character. He is a striking illustration of the fact that neither riches nor worldly position can satisfy the cravings of the human soul; and that a ready response is accorded to gospel overtures, sometimes where we least expect it. A mere surface reading of the narrative can give us no adequate idea of the force of character it required to face the tremendous discouragements which Zaccheus had to meet in becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. I notice just two of these:--
1. He had no character to begin with. His whole environment tended to keep him as he was. The very social atmosphere in which he lived tended to blight every aspiration and hope of becoming a better man. However badly he might act, he had nothing to lose, for he was already an outcast from society. Another serious and humiliating fact which Zaccheus had to face was--
2. His dishonest business transactions. “If I have taken anything of any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” That kind of restitution would soon seriously impoverish the bank accounts of some people. It would compel many of our mushroom aristocracy and sky-rocket millionaires to go to the almshouse, or turn their hands to honest labour, and “earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.” Zaccheus does not use the words, “If I have taken anything,” as though he were in doubt, and wished to leave a similar doubt on the mind of others. His guilt is clearly implied in his own words. And no person who did not carry the making of a noble Christian character would have made such a declaration would have deliberately entered upon a course of life which, at the very outset, involved the unearthing of a life of fraud and dishonesty, which no doubt no person could have proven, and perhaps of which nobody had the slightest suspicion. Now let us turn to the incident of this memorable day. Notice here--
I. HOW PUSH AND PERSEVERANCE TURN DEFEAT INTO VICTORY. A few moments ago he was completely defeated--“could not see Jesus” for the “press.” Now he has a better view of Him than any man in the crowd. So the earnest seeker will always find that the very “press” of isms and sects and critics that surround the Saviour, and which compel him to “run and climb,” to think and act for himself, will be the means of securing for him a clearer and more satisfactory view of Jesus Christ than he could have possibly obtained on the ordinary highway of common effort.
1. Observe the movements of Jesus.
(1) “He came to the place,”--He always does. No man ever yet started out with the full purpose to see Jesus Christ and frilled.
(2) His method. He “looked.”
2. Notice the order and significance of the descriptive words in this verse: “When Jesus came to the place, He looked … and saw … and said.” That is the order of description needed, but, alas, sadly lacking in our churches. We have too many who can look without seeing; they possess so little of the Master’s spirit that they can pass along the highways of life, and through orchards of sycamores, and never set eyes on a sinner anxious “to see Jesus.”
II. THAT PROMPT, UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE ALWAYS SECURES THE DIVINE APPROVAL AND BLESSING.
1. The Saviour’s command. “Zaccheus, come down.” This command was both startling and unexpected. Zaccheus had no thought of being addressed personally by the Saviour, or of being called upon to come down in the presence of the crowd. In coming in vital contact with Jesus Christ, the seeker always finds new, unexpected things happening; and, like Naaman, is soon made to see that God’s way is not man’s.
2. The Saviour’s perfect knowledge of the seeker. “Zaccheus, come down.” There is something unutterably precious in the fact that God is intimately acquainted with all our names. No person can assume any attitude of service, or self-sacrifice, or supplication before God, without having his very name associated with the act. “Zaccheus, come down.” Implying that his character and wants were as well known as his name.
3. The prompt obedience of Zaccheus. The conversion of Zaccheus reached not only his head and his pocket, but it also reached his conscience. No conversion, however loudly proclaimed, will be of any lasting value unless it includes and practically displays a New Testament conscience. (T. Kelly.)
Zaccheus a type of the Christ-seeker
I. HOW TO SEEK CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED BY ZACCHEUS.
1. We must go in the way along which He appoints us to go.
(1) Christ’s way is that of the sanctuary.
(2) Christ’s way is that of the Holy Scriptures.
(3) Christ’s way is that of the closet.
2. We must go with earnest resolution. Be not deterred by station, connections, business occupation, or fear of abuse or ridicule.
3. We must go in time. There comes a last opportunity to each. It may be to-day.
II. WHAT COMES OF SUCH SEEKING OF CHRIST?
1. Christ stops in His course to take note of the seeker.
2. He comes to such homes and blesses them. Where Jesus enters, salvation goes.
3. He makes the seeker’s heart just and tender.
4. He defends us against persecution.
1. Have you ever thus sought Christ?
2. What effect has your Christian profession had on your life? (P. C.Croll.)
Lessons from this passage
From an attentive consideration of the distinct parts of this passage of St. Luke’s Gospel, we may derive many useful truths and salutary reflections.
1. First, let us, like Zaccheus, have a view to the improvement of our minds in piety and virtue, even in the gratification of curiosity. Instead of flocking, with childish folly, to such trifling amusements as are unworthy of a rational being, we should endeavour to combine pleasure with instruction, and the employment of time with advantage. While thousands would have crowded with joy to see a pageant, a triumph, or the barbarous spectacle of Roman games, “Zaccheus ran and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see our Lord pass by”; and when He honoured him so far as to take up His abode with him for that day, he not only received Him joyfully, but, without doubt, listened to His conversation with reverence, and heard the glorious truths which His lips revealed with adoration and praise. “This day is salvation come to this house.”
2. The hospitality of Zaccheus, and his great satisfaction on this occasion, may direct us also in the choice and entertainment of our friends. The common intercourses of the world are too often nothing but associations of pleasure or confederacies of vice.
3. We may further learn from our blessed Lord’s conduct towards Zaccheus, to banish from our minds those uncharitable prejudices which so strongly marked the character of the Jews. (J. Hewlett, B. D.)
1. Let the desire of all of you, in coming up to the house of God, be, like that of Zaccheus, to see Jesus. You may see Him, and should earnestly desire to see Him, by knowledge and faith, in the glories of His person, character, and redemption. If you obtain a sight of Him, and come to know who He is, in this way, you will be like Abraham, who “rejoiced,” or “greatly desired,” to see His day, and saw it, and was glad; and the words will then be applicable to you, in their best sense, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see.”
2. See that those of you who profess to be Christians give the same evidences of conversion as Zaccheus. Remember that repentance is to be judged of, not so much by its terror at the time, as by its permanent effects on the heart and life. You must, like Zaccheus, “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” (James Foote, M. A.)
He sought to see Jesus
The experience of Zaccheus, in his efforts “to see Jesus,” is a striking illustration of a universal fact in human history. Men are constantly opposed and thwarted, in their efforts to do right, by obstacles and enemies which they never produced. Satan, for instance, is the persistent opposer of all who seek “to see Jesus Christ.” But man had no hand in producing Satan; he was here before man came, and, for aught I know, here because he saw man coming. You may start out to see Huxley, or Tyndall, or any of the great philosophers or scientists, and Satan will pay no attention to you; but if you start out “to see Jesus Christ” he will instantly summon his resources, and form a “press” against you. How persistently he follows the young Christian with the fascinations of the world on the one hand, and the “press” of discouragements on the other. Then the laws of heredity come in and raise up obstacles, the full power of which our limited knowledge does not enable us to compute. We all take on hereditary damage, of one kind or another, from our ancestry. This, of course, is soon rendered vastly more serious by our own moral behaviour, and the result is a dwarfed, squattish spiritual stature. So that the ordinary “press” of the world’s cares and attractions is quite sufficient to shut us out from God and a saving view of Jesus Christ. So Zaccheus found himself defeated. “Could not.” Mark the descriptive words here: “Chief,” “Rich,” “Could not.” Then chieftancy and riches cannot do everything for a man. Official position and wealth go only a little way in removing the distressing and annoying phases of life. Human power, however commanding and extensive, soon reaches the solid masonry of the impossible, upon which the only thing it can scribble is the little words, “Could not.” Let us add another descriptive word, and we shall see how it was that Zaccheus failed. “He was little.” The words “little” and “could not” are closely related in human affairs. Every man is “little “ somewhere--“little” in spots. No man is fully hemisphered on both sides of his nature. (T. Kelly.)
Making an effort to see Jesus
The ants are a little people, but they are exceeding wise. People that want size must make up for it by sagacity. A short man up in a tree is really taller than the tallest man who only stands on the ground. Happily for little men, the giants have seldom any great wit. Bigness is not greatness; and yet smallness is in itself no blessing, though it may be the occasion of a man’s winning one. It is not pleasant to see every one about you a bigger person than yourself. And this is a sight many do see who are not dwarfs in stature. But Zaccheus was a dwarf in stature; and, notwithstanding, had become a man of consideration. But they called him “Zacchy,” or even “little Zacchy” sometimes no doubt; and, rich as he was, and firm hold as he had on many people, he was far from happy. Though small, he was strong; but then, though strong, he was sour. He despised the religious people, and yet did not like to be despised by them. Many men knew he was cleverer than they, but they never forgot he was shorter! This man could not come at Jesus for the press. Though not a blind man, he had his difficulties in seeing. But he would very much like to see Jesus, what kind of man He was. People pointed him out, and said, “That’s Zaccheus; isn’t he a little fellow?” The short man felt a curiosity as to the personal appearance of the famous Prophet. We may be sure Zaccheus had heard good things of Jesus Christ. And he was soon to hear good words from Him, words more healing, more fragrant, than the Jericho balsams. Zaccheus had gone on before. You must get at your tree before you can climb it! He makes haste, runs, climbs, for he is very eager in this business; and he not only sees Jesus, but, what is much better, is seen by Him. If a man looks for God, God knows that he is looking. He that seeks is sought. Take trouble to win a blessing harder for you to get than for others, and you shall have one bestowed on you better than you sought for. (T. T. Lynch.)
We have all read and heard of the “pursuit of knowledge under difficulties,” and of the remarkable way in which these have often been overcome. The shepherd, with no apparatus save his thread and beads, has lain on his back on the starry night, mapped the heavens, and unconsciously become a distinguished astronomer. The peasant boy, with no tools save his rude knife, and a visit now and then to a neighbouring town, has begun his scientific education by producing a watch that could mark the time. The blind man, trampling upon impossibilities, has explored the economy of the beehive, and, more wondrous still, lectured on the laws of light. The timid stammerer, with pebbles in his mouth, and the roar of the sea-surge in his ear, has attained the correctest elocution, and swayed as one man the changeful tides of the mighty masses of the Athenian democracy. All these were expedients to master difficulties. And now notice the expedient which Zaccheus adopts to overcome his difficulties. Yonder, in the way where Jesus is to pass, is a sycamore-tree. It stands by the wayside. Its roots are thick and numerous, its girth is ample, its wide-spread arms may be called gigantic, its leaf resembles the mulberry, its fruit is like that of the fig--indeed it is a member of the fig family. An itinerant preacher in the backwoods once puzzled himself and his hearers with an elaborate criticism about this tree. He and his audience were familiar only with the sycamore of their fiat river bottoms, which are tall as a steeple, and smooth as hypocrisy. “Why,” said the orator, “a squirrel can’t climb them,” and the conclusion reached was that the sycamore must have been a mulberry tree. But Dr. Thomson, who retails this anecdote, assures us that the sycamore is every way adapted to the purposes for which Zaccheus used it, for he saw one in which were a score of boys and girls, who could easily look down aport any crowd passing beneath. Zaccheus fixes his eye upon the sycamore in the distance. If he were upon one of its branches his object would be gained; but then he is not a boy. Besides, he is a rich man, and the chief amongst the publicans, and what will the people say if he climbs it to see Jesus of Nazareth? Yea, what will the boys say and do, who are perhaps on the tree already? There is a struggle going on within his bosom, but there is not a single moment to lose, for Jesus is coming. Regardless of what others may say, he beeches like a boy again; he runs to the tree and climbs it. (Dr. McAuslane.)
Zaccheus, make haste and come down
Our Saviour’s visit to Zaccheus
Our Saviour for the first time invited Himself to a man’s house. Thus He proved the freeness and authority of His grace. “I am found of them that sought Me not” (Isaiah 65:1.) We ought rather to invite Him to our houses. We should at least cheerfully accept His offer to come to us. Perhaps at this hour He presses Himself upon us. Yet we may feel ourselves quite as unlikely to entertain our Lord as Zaccheus seemed to be. He was a man--
1. In a despised calling--a publican, or tax-collector.
2. In bad odour with respectable folk.
3. Rich, with the suspicion of getting his wealth wrongly.
4. Eccentric, for else he had hardly climbed a tree.
5. Excommunicated because of his becoming a Roman tax- gatherer.
6. Not at all the choice of society in any respect.
To such a man Jesus came; and He may come to us even if we are similarly tabooed by our neighbours, and are therefore disposed to fear that He will pass us by.
I. LET US CONSIDER THE NECESSITY WHICH PRESSED UPON THE SAVIOUR TO ABIDE IN THE HOUSE OF ZACCHEUS. He felt an urgent need of--
1. A sinner who needed and would accept His mercy.
2. A person who would illustrate the sovereignty of His choice.
3. A character whose renewal would magnify His grace.
4. A host who would entertain Him with hearty hospitality.
5. A case which would advertise His gospel (Luke 19:9; Luke 10:1-42).
II. LET US INQUIRE WHETHER SUCH A NECESSITY EXISTS IN REFERENCE TO OURSELVES. We can ascertain this by answering the following questions, which are suggested by the behaviour of Zaccheus to our Lord:--
1. Will we receive Him this day? “He made haste.”
2. Will we receive Him heartily? “Received Him joyfully.”
3. Will we receive Him whatever others say? “They all murmured.”
4. Will we receive Him as Lord? “He said, Behold, Lord.”
5. Will we receive Him so as to place our substance under the control of His laws? (Verse 8.) If these things be so, Jesus must abide with us. He cannot fail to come where He will have such a welcome.
III. LET US FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT NECESSITY INVOLVES. If the Lord Jesus comes to abide in our house--
1. We must be ready to face objections at home.
2. We must get rid of all in our house which would be objectionable to Him. Perhaps there is much there which He would never tolerate.
3. We must admit none who would grieve our heavenly Guest. His friendship must end our friendship with the world.
4. We must let Him rule the house and ourselves, without rival or reserve, henceforth and for ever.
5. We must let Him use us and ours as instruments for the further spread of His kingdom. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God calls men dawn
I. NOTICE SOME OF THE HEIGHTS FROM WHICH GOD’S PEOPLE ARE FETCHED DOWN BY THAT GOSPEL.
1. High thoughts of self-importance (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
2. Natural efforts, or legal endeavours (Romans 10:3).
3. From the basis of false hopes (Job 8:13).
4. From carnal confidence (Jeremiah 2:37).
5. From vain apologies for sin.
II. THEIR SENSATIONS IN COMING DOWN.
1. In spiritual consideration (Psalms 119:59).
2. In deep anxiety for salvation (.Acts 16:30).
3. In despair of salvation but by God (Jeremiah 3:23).
4. In gracious resolutions (Luke 15:18).
5. To self-denying practices (Matthew 16:24).
6. To God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21).
III. SOME REMARKS ON THE DAY OF CONVERSION.
1. It is our new birth-day (Isaiah 43:1).
2. A day of despatch--Come down (Hebrews 3:15).
3. Of love and kindness (Ezekiel 16:6).
4. Of union between Christ and the soul (Hosea 2:20).
IV. REASONS WHY THE LORD CALLS US DOWN.
1. Because it is God’s design in the Gospel (Isaiah 2:11-17).
2. Because ascending too high is very dangerous.
3. That free grace may be exalted.
4. That we may meet with Christ (Isaiah 57:16).
1. How high and lofty man is in his natural state.
2. Hence God humbles him for his eternal good.
3. The nature of true faith is coming down.
4. Admire the riches of God’s grace towards us. (T. B. Baker.)
Christ’s words to Zaccheus
I shall give you a division which you will not be able to forget, or if you do forget it, you will have nothing to do but simply to turn to the Bible, and look at the text, and the punctuation will give you the heads.
I. Look, then, at the first word, “ZACCHEUS.” Christ addresses this man by name; He saw him before he went up into the sycamore, and he had not been long there when He called out to him, “Make haste and come down.” Oh! but some people say that ministers have no business to be so personal. Well, my friends, they are very unlike their Master, the great model Preacher, if they are not personal.
II. Take the next two words for our second head--“MAKE HASTE.” We are told in the sequel that Zaccheus did not halt between two opinions, but came down quickly and received Christ joyfully. If you, my unconverted hearer, will listen to me, what I wish to say to you is this--make haste and come to Jesus, for you will never find a more favourable opportunity than the present. Wait ten thousands, years, and your sins will not be fewer; God’s mercy will not be greater. The fool who, wishing to cross a river, lay down on its bank till the water would run past, is only a faint emblem of you, if you delay. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” That clock says “now”; this pulse says “now”; this heart says “now.” The glorified in heaven and the lost in hell, the one by their songs, the other by their wails, together cry, “Make haste.” But, once more, make haste, for your salvation may soon become extremely difficult. Sin is like a fire, it may soon be quenched if the cold water engines are brought to play upon it in time; but let it burn on a few hours, and perhaps a city is laid in ashes. Sin is like a river, the further from the fountain-head the greater the volume, the more rapid and irresistible the current. Sin is like a tree: look at your sapling, your infant’s arm may bend it: let a few years pass away, a few summers shine upon it, and a few winters blow upon it, and that tree will hurl defiance at the loudest storm. So with the sinner: he gets accustomed to all the appeals, and becomes gospel proof. Again, make hasten your salvation may become extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible. Man is a bundle of habit, and habit becomes second nature. You ask, “How long may a man live on in sin, and yet be saved?” I reply, Do not try the experiment--it is a very dangerous one. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Make haste, and learn that He has suffered for you what you deserved as a sinner, and obeyed for you what you owed as a creature. This may be your last opportunity.
III. Look, now, at the last three words, and you will find our third head: “AND COME DOWN.” Zaccheus was upon one of the many branches of the sycamore; and you, my unsaved friend, are upon one of the many branches of the great, mighty-spreading, world-embracing tree of human corruption, and I call upon you in the name of my Master to “come down.” Now, I wish to be charitable, but I do solemnly declare that I cannot find the branch of atheism, even on the tree of human corruption. At all events, if there be such a branch, I hesitate not to say it is the rottenest one on the whole tree. Come down from it! Then there are other branches: scepticism, drunkenness, pride, etc. (W. Anderson.)
1. Now, first, effectual calling is A VERY GRACIOUS TRUTH. You may guess this from the fact that Zaccheus was a character whom we should suppose the last to be saved. He belonged to a bad city--Jericho--a city which had been cursed, and no one would suspect that any one would come out of Jericho to be saved. Ah! my brethren, it matters not where you come from: you may come from one of the dirtiest streets, one of the worst back slums in London, but if effectual grace call you, it is an effectual call, which knoweth no distinction of place. But, my brethren, grace knows no distinction; it is no respecter of persons, but God calleth whom He wills, and He called this worst of publicans, in the worst of cities, from the worst of trades. Ah! many of you have climbed up the tree of your own good works, and perched yourselves in the branches of your holy actions, and are trusting in the free will of the poor creature, or resting in some worldly maxim; nevertheless, Christ looks up even to proud sinners, and calls them down.
2. Next it was a personal call.
3. It is a hastening call--“Zaccheus, make haste.” God’s grace always comes with despatch; and if thou art drawn by God, thou wilt run after God, and not be talking about delays.
4. Next, it is a humbling call. “Zaccheus, make haste and come down.” God always humbles a sinner. Oh, thou that dwellest with the eagle on the craggy rock, thou shalt come down from thy elevation; thou shalt fall by grace, or thou shalt fall with a vengeance, one day. He “hath cast down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.”
5. Next, it is an affectionate call. “To-day I must abide in thy house.”
6. Again, it was not only an affectionate call, but it was an abiding call. “To-day I must abide at thy house.” When Christ speaks, He does not say, “Make haste, Zaccheus, and come down, for I am just coming to look in”; but “I must abide in thy house; I am coming to sit down to eat and drink with thee; I am coming to have a meal with thee.”
7. It was also a necessary call. “I must abide.” It is necessary that the child of God should be saved. I don’t suppose it; I know it for a certainty. If God says “I must,” there is no standing against it. Let Him say “must,” and it must be.
8. And, now, lastly, this call was an effectual one, for we see the fruits it brought forth. Open was Zaccheus’s door; spread was his table; generous was his heart; washed were his hands; unburdened was his conscience; joyful was his soul. Sinner, we shall know whether God calls you by this: if He calls, it will be an effectual call--not a call which you hear, and then forget, but one which produces good works. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner
The sinner’s Saviour
The old contempt of the sinner’s Saviour lingers in the world still. In one way or other the charge is repeated, that Christianity is too lenient to the sinner, that it tends to discourage the naturally amiable and virtuous, and looks too favourably upon the vicious and disreputable, etc. How easily could we turn the tables upon these slanderers, for usually those who talk thus have but a scanty supply of morals and virtues themselves.
I. WE ADMIT THE TRUTH OF THE CHARGE. Jesus did go to be guest to a man that was a sinner, and did so not only once, but as often as He saw need. He went after the sheep which had gone astray, and He had a wonderful attraction for the disreputable classes.
1. The object of Christ, and the design of the gospel, is the saving of sinners.
2. Our Lord does actually call sinners into the fellowship of the gospel.
3. The man Christ Jesus does very readily come to be guest with a man who is a sinner, for He stands on no ceremony with sinners, but makes Himself at home with them at once.
4. Our Lord goes further, for He not only stands on no ceremony with sinners, but within a very little time He is using those very sinners who had been so unfit for any holy service--using them in His most hallowed work. Note how He makes Zaccheus to be His host.
5. Ay, and the Lord favoured Zaccheus, the sinner, by granting him that day full assurance of salvation.
II. WE DENY THE INSINUATION WHICH IS COVERTLY INTENDED BY THE CHARGE brought against our Lord. Jesus is the friend of sinners, but not the friend of sin.
1. Christ was guest with a man that was a sinner, but He never flattered a sinner yet.
2. Neither does the Lord Jesus screen sinners from that proper and wholesome rebuke which virtue must always give to vice.
3. Again, it is not true, as I have heard some say, that the gospel makes pardon seem such a very easy thing, and therefore sin is thought to be a small matter.
4. Nor, though Christ be the friend of sinners, is it true that He makes men think lightly of personal character.
5. It has been said that if we tell men that good works cannot save them, but that Jesus saves the guilty who believe in Him, we take away all motives for morality and holiness. We meet that again by a direct denial: it is not so, we supply the grandest motive possible, and only remove a vicious and feeble motive.
III. WE REJOICE IN THE VERY FACT WHICH HAS BEEN OBJECTED TO, that Jesus Christ comes to be guest with men who are sinners.
1. We rejoice in it, because it affords hope to ourselves.
2. We rejoice that it is true, because this affords us hope for all our fellowmen.
3. We rejoice that this is the fact, because when we are waiting for the Lord it cheers us up with the hope of fine recruits. I remember a sailor, who before conversion used to swear, and I warrant you he would rattle it out, volley after volley. He became converted, and when he prayed it was much in the same fashion. How he woke everybody up the first time he opened his mouth at the prayer-meeting! The conversion of a great sinner is the best medicine for a sick Church. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The half of my goods I give to the poor
Gifts to the poor
He gives half his goods to the poor. Was he under any obligation to do so? are we? Certainly not: nor to give half our time, or half our thought. But there have been men who have given the chief part of their time and thought to the poor: and as there are so many who give the poor none of their time, or thought, or money, is it not well that there should be a few otherwise minded? Is money more precious than time and thought that a man should not give that, if so inclined? Zaccheus was so inclined. And were a man in our day to spend half his fortune in promoting the comfort, education, health, virtue, and piety of the poor, would not his name be fragrant both in earth and heaven? But there are very many people who cannot give half their goods to the poor, for they have not as yet secured half enough for the wants of their own household. Let these, then, give time and thought. (T. T. Lynch.)
Doing good promptly
Zaccheus saith not, “I have given,” as an upbraider of God; or, “I will give,” as a delayer that means to give away his goods after his death, when he can keep them no longer; but he saith, “I give,” to signify that his will is his deed, and that he meaneth Dot to take any days of payment for the matter; for as before he ran apace to see Christ, and came down hastily to entertain Christ in his own person, so doth he here give quickly to relieve Christ in his needy members. This is Zaccheus’s last will and testament that he maketh before his death, and seeth the same proved and performed before his eyes. If, therefore, we desire to do any good to any of our poor brethren, let us learn of Zaccheus to do it quickly while we are alive, for time will prevent us, and death will prevent us. (H. Smith.)
I restore him fourfold
The duty of restitution
I. THE FOUNDATION OF THIS DUTY.
1. The nature of justice, which consists in rendering to every one what belongs to him.
2. Holy Scripture (Exodus 22:1-31.; Leviticus 6:1-30.; Numbers 5:1-31.).
3. Restitution is a duty so indispensable, that without it there is no salvation. Tell me, can we be in a slate of salvation, when we have no love to God, and no love to our neighbour? But the man who refuses to make restitution loves not God, for he despises His laws and tramples upon His authority; nor does he love his neighbour, for he voluntarily persists in wronging him, and withholding from him his rights.
II. WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF THIS DUTY?
1. We must examine with care whether we have ever wronged our neighbour, and in how many modes we have done it. Allege not for your excuse, example, custom, the necessity of acting like others. All this is of no avail now in the sight of the Omniscient--will be of no avail hereafter at the bar of God.
2. Restitution should be prompt. “I will, at some future time, make restitution.” But when? You as yet know not the time, and perhaps it may never arrive.
3. Restitution must be full and entire. Fearful lest he should not fully recompense them, his generous heart makes the resolution, and his piety is ready instantly to execute it.
In view of this subject I remark--
1. How small is the number of those who are saved! We know that thousands of frauds are daily committed, and yet how few acts of restitution do we witness!
2. What great discoveries shall be made at the day of judgment.
3. This subject teaches us the nature of true religion. It consists in benevolence to man as well as love to God, and assures us that without the former we can never exercise the latter.
4. This subject should lead us to avoid the very beginning of sin, and to pay the most scrupulous attention to the duties of truth and justice. Thus we shall be prevented from defrauding our fellow-men; thus, if necessity ever requires it, we shall be able easily to make full restitution.
5. Show by your conduct, ye who have in any degree defrauded your fellow-men, that you feel the force of conscience and the truth of God; imitate Zaccheus, and make restitution. (S. K. Kolloch, M. A.)
The duty which the Christian world needs to learn over again, just now, is the duty of malting restitution for wrong-doings. Shame is not enough; remorse is not enough; confession is not enough; there must also be restitution. It is a melancholy and mortifying fact, that we often meet with men of the world, making no claim to being religious, whose honour and integrity put to shame the hollow pretensions of nominal Christians. When the chief councillor of Sultan Selymus advised him to bestow the marvellous wealth which he had taken from the Persian merchants upon some charitable hospital, the dying Turk answered that God would never be pleased with such an offering, and commanded that the spoils should be restored to the owners.
I. Restitution should be PROMPT. Dr. Finney, in his interesting autobiography, tells of a young woman, the only child of a widow, who once came to him in great distress. She had stolen, whenever she could, various trinkets, etc., from her schoolmates, and desired his advice as to what she ought to do. He told her that she must make restitution, and also confess her sin to those whom she had wronged. This, of course, was a great trial, but her repentance was so sincere, that she began at once to follow his advice. As she went on with the mortifying task, she remembered more and more; some persons to whom she made restitution saying, “She must be crazy, or a fool,” while others were deeply touched. They all readily forgave her. The unhappy girl had stolen a shawl from Bishop Hobart’s daughter, and when her spiritual adviser insisted on its being returned, she folded it in a paper, rung the bell at the bishop’s door, and handed the parcel to the servant, without a word of explanation. Conscience whispered that she had not done her whole duty, and that somebody might be wrongfully suspected. She immediately went back to the house, and asked for the bishop. She was shown into his study, and told him all the truth. The good bishop, with all his impulsiveness and warmth of heart, wept aloud, and laying his hand on her head, prayed God to forgive her, as he did. Restitution was now made, and her peace was full and complete. The young woman became a devout Christian, adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour by a blameless, useful life, and, at a ripe old age, entered upon her everlasting inheritance.
II. Restitution should not only be prompt, BUT FULL AND ENTIRE. Halfway measures will serve no good purpose. It would be as well to keep back the whole of ill-gotten gains, as a part. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)
The nature of restitution
I. For the ACT. Restitution is nothing else but the making reparation or satisfaction to another for the injuries we have done him. It is to restore a man to the good condition from which, contrary to right and to our duty, we have removed him.
II. For the latitude and extent of the object, as I may call it, or THE MATTER ABOUT WHICH IT IS CONVERSANT. It extends to all kind of injuries, which may be reduced to these two heads; either we injure a person with or without his consent.
1. Some injuries are done to persons with their consent. Such are most of those injuries which are done to the souls of men, when we command, or counsel, or encourage them to sin, or draw them in by our example.
2. Injuries are done to persons without their consent. And these, though they are not always the greatest mischiefs, yet they are the greatest injuries. And these injuries are done either by fraud and cunning, or by violence and oppression: either by overreaching another man in wit, or overbearing him by power.
III. As to the manner HOW RESTITUTION IS TO BE MADE.
1. Thou art bound to do it voluntarily, and of thy own accord, though the person injured do not know who it was that did him the injury, though he do not seek reparation by law.
2. Thou must do it in kind, if the thing be capable of it, and the injured party demand it. Thou must restore the very thing which thou hadst deprived thy neighbour of, if it be such a thing as can be restored, and be still in thy power, unless he voluntarily accept of some other thing in exchange.
3. If thou canst not restore it in kind, thou art bound to restore it in value, in something that is as good. As for spiritual injuries done to the souls of men, we are bound to make such reparation and compensation as we can. Those whom we have drawn into sin, and engaged in wicked courses, by our influence and example, we are to endeavour by our instruction and counsel to reclaim them from those sins we led them into, and “to recover them out of the snare of the devil.”
IV. AS TO THE MEASURE AND PROPORTION OF THE RESTITUTION WE ARE TO MAKE. Zaccheus here offers fourfold, which was much beyond what any law required in like cases.
1. Where restitution can be made in kind, or the injury can be certainly valued, we are to restore the thing or the value.
2. We are bound to restore the thing with the natural increase of it; that is, to satisfy for the loss sustained in the meantime, and the gain hindered.
3. Where the thing cannot be restored, and the value of it is not certain, we are to give reasonable satisfaction, that is, according to a middle estimation; not the highest nor the lowest of things of the kind.
4. We are at least to give by way of restitution what the law would give, for that is generally equal, and in most cases rather favourable than rigorous.
5. A man is not only bound to restitution for the injury which he did, but for all that directly follows upon his injurious act, though it were beyond his intention. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
I shall speak to you at large concerning the necessity of restitution, and the obligations to it; because when this point is established, the performance of it speedily and completely will appear to be unquestionable parts of this duty. I say that we are obliged to restitution--first, as we are men, by the law of nature. It is an original law, graven on the hearts of all men, that every man ought to possess, and have the undisturbed use of his own proper goods. Now, can any acquisition, which was unjust in the moment wherein it was made, become just, and a man’s rightful property, in succeeding moments? Can it be lawful to keep what it was unlawful to take? Therefore restitution is the only method by which these disorders can be repaired; and it is indispensably necessary on natural principles. But his natural honesty was further instructed on this point by the revealed law. Considered as a Jew, he was under an additional obligation by the law of Moses. For the Levitical law regulated exactly the proportions in which restitution was to be made in different cases; as, “five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” To this argument may be added that which arises from the example of holy men under the Old Covenant, whose conscience would not suffer them to retain goods obtained unjustly, and who considered the law of restitution as sacred and inviolable. Among which examples, that of Samuel is remarkable, in the eleventh chapter of his first book: “And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I am old and grey-headed.” Zaccheus thought himself bound to restitution on a third principle--as a penitent, by the conditions of repentance. There is, in one respect, a remarkable difference betwixt robbery and most other sins. The crime of the latter may pass away, and be cancelled, upon our sincere repentance, and prayers for the Divine forgiveness; but the crime of the former continues as long as we retain the fruits of it in our hands. Does any man think of presenting his robberies to God and to His Church? Many persons, I fear (in former times particularly), have sought to make this impious exchange, pretending to give unto God what they had stolen from their neighbour. Besides this general engagement to make restitution, as a penitent, by the conditions of repentance, Zaccheus found himself under a fourth--and that a particular obligation, derived from the nature of his occupation, as a publican; that is, a collector of the tribute which the Jews paid to the Romans. Thus it is, that a reformed Christian, or one converted to Christianity, must begin the exercise of his religion. And it is in this fifth view that I consider Zaccheus making restitution; namely, as a proselyte, or convert to Jesus Christ. The Divine grace had now touched his heart, and inspired him with a resolution to break those bonds of iniquity in which he had been holden, and to qualify himself for that forgiveness which Christ offers to sinners only on this condition. Enough has been said, I trust, to show the necessity of restitution. A few words will be sufficient to show that it ought to be performed speedily and completely. I am willing (says one) to restore even at present; but I must be allowed to compound the matter: I cannot resign the whole, but I am ready to give up a part. This is the last mistake and fault which the example of Zaccheus condemns and corrects, when he declares, “I restore fourfold.” Now, this surplus, is it justice, or liberality? It partakes of both. For it is just to restore beyond the exact amount; because, besides the lawful interest of his money which our neighbour has been deprived of, every robbery occasions some inconvenience and detriment that cannot be completely repaired by a mere restitution of the things taken. It is better, therefore, to exceed than fall short. (S. Partridge, M. A.)
Restitution must be made
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been sent to Washington during the past few years as “conscience money.” I suppose that money was sent by men who wanted to be Christians, but found they could not until they made restitution. There is no need of our trying to come to Christ as long as we keep fraudulently a dollar or a farthing in our possession that belongs to another. Suppose you have not money enough to pay your debts, and, for the sake of defrauding your creditors, you put your property in your wife’s name. You might cry until the day of judgment for pardon, but you would not get it without first making restitution. In times of prosperity it is right, against a rainy day, to assign property to your wife; but if, in time of perplexity, and for the sake of defrauding your creditors, you make such assignment, you become a culprit before God, and may as well stop praying until you have made restitution. Or suppose one man loans another money on bonds and mortgage, with the understanding that the mortgage can lie quiet for several years, but as soon as the mortgage is given, commences foreclosure--the sheriff mounts the auction-block, and the property is struck down athalf-price, and the mortgagee buys it in. The mortgagee started to get the property at half-price: and is a thief and a robber. Until he makes restitution, there is no mercy for him. Suppose you sell goods by a sample, and then afterward send to your customer an inferior quality of goods. You have committed a fraud, and there is no mercy for you until you have made restitution. Suppose you sell a man a handkerchief for silk, telling him it is all silk, and it is part cotton. No mercy for you until you have made restitution. Suppose you sell a man a horse, saying he is sound, and he afterward turns out to be spavined and balky. No mercy for you until you have made restitution. (De W. Talmage, D. D.)
The Rev. B. Sawday was about eighteen years since in the wellknown establishment of Messrs. Hitchcock, St. Paul’s Churchyard. A silver watch was stolen from his bedroom, and no trace could be discovered of the missing property. Ten years passed away. About four years since he preached a startling discourse upon repentance and restitution. His words evidently made a deep impression upon the hearers. During the ensuing week a young man came up to Mr. Sawday requesting an interview. In a few words the young man said, “It was I who stole your watch, some years since, at Messrs. Hitchcock’s. I am very sorry, and I am deeply, anxious to settle the matter. Here, I’ll give you £10 to squash it. I was passing your chapel last Sunday, and saw your name; I thought I would go in and hear you, and your sermon broke me all to pieces; I have been wretched and miserable ever since.” “Thank God! “ said Mr. Sawday. “No,” he added, “I cannot take £10; the watch was only worth £4: I’ll take that; but I’m far more anxious that you should confess your sin to God, and obtain His pardon and grace.” “That,” quietly added the man, “I have sought, and I believe obtained.” One of Mr. Sawday’s deacons was greatly troubled about the very plain speech of the pastor in regard to this very address, and expressed his fear that such preaching would drive people away from the chapel. The good man, however, was silenced by the sequel. (Henry Varley.)
Restitution necessary to peace
Some years ago, in the north of England, a woman came to one of the meetings, and appeared to be very anxious about her soul. For some time she did not seem to be able to get peace. The truth was, she was covering up one thing she was not willing to confess. At last the burden was too great; and she said to a worker, “I never go down on my knees to pray, but a few bottles of wine keep coming up before my mind.” It appeared that, years before, when she was house keeper, she had taken some bottles of wine belonging to her employer. The worker said: “Why do you not make restitution?” The woman replied that the man was dead; and besides, she did not know how much it was worth.
“Are there any heirs living to whom you can make restitution?” She said there was a son living at some distance; but she thought it would be a very humiliating thing, so she kept back for some time. At last she felt as if she must have a clear conscience at any cost; so she took the train, and went to the place where the son of her employer resided. She took five pounds with her; she did not know exactly what the wine was worth, but that would cover it, at any rate. The man said he did not want the money; but she replied, “I do not want it; it has burnt my pocket long enough.” (D. L. Moody.)
Evidences of true conversion
I. When the gospel is cordially received and fully embraced, it subdues a man’s ruling sin.
II. Evidence of Christian character is to be sought, not so much in what a man says, as in what he does.
III. On the disposal of property, there is a wide difference between the opinions of men and the instructions of Jesus Christ. (Chas. Walker.)
Triumph over hindrances
I. THE HINDRANCES OF ZACCHEUS were twofold: partly circumstantial-partly personal. Partly circumstantial, arising from his riches and his profession of a publican. Now the publican’s profession exposed him to temptations in these three ways. First of all in the way of opportunity. A publican was a gatherer of the Roman public imposts. Not, however, as now, when all is fixed, and the government pays the gatherer of the taxes. The Roman publican paid so much to the government for the privilege of collecting them; and then indemnified himself, and appropriated what overplus he could, from the taxes which he gathered. There was, therefore, evidently a temptation to overcharge, and a temptation to oppress. To overcharge, because the only redress the payer of the taxes had was an appeal to law, in which his chance was small before a tribunal where the judge was a Roman, and the accuser an official of the Roman government. A temptation to oppress, because the threat of law was nearly certain to extort a bribe. Besides this, most of us must have remarked that a certain harshness of manner is contracted by those who have the rule over the poor. They come in contact with human souls only in the way of business. They have to do with their ignorance, their stupidity, their attempts to deceive; and hence the tenderest-hearted men become impatient and apparently unfeeling. Another temptation was presented: to live satisfied with a low morality. The standard of right and wrong is eternal in the heavens--unchangeably one and the same. But here on earth it is perpetually variable--it is one in one age or nation, another in another. Every profession has its conventional morality, current nowhere else. Among publicans the standard would certainly be very low. Again, Zaccheus was tempted to that hardness in evil which comes from having no character to support. The personal hindrance to a religious life lay in the recollection of past guilt. Zaccheus had done wrong, and no fourfold restitution will undo that, where only remorse exists.
II. Pass we on to THE TRIUMPH OVER DIFFICULTIES. In this there is man’s part, and God’s part. Man’s part in Zaccheus’ case was exhibited in the discovery of expedients. The Redeemer came to Jericho, and Zaccheus desired to see that blessed Countenance, whose very looks, he was told, shed peace upon restless spirits and fevered hearts. But Zaccheus was small of stature, and a crowd surrounded Him. Therefore he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore-tree. You must not look on this as a mere act of curiosity. They who thronged the steps of Jesus were a crowd formed of different materials from the crowd which would have been found in the amphitheatre. He was there as a religious Teacher or Prophet; and they who took pains to see Him, at least were the men who looked for salvation in Israel. This, therefore, was a religious act. Then note further, the expedients adopted by Zaccheus after he had seen and heard Jesus. The tendency to the hardness and selfishness of riches he checked by a rule of giving half away. The tendency to extortion he met by fastening on himself the recollection, that when the hot moment of temptation had passed away, he would be severely dealt with before the tribunal of his own conscience, and unrelentingly sentenced to restore fourfold. God’s part in this triumph over difficulties is exhibited in the address of Jesus: “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.” Two things we note here: invitation and sympathy. Invitation--“come down.” Say what we will of Zaccheus seeking Jesus, the truth is Jesus was seeking Zaccheus. For what other reason but the will of God had Jesus come to Jericho, but to seek Zaccheus and such as he? We do not seek God--God seeks us. There is a Spirit pervading time and space who seek the souls of men. At last the seeking becomes reciprocal--the Divine Presence is felt afar, and the soul begins to turn towards it. Then when we begin to seek God, we become conscious that God is seeking us. It is at that period that we distinguish the voice of personal invitation--“Zaccheus!” Lastly, the Divine part was done in sympathy. By sympathy we commonly mean little more than condolence. If the tear start readily at the voice of grief, and the purse-strings open at the accents of distress, we talk of a man’s having great sympathy. To weep with those who weep--common sympathy does not mean much more. The sympathy of Christ was something different from this. Sympathy to this extent, no doubt, Zaccheus could already command. If Zaccheus were sick, even a Pharisee would have given him medicine. If Zaccheus had been in need, a Jew would not have scrupled to bestow an alms. If Zaccheus had been bereaved, many even of that crowd that murmured when they saw him treated by Christ like a son of Abraham, would have given to his sorrow the tribute of a sigh. The sympathy of Jesus was fellow feeling for all that is human. He did not condole with Zaccheus upon his trials--He did not talk to him “about his soul,” He did not preach to him about his sins, He did not force His way into his house to lecture him--He simply said, “I will abide at thy house:” thereby identifying himself with a publican, thereby acknowledging a publican for a brother. Zaccheus a publican? Zaccheus a sinner? Yes; but Zaccheus is a man. His heart throbs at cutting words. He has a sense of human honour. He feels the burning shame of the world’s disgrace. Lost? Yes, but the Son of Man, with the blood of the human race in His veins, is a Brother to the lost. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
A remarkable case of conscience money, which has just come to light, is just now puzzling an excellent secular contemporary. It appears that fifteen years ago, the London General Omnibus Company had in their employ a conductor who, during his twelve months’ service, received f10 more than he paid in. He now writes to the company stating this, and that his conscience now prompted him to make restitution, together with interest for the whole intervening period--amounting in all to £13 15s. Towards this he sends £5 on account. The point that troubles our contemporary is the fact that conscience should slumber fifteen years “and then wake up again;” but we have no doubt that many of our readers will find a solution in the Scriptures. No doubt the Spirit of God had been at work. A similar case was that of Zaccheus, and how many years back he went when he made restitution, who can tell?
A little Kaffir girl in South Africa came one day to the missionary and brought four sixpences, saying, “This money is yours.” “No,” said the missionary, “it is not mine.” “Yes,” persisted the little black girl, “you must take it. At the examination of the school you gave me a sixpence as a prize for good writing; but the writing was not mine, I got some one else to do it for me. So here are four sixpences.” She had read the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19:1-48., and “went and did likewise.” How much better was this than hiding her sin would have been! After a searching address by Mr. Moody, he next day received a check for £100, being fourfold the amount of which the sender had wronged an individual.
Restitution a fruit of faith
A young man was converted at a meeting in an opera-house in America. He thereupon confessed that he had been a professional gambler, and that he was then a fugitive from justice for a forgery. When he found Christ, some, who saw that he was a man of more than ordinary ability, advised him to take part publicly in Christian work; but he replied that he felt work of a different kind was first required from him. He meant restitution of the monies that he had fraudulently obtained. Finding a situation with a Christian employer, he told him all, and willingly undertook hard manual labour, to which he was quite unaccustomed, until his fidelity and quickness obtained for him a more suitable place. Spending as little as possible upon himself, he put by every dollar that he earned, until, after long perseverance, he had paid back the large sum which he had wrongfully taken, with the legal interest. Years afterwards he was described as “actively engaged in the service of Christ with a love that never tires and a zeal that never flags.”
Restitution as proof of repentance
An extensive hardware merchant in one of the Fulton Street prayer-meetings in New York appealed to his brother merchants to have the same religion for “down-town” as they had for “up-town”; for the week-day as for the Sabbath; for the counting-house as for the communion-table. After the meeting a manufacturer with whom he had dealt largely accosted him. “You did not know,” said he, “that I was at the meeting and heard your remarks. I have for the last five years been in the habit of charging you more for goods than other purchasers. I want you to take your books, and charge back to me so much per cent on every bill of goods you have had of me for the past five years.” A few days later the same hardware merchant had occasion to acknowledge the payment of a debt of several hundred dollars which had been due for twenty-eight years from a man who could as easily have paid it twenty-four years before. (Family Treasury.)
This day is salvation come to this house
I. We here notice, first of all, THE SECRET PURPOSE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST TOWARDS THE PUBLICAN, ZACCHEUS. That Christ entertained towards him a secret purpose of mercy, compassion, and love, there can be no doubt whatever; the salutation, as well as the event, proved it. Electing grace had reached forth the golden sceptre towards the publican, long before “Jesus entered and passed through” the streets of Jericho.
II. The narrative suggests to us another important particular, and it is this: THAT WITH THE SECRET PURPOSES OF DIVINE GRACE TOWARDS ZACCHEUS, THERE WAS CONNECTED AN OVERRULING OF CIRCUMSTANCES, FAVOURING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THOSE GRACIOUS PURPOSES. When Jesus arrived at Jericho, Zaccheus might have been elsewhere--might have been far distant, and out of the reach of that voice which spake so tenderly, and away from the glance of that eye which gazed so kindly on him. Moreover, even if present with the multitudes, he might have been so indifferent, and so absorbed by other objects of pursuit, as to entertain no desire towards the stranger, who had conceived so gracious a purpose towards him. But as Jesus passed through Jericho, Zaccheus was on the spot, anxious to see Him, and ready to heed His words. How was this? No such thing as accident. God was working out His own purpose toward him by His own secret agency.
III. There remains another particular in the narrative, which must not be lost sight of. No sooner had the Lord Jesus said to him, “Zaccheus, make baste and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house”; than “HE MADE HASTE, AND CAME DOWN, AND RECEIVED HIM JOYFULLY.” Does not all this indicate preparedness of mind? Is not the fact a living commentary on the doctrine--“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power”? The currents of Divine mercy, grace, and love were then opening fully, and flowing abundantly towards him; and He, in whose hands are the hearts of all living men, prepared him to receive with gladness, as an honoured guest, that mighty One, “whose own arm brought salvation,” and who came in all His energy, power, and love, “to seek and to save the lost,” even the lost Zaccheus. (G. Fisk, LL. B.)
The conversion of Zaccheus
I. We think that it must be obvious THAT IMPEDIMENTS LIE IN THE WAY OF EVERY MAN’S CONVERSION--impediments in the way of his conversion, and yet impediments that are perfectly distinct from each other: as distinct as men’s circumstances are from each other. You shall find that the impediment to one man’s conversion is his education; you shall find that the impediment in another man’s way is the peculiar circumstances in which he is placed; you shall find that the impediment to a third man’s conversion is simply a natural impediment; you shall find that the impediment that lies in the way of another man’s conversion is simply the example to which he is perpetually subject. All these things, so to speak, put the different individuals in a false position. They in all probability wish to be God’s servants, nevertheless things there are which prevent them from being God’s servants, and it is by the steady overcoming of these difficulties that God for ever shows the omnipotence of His grace. Now when we come to look to the immediate history before us, we shall find that these impediments were of a twofold description. The first of these impediments arose out of the man’s circumstances, and the second of these impediments arose out of the man’s occupation.
II. Consider now some of THE ANTECEDENTS TO HIS CONVERSION. We may have oftentimes observed, at least if we have proceeded far in the consideration of human character, that with most men there are soft spots in their character. You will find it, indeed, impossible to meet with any character that is not accessible through some avenue and approachable by some peculiar circumstance in that character. It is not the fact that every man is wrapped up in induracy and in obduracy. You shall find that now and again there will come back out of the deep darkness that which tells you there is a spot there if you only knew how to reach it. It is like standing in the midst of some of those volcanic regions. All about you looks to be nothing but the hardness and the ruggedness of rock itself, but there are jets of flame and puffs of smoke that come up which tell you that there is volcanic action underneath. You shall find in most men’s character there is something of this kind--things that tell you this, that possibly, if only means were used, they are not irreclaimably hopeless; and it is these things we venture to call the antecedents of a man’s state of conversion. Now let us bring this explanation to bear upon the case before us, and ask ourselves what antecedents there were in the case of Zaccheus the publican. I turn your attention, in the first place, to the marvellous charity of the man. “The half of my goods I give to the poor.” I conceive it to be a mistake to suppose that this is expressed as being the fruit of the man’s conversion. We hold it to be the revelation of his very publican life. It is a sort of exculpation of himself against those who said, “He is a publican.” He was one of those men that could not see his brother have need without sharing his means with him, ay, up to the very moiety of his fortune--“The half of my goods I give to the poor.” We turn to another feature in this man’s antecedents. We are not now looking to his temper of charity, but we are looking to his temper of equity. “The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” The law of Moses simply required this amount of restitution--the restitution of the principal, with one-fifth added by way of interest; but this man transcended this rule. “If I have taken anything from any man,… I restore him fourfold.” Why: Not because the law compelled it; net because custom compelled it; not, in all probability, because ostentation dictated it; but simply because there was a high, strong sense of equity in this man’s soul, that compelled him to this restoring or restituting that which he had unjustly taken. Now, we hold it is marvellous to find all this in a character, and in the midst of circumstances such as the publican’s were in those days--marvellous to find charity in them--still more marvellous to find equity. It is a something, because it is a something telling us this--that there is a soft part still in this man’s soul--a point on which you might rest your apparatus for effecting this man’s conversion. There was a deep sense of charity, in the first place, and there was the ample recognition of the duty of equity in the second place. What are we to know and what are we to understand in this? Why, we ask you to look round to the world in our better and our more enlightened days. Can we find much that looks like a parody to it? You shall find and know something, perhaps, of the tricks of commerce, and of the ungodliness of trade; but you seldom hear anything of the fourfold restitution. You shall hear, in all probability, of hard bargains being driven--of the simplicity of unwary customers being taken advantage of--of the adroitness of men of wealth practising upon the ignorance of men of poverty; and you shall find, perhaps, that these successful tacticians wrap themselves in the congratulation of their successful doings; but you shall never hear of the fourfold restitution. No, even in our better days the privileged Christian is beaten by the despised publican.
III. We have but one thought more to throw before you. We have looked at the man’s impediments, and we have looked at the man’s antecedents; in the last place, we have to look to THE MANNER OF THE CONVERSION OF ZACCHEUS THE PUBLICAN. Now there is nothing more certain, as we have said before, than that none of these antecedents could have been the parent of Zaccheus’s conversion. There may be, as we have said before, differences of experience upon the road, but that it does not lead to the same termination is, if Scripture be true, an utter impossibility. The Scripture has said, “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.” The Scripture has said it, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He is none of His.” The Bible has said it, “ We must be found in Him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And none of these up to this moment had Zaccheus the publican. A man of moral propriety, and a man of promising indications he may have been, but as yet outside of the field of conversion. We may, then, ask ourselves the question, how it is that this missing element was to be supplied. We answer, that his conversion went upon these two principles: that Christ sought him, and that Christ spake to him; and that those two things must be fulfilled in every man who is to be truly a believing child of Abraham--the Saviour must come, and the Saviour must speak to him. (A. Boyd.)
A household blessing
I. THE BLESSING OF SALVATION.
1. Zaccheus now had heavenly riches.
2. Zaccheus had now the highest distinction. A Christian.
3. The home of Zaccheus was now sanctified.
II. THE AUTHOR OF SALVATION.
1. Salvation is Christ’s alone to give.
2. The guiltiest are sometimes the first to be saved.
(1) This is for our warning. Beware of pride, self-righteousness, assumed morality, ostentation, carnal wisdom, and deep-rooted prejudice. These are the offensive things that make him pass by your door. Remove them quickly, lest you perish a Christless soul!
(2) This visit to the guiltiest is also for our encouragement. Satan has two grand devices, presumption and despair. Avoid the former, and do not be crushed by the latter. This man had been so radically bad, but was saved. Let this sustain and strengthen the deep-stained sinner who cries for mercy.
III. THE MEANS OF SALVATION.
1. Zaccheus used the likeliest means to know more of Christ.
2. He strove through difficulties to obtain the object of his desire.
IV. THE SIGNS OF SALVATION.
3. Benevolence. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
Salvation in the house
I want you to learn some lessons from this story of Zaccheus.
1. That Jesus will come home with you and bring salvation to your house if you are anxious, as Zaccheus was, to see Him. Zaccheus was a small man among many great men, and so he could not see the Lord till he climbed; let this teach you not to be discouraged because you are small in the world’s eyes, poor, humble, or ignorant. You, like the publican, must climb if you would see Jesus, you must climb by prayer, by the study of your Bible, by Holy Communion, by conquest of yourselves--these are all branches of the Tree of Life; if you climb by these you will see Jesus. Learn also that Jesus will come to you and bring salvation to your house, however poor it may be. He who lay in the manger at Bethlehem does not look for soft raiment and luxurious bedding.
2. When Jesus comes to your house He will bring gifts with Him: He will work miracles for you. It has been said that the age of miracles is gone, it has in one sense only. Jesus will work miracles of mercy in your house. He will give you, too, a new name when He comes to your house. You know that old families are proud of the name which their ancestors have borne for generations, but after all, the best of names is that which your Saviour will give you, the name of a son of God, a child of Christ. And He will give you more than a name, He will give you landed property, even ii you are so poor that a back-yard is all you have to look out upon. He will give you, who perhaps never heard of an estate in fee-simple, or knew what it was to have a house of your own, an inheritance, a place of many mansions, a house eternal in heaven. And He will give you clothing, the very best of clothing. To every one of you who have Jesus in the house, and who have often had to patch and cut and contrive to clothe yourself and your family, He will give a white robe of righteousness. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Salvation for Zaccheus
“Salvation! How? where? What does Christ mean when He says, ‘Salvation has come to this house’? Did He preach ‘the way of salvation’? If so, we should like to hear what He said.” Well, He said this:--That the Son of Man had found the Son of Abraham, acknowledged him as such, and would make it well with him. And was it not salvation from anger, and sorrow, and hardness of heart, to be thus acknowledged? Men of Jericho, this is a son of Abraham; your blessing is his. Society may reject him; but the God of Abraham accepts him. The sons of Abraham may ban one another; but the Son of Man will bless them all. “Son of Man” is a wider and deeper title than “son of Abraham.” The Son of Man’s love includes all Jews, because it extends beyond them all. Christ acknowledged Zaccheus in a way very comforting to his Jewish and his human heart. But this was the salvation--the creation of a living bond of affection between Zaccheus and that Holy Love in whose presence he stood. In this Presence Zaccheus felt at once that he grew purer, happier, stronger for good, forgiving to those who had despised him, and humble and thankful in that sense of forgiving confidence which Christ’s whole manner towards him breathed. When Christ spoke of “salvation,” then, He was Himself the salvation of which He spoke. (T. T. Lynch.)
To seek and to save that which was lost
The seeking Saviour
Good news from a far country. By meditation on this statement we are led to consider--
I. THE MISSION OF CHRIST. “The Son of Man is come.” Predicted in the oracles of God by Balaam, Isaiah, Zechariah, dec.
II. THE PURPOSE OF HIS MISSION. “To seek and to save.”
1. It was not an experimental gratification.
2. Not to gain a fair reputation.
3. Not to obtain honour.
III. THE OBJECT OF HIS LOVE. “That which was lost.” The whole world. Every Son of Adam. APPLICATION: The text displays--
1. The spirit of self-denial.
2. The spirit of love. (F. G. Davis.)
We are redeemed--
1. From the power of the grave.
2. From the power of sin.
3. From the curse of the law. (E. Hicks, M. A.)
Christ’s estimate of sin
There are two ways of looking at sin:--One is the severe view: it makes no allowance for frailty--it will not hear of temptation, nor distinguish between circumstances. Men who judge in this way shut their eyes to all but two objects--a plain law, and a transgression of that law. There is no more to be said: let the law take its course. Now if this be the right view of sin, there is abundance of room left for admiring what is good and honourable and upright: there is positively no room provided for restoration. Happy if you have done well; but if ill, then nothing is before you but judgment and fiery indignation. The other view is one of laxity and false liberalism. When such men speak, prepare yourself to hear liberal judgments and lenient ones: a great deal about human weakness, error in judgment, mistakes, an unfortunate constitution, on which the chief blame of sin is to rest--a good heart. All well if we wanted, in this mysterious struggle of a life, only consolation. But we want far beyond comfort--goodness; and to be merely made easy when we have done wrong will not help us to that! Distinct from both of these was Christ’s view of guilt. His standard of right was high--higher than ever man had placed it before. Not moral excellence, but heavenly, He demanded. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Read the Sermon on the Mount. It tells of a purity as of snow resting on an Alpine pinnacle, white in the blue holiness of heaven; and yet also, He the All-pure had tenderness for what was not pure. He who stood in Divine uprightness that never faltered, felt compassion for the ruined, and infinite gentleness for human fall. Broken, disappointed, doubting hearts, in dismay and bewilderment, never looked in vain to Him. Purity attracting evil: that was the wonder. I see here three peculiarities, distinguishing Christ from ordinary men.
I. A PECULIARITY IN THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REDEEMER’S MORAL NATURE. Manifested in that peculiar title which He assumed--the Son of Man. Let us see what that implies.
1. It implies fairly His Divine origin; for it is an emphatic expression, and as we may so say, an unnatural one. None could without presumption remind men that He was their Brother and a Son of Man, except One who was also something higher, even the Son of God.
2. It implies the catholicity of His brotherhood. He is emphatically the Son of Man. Out of this arose two powers of His sacred humanity--the universality of His sympathies, and their intense particular personality.
What was His mode of sympathy with men? He did not sit down to philosophize about the progress of the species, or dream about a millennium. He gathered round Him twelve men. He formed one friendship, special, concentrated, deep. He did not give Himself out as the leader of the publican’s cause, or the champion of the rights of the dangerous classes; but He associated with Himself Matthew, a publican called from the detested receipt of custom. He went into the house of Zaccheus, and treated him like a fellow-creature--a brother, and a son of Abraham. His catholicity or philanthropy was not an abstraction, but an aggregate of personal attachments.
II. PECULIARITY IN THE OBJECTS OF CHRIST’S SOLICITUDE. He had come to seek and to save the “lost.” The world is lost, and Christ came to save the world. But by the lost in this place He does not mean the world; He means a special class, lost in a more than common sense, as sheep are lost which have strayed from the flock, and wandered far beyond all their fellows scattered in the wilderness. Blot half a century ago a great man was seen stooping and working in a charnel-house of bones. Uncouth, nameless fragments lay around him, which the workmen had dug up and thrown aside as rubbish. They belonged to some far-back age, and no man knew what they were or whence. Few men cared. The world was merry at the sight of a philosopher groping among mouldy bones. But when that creative mind, reverently discerning the fontal types of living being in diverse shapes, brought together those strange fragments, bone to bone, and rib to claw, and tooth to its own corresponding vertebrae, recombining the wondrous forms of past ages, and presenting each to the astonished world as it moved and lived a hundred thousand ages back, then men began to perceive that a new science had begun on earth. And such was the work of Christ. They saw Him at work among the fragments and mouldering wreck of our humanity and sneered. But He took the dry bones such as Ezekiel saw in vision, which no man thought could live, and He breathed into them the breath of life.
III. A PECULIARITY IN HIS MODE OF TREATMENT. How were these lost ones to be restored? The human plans are reducible to three--chastisement, banishment, and indiscriminate lenity. In Christ’s treatment of guilt we find three peculiarities--sympathy, holiness, firmness.
1. By human sympathy. In the treatment of Zaccheus this was almost all. We read of almost nothing else as the instrument of that wonderful reclamation, One thing only, Christ went to his house self-invited. But that one was everything.
2. By the exhibition of Divine holiness. The holiness of Christ differed from all earthly, common, vulgar holiness. Wherever it was, it elicited a sense of sinfulness and imperfection. Just as the purest cut crystal of the rock looks dim beside the diamond, so the best men felt a sense of guilt growing distinct upon their souls (Luke 5:8). But at the same time the holiness of Christ did not awe men away from Him, nor repel them. It inspired them with hope.
3. By firmness. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Christ seeking and saving the lost
I. LET ME BRING BEFORE YOU THE INTERESTING STATEMENT OF OUR TEXT.
1. The “lost,” then, are the objects of His care and love. There are two ideas comprehended in the expression. When Christ would illustrate the condition of those who were lost, on one occasion, He selected three objects: a sheep--money--and a prodigal (Luke 15:1-32.). One of these could only be test in the sense of its owner being deprived of its use. Having no consciousness, the evil of its being mislaid fell upon the “woman.” But the other two being lost, suffered or were exposed to evil of their own, as well as occasioned evil to those to whom they belonged or were related. The loss of the “sheep” included danger and trouble to itself, as well as anxiety and deprivation to its possessor; the loss of the “prodigal” entailed distrust and shame upon himself, as well as affliction on his “father’s house.” And these are the most fitting and forcible symbols of the sinner’s case. Lost to God and lost to himself.
2. Man, thus lost, thus spiritually lost--lost to God, and to himself, is the object of Christ’s care. He loves us in our weakness, and worldliness, in “our crimes and our carnality.” He proposes our salvation: to bring us back to God, to bestow His knowledge, love, and image. Let it be remembered, however, that Christ’s chief aim is to secure inward and individual salvation. Whatever may be done for a man is very little while he is lost, in reference to the highest things; you cannot save him, unless you convert him.
3. Christ “seeks” to “save.” He goes in quest of men. He had His eye on Zaccheus when he visited the sycamore tree--His “delights were” at the work ere His charity had utterance there. He knew where the objects of
His pity were to be found, and directed His course and shaped His plans that He might meet with them.
4. Once more. Christ not only proposes the good of the “lost,” even their “salvation,” and “seeks” them for this purpose, but “He is come” to do it. What He did on earth--His life and labours and sufferings and death; what He does in heaven, by the agency of men, the ministry of Providence, the operations of the Holy Spirit, are all to be considered in relation to His coming hither--the fact, the manner, and the meaning of His advent.
II. CONSIDER SOME IMPORTANT BEARINGS OF THE STATEMENT NOW ILLUSTRATED.
1. You have in our subject an evidence of our religion--the religion of “the Son of man.” Think of His object, principle, and method, and say whether, in the circumstances of the case, they do not necessarily indicate one come from God? There were no materials in that “half-barbarous nation in wholly barbarous times” out of which could have been formed the living “Son of man,” and no materials out of which His image could have been formed. He must have been, or none could have conceived of Him; and if He were, He must have been from heaven.
2. You have in our subject a beautiful model of Christian life and labour. What Christ was, we should be.
3. You have in our subject matter for the serious consideration of unconverted men. Christ came to seek and to save men--came to seek and to save you. Are you conscious of your lost condition and bitterly bewailing it? It will be always true that salvation was possible, was presented, was pressed! And this increases your doom. (A. J. Morris.)
Our sympathies are already aroused when we see anything that is lost. Even a dog that has wandered away from its master, we feel sorry for; or a bird that has escaped from its owner, we say: “Poor thing!” Going down the street near nightfall, in the teeth of the sharp northwest wind, you feel very pitiful for one who has to be out to-night. As you go along, you hear the affrighted cry of a child. You stop. You say: “What is the matter?” You go up and find that a little one has lost its way from home. In its excitement it cannot even tell its name or its residence. The group of people gathered around are all touched, all sympathetic, all helpful. A plain body comes up, and with her plaid she wraps the child, and says: “I’ll take care of the poor bairn!” While in the same street, but a little way off, the crier goes through the city, ringing a bell and uttering in a voice that sounds dolefully through all the alleys and by-ways of the city: “A lost child I three years of age, blue eyes, light hair. Lost child!” Did you ever hear any such pathos as that ringing through the darkness? You are going down the street and you see a man that you know very well. You once associated with him. You are astonished as you see him. “Why,” you say, “he is all covered with the marks of sin. He must be in the very last stages of wickedness.” And then you think of his lost home, and say: “God, pity his wife and child! God, pity him.” A lost man! Under the gaslight you see a painted thing floating down the street--once the joy of a village home--her laughter ringing horror through the souls of the pure, and rousing up the merriment of those already lost like herself. She has forgotten the home of her youth and the covenant of her God. A lost woman! But, my friend, we are all lost.
1. In the first place, I remark that we are lost to holiness. Are you not all willing to take the Bible announcement that our nature is utterly ruined? Sin has broken in at every part of the castle. One would think that we got enough of it from our parents whether they were pious or not; but we have taken the capital of sin with which our fathers and mothers started us, and we have by accumulation, as by infernal compound-interest, made it enough to swamp us for ever. The ivory palace of the soul polluted with the filthy feet of all uncleanness. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to bring us back to holiness. He comes not to destroy us, but to take the consequences of our guilt.
2. We are lost to happiness, and Christ comes to find us. A caliph said: “I have been fifty years a caliph, and I have had all honours and all wealth, and yet in the fifty years I can count up only fourteen days of happiness.” How many there are in this audience who cannot count fourteen days in all their life in which they had no vexations or annoyances. We all feel a capacity for happiness that has never been tested. There are interludes of bliss, but whose entire life has been a continuous satisfaction? Why is it that most of the fine poems of the world are somehow descriptive of grief? It is because men know more about sorrow than they do about joy. Oh, ye who are struck through with unrest, Christ comes to-day to give you rest. If Christ comes to you, you will be independent of all worldly considerations. It was so with the Christian man who suffered for his faith, and was thrust down into the coal-hole of the Bishop of London. He said: “We have had fine times here, singing gladsome songs the night long. O God, forgive me for being so unworthy of this glory.” More joyful in the hour of suffering and martyrdom was Rose Allen. When the persecutor put a candle under her wrist, and held it there until the sinews snapped, she said: “If you see fit you can burn my feet next, and then also my head.” Christ once having taken you into His custody and guardianship, you can laugh at pain, and persecution, and trial. Great peace for all those whom Christ has found and who have found Christ. Jesus comes into their sick room. The nurse may have fallen asleep in the latter watches of the night; but Jesus watches with slumberless eyes, and He puts His gentle hand over the hot brow of the patient, and says: “You will not always be sick. I will not leave you. There is a land where the inhabitant never saith, ‘I am sick.’ Hush, troubled soul! Peace!”
3. Again, I remark that we are lost to heaven, and Christ comes to take us there. Christ comes to take the discord out of your soul and string it with a heavenly attuning. He comes to take out that from us which makes us unlike heaven, and substitute that which assimilates us. In conclusion: You may hide away from Him; but there are some things which will find you, whether Christ by His grace finds you or not. Trouble will find you; temptation will find you; sickness will find you; death will find you; the judgment will find you; eternity will find you. (De W. Talmage, D. D.)
I. These precious words of the blessed Saviour DESCRIBE AN ADVENT, A COMING, AS ACCOMPLISHED. He has come. It is the statement of a past event, an event which has changed the whole current of human history. Its force lay in the great purpose for which it was undertaken. He did not drop into the world. He was not born as animals are. He came. He chose to come. He planned a coming, which He executed. All that philosophy can perceive, or poetry conceive, of grandeur of emprise, of Divine philanthropy, and of glorious endeavour, are in the enterprise of Jesus. Consider what He left in order to endure the incarnation necessary for the accomplishment of His most transcendent undertaking. He came from other heavens that were glorious places, whose population was not lost, where the kingdom of God was established, and where His will was done. No moral darkness and confusion were there. Think of the world to which He came. It is a planet of wonderful adaptabilities, and inhabited by a race of still more wonderful capabilities. As king of the kingdom of God, to Jesus order is of the highest consequence. He is the author of harmony. How disorderly was the world to which He camel Every man and woman and child frantically or persistently struggling to break themselves from the moral law, which is a cord of love, having lost much of what would seem to be a natural sense of the beauty of holiness, gone so far as to give the Dame of virtue to that kind of brute bravery which meets a wild beast in an amphitheatre very much on the beast’s own level; a world full of sin, and full of the anguish and degradation of sin, where He could not turn His eyes without beholding a wrong or a sufferer? Above all, He knew that He was coming to His own, and that His own would not receive Him. It was a plunge out of supernal light into the heart of darkness.
II. We are never to forget, as a most charming characteristic of the coming of Jesus, that IT WAS WHOLLY VOLUNTARY. He CAME. He was not brought. He was not compelled to come. No law of justice could have broken His consciousness of holiness and greatness if He had not come.
III. WHY SHOULD HE HAVE COME AT ALL? There was something to save, something precious in His eyes, whatever it may seem in ours. Cold criticism would ask why it was necessary, whether some other expedient might not have been devised; but love is swifter than reason. How could He come to save us? is the question of reason in moments when it is unloving. How could He not come to save us? is the question of rational love.
IV. HIS INCARNATION DID MANY THINGS FOR US WHICH WE DO NOT SEE COULD BE OTHERWISE DONE.
1. It was a manifestation of God: “God was manifest in the flesh.” The visible world had so engrossed us that our race was going down into lowermost materialism, so that the Roman type of thought was “earthly,” the Grecian “sensual,” and the barbarian “devilish.” And on one of these types all human thought would have formed itself for ever. But the Son of man came, and, by His words and deeds and spirit, gave such evidence of the existence of a Personal God and a spiritual world that our intellects were saved. We have since had certain centre and blessed attraction. If the Son of man had not come long before the age in which we live, the intellect of the race would have been utterly lost in the deep abyss of atheism, toward which it was rushing.
2. The heart and head have close fellowship. The corruption of the former does much to increase the errors of the latter, and the mistakes of the head aggravate the sorrows of the heart. The Son of God has come to save our hearts, as well as our intellects, by making the interests of God and man identical.
3. Under the atheistic errors of the intellect and the desperation of the heart, how manhood was sinking away! No human being can now estimate how low humanity would have sunk before our times if the Son of man had not come. All sublime and beautiful living is of the inspiration of His history.
4. He died for us that He might save our souls. The saving of our souls is the great object of the coming of the Son of man. (C. F. Deems, L. L. D.)
The lost are found
1. “The Son of man.”
(1) His humanity. What the fulness of time was come, “God sent His Son, made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). As the flowers are said to have solem in caelo patrem, solum in terra matrem; so Christ hath a Father in heaven without a mother, a mother on earth without a father. Here is then the wonder of His humanity. The “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6) is become a little child. The Son of God calls Himself the Son of man.
(2) His humility. If your understandings can reach the depth of this bottom, take it at one view. The Son of God calls Himself the Son of man. The omnipotent Creator becomes an impotent creature.
So greater humility never was than this, that God should be made man. It is the voice of pride in man, “I will be like God” (Isaiah 14:14); but the action of humility in God, “I will be man.”
(1) Esteem we not the worse but the better of Christ, that He made Himself the Son of man. Let Him not lose any part of His honour because He abased Himself for us. He that took our flesh “is also over all, God blessed for ever, Amen” (Romans 9:5).
(2) The other use is St. Paul’s: “Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). What mind is that: Humility.
2. “Is come.” We understand the person, let us come to His coming. And herein, ecce veritatem--behold His truth. Did God promise a son of a virgin; Emmanuel, a Saviour? He is as good as His word; venit, “He is come.” Did the sacrificed blood of so many bulls, goats, and lambs, prefigure the expiatory blood of the Lamb of God to be shed? Ecce Agnus Dei--“Behold that Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.”
3. “To seek.” He is come; to what purpose? Ecce compassionem--“to seek.” All the days of His flesh upon earth He went about seeking souls. When the sun shines, every bird comes forth; only the owl will not be found. These birds of darkness cannot abide the light, “because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). Thus they play at all-hid with God, but how foolishly! Like that beast that having thrust his head in a bush, and seeing nobody, thinks nobody sees him. But they shall find at last that not holes of mountains or caves of rocks can conceal them (Revelation 6:16). Secondly, others play at fast and loose with God; as a man behind a tree, one while seen, another while hid. In the day of prosperity they are hidden; only in affliction they come out of their holes. Thirdly, others being lost, and hearing the seeker’s voice, go further from Him. The nearer salvation comes to them, the further they run from it.
4. “To save.” Ecce pietatem, behold His goodness. Herod sought Christ ad interitum, to kill Him; Christ seeks us ad salutem, to save us. “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
5. “The lost.” There ecce potestatem, behold His power. He is that “strongest man” that unbound us from the fetters of sin and Satan. “Lost!” But where was man lost? There are diverse losing-places. (T. Adams, D. D.)
Christ seeking and saving the lost
I. IN WHAT SENSE WE ARE SAID TO BE LOST.
1. Really and indeed; so we are lost to God and lost to ourselves. As to God, He hath no glory, love, and service from us, and so is deprived and robbed of the honour of His creation.
2. Some are lost and undone in their own sense and feeling. All by reason of sin are in a lost state, but some are apprehensive of it. Now such a sense is necessary to prepare us for a more brokenhearted and thankful acceptance of the grace of the gospel.
II. IN WHAT SENSE CHRIST IS SAID TO SEEK AND SAVE SUCH, Here is a double work--seeking and saving.
1. What is His seeking? It implieth--
(1) His pity to us in our lost estate, and providing means for us, in that He doth not leave us to our wanderings, or our own heart’s counsels, but taketh care that we be brought back again to God (John 10:16).
(2) His seeking implieth His diligence and pains to reduce them (Luke 15:4). It requireth time and pains to find them, and gain their consent. A lost soul is not so easily recovered and reduced from his straying; there is many a warning slighted, many a conviction smothered, and tenders of grace made in vain. I evidence this two ways--
(1) Christ is said to seek after us by His word and Spirit.
(a) By His word, He cometh as a teacher from heaven, to recall sinners from their wanderings.
(b) By His Spirit striving against and overcoming the obstinacy and contradiction of our souls. By His call in the word He inviteth us to holiness, but by His powerful grace He inclineth us.
(2) This seeking is absolutely necessary: if He did not seek them, they would never seek Him.
2. To save them. Two ways is Christ a Saviour--merito et efficacia, by merit and by power. We are sometimes said to be saved by His death, and sometimes to be saved by His life (Romans 5:10). Here I shall do two things--
(1) I shall show why it is so;
(2) I shall prove that this was Christ’s great end and business.
First, Why it is so.
1. With respect to the parties concerned. In saving lost creatures, Christ hath to do with three parties--God, man, and Satan.
2. With respect to the parts of salvation. There is redemption and conversion, the one by way of impetration, to other by way of application. It is not enough that we are redeemed, that is done Without us upon the cross; but we must also be converted, that is real redemption applied to us.
3. With respect to eternal salvation, which is the result of all, that is to say, it is the effect of Christ’s merit and of our regeneration; for in regeneration that life is begun in us which is perfected in heaven.
Secondly, I am to prove that this was Christ’s great end and business.
1. It is certain that Christ was sent to man in a lapsed and fallen estate, not to preserve us as innocent, but to recover us as fallen.
2. Out of this misery man is unable to deliver and recover himself.
3. We being utterly unable, God, in pity to us, that the creation of man for His glory might not be frustrated, hath sent us Christ.
Arguments to press you to accept of this grace.
1. Consider the misery of a lost condition.
2. Think of the excellency and reality of salvation by Christ (1 Timothy 1:15).
3. You have the means; you have the offer made to you (Isaiah 27:13). (T. Manton, D. D.)
The lost and sought-for soul
I. THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL. It is from above. The ancient legends of a distant state of ancestral bliss, from which we have come, and which we have only in part forgotten, are woven out of the universal heart-experience. Dimly we remember Paradise; amidst the darkness we are groping our way back to the Tree of Life.
II. THE PRESENT STATE OF THE SOUL. An exile and a wanderer. “I also am from God a wandering exile,” said the Greek philosopher, Empedocles--a thought that was taken up and made the foundation of systems among some of the early Christian sects. They said that the parables in the Gospel of the lost piece of money, the lost sheep, the wandering and prodigal son, were all variations of this theme of the soul. There has come down to us a Gnostic hymn from very early times, in which the same spiritual theme is clothed in geographical details. A Parthian king’s son comes from the bright realm of the East, and wanders through Babylonia to Egypt to seek a precious pearl which is there guarded by a serpent. Parthia stands, in reality, for the bright kingdom of light above, from which the soul has fallen. Egypt means the lower or material world, and Babylonia appears to denote some intermediate state. There is a father and a mother by whom ate meant an ideal first pair of parents of the living; and a brother who appears to signify the second Adam or Son of Man. The great serpent surrounding the sea is the soul of the present evil, or material world, ever an enemy to the human race. “Somehow,” the hymn says, “they in Egypt found out that I was not their countryman; and they cunningly gave me their food to eat. I forgot that I was a prince, and I served their kings, and I forgot the pearl for which my parents had sent me, and I fell into a deep sleep. But my parents saw me afar off, and they devised a plan for my good. They wrote me a letter, which ran: “From thy father, the king of kings, and thy mother, the lady of the East, and thy brother, our second one, to thee our son in Egypt, greeting! Rouse up, and rise from thy sleep, listen to the words of our letter. Consider that thou art a son of kings. See into whose slavery thou hast fallen. Remember the pearl, for the sake of which thou wast sent to Egypt. Think of the garment, remember the splendid toga, which thou shalt wear--for thy name is written in the list of the brave--and that thou, with thy brother, our vicegerent, shalt come into our kingdom.” The letter, sealed by the right hand of the king, was brought to me by the king of birds. I awoke, and broke the seal, and read, and the words agreed with those that were stamped upon my heart. I recollected that I was a son of royal parents, and my excellent birth maintained its nature.” And so he proceeds to the quest of the pearl, which seems to be an allegory of the spark of celestial light and truth, which is still to be found, even amidst the debasement o! earth, by every earnest seeking soul. And the letter stands for a higher revelation, and the splendid garment for the glorious spiritual body which the returned king’s son is to wear in the presence of the King of kings. Such is a brief account of this Pilgrim’s Progress of the olden time. This world is a goodly place, this body is a pleasant house to dwell in. And it may be that we are often tempted to say, If it be a prison, it is more splendid than a palace, and we are well content to be prisoners and exiles under such conditions. But there are moments of revelation, flashes of memory and insight which tell us otherwise. Away! this is not your rest! A despatch has come from our heavenly Father; its contents speak of what our heart had already spoken. And so we arise and still go on our quest of the pearl of great price, heedless of those smiling Egyptians, who would feed us on lotus, and bid us plunge into oblivion of our native home. No I we are sojourners only, nor can we rest until we have found what we were sent to find, and, holding it fast, come back to Him who sent us, and who is watching for our return.
III. THE RECOVERY OF THE SOUL. One is seeking us; One wills that we should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. His kindly light has not yet, and will not, we trust, ever desert us. (E. Johnson, M. A.)
Christ seeking and saving those who were lost
I. What is implied in our being lost?
II. How does Christ seek and save those that are lost?
1. Christ seeks those that are lost.
(1) By His word.
(2) By His providence.
(3) By His Spirit.
2. Christ saves those that are lost--
(1) By purchase.
(2) By power.
1. From this subject, in the first place, we learn the wonderful generosity and kindness of Christ.
2. Let us also admire the power, as well as adore the grace, of the Saviour. (S. Lavington.)
Good news for the lost
The promises of God are like stars; there is not one of them but has in its turn guided tempest-tossed souls to their desired haven. But, as among the-stars which stud the midnight sky, there are constellations which above all others attract the mariner’s gaze, and are helpful to the steersman, so there are certain passages in Scripture which have not only directed a few wise men to Jesus, but have been guiding stars to myriads of simple minds who have through their help found the port of peace. The text is one of these notable stars, or rather, its words form a wonderful constellation of Divine love, a very Pleiades of mercy. But as stars are of small service when the sky is beclouded, or the air dense with fog, so it may be even with such a bright gospel light as our text will not yield comfort to souls surrounded with the clinging mists of doubts and fears. At such times mariners cry for fair weather, and ask that they may be able to see the stars again: so let us pray the Holy Spirit to sweep away with His Divine wind the clouds of our unbelief, and enable each earnest eye in the light of God to see the light of peace.
I. HOW THE OBJECTS OF MERCY ARE HERE DESCRIBED. “That which was lost.” A term large enough to embrace even the very worst.
1. We are all lost by nature.
2. Apart from Divine grace, we are lost by our own actions.
3. We are lost because our actual sin and our natural depravity have co-worked to produce in us an inability to restore ourselves from our fallen condition. Not only wanderers, but having no will to come home.
4. We are lost by the condemnation which our sin has brought upon us.
5. Some of us are lost to society, to respect, and perhaps to decency. That was the case with Zaccheus. Now, the Son of Man is come to seek and to save those whom the world puts outside its camp. The sweep of Divine compassion is not limited by the customs of mankind: the boundaries of Jesu’s love are not to be fixed by Pharisaical self-righteousness.
II. HOW THE SAVIOUR IS HERE DESCRIBED. “The Son of man.”
1. Note here His Deity. No prophet or apostle needed to call himself by way of distinction the son of man. This would be an affectation of condescension supremely absurd. Therefore, when we hear our Lord particularly and especially calling Himself by this name, we are compelled to think of it as contrasted with His higher nature, and we see a deep condescension in His choosing to be called the Son of man, when He might have been called the Son of God.
2. In speaking of Himself as the Son of man, our Lord shows us that He has come to us in a condescending character.
3. He has, moreover, come in His mediatorial character.
4. And He has come in His representative character.
III. HOW OUR LORD’S PAST ACTION IS DESCRIBED. Not “shall come,” but “is come.” His coming is a fact accomplished. That part of the salvation of a sinner which is yet to be done is not at all so hard to be believed as that which the Lord has already accomplished. The state of the case since Jesus has come may be illustrated thus--Certain of our fellow-countrymen were the prisoners of the Emperor Theodore in Abyssinia, and I will suppose myself among them. As a captive, I hear that the British Parliament is stirring in the direction of an expedition for my deliverance, and I feel some kind of comfort, but I am very anxious, for I know that amidst party strifes in the House of Commons many good measures are shipwrecked. Days and months pass wearily on, but at last I hear that Sir Robert Napier has landed with a delivering army. Now my heart leaps for joy. I am shut up within the walls of Magdala, but in my dungeon I hear the sound of the British bugle, and I know that the deliverer is come. Now I am full of confidence, and am sure of liberty. If the general is already come, my rescue is certain. Mark well, then, O ye prisoners of hope, that Jesus is come.
IV. There is much of deepest comfort in THE DESCRIPTION WHICH IS HERE GIVEN OF OUR LORD’S WORK. “To seek and to save.” The enterprise is one, but has two branches.
1. Jesus is come to seek the lost.
(2) In His providence.
(3) By His Word.
2. Whom Jesus seeks, He saves.
(1) By pardoning.
(2) By bestowing another nature.
Conclusion: Let us who are saved seek the lost ones. Jesus did it: O follower of Jesus, do likewise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The mission of the Son of Man
I. I lay it down as a self-evident truth, that WHATEVER WAS THE INTENTION OF CHRIST IN HIS COMING INTO THE WORLD, THAT INTENTION MOST CERTAINLY SHALL NEVER BE FRUSTRATED. In the first place, it seems to be inconsistent with the very idea of God that He should ever intend anything which should not be accomplished. But again, we have before us the fact, that hitherto all the works of God have accomplished their purpose. I might use a hundred other arguments. I might show that every attribute of Christ declares that His purpose must be accomplished. He certainly has love enough to accomplish His design of saving the lost; for He has a love that is bottomless and fathomless, even as the abyss itself. And certainly the Lord cannot fail for want of power, for where we have omnipotence there can be no deficiency of strength. Nor, again, can the design be unaccomplished because it was unwise, for God’s designs cannot be unwise.
II. I have thus started the first thought that the intention of Christ’s death cannot be frustrated. And now methinks every one will anxiously listen, and every ear will be attentive, and the question will arise from every heart, “WHAT THEN WAS THE INTENTION OF THE SAVIOUR’S DEATH? AND IS IT POSSIBLE THAT I CAN HAVE A PORTION IN IT?” For whom, then, did the Saviour die--and is there the slightest probability that I have some lot or portion in that great atonement which He has offered? I must now endeavour to pick out the objects of the Saviour’s atonement. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” We know that all men are lost in Adam. Again, we are all lost by practice. No sooner does the child become capable of knowing right and wrong, than you discover that he chooses the evil and abhors the good. Early passions soon break out, like weeds immediately after the shower of rain; speedily the hidden depravity of the heart makes itself manifest, and we grow up to sin, and so we become lost by practice. Then there be some who go further still. The deadly tree of sin grows taller and taller; some become lost to the Church. Now I will tell you the people whom Christ will save--they are those who are lost to themselves.
III. NOTICE THE OBJECTS OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST--He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Saving the lost
John Wesley says in his Journal: “On the 20th of December, 1778, I buried what was mortal of honest Silas Todd. For many years he attended the malefactors in Newgate without fee or reward, and I suppose no man for this hundred years has been so successful in that melancholy office. God had given him peculiar talents for it, and he had amazing success therein. The greatest part of those whom he attended died in peace, and many of them in the triumph of faith.”
Tholuck’s personal effort for individual souls
The German, Tholuck, a household name in the world’s Christian homes, standing on the borders of the grave and looking back on the fifty fruitful years of preaching, teaching, and writing, exclaimed: “I value it all less than the love that seeks and follows,” by which he had been inspired from the year of his conversion. Personal effort for individual souls! “This is a work of which the world knows little, but of which the Lord knows much.” Not only seeking, but following! Here is a single illustration. A student at Halle was brought near to his heart by a godly mother. He fell into sin and vice. He was ofttimes visited by his loving teacher, late at night or in the early morning, after a night’s debauch--sometimes in prison. Good promises were repeatedly made, and as repeatedly broken. Another sacred promise; the following day, late at night, came a card from him: “Tholuck sighs; Tholuck prays; but we will have our drink out.” Relying upon the co-working Spirit, still the saintly Tholuck followed. And the giddy youth became pastor of a well-known church in Berlin.
Seeking the lost
I was returning home towards the evening of a miserably wet day. As I passed along I met a lady whom I knew. Though the rain fell thick and fast, she had no umbrella nor shawl, cloak, nor upper covering of any kind. My first thought was that reason had fled. But no--she had lost her child. A fine little boy had gone out with the servant, and while standing in a shop she had suddenly missed him. Of course I joined in the anxious search. As I went along beside that mother, I was struck with the contrast between her eager look, intense emotion, and restless energy, and the dull, listless apathy of the other by-passers in the busy streets. She had lost a son; that was the secret of it all. She could take no rest but in seeking. I could sympathize with her, hut no more. I had not lost a son. I could not seek as she. (Family Magazine.)
Jesus finds the sinner
A Chinaman applied to a minister to be allowed to join his Church. The minister asked him some questions to find out whether he understood what it is to be a Christian, and how we are to be saved. Among other thing he asked him--“How did you find Jesus?” In his broken English the poor man replied. “Me no find Jesus at all. Jesus Him find me.”
Christ seeks all
Between the hours of ten and twelve, for many nights, a poor woman might have been seen making her way through the streets of London. A year had passed since her only daughter left home, and entered service in the metropolis. There she became acquainted with gay companions, and she was now living a life of open sin. The mother learned that her daughter might be seen every night in a certain part of the town. After many nights of watching, she was about to despair, when she saw a figure closely resembling that of her daughter. She eagerly approached, and was about to stretch out her arms to embrace it, when the light of the lamp showed that it was not her child. In an agony of grief she exclaimed, “Ah! it is not she. I was looking for my daughter; but, no, you are not my child.” The poor girl burst into tears, saying, “I have no mother--I wish I had; I wish some one would look for me. I wish some one would look for me.” Alas! there are multitudes who in the bitterness of their souls cry out, “I wish some one would look for me!” Fatherless, motherless, homeless, they tread their darkened course, and in the anguish of their stricken spirits cry out, “No man careth for my soul!” Thanks be to God, there is One who is higher than all, whose tender mercies fail not, and who looks with pitying eye on those upon whom others look with hate and scorn. And let us follow the example of Him whose mission here was to seek the ruined, and to save those that are lost. (Christian Herald.)
A certain nobleman went into a far country
Parable of the pounds
CHRIST’S ABSENCE IS A PERIOD OF PROBATION.
II. THE NATURE OF THE PROBATION IS TWOFOLD.
1. The obligation to loyalty involved in Christ’s king ship and our citizenship.
2. The obligation to fidelity involved in Christ’s lordship, and our service and trust.
III. CHRIST’S RETURN WILL BE THE OCCASION OF ACCOUNT AND RECOMPENSE. (J. R. Thomson, M. A.)
Parable of the pounds
I. IN CHRIST’S KINGDOM THE CHARACTERISTIC FEATURE IS SERVICE. Instead of fostering a spirit of self-seeking, Christ represents Himself as placing in the hands of each of His subjects a small sum,--a “pound” only, a Greek mina. What a rebuke to ambitious schemes! There is nothing suggestive of display, nothing to awaken pride. All that is asked or expected is fidelity to a small trust, a conscientious use of a little sum committed to each for keeping. This is made the condition and test of membership in Messiah’s kingdom.
II. IN CHRIST’S KINGDOM SERVICE, HOWEVER SLIGHT, IS SURE OF REWARD. The faithful use of one pound brought large return. Christ asks that there be employed for Him only what has been received from Him. Augustine prayed, “Give what Thou requirest, and require what Thou wilt.” “Natural gifts,” says Trench, “are as the vessel which may be large or small, and which receives according to its capacity, but which in each case is filled: so that we are not to think of him who received the two talents as incompletely furnished in comparison with him who received the five, any more than we should affirm a small circle incomplete as compared with a large. Unfitted he might be for so wide a sphere of labour, but altogether as perfectly equipped for that to which he was destined.” The parable sets before us the contrasted results of using, or failing to use for Christ, a small bestowment. When this is faithfully employed, the reward, though delayed, is sure.
III. IN CHRIST’S KINGDOM, FAILURE TO SERVE, RESULTS IN LOSS OF FACULTIES TO SERVE. One servant neglected to use his pound, and, on the king’s return, the unused gift was taken from him. This denotes no arbitrary enactment. The heart that refuses to love and serve Christ loses by degrees the capacity for such love and service. This is the soul’s death, the dying and decaying of its noblest faculties, its heaven-born instincts and aspirations.
IV. IN CHRIST’S KINGDOM, SERVICE, OR NEGLECT OF SERVICE, GROWS OUT OF LOVE, OR THE WANT OF LOVE, TO CHRIST. The citizens “hated the king, and would not have him to rule over them.” The idle servant “knew that he was an austere man.” In neither case was there love, and hence in neither case service. Love to Christ is indispensable to serving Him. (P. B. Davis.)
Trading for Christ
I. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS ENDOWED BY HIS REDEEMER. All that a man hath, that is worth possessing, all that he lawfully holds, partakes of the nature of a Divine endowment; even every natural faculty, and every lawful acquisition and attainment.
II. OF THE THINGS CHRIST HAS GIVEN US, WE ARE STEWARDS. Now stewardship involves what? It involves responsibility to another. We are not proprietors.
III. IN OUR USE OF WHAT CHRIST HAS COMMITTED TO US, HE EXPECTS US TO KEEP HIMSELF AND HIS OBJECTS EVER IN VIEW. What we do, is to be done for His sake. If we give a cup of cold water to a disciple, it is to be in the name of a disciple, it is to be given for Jesus’ sake. Whatever we do is to be done as to Him. If we regard a day as sacred, we must regard it unto the Lord. If we refuse to regard a particular day as sacred, that refusal is to be as unto the Lord. If we eat, we are to eat to the Lord. If we refuse to eat, that refusal, again, is to be as unto the Lord. Brethren, we have not yet entered sufficiently into the idea of servitude, and yet the position of servitude is our position. Towards Christ we are not only pupils--we are not only learners--we are as servants. We have a distinct and positive vocation.
IV. This passage reminds us that THE SAVIOUR WILL COME, AND CALL US TO ACCOUNT FOR THE USE OF ALL THAT HE HAS COMMITTED TO US.
V. ACTIVITY IN THE PAST WILL NOT JUSTIFY INERTNESS IN THE PRESENT. (S. Martin, D. D.)
Parable of the pounds
Notice the following points:
1. The “pound” had been kept in a napkin--to show sometimes, as people keep a Bible in their house to let us see how religious they are. But the very brightness of the Book proves how little it is read. It is kept for the respectability of it, not used for the love of it. The anxious faithless keeper of the pound had perhaps sometimes talked of his fellow-servants “risking their pounds in that way”; adding “I take care of mine.” But spending is better than hoarding; and the risks of a trade sure to be on the whole gainful are better than the formal guardianship of that which, kept to the last, is then lost, and which, while kept, is of no use.
2. The pound is taken away from the unfaithful servant, and given to the ablest of the group. Let the man who is ablest have what has been wasted. Let all, in their proportion, receive to their care the advantages which have been neglected, and employ these for themselves and for us.
3. Notice next, how it fares with the different servants when the king and the master return. Those who had been faithful are all commended and rewarded. The king shares his kingdom with those who had been faithful to him in his poverty. They have gained pounds, and they receive cities. The master receives those into happiest intimacy with himself, who, in his absence, have been faithfully industrious for him. These good men enter into his joy. He delayed his coming; but they continued their labours. They said not, “He will never come to reckon with us; let us make his goods our own; we have been busy, let us now be merry.” “Outer darkness!” How expressively do the words represent both the state of man before his soul’s good is gained, and his state when that good has been lost! Who that has gained shelter, and is one of the many whose hope, whose interests are one, who have light and warmth and sometimes festive music, would be cast forth again into the cold, dark, lonely night?
4. There are for each man two ways of gain--the direct and the indirect, increase and interest. How comes increase? It comes by the plenty of nature, which enables us to add one thing to another, as gold to iron and wood; by the productiveness of nature, which out of one seed yields many; by the application of skill to nature, through which we extract, connect, and adapt nature’s gifts, and, first fashioning took, then fashion many things. But all were to little purpose without combination. And whatever of ours another uses, paying us for the use, yields us interest. We depend for the increase of our possessions on our connection with others, our combination with them. And we can always employ our “talent” indirectly, if we cannot directly; usually, we can do both. We can both sow a field and lend money to a farmer. We can attend to work of our own, and sustain the work of others. We can teach, and help, and comfort; and we can subscribe in aid of those who do such work of this kind as we cannot ourselves perform. (T. T. Lynch.)
The servants and the pounds
I. THERE ARE HERE TWO SETS OF PERSONS. We see the enemies who would not have this man to reign over them, and the servants who had to trade with his money. You are all either enemies or servants of Jesus.
II. We now advance a step further, and notice THE ENGAGEMENTS OF THESE SERVANTS. Their lord was going away, and he left his ten servants in charge with a little capital, with which they were to trade for him till he returned.
1. Notice, first, that this was honourable work. They were not entrusted with large funds, but the amount was enough to serve as a test. It put them upon their honour.
2. It was work for which he gave them capital. He gave to each of them a pound. “Not much,” you will say. No, he did not intend it to be much. They were not capable of managing very much. If he found them faithful in “a very little” he could then raise them to a higher responsibility. He did not expect them to make more than the pound would fairly bring in; for after all, he was not “an austere man.” Thus he gave them a sufficient capital for his purpose.
3. What they had to do with the pound was prescribed in general terms. They were to trade with it, not to play with it.
(1) The work which he prescribed was one that would bring them out. The man that is to succeed in trade in these times must have confidence, look alive, keep his eyes open, and be all there.
(2) Trading, if it be successfully carried on, is an engrossing concern, calling out the whole man. It is a continuous toil, a varied trial, a remarkable test, a valuable discipline, and this is why the nobleman put his bondsmen to it, that he might afterwards use them in still higher service.
(3) At the same time, let us notice that it was work suitable to their capacity. Small as the capital was, it was enough for them; for they were no more than bondsmen, not of a high grade of rank or education.
III. Thirdly, to understand this parable, we must remember THE EXPECTANCY WHICH WAS ALWAYS TO INFLUENCE THEM. They were left as trusted servants till he should return, but that return was a main item in the matter.
1. They were to believe that he would return, and that he would return a king.
2. They were to regard their absent master as already king, and they were so to trade among his enemies that they should never compromise their own loyalty.
3. I find that the original would suggest to any one carefully reading it, that they were to regard their master as already returning. This should be our view of our Lord’s Advent? He is even now on His way hither.
IV. Now comes the sweet part of the subject. Note well THE SECRET DESIGN OF THE LORD. Did it ever strike you that this nobleman had a very kindly design towards his servants? Did this nobleman give these men one pound each with the sole design that they should make money for him? It would be absurd to think so. A few pounds would be no item to one who was made a king. No, not it was, as Mr. Bruce says, “he was net money making, but character making.” His design was not to gain by them, but to educate them.
1. First, their being entrusted with a pound each was a test. The test was only a pound, and they could not make much mischief out of that; but it would be quite sufficient to try their capacity and fidelity, for he that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in much. They did not all endure the test, but by its means he revealed their characters.
2. It was also a preparation of them for future service. He would lift them up from being servants to become rulers.
3. Besides this, I think he was giving them a little anticipation of their future honours. He was about to make them rulers over cities, and so he first made them rulers over pounds. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Accountability and reward
1. We may learn that Christians have received special advantages, and that every one is accountable to God for the use or abuse of them.
2. From this parable we may learn that no man is so obscure or contemptible as to escape the penetrating eye of the Judge of the world; either because he has done nothing but evil, or done no good. No man is so mean, or poor, or wicked, as to be over-looked or forgotten. No man is so insignificant nor so feeble as not to have duties to perform. -3. From this parable also we infer that all who shall improve will be rewarded; and that the reward will be in proportion to the improvement.
4. The advantages which God bestows, when improved, shall be increased, so as to form additional means of progress; while he who misimproves his present means and opportunities shall be deprived of them.
5. Those who reject Jesus Christ shall be punished in the most exemplary manner (Luke 19:27). (J. Thomson, D. D.)
1. That our Lord’s absence, here attributed to His having gone to receive a kingdom, does not conflict with other representations of the reason of such absence, viz., to send forth the Holy Spirit, and “to make intercession for us.”
2. That the period of our Lord’s absence is definite in its duration, “until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21), and also under the absolute authority of the Father (Acts 1:7).
3. That our duty is not to be prying into the mysteries of our Lord’s coming, or spending precious time in making useless calculations in respect to the time when He will come, but to “occupy” till He come. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Christ’s spiritual kingdom
I. THE PROPER NATURE OF THE KINGDOM.
1. The Son of God from heaven is King.
2. He has received the kingdom in heaven. He will give lull manifestation of it from heaven; and return.
II. THE PRESENT STATE OF THE KINGDOM. Although a heavenly kingdom, it yet stretches over the whole human race upon earth; for on earth He has--
1. Servants, as stewards of entrusted gifts.
2. Enemies, who grudge His heavenly glory.
III. THE FUTURE MANIFESTATION OF THE KINGDOM SHOWS IT TO BE A HEAVENLY ONE, from the manner in which rewards and punishments are to be distributed; which is--
1. Righteous and beneficent in the gracious apportionment of reward to those of approved fidelity.
2. Just and righteous in the punishment--
(1) of the faithless;
(2) of avowed enemies. (F. G. Lisco.)
Parable of the pounds
I. THE DESIGN OF THIS PARABLE.
1. It corrects false notions about the immediate appearance of
God’s kingdom as temporal and visible.
2. It teaches that Christ would take His departure from earth, and delay His return.
3. It enforces the need of present fidelity to our trust.
4. It illustrates the folly of expecting good from the future if the present be neglected.
5. It contains the promise of our Lord’s return.
II. WHEN WILL HE COME TO US INDIVIDUALLY?
1. Either at our death.
2. Or, at the last day to institute judgment.
3. The time for either, for both, is unknown to us.
III. CLASSES PASSED UPON IN JUDGMENT AS HERE FORESHADOWED.
1. This parable contains no reference to the heathen.
2. Those who improved their pounds were approved and rewarded according to the measure of their fidelity.
3. He that knew his master’s will and neglected his trust was reproved and deprived of his pound.
4. The Lord’s enemies, who would not have Him to reign over them, were punished with the severity their hate and wicked opposition merited.
IV. SOME LESSONS.
1. Our Lord’s return has already been delayed 18--years.
2. We are not to infer from this that He never will return.
3. He that is faithful only in the visible presence of his master, is not entirely trustworthy.
4. Each one of the ten servants received ten pounds. The outward circumstances of none are so meagre that in them each one may not equally serve his Lord.
5. If the parable of the talents refers to inward gifts, which are equally distributed, then the parable of the pounds refer to our opportunities for doing good, which to all are alike.
6. Improved opportunities increase our capacity to do and get good. They are like money at interest. After Girard had saved his first thousand, it was the same, he said, as if he had a man to work for him all the time.
7. Neglected opportunities never return. You cannot put your hand into yesterday to do what was then neglected, or sow the seeds of future harvests.
8. Even if we knew that the Lord would return to-morrow, to-day’s work should not be neglected. “Trade ye herewith, till I come.” (L. O.Thompson.)
1. The departure of the nobleman to the far country, and his sojourn there until he should receive his kingdom, intimate that the second coming of the Lord was not to be immediate.
2. The true preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of the Lord, is that of character. The “pound” given to each, is the common blessing of the gospel and its opportunities.
I. THE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT WHO MADE HIS ONE POUND INTO TEN. Symbolizing the conduct and blessedness of those who make the most of their enjoyment of the gospel blessings. They do not despise the day of small things. They do not trifle away their time in idleness, or waste it in sin; but finding salvation in the gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ, they set themselves to turn every occupation in which they are engaged, and every providential dispensation through which they may be brought, to the highest account, for the development in them of the Christian character.
II. ANOTHER WAY OF DEALING WITH THE COMMON BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL IS ILLUSTRATED IN THE CASE OF HIM WHO HAD INCREASED HIS POUND TO FIVE. He had been a real servant; but his diligence had been less ardent, his devotion less thorough, his activity less constant, and so the Lord simply said to him, “Be thou also over five cities.” The representative of the easy-going disciple. There are some who will be saved, yet so as by fire, and others who shall have salvation in fulness; some who shall have little personal holiness on which to graft the life of the future, and who shall thus be in a lower place in heaven for evermore, enjoying its blessedness as thoroughly as they are competent to do, yet having there a position analogous it may be, though of course not at all identical, with that occupied by the Gideonites of old in the promised land.
III. THE SERVANT WHO HID HIS POUND IN THE EARTH, AFTER HE HAD CAREFULLY SOUGHT TO KEEP IT FROM BEING INJURED, BY WRAPPING IT IN A NAPKIN. He lost everything by an unbelieving anxiety to lose nothing. He was so afraid of doing anything amiss, that he did nothing at all. The representative of the great multitude of hearers of the gospel, who simply do nothing whatever about it. They do not oppose it; they do not laugh at it; they do not argue against it; their worst enemies would not call them immoral; but they “neglect the great salvation,” and think that because, as they phrase it, they have done no harm, therefore they are in no danger. But Christ requires positive improvement of the privileges which He bestows.
IV. THE CONDUCT OF THOSE CITIZENS WHO HATED THE NOBLEMAN, AND SAID, “We will not,” etc. Open enemies. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Occupy till I come
The traffic of the kingdom
Our Lord leads us into the great mart, and cries, “Occupy till I come.”
I. The Lord gives every man a fair start in this business, and old obligations are paid.
II. The Lord backs all the just and legal promissory notes of His merchantmen. “I am with you.”
III. The Christian trader has influential partnership. “Co-workers with God.”
IV. Success in this business requires extensive advertisement.
1. By expression of word.
2. By expression of deportment.
V. Diplomacy is essential. When to expend, when recruit.
VI. True effort and success will flow from intense earnestness.
VII. In this business nothing succeeds like success. His talents--are we improving them? (D. D. Moore.)
I. LIFE OUGHT TO BE ONE OF OCCUPATION. World a great workshop.
II. WORK SHOULD BE RECEIVED AS FROM CHRIST. He says, “Occupy.” We must make sure that our occupation, or any part of it, is not in opposition to His will.
III. WORK TRULY PERFORMED LEADS TO AND PREPARES FOR HIGHER WORK. “Occupy till I come.” When He came it was to give kingdoms instead of pounds. The schoolboy does not need costly books. The young apprentice has his hand and eye trained by working on cheap materials. Every duty faithfully discharged is a step on God’s ladder of promotion. Do not wait for some great opportunity. The born artist makes his first pictures with a bit of chalk or burnt stick.
IV. THE WHOLE LIFE SHOULD BE SOLEMNIZED AND GUIDED BY THE THOUGHT OF CHRIST’S COMING. “Occupy till I come.” The irrational creatures instinctively and necessarily perform their parts. The earth was kept by them till the householder, man, appeared. But the thought of Christ’s coming, the thought of meeting Him to give in our account, is necessary for man’s right living here. Some say that men are simply to act their part, without thinking of a future. But a man cannot do this. As the sailor, the traveller, knows whither he is going before he sets out, and makes his preparations and steers his course accordingly, so must we. A ship simply set adrift--a traveller merely wandering on--is most unlikely to reach any happy haven. We must give account. We are moving on to the Judgment-seat of Christ. Duties done or neglected, opportunities improved or wasted, will meet us there. (E. F. Scott.)
We will not have this man to reign over us
Christ’s spiritual kingdom and its rejection by men
1. THAT CHRIST HATH A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM; for all things concur here which belong to a kingdom; here is a monarch, which is Christ; a law, which is the gospel; subjects, which are penitent believers; rewards and punishments, eternal life and eternal torment.
1. Here is a monarch, the mediator, whose kingdom it is. Originally it belongeth to God as God, but derivatively to Christ as Mediator (Ps Philippians 2:10-11).
2. There are subjects. Before I tell you who they are, I must premise that there is a double consideration of subjects. Some are subjects by the grant of God, others are subjects not only by the grant of God, but their own consent.
3. The law of commerce between this sovereign and these subjects (for all kingdoms are governed by laws).
4. Rewards and punishments.
(1) For punishments. Though the proper intent and business of the gospel is to bless, and not to curse, yet, if men wilfully refuse the benefit of this dispensation, they are involved in the greatest curse that can be thought of John 3:19).
(2) Rewards. The privileges of Christ’s kingdom are exceeding great.
(a) For the present, pardon and peace.
(b) Hereafter eternal happiness.
II. That in all reason THIS KINGDOM SHOULD BE SUBMITTED UNTO--
1. Because of the right which Christ hath to govern. He hath an unquestionable title by the grant of God (Acts 2:36). And His own merit of purchase (Romans 14:9).
2. This new right and title is comfortable and beneficial to us.
3. It is by His kingly office that all Christ’s benefits are applied to us. As a Priest, He purchased them for us; as a Prophet, He giveth us the knowledge of these mysteries; but as a King, He conveyeth them to us, overcoming our enemies, changing our natures, and inclining us to believe in Him, love Him, and obey Him (Acts 5:31).
4. Our actual personal title to all the benefits intended to us is mainly evidenced by our subjection to His regal authority.
5. We shall be unwillingly subject to His kingdom of power if we be not willingly subject to His kingdom of grace.
6. This government, which we so much stick at, is a blessed government. Christ Himself pleadeth this (Matthew 11:30), “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” It is sweet in itself, and sweet in the issue.
III. WHAT MOVETH AND INDUCETH MEN SO MUCH TO DISLIKE CHRIST’S REIGN AND GOVERNMENT.
1. The evil constitution of men’s souls. This government is contrary to men’s carnal and brutish affections. It comes from an affectation of liberty. Men would be at their own dispose, and do whatsoever pleaseth them, without any to call them to an account (Psalms 12:4).
3. It proceeds from the nature of Christ’s laws.
(1) They are spiritual.
(2) They require self-denial.
1. It showeth us whence all the contentions arise which are raised about religion in the world. All the corrupt part of the world oppose His kingly office.
2. It informeth us how much they disserve Christianity that will hear of no injunctions of duty, or mention of the law of faith, or of the new covenant as a law. Besides that they take part with the carnal world, who cannot endure Christ’s reign and government, they blot out all religion with one dash. If there be no law, there is no government, nor governor, no duty, no sin, no punishment nor reward; for these things necessarily infer one another.
3. It informeth us what a difficult thing it is to seat Christ in His spiritual throne, namely, in the hearts of all faithful Christians.
4. It informeth us of the reason why so many nations shut the door against Christ, or else grow weary of Him.
5. It informeth us how ill they deal with Christ who have only notional opinions about His authority, but never practically submit to it.
Exhortation. If we would distinguish ourselves from the carnal world, let us resolve upon a thorough course of Christianity, owning Christ’s authority in all things.
1. If we be to begin, and have hitherto stood against Christ, oh I let us repent and reform, and return to our obedience (Matthew 18:3).
2. Remember that faith is a great part of your works from first to last John 6:27).
3. Your obedience must be delightful, and such as cometh from love (1 John 5:3).
4. Your obedience must be very circumspect and accurate (Hebrews 12:28).
5. It is a considerable part of our work to look for our wages, or expect the endless blessedness to which we are appointed (Titus 2:13). (T. Manton, D. D.)
When He was returned
The Lord’s return
Some weeks ago a great procession was in Chicago. On Sunday evening before, the park was filled with tents and people, in preparation for the display on Tuesday. Passing down the avenue, a lad said, as we crossed the railway track: “Did you see that long train of cars, sir? They are going after the knights.” “Yes, I saw them,” was the reply. “My cousin is one of them, sir; he is a sir-knight. I wish I was one,” said the boy. “Why?” said the gentleman. “Oh! they look so pretty, and they’ll have a big time, sir.” “Yes,” said the man, “but it is a great expense--one or two millions, and the interest of the money would support all the poor in the city.” “I never thought of that,” said the boy; “and we are poor.” Having asked his age, residence, and place of work, the gentleman said, “Do you go to church and Sunday-school?” “Yes,” said the boy. “Did you ever hear of Jesus? Yes, indeed.” “Do you know He will come again--come in glory, with all the angels, with all the prophets, kings, martyrs, holy men, and children, and with all the babies that have ever died?” “W-e-l-l,” said the boy, “I don’t believe this procession, big as it is, will be a fleabite to that one, do you, sir?” “No, indeed,” said the man; “and remember, also, that when He comes in glory He will give places to every one who has been faithful to Him; even a boy may shine in that great Company.” “Well, sir,” said the lad, “I will tell you what I think. I had rather be at the tail-end of Jesus’ procession than to be at the head of this one. Wouldn’t you, sir?” Even so it will be. But His enemies, what of them? Slain before Him. There are His servants, His family, and His enemies; there is glory, reward, and judgment. Which for you and me?
Three ways of treating God’s gifts
There are three ways in which we may treat God’s gifts; we may misuse them, neglect them, or use them to good purpose. A tool-chest is a very handy thing. The boy who has one can do good work with it, if he wishes. But if he uses the chisel to chip the noses of statuettes, or the hammer to drive nails into choice pictures, or the hatchet to cut and hack the young trees in the orchard, that tool-chest becomes anything but a valuable acquisition to the family. A sharp knife is a good thing, but in the hand of a madman it may do untold damage. So education and natural talent are good things when rightly used; but there is no rogue so dangerous as the educated or talented rogue. Neglect, too, destroys. The sharpest tool will by and by rust, if left unused. The bread for our nourishment, if unused, will soon change into a corrupt mass. The untended garden will be quickly overrun with weeds. The sword that is never drawn at last holds fast to the scabbard. And so the learning and the talents that lie idle soon begin to deteriorate. An Eastern story tells of a merchant who gave to each of two friends a sack of grain to keep till he should call for it. Years passed; and at last he claimed his own again. One led him to a field of waving corn, and said, “This is all yours.” The other took him to a granary, and pointed out to him as his a rotten sack full of wasted grain. On the other hand, the proper use of talents brings its own reward. Cast forth the seed, and the harvest is sure. The sculptor’s chisel carves out the statue. Beneath the hand of man great palaces grow up. And beyond and above all, there is the consciousness that every good use of a talent, every noble act done, is adding a stone to the stately temple that shall be revealed hereafter. (Sunday School Times.)
Thou hast been faithful in a very little
Faithfulness in little things
There is a principle in this award which regulates God’s dealings with us in either world. And it is this--the ground and secret of all increase is “faithfulness.” And we may all rejoice that this is the rule of God’s moral gifts--for had anything else except “faithfulness” been made the condition, many would have been unable, or at least, would have thought themselves unable, to advance at all. I should have no hesitation in placing first “faithfulness” to convictions. So long as a man has not silenced them by sin, the heart is full of “still small voices,” speaking to him everywhere. There is a duty which has long lain neglected, and almost forgotten. Suddenly, there wakes up in your mind a memory of that forgotten duty. It is a very little thing that, by some association, woke the memory. An old sin presents itself to your mind in a new light. A thought comes to you in the early morning, “Get up.” Presently, another thought says, “You are leaving your room without any real communion with God.” Those are convictions. Everybody has them--they are the movings of the Holy Ghost in a man--they are the scintillations of an inner life which is struggling with the darkness. But, be “faithful” to them; for if you are unfaithful, they will get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, till they go out. But if you are “faithful” to them, there will be an increase--stronger, more frequent, loftier, more spiritual, they will grow--till it is as if your whole being were penetrated with the mind of God;and everything within you and around you will be a message, and the whole world will be vocal to you of Christ. Next to this “faithfulness” to convictions, I should place “faithfulness in little things” to men--and this of two kinds. It is of the utmost importance that you be scrupulously accurate and just in all your most trivial transactions of honour and business with your fellow-creatures. And, secondly, every one of us has, or might have, influence with somebody. The acquisition and the use of that influence are great matters of “faithfulness.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Soul-growth depends on fidelity
To employ well the present, is to command the future. And that for two reasons. One, the natural law, which pervades all nature, rational and irrational, that growth is the offspring of exercise. And the other, the sovereign will of a just God to increase the gifts of those who use them. But whence “faithfulness”? How shall we cultivate it? First, think a great deal of God’s faithfulness--how very “faithful” He has been to you--how “faithful” in all the little events of your life, and in all the secret passages of your soul. Steep your mind in the thought of the faithfulness of God to you, in all your little things, till you catch its savour. Look at it till the finest traits reflect themselves upon your heart. And, secondly, go, and do to-day some one “faithful” thing. Do it for Christ. Be “faithful” where your conscience tells you you have been faithless. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Faithful in little
A Persian king when hunting wished to eat venison in the field. Some of his attendants thereupon went into a village near, and helped themselves to a quantity of salt for their master. The king, suspecting what they had done, made them go back and pay for it, with the remark, “If I cannot make my people just in small things, I can at least show them that it is possible to be so.”
The joy of faithful work
There comes over to our shores a poor stonecutter. The times are so bad at home that he is scarcely able to earn bread enough to eat; and by a whole year’s stinting economy he manages to get together just enough to pay for a steerage passage to this country. He comes, homeless and acquaintanceless, and lands in New York, and wanders over to Brooklyn and seeks employment. He is ashamed to beg bread; and yet he is hungry. The yards are all full; but still, as he is an expert stonecutter, a man, out of charity, says, “Well, I will give you a little work--enough to enable you to pay for your board.” And he shows him a block of stone to work on. What is it? One of many parts which are to form some ornament. Here is just a querl or fern, and there is a branch of what is probably to be a flower. He goes to work on this stone, and most patiently shapes it. He carves that bit of a fern, putting all his skill and taste into it. And by and by the master says, “Well done,” and takes it away, and gives him another block, and tells him to work on that. And so he works on that, from the rising of the sun till the going down of the same, and he only knows that he is earning his bread. And he continues to put all his skill and taste into his work. He has no idea what use will be made of those few stems which he has been carving, until afterwards, when, one day, walking along the street, and looking up at the front of the Art Gallery, he sees the stones upon which he has worked. He did not know what they were for; but the architect did. And as he stands looking at his work on that structure which is the beauty of the whole street the tears drop down from his eyes, and he says, “I am glad I did it well.” And every day, as he passes that way, he says to himself exultingly, “I did it well.” He did not draw the design nor plan the building, and he knew nothing of what use was to be made of his work; but he took pains in cutting those stems; and when he saw that they were a part of that magnificent structure his soul rejoiced. Dear brethren, though the work which you are doing seems small, put your heart in it; do the best you can wherever you are; and by and by God will show you where He has put that work. And when you see it stand in that great structure which He is building you will rejoice in every single moment of fidelity with which you wrought. Do not let the seeming littleness of what you are doing now damp your fidelity. (H. W. Beecher.)
Laid up in a napkin
Laziness in the Church
This part of the parable is meant to teach the necessity of developing our forces, and bringing them into use in Christian life. The duty of the development of power in one’s self as a part of his allegiance to Christ is the main thought. So, also, is it wrong for one affecting to be a Christian to confine his development and increase simply to things that surround him and that strengthen him from the exterior. It is not wrong for a man to seek wealth in appropriate methods and in due measure; it is not wrong for a man to build up around himself the household, the gallery, the library; it is not wrong for a man to make himself strong on the earthward side; but to make himself strong only on that side is wrong. Every man is bound to build within. Indeed, the very one of the moral functions which inheres in all religious industries is that, while a man is building himself exteriorly according to the laws of nature and society and of moral insight, he is by that very process building himself inwardly. He is building himself in patience, in foresight, in self-denial, in liberalities; for often generosity and liberality are in the struggle of men in life what oil is in the machine, that make the friction less and the movement easier. So it is wrong for men to build themselves up simply for the sake of deriving more pleasure from reason, from poetic sensibility, and from all aesthetic elements; but it is not wrong for them to render themselves, through education, susceptible to finer and higher pleasures. Not only this, but we learn from a fair interpretation of this parable that men are not to be content with their birthright state. It is not enough that a man has simply the uneducated qualities that are given to him. Life educates us so far as the gift of the hand and the foot is concerned. In so far as secular relations are concerned, the necessities of business and the sweep of public sentiment are tending constantly to educate men to bring out all that there is in them. In the higher spiritual life it is not always the case. Men are content with about the moral sense that they have, if it averages the moral sense of the community; about the amount of faith that comes to them without seeking or education; about the amount of personal and moral influence that exists in social relations. But the law of the gospel is: Develop. No man has a right to die with his faculties in about the state that they were when he came to his manhood. There should be growth, growth. Going on is the condition of life in the Church or in the community just as much as in the orchard or in the garden. When a tree is “bound” and won’t grow, we know that it is very near to its end: and a tree that will not grow becomes a harbour of all manner of venomous insects. Men go and look under the bark, and seeing them consorting here and there and everywhere, say: “That is the reason the tree did not grow.” No, it was the not growing that brought them there. And so all sorts of errors and mistakes cluster under the bark of men that stand still and do not unfold--do not develop. This being the doctrine, I remark, in the first place, that one may be free from all vices and from great sins, and yet break God’s whole law. That law is love. Many say to themselves, “What wrong do I do?” The question is, What right do you do? An empty grape-vine might say, “Why, what harm do I do?” Yes, but what clusters do you produce? Vitality should be fruitful. Men are content if they can eat, and drink, and be clothed, and keep warm, and go on thus from year to year; because they say, “I cheat no one; I do not lie or steal, nor am I drunk. I pay my debts, and what lack I yet?” A man that can only do that is very poorly furnished within. And in no land in the world are men so culpable who stand still as in this land of Christian light and privileges. You are not saved because you do not do harm. In our age--in no land so much as in ours--not doing is criminal. The means of education, the sources of knowledge, the duties of citizenship, in this land, are such that to be born here is--I had almost said to take the oath--to fulfil these things. You cannot find in the New Testament anything that covers in detail each one of these particulars; and yet the spirit of the New Testament is--Grow, develop according to the measure of opportunity. That being so, there never was an age in which we had so much right to call upon men for fulness of influence and for the pouring out of their special and various talents in every sphere of duty. There never was a time, I think, in which it was so well worth a man’s while to live. In former days a man might say: “I know nothing of all these things; how can I be blamed?” but no man can say that to-day. No man that works at the blacksmith’s forge can say: “Well, I was a blacksmith.” A man may be a blacksmith, and yet educate himself. No man can say: “I am a carpenter; how should I be suspected of knowledge?” If you do not have knowledge, you are not fit to be a carpenter. It is not enough that a man should increase his refinement; he is to increase it under the law: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is not enough that a man should pursue, ploughing deeply and uncovering continually, the truths of economy; he should seek for those truths that he may have that with which to enlighten and strengthen other men. (H. W. Beecher.)
The natural heart unveiled in the great account
I. First, lying at the bottom of all here, in the character of the natural mind, there comes out “the evil heart of unbelief”--A FATAL MISJUDGMENT OF THE ADORABLE GOD--an entire heart-ignorance of God, estrangement from God, believing of the devil’s lie concerning God, in place of God’s blessed revelation concerning Himself--“Thou art an austere man,” a hard master, very difficult to please. Still, still, the natural conscience will bear stern witness to the reality of a Divine judgment and law. And so, as often as the fallen heart is forced into near contact with God, this is its language--scarce uttered consciously even to itself, and much less uttered audibly to others--“Thou art an austere man,” a hard master, demanding things unreasonable, impossible for us weak creatures! Need I say that it is a lie of the devil, a foul calumny on the blessed God? A hard master? Oh, “God is love.”
II. Second, and inseparably connected with this first feature in the character, see a second--A DARK, JEALOUS DREAD OF SUCH A GOD, prompting the wish to be away from Him--“I feared Thee, because Thou art an austere man,” a hard master! The fear is obviously that of dark distrust, jealousy, suspicion. It is the opposite of confidence, affection, love. How, in fact, can such a God be loved?
III. And now, connected inseparably with these two features of character, even as the second with the first, see the third feature in the character--completing it--even AN UTTER INDISPOSITION FOR ALL CHEERFUL, ACTIVE SERVICE OF GOD, “For I feared Thee--Lord, behold, here is Thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; for I feared Thee, because Thou art an austere man.” Impossible to serve such a God--impossible, first, to love Him; and, next, impossible to serve a God unloved. Oh, love is the spring of service; distrust, jealousy, suspicion, are the death of it. But this man thinks he has served God tolerably well. “Lord, behold, here is Thy pound”! In the exceeding deceitfulness of the natural heart, does he contrive to persuade himself that he has given God no serious cause of offence with him. It is the more strange he should be able so to persuade himself, inasmuch as in his own word, “thy pound,” he confesses that it was the property of another--of a Master who had lent it to him for a purpose, which, assuredly, was not that of keeping it laid uselessly up.
“And He called His ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come’”--“occupy,” that is, traffic diligently, trade, “till I come.” Oh, what is thus the whole Christian life but a busy commerce--a trading for God, for the good of all around us, for eternity? Fain I would have you to note--although it belongs less to my main theme--that, if you take the three features of character which we have seen in the text, and simply reverse them one by one, you shall have the whole character of God’s regenerated child--of the renewed heart--that heart of which it is written, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Thus,
1. First, substitute for that word of the apostle, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them,” the one which follows it, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath Shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” For the mournful entire heart-ignorance of God, substitute the blessed promise fulfilled, “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord.” For the evil heart of unbelief, crediting the devil’s lie concerning God, substitute that heaven-born faith, “We believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”--“We have known and believed the love that God hath unto us.” And you have the foundation of the whole character of the new creature in Christ Jesus.
2. Secondly, for that fear of dark and jealous dread which springs of unbelief, substitute the love that springs of faith, “We love Him, because He first loved us”--“My beloved is mine, and I am His”--and you have the new heart in its very soul.
3. And thus, thirdly, for the utter indisposition to God’s cheerful service, substitute that heart for all service, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” A practical inference or two before I close
(1) First, there is to be a judgment day. Do you believe it?
(2) Second, how worthless, in that day, will be all merely negative religion--“Lord, behold, here is Thy pound, which I have kept laid up in anapkin!” And as for all attempts to occupy neutral ground in the kingdom of Christ, what dreams they are!
(3) But, thirdly, be it carefully noted that this, properly speaking, is not yet the Judge, but the Prophet, telling beforehand of the Judge, and of the judgment to come. (C. J. Brown, D. D.)
“Out of thy own mouth will I judge thee”
Now the general truth that I would deduce from this narrative, and endeavour to establish, may be expressed in these terms. That insensibility and inaction with which mankind are to so great an extent chargeable, as touching religion, are indefensible on every ground, unsusceptible of apology from any quarter, and incapable of being justified on any principles whatsoever, being inconsistent with what is enjoined by every man’s belief, however loose and erroneous it may be.
1. It is a principle universally admitted among men that every subject should receive a degree of attention proportioned to its intrinsic magnitude and our personal interest in it; and in things purely secular they endeavour to carry this principle into practice. But not to dwell too long on this, I pass to another principle of common life--
2. Which is sinned against in religion, that of employing the present for the advantage of the future. What man of you is there whose schemes do not contemplate the future, and whose labours do not look to that which is to come?
3. And here I am reminded of another inconsistency into which many fall. I refer to the unjustifiable and unauthorized use which they make of the fact of the Divine benevolence in their speculations upon religion. A use which they would blush to make of it in reference to any other subject. What would you think of the man who should found all his expectations of health, and affluence, and happiness, on the simple fact of the Divine benignity, and should infer from the truth that God is good, that he shall never know want or feel pain?
4. There is another common principle unhesitatingly admitted among men, on which I would remark in this connection, as being denied a place among the first truths of religion--the principle of not expecting any acquisition of considerable value without much precedent labour and pains taken for it.
5. There is yet one other principle ,of common life, which, we have to complain, is not acted upon in religion. It is that of adopting always the safer course. (W. Nevins, D. D.)
Unto every one which hath shall be given
The law of use
The idea is that having is something quite other than mere passive, possession--the upturned, nerveless palm of beggary. Having, real having, is eager, instant, active possession, the sinewy grip. Having is using. Anything not used is already the same as lost. It will be lost by and by. In this sense of having, the more we have, the more we get; the less we have, the less we get. This is law, universal law.
I. THIS LAW OF USE IS PHYSICAL LAW. Muscular force gains nothing by being husbanded. Having is using. And to him that hath, shall be given. He shall grow stronger and stronger. What is difficult, perhaps impossible today, shall be easy to-morrow. He that keeps on day by day lifting the calf, shall lift the bullock by and by. More than this. Only he that uses shall even so much as keep. Unemployed strength steadily diminishes. The sluggard’s arm grows soft and flabby.
II. THIS LAW OF USE IS COMMERCIAL LAW. Real possession is muscular. The toil, care, sagacity, and self-denial required in getting property, are precisely the toil, care, sagacity, and self-denial required in keeping it. Nay, keeping is harder than getting, a great deal harder. Wise investments often require a genius like that of great generalship. Charles Lamb, in one of his essays, expresses pity for the poor, dull, thriftless fellow who wrapped his pound up in a napkin. But the poor fellow was also to be blamed. Those ten servants, who had the ten pounds given them, were commanded to trade therewith till the master came.
III. THIS LAW OF USE IS MENTAL LAW. Even knowledge, like the manna of old, must needs be fresh. It will not keep. The successful teacher is always the diligent and eager learner. Just when he has nothing new to say, just then his authority begins to wane. Much more is mental activity essential to mental force. It is related of Thorwaldsen that when at last he finished a statue that satisfied him, he told his friends that his genius was leaving him. Having reached a point beyond which he could push no further, his instinct told him that he had already begun to fail. So it proved. The summit of his fame was no broad plateau, but a sharp Alpine ridge. The last step up had to be quickly followed by the first step down. It is so in everything. Ceasing to gain, we begin to lose. Ceasing to advance, we begin to retrograde.
IV. THIS LAW OF USE IS ALSO MORAL LAW. Here lies the secret of character. There is no such thing as standing still. There is no such thing as merely holding one’s own. Only the swimmer floats. Only the conqueror is unconquered. Character is not inheritance, nor happy accident, but hardest battle and victory. The fact is, evil never abdicates, never goes off on a vacation, never sleeps. Every day every one of us is ambushed and assaulted; and what we become, is simply our defeat or victory. Not to be crowned victor, is to pass under the yoke. If prayer be, what Tertullian has pictured it, the watch-cry of a soldier under arms, guarding the tent and standard of his general, then the habit of it ought to be growing on us. For the night is round about us, and, though the stars are out, our enemies are not asleep. H the Bible be what we say it is, we should know it better and better. Written by men, still it has God for its Author, unfathomable depths of wisdom for its contents, and for its shining goal the battlements and towers of the New Jerusalem. So of all the virtues and graces. They will not take care of themselves. Real goodness is as much an industry, as much a business, as any profession, trade, or pursuit of men. (R. D.Hitchcock, D. D.)
I. LET US SEEK TO GIVE FULL STATEMENT TO THE PRINCIPLE HERE ANNOUNCED, BEFORE WE ATTEMPT TO SHOW ITS PRACTICAL REACH.
1. The meaning of our Lord’s words is certainly clear. Consider that the pounds represent any sort of gift or endowment for usefulness--any capacity, resource, instrument, or opportunity for doing good to our fellow men. He does not really possess anything; he only “occupies” it; it is actually lent money, and belongs to his Lord.
2. The illustrations which suggest themselves in ordinary experience will make the whole matter our own. We are simply reminded once more of the working of the universal law of exercise. Our bodily members and our intelluctual faculties are skilled and invigorated by activity, and injured seriously by persistent disuse. An interesting example of cultivating alertness of observation is related in the life of Robert Houdin, the famous magician. Knowing the need of a swift mastery and a retentive memory of arbitrarily chosen objects in the great trick of second-sight, he took his son through the crowded streets, then required him to repeat the names of all the things he had seen. He often led the lad into a gentleman’s library for just a passing moment, and then afterwards questioned him as to the colour and places of the books on the shelves and table. Thus he taught him to observe with amazing rapidity, and hold what he gained, till that pale child baffled the wise world that watched his performances. But, highest of all, our spiritual life comes in for an illustration. Here we find that, in what is truly the most subtle part of our human organization, we are quite as remarkable as elsewhere. Even in our intercourse with God, we bend to natural law. He prays best who is in the habit of prayer. His very fervour and spirituality, as well as his fluency, are increased by constant practice. Thus it is with studious reading of the Scriptures Thus it is with the constant and devout reference of one’s life to God’s overruling providence. And thus it is with preparedness for heaven. Piety altogether is as capable of growth as any possession we have. He who has, gains more; he who leaves unused what he has, loses it.
II. A FEW PLAIN APPLICATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. Begin with the duty of Christian beneficence. Any pastor of a Church, any leader of a difficult enterprise, is acquainted with the fact that the best persons to ask for a contribution, with a sublime faith and a most cheerful expectation of success, are those who have just been giving largely, those who all along have been giving the most. Such Christians are prospered by the exercise. Their hearts and their purses alike are distended with the grace and the gold.
2. Take also the duty of teaching God’s truth to those who always need it. Does a wise man lose his learning by communicating it freely? Rather, are not those the best scholars who do hardest work in teaching the dullest pupils with the most patience?
3. Again, take our consistency of demeanour. This, if anything, would seem most personal and most incommunicable. A Christian who cares nothing for what people say of him deteriorates in fidelity. He who tries hardest to disarm criticism by a godly demeanour will grow in correctness and satisfaction. He need not become more rigid and so more unamiable.
4. Just so, once more, take into consideration all kinds of ordinary Church activity. Those efficient believers, who are generally in the lead when each charitable and energetic work is in its turn on hand, are not so prominent just because they are ambitious and officious, nor because they love conspicuousness; but because being in one sort of earnest labour, they learn to love all labour for Christ. Most naturally, they grow unconsciously zealous for Him.
III. This is going far enough now: we reach in proper order SOME OF THE MANY LESSONS WHICH ARE SUGGESTED BY THE PRINCIPLE.
1. It is high time that Christians should begin to apply business maxims to their spiritual investments.
2. Think joyously of the irresistible working of all these Divine laws of increase, if only we are found faithful.
3. Just here also we begin to understand what our Lord means when He tells us that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). We have no doubt that such a man as that in the parable, who hid his pound in the napkin, was far more disturbed over the care of it than either of those who had their ten or five pounds hard at work. Unemployed wealth, unimproved property, is but a perplexity, and generally enslaves the man who sits down to watch it. What we put to use--of our heart as well as of our money--is what We own; the rest owns us.
4. Finally, mark the sad reverse of all we have been dwelling upon. Observe that the pound taken away from this man was not his profit, but his capital. Hence, he had no further chance; the very opportunity of retrieval was gone. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The napkin of secret doubt
“Dost thou believe this doctrine that I ask thee of? Dost thou hold it firmly?” “Indeed I do, sir. I keep it most carefully.” “Keep it carefully! What dost thou mean?” “I have it, sir, folded away in a napkin.” “A napkin! What is the name of that napkin?” “It is called secret doubt.” “And why dost thou keep the truth in the napkin of secret doubt?” “They tell me that if exposed to the air of inquiry it will disappear; so, when asked for it, I shall not have it, and shall perish.” “Thou art foolish, and they that have told thee this arc foolish. Truth is corn, and thou wilt not be asked for the corn first given thee, but for sheaves. Thou art as if keeping thy corn in the sack of unbelief. The corn shall be taken from thee if thou use it not, and thyself put in thy sack of unbelief, and drowned in the deep, as evil-doers were punished in old times.” (Thomas T. Lynch.)
Destroyed through disuse
The following extract from Mr. Darwin’s recently published life will, perhaps, explain the cause of his rejection of Christianity. The words are his own: “I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone on which the higher tastes depend. I cannot conceive If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry, and listen to some music at least once a week: for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would then have kept alive through use.” “It is an accursed evil to a man,” he writes in 1858, “to become so absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.” We cannot be accused either of want of sympathy or want of charity if, in the light of what Darwin has told us of his religious history, we sum up his scepticism in those words which we have italicized--“atrophy of the brain.”
The law of increase
“The Times,” speaking of the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, says, “No doubt people ought to bring to a collection of pictures, or other works of art, as much knowledge as possible, according to the old saying that if we expect to bring back the wealth of the Indies, we must take the wealth of the Indies out with us. Learning and progress are continual accretions.” This witness is true. He who studies the works of art in an exhibition of paintings, being himself already educated in such matters, adds greatly to his knowledge, and derives the utmost pleasure from the genius displayed. On the other hand, he who knows nothing at all about the matter, and yet pretends to be a critic, simply exhibits his own ignorance and self-conceit, and misses that measure of enjoyment which an entirely unsophisticated and unpretending spectator would have received. We must bring taste and information to art, or she will not deign to reveal her choicest charms. It is so with all the higher forms of knowledge. We were once in the fine museum of geology and mineralogy in Paris, and we noticed two or three enthusiastic gentlemen in perfect rapture over the specimens preserved in the eases; they paused lovingly here and there, used their glasses, and discoursed with delighted gesticulations concerning the various objects of interest; they were evidently increasing their stores of information; they had, and to them more was given. Money makes money, and knowledge increases knowledge. A few minutes after we noticed one of our own countrymen, who appeared to be a man of more wealth than education. He looked around him for a minute or two, walked along a line of cases, and then expressed the utmost disgust with the whole concern: “There was nothing there,” he said, “except a lot of old bones and stones, and bits of marble.” He was persuaded to look a little further, at a fine collection of fossil fishes, but the total result was a fuller manifestation of his ignorance upon the subjects so abundantly illustrated, and a declaration of his desire to remain in ignorance, for he remarked that “ He did not care a rap for such rubbish, and would not give three half-crowns for a waggonload of it.” Truly, in the matter of knowledge, “To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Ascending up to Jerusalem
Christ journeying to Jerusalem
THE MANNER IN WHICH HE WENT. The only occasion on which we find Him riding. Fulfilment of a prophecy.
II. THE RECEPTION HE MET WITH.
III. THE SORROW OF WHICH HE WAS THE SUBJECT, NOTWITHSTANDING THE ACCLAMATIONS HE RECEIVED.
1. A benevolent wish.
2. An alarming sentence.
3. A melancholy prediction.
Conclusion: Let us remember for our warning, that gospel opportunities when slighted will not be long continued. (Expository Outlines.)
“He went before”
These are some of the thoughts which are suggested to our minds, as we see Jesus in the Scripture before us, taking the first place in the progress to Jerusalem and death. The position was emblematical as well as actual; and it suggests some teachings for us which are very calculated to bring comfort to our souls. Let us glance, first of all, for a moment, at the motion and position in itself. See the alacrity and willingness of Jesus to enter all suffering for us. And what do we learn here, but that His heart was in the sad work which He had undertaken to do. The thoroughness of Christ’s love is brought before us here. He was thorough in love. Mark, too, Christ’s assumption of the position of a leader. He knew the place that had been assigned to Him by the Father; it was headship in suffering, as well as in glory; He took up at once, in that last journey, His rightful place. See, too, how our blessed Lord takes up a double position. He is at once leader and companion; His little company were one with Him; He with them; but yet a little before them. He talks with us, while He goes on before; He does not separate the leader and the companion; His lordship over us is so sweet, that He heads us as friends; having a common interest in all He does. And now, there is great teaching and comforting for us in all this. In the first place, we who follow Christ have to explore no untried, untrodden way. It is thus our comfort that we have always one to look to. Ours is no interminable road, no lonely, solitary path. Jesus, if only we can see aright, is never very far ahead. The mowers who mow in line, have much more heart during the burden and heat of the day, when their scythes sweep through the grass, keeping time to the stroke of a fellow-workman in front. The steadfastness of Christ’s purpose is also forcibly suggested to us here. Firmly and intelligently, with a full knowledge of the indignity and death before Him, our Lord started forth, and took the headship of His little band on His way to Jerusalem. That steadfastness is of immense importance to us. Were there the least wavering in Christ’s character, we were undone. And we hold on to this steadfastness now. We believe Him to be the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever; we see Him now acting from the cross, in the same spirit wherewith He journeyed to it. And now, let us in our trial-times see how Jesus has “gone before” in all. Is the path of weariness the one marked out for us; behold upon it the One who sat wearied upon Jacob’s well; no longer weary, it is true, but remembering well all earth’s wearinesses of body and spirit; and offering us His company on the trying path. Or, is it that of rejection? No thornier road is there on earth than that of biting poverty--poverty, with all its temptations and stings; well! Jesus was poor, and hungered and athirst, and had not where to lay His head. Before the poor; right on upon this path, is the figure of the Lord; let them but feel that He is their Lord, and they shall no longer be distressed at being the world’s casts-off; our being a cast-off of the world will not much matter, if we be companions of the Son of God. Then comes death itself--the last journey; the way from which human nature shrinks; the one which, despite rank or wealth, it must surely tread. Here, if we be inclined to faint, Jesus can be seen by His people, if only they believe. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
The Lord hath need of him
The Lord’s need
This trifling incident contains big principles.
I. It gives us AN IDEA OF PROVIDENCE. Tendency of the age is to the seen. But mind kicks against it. Mind is like a bird, which pines in a cage. Here is hope for religion--the mind kicks against artificial conditionings. If you like you may say the mind likes, like a bird, to make its nest. True! but it wants above it not a ceiling but a sky. You can’t cramp mind in your nutshell organizations. Shut it behind walls--and then it will ask, Who is on the other side of the wall? Providence involves two things. First--idea of God preserving, guarding our being and well-being. He preserves, though we don’t see the way. How did Christ know that the colt was to be found at this stated moment? and that the owner would part with his property? Similarly, we must allow for the knowledge of God. The second thing involved in Providence is the idea of government.
II. IN PROVIDENCE ATTENTION IS GIVEN TO LITTLE THINGS AS WELL AS GREAT. “A colt tied.” It is demeaning God’s economy--some will say. That all depends on your conception of God’s economy. He numbers the hairs of our head. He sees when the sparrow falls.
III. GOD HOLDS EVERY CREATURE RESPONSIBLE TO SHOW ITSELF WHEN WANTED. Everything, in God’s order, has its time, and is not itself till that time reveals it. Sea-wrack on the sea-beach is ugly, slimy, hideous. But the same sea-wrack in a pool? How it spreads itself and makes every tiny filament beautiful! So prophecy in human history needs to be corroborated by the event, before it can fairly be understood. Apparently little events--what worlds of good or evil may turn on them!
IV. SOLUTION OF THE MYSTERIES OF LIFE. They go to the man for the colt. Would not common sense ask, What have you to do with the colt? Simply, “The Master hath need of him.” You have a favourite daughter. One day she is not well--only a cold, you think. But she grows feverish, and you call in the doctor. Doctor prescribes, but still the sweet one sickens; and one day in his solemn look the mother reads the hard sentence--her child must die. Why is it? “The Lord hath need of it.” (J. B. Meharry, B. A.)
“The Lord our God is one Lord,” so there may be no debate about the direction of our worship, about the Owner of our powers, about the Redeemer of our souls. See how this operates in practical life. The disciples might naturally feel some little difficulty about going to take another’s man’s property; so the Lord said unto them, “If any man say ought unto you, ye shall say the Lord hath need of them, and straightway he will send them.” But suppose there had been a thousand lords, the question would have arisen, which of them? But there is one Lord, and His name is the key which opens every lock; His name is the mighty power which beats down every mountain and every wall, and makes the rough places plain. What poetry there is here! Why, this is the very poetry of faith. It is not mere faith; it is faith in flower, faith in blossom, faith in victory!
Thefulfilment of minute prophecies
Not the fulfilment of sublime predictions, so called; but the fulfilment of little, specific, minute, detailed prophecies. God does nothing unnecessarily, speaks nothing that seems exaggeration or superabundance. There is a meaning in the most delicate tint with which He hath varied any leaf; there is a significance in the tiniest drop of dew which ever sphered itself in beauty on the eyelids of the morning. And that Christ should go into Jerusalem upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass! That is not decorative talk; that is not mere flowery prophecy, or incidental or tributary foretelling. In all that we should account little and of inconsequential moment is fulfilled to the letter. What then? If God be careful of such crumbs of prophecy, such little detailed lines of prediction, what of the life of His children, the redeemed life of His Church? If not one tittle could fall to the ground respecting things of this kind--matters of order, arrangement, sequence--is He unrighteous to forget the greater when He remembers the less? Will He count the hairs upon your head, and let the head itself be bruised? Will He paint the grass, and let the man fall to decay? Is He careful about birds floating in the air, and careless about lives redeemed by the sacrificial blood of His Son? (J. Parker, D. D.)
A nobleman who had a magnificent garden was ill in bed, and ordered his butler to go into the hot-house and bring him the finest bunch of grapes he could find. He came to the hot-house, he opened the door, he examined all the clusters--he fixed on the best--he brought out his knife and cut it. Just as he did so, a cry was raised, “There’s a man in the hot-house I there’s a man in the hot-house!” The gardeners, young and old, dropped their spades and water-pots, and ran to the hot-house. As they glanced through the glass, sure enough, there stood the man, and in his hand the Queen Cluster--the very one which they had been watching for months--the one which was to take the prize at the Horticultural Show I They were furious--they were ready to kill him--they rushed in and seized him by the collar, “What are you about!” they said, “How dare you!--you thief!--you rascal!--you vagabond!” Why does not he turn pale?--why does he keep so cool?--why does he smile? He says something--the gardeners are silent in a moment--they hang their beads--they look ashamed--they ask his pardon--they go back to theirwork. What did he say to make such a sudden change? Simply this--“Men! my lord bade me come here and cut him the very finest bunch of grapes I could find.” That was it! The gardeners felt that the hot-house, the vine, and every cluster on it was his. They might call it theirs, and propose to do this and that with it--but really and truly it was his who built the house, and bought the vine, and paid them for attending to it. Just so, dear children, the Lord has a claim on all we possess; our souls, our bodies, our tongues, our time, our talents, our memories, our money, our influence, our beloved relatives. “Ye are not your own”; and whenever He has need of anything we must let it go”--we must learn to yield it up to Him as cheerfully as the owner yielded up his colt. (J. Bolton, B. A.)
Why we are needful to God
“Why was it?” asked Mrs. N---- of her own heart as she was walking homewards from the communion-table. “Why was it?” she almost unconsciously exclaimed aloud. “Oh, I wish somebody could tell me!” “Could tell you what?” said a pleasant voice behind her, and looking around, she saw her pastor and his wife approaching. “Could you tell me,” said she, “why the Saviour died for us? I have never heard it answered to my satisfaction. You will say it was because He loved us; but why was that love? He certainly did not need us, and in our sinful state there was nothing in us to attract His love.” “I may suppose, Mrs. N----,” said her pastor, “that it would be no loss for you to lose your deformed little babe. You have a large circle of friends, you have other children, and a kind husband. You do not need the deformed child; and what use is it?” “Oh, sir,” said Mrs. N--, “I could not part with my poor child. I do need him. I need his love. I would rather die than fail of receiving it.” “Well,” said her pastor, “does God love His children less than earthly, sinful parents do?” “I never looked upon it in that way before,” said Mrs. N. (Christian Age.)
Every good man is needful to complete God’s design
An expert mechanician constructs a certain axle, tempered and burnished, to fit the hub of a certain wheel, which again he fashions as elaborately to fit the axle, so that a microscope detects no flaw; and now nothing can take the place of either but itself; and each is labour lost without the other. True, they are only an axle and a wheel, each a single one, a minute one, a fragile one; not costly in material, nor remarkable in structure; but in the absence of either, the chronometer which should decide the arrival of England’s fleet at Trafalgar must hang motionless. Every good man is such a fragmentary and related instrument in the hands of God. He is never for an hour an isolated thing. He belongs to a system of things in which everything is dovetailed to another thing. Yet no two are duplicates. Nothing can ever be spared from it. The system has no holidays. Through man’s most dreamless slumbers it moves on, without waiting for delinquents. (Austin Phelps.)
Blessed be the King that cometh.
Jesus our meek and humble King
I. OUR KING IN HUMILITY.
1. Jesus is our King.
(1) The prophecies announce Him as such. (Isaiah 9:6;
(2) He avowed Himself a King. (Matthew 11:27; John 18:37.)
(3) He proved by the power of His will that He was a King.
2. Jesus is our humble King.
(1) He refused royal honours. (John 6:15.)
(2) In opposition to the presumption of the Jews, He would never act nor appear as King. (John 18:36.)
(3) He debased Himself in all humility.
3. Follow Him in His humility.
(1) By contrition and a sincere confession of your sins.
(2) By resignation in adversities.
(3) By humility in earthly happiness.
II. OUR MEEK KING. This may be seen--
1. From the purpose of His coming--of His Incarnation. He comes as a Friend and Saviour; and wants to be loved, not feared.
2. From His earthly life.
(1) He was full of love and mercy towards the suffering, whom He invited to come to Him.
(2) He was full of mercy and tenderness towards sinners and His own enemies.
3. From the experience of your own life. Jesus came to you as a meek King--
(1) In your afflictions, to console you.
(2) In your sins, which He bore in patience.
(3) In your conversion, the work of His mercy. Strip yourself of the old man with his deeds, as the Jews stripped themselves of their garments, and let Jesus walk over your former self.
4. Learn of your King to be meek of heart also. (Matthew 11:29.)
(1) As a superior towards your subjects.
(2) Towards sinners and your enemies.
(3) In tribulations and afflictions. (Stauss.)
Praise thy God, O Zion
I. First, we shall observe here DELIGHTFUL PRAISE. In the thirty-seventh verse every word is significant, and deserves the careful notice of all who would learn aright the lesson of how to magnify the Saviour.
1. To begin with, the praise rendered to Christ was speedy praise. The happy choristers did not wait till He had entered the city, but “when He was come nigh, even now, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, they began to rejoice.” It is well to have a quick eye to perceive occasions for gratitude.
2. It strikes us at once, also, that this was unanimous praise. Observe, not only the multitude, but the whole multitude of the disciples rejoiced, and praised Him; not one silent tongue among the disciples--not one who withheld his song. And yet, I suppose, those disciples had their trials as we have ours.
3. Next, it was multitudinous. “The whole multitude.” There is something most inspiriting and exhilarating in the noise of a multitude singing God’s praises.
4. Still it is worthy of observation that, while the praise was multitudinous, it was quite select. It was the whole multitude “of the disciples.” The Pharisees did not praise Him--they were murmuring. All true praise must come from true hearts. If thou dost not learn of Christ, thou canst not render to Him acceptable song.
5. Then, in the next place, you will observe that the praise they rendered was joyful praise. “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice.” I hope the doctrine that Christians ought to be gloomy will soon be driven out of the universe.
6. The next point we must mention is, that it was demonstrative praise. They praised Him with their voices, and with a loud voice. If not with loud voices actually in sound, yet we would make the praise of God loud by our actions, which speak louder than any words; we would extol Him by great deeds of kindness, and love, and self-denial, and zeal, that so our actions may assist our words.
7. The praise rendered, however, though very demonstrative, was very reasonable; the reason is given--“for all the mighty works that they had seen.” We have seen many mighty works which Christ has done.
8. With another remark, I shall close this first head--the reason for their joy was a personal one. There is no praise to God so sweat as that which flows from the man who has tasted that the Lord is gracious.
II. I shall now lead you on to the second point--their praise found vent for itself in AN APPROPRIATE SONG. “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”
1. It was an appropriate song, if you will remember that it had Christ for its subject.
2. This was an appropriate song, in the next place, because it had God for its object; they extolled God, God in Christ, when they thus lifted up their voices.
3. An appropriate song, because it had the universe for its scope. The multitude sung of peace in heaven, as though the angels were established in their peaceful seats by the Saviour, as though the war which God had waged with sin was over now, because the conquering King was come. Oh, let us seek after music which shall be fitted for other spheres! I would begin the music here, and so my soul should rise. Oh, for some heavenly notes to bear my passions to the skies! It was appropriate to the occasion, because the universe was its sphere.
4. And it seems also to have been most appropriate, because it had gratitude for its spirit.
III. Thirdly, and very briefly--for I am not going to give much time to these men--we have INTRUSIVE OBJECTIONS. “Master, rebuke Thy disciples.” But why did these Pharisees object?
1. I suppose it was, first of all, because they thought there would be no praise for them.
2. They were jealous of the people.
3. They were jealous of Jesus.
IV. We come now to the last point, which is this--AN UNANSWERABLE ARGUMENT. He said, “If these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out.” Brethren, I think that is very much our case; if we were not to praise God, the very stones might cry out against us. We must praise the Lord. Woe is unto us if we do not! It is impossible for us to hold our tongues. Saved from hell and be silent! Secure of heaven and be ungrateful! Bought with precious blood, and hold our tongues! Filled with the Spirit and not speak! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The triumphal entry
Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem is one of the most noted scenes in gospel story. It is a sun-burst in the life of the Son of Man. It is a typal coronation. It is a fore-gleam of that coming day when Jesus shall be enthroned by the voice of the universe.
I. THE SCENE.
II. THE CHIEF LESSON INCULCATED BY THE SCENE: ENTHUSIASM SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. There was feeling and thrill and deep life and outbursting emotion in the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and He approved it all. I argue for the equipment of enthusiasm in the service of Christ. There should be a fervency of spirit that will radiate both light and heat. The faculties should be on fire. There are higher moods and lower moods in the Christian life, just as there are higher moods and lower moods in the intellectual life. Every scholar knows that there are such things as inspirational moods, when all the faculties awaken and kindle and glow; when the heart burns within; when the mind is automatic, and works without a spur; when the mental life is intense; when all things seem possible; when the very best in the man puts itself into the product of his pen; when the judgment is quick and active, the reason clear and far-seeing, and the conscience keen and sensitive. These are the moods in which we glory. These are the moods which give the world its long-lived masterpieces. These are the moods which we wish to enthrone in the memories of our friends. You remember Charles Dickens’s charming story, “David Copperfield.” In it there is pictured the parting that took place between the two young men, Steerforth and Copperfield. Young Steerforth, putting both hands upon Copperfield’s shoulders, says: “Let us make this bargain! If circumstances should separate us, and you should see me no more, remember me at my best.” Steerforth is only a type of us all. Every one of us wishes to be remembered at his best. I argue for man’s best in the religious life. Man is at his best only when he is enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is power. It is the locomotive so full of steam that it hisses at every crack and crevice and joint. Such a locomotive carries the train with the speed of wind through hill and over valley. It has been enthusiasm that has carried the Christian Church through the attainments of ages. By enthusiasm, when it is in an eminent degree, men propagate themselves upon others in matters of taste, of affection, and of religion. Iron cannot be wielded at a low temperature. There must be heat, and then you can weld iron to iron. So you cannot weld natures to each other when they are at a low temperature. Mind cannot take hold of mind nor faculty of faculty, when they are not in a glow. But when they are in a glow they can. We see this exemplified in society. Hundreds and hundreds of men, who are rich in learning, ponderous in mental equipment, ample in philosophical power, who are low in degree of temperature, and who labour all their life, achieve but little. You see right by the side of these men, men who have no comparison with them in native power or in culture, but who have simplicity, straightforwardness, and, above all, intensity, and what of them? Why, this: they are eminent in accomplishing results. There are people, I know, who have an antipathy to enthusiasm and emotion in religion. They object that we cannot rely upon enthusiasm. They forgot that if it spring from the grace of God it has an inexhaustible fountain. One hour enthusiastic people cry “Hosanna”; but the next hour they cry “Crucify.” I deny that the hosanna people of Jerusalem ever cried “crucify.” The charge that they did is without a single line of Scripture as a basis. Peter and James and John, and men of that class, did they cry “crucify”? Yet the hosanna people were made up of such. In a city in which there were gathered from all parts of the nation not less than two millions, there were certainly enough people of diverse minds to create two parties diametrically opposed, without requiring us to slander the grace of enthusiasm, and circulate false reports about the hosanna people. I stand by the hosanna people, and fearlessly assert that there is no proof against their integrity. Enthusiasm I That is what the Church needs. It is only the enthusiast who succeeds. Enter the history of the cause of Christ, and there also will you find the statement borne out. What was Paul, the chief of Christian workers, but an enthusiast? Rob Paul of his enthusiasm, and you blot out of existence the churches of Corinth and Ephesus and Galatia and Thessalonica and Troas. Rob him of his enthusiasm and you annihilate the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles. This day of palm branches has been duplicated and reduplicated ever since the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, and this reduplication will continue until Jesus is ultimately and for ever crowned on the great day of final consummation. The world is full of hosannas to the Son of David. The humble Christian school of the missionary in foreign lands is a hosanna sounding through the darkness of heathendom. The philanthropic institution that rises into sight all over Christendom is a hosanna to the Son of David echoing through civilization. The gorgeous cathedral, standing like a mountain of beauty, is a hosanna to the Son of David worked into stone and echoing itself in the realm of art. The holy life of every disciple, which is seen on every continent of the earth, is a hosanna to the Son of David ringing throughout all humanity. These hosannas shall be kept until the end come, and then all the universe of God’s redeemed will peal forth the grand Hallel in the hearing of eternity. (David Gregg.)
Enthusiasm in religion
What is your religion if it have no enthusiasm in it? Who wants a wooden Christianity or a logical Christianity only? Christianity loses its power when it loses its pathos. Every religion goes downward when it loses the power of exciting the highest, most intelligent, and most courageous enthusiasm. Some of us have need to be cautioned against decorum. Alas! there are some Christian professors who do not know what it is to have a moment of transport and ecstasy, unutterable emotion--who never, never go away upon the wings of light and hope, but are always standing, almost shivering--eating up their dry logic, and never knowing where the blossom, the poetry, and the ecstasy may be found. Christianity should excite our emotion and make us sometimes talk rapturously, and give us, sometimes at least, moments of inspiration, self-deliverance, and victory. It was so in the case before us. The whole city was moved. There was passion, there was excitement on every hand. But, then, am I advocating nothing but emotion, sensibility, enthusiasm? Far from it. First of all, let there be intelligent apprehension, and profound conviction respecting truth. Let us see that our foundations, theological and ethical, are deep, broad, immovable. Then let us carry up the building until it breaks out into glittering points, farflashing pinnacles, and becomes broken into beauty. (David Gregg.)
The coming King
I. THE ESTIMATE FORMED OF OUR LORD BY THE CROWD. “King.”
II. HIS CREDENTIALS. “In the name of the Lord.” Divine commission attested.
1. By His words.
2. By His works.
III. THE BLESSINGS WHICH COME WITH THE KING. “Peace” and “glory.”
IV. THESE BLESSINGS ACCOMPANY EVERY ADVENT OF “THE KING THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.”
1. It was so at His first coming.
2. It shall be so at His second coming. It is so when the King comes to reign in the sinner’s heart. (J. Treanor, B. A.)
Hosannas to Jesus
I. THAT WHICH MAKES MEN ILLUSTRIOUS, AND WORTHY OF DISTINCTION--lofty genius, heroism, expansive benevolence, mighty achievements--all that intensified and sublimely illustrated to a degree infinitely beyond what is possible to attainment by ordinary mortals, DISTINGUISHES THE LORD JESUS, AND ENTITLES HIM TO OUR HOMAGE AND PRAISE, Take--
1. Genius. What is genius? Genius originates, invents, creates. Talent reproduces that which has been, and still is. The spindles in our mills, the locomotives in our shops represent genius. The swift play of the one, and the majestic tread of the other across the continents on paths of steel, is genius in motion. Now turn the light of these definitions upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and see if He has not genius worthy of our best praise. It were folly to deny creative genius to Him, by whose word the worlds sprang into being, and by whose power they continue to exist. It were folly to deny originality to the Alpha and Omega of all mind and matter, life and spirit. Folly again to deny superior intellectual acumen to Him, who is the light of all intellect, the inspirer of all right thought, the incentive to all noble action. The blind saw, and the deaf heard, and the dumb spake, and the dead awoke. As to the modifying influence which Coleridge says is implied in the highest type of genius, it has been truly affirmed: The genius of Christ, exerted through His gospel in which His Spirit presides, has made itself felt in all the different relations and modifications of life. Take the next element of distinction that men applaud.
2. Heroism. Spontaneous is the homage paid to heroes. In some lands they are deified and worshipped. Heroism! Produce another example, such as Jesus of Nazareth, from the long list of the world’s illustrious! Take the next quality in lofty manhood that men extol--
3. Benevolence. Of this Jesus was the perfect personification.
4. Wonderful achievement receives applause from men. The multitude praised God “for all the mighty works that they had seen.” Our works may be good, Christ’s are mighty as well as good. We visit the sick, Christ cures them.
II. HIS PRAISES HAVE BEEN SUNG IN ALL AGES, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS WORTHINESS OF ALL HOMAGE IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH. Abraham, the representative of the patriarchal age, looked forward to His day with glad anticipations, and praised the promised seed. Jacob, in his dying predictions, sang of the Shiloh, and waited for His salvation. Moses chose for the subject of his eulogy the Prophet like unto himself, unto whom the people should hearken. David in exalted strains sang of His character and works, His trials and triumphs, His kingdom and glory, and died exulting, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. Let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.” The prophets all rejoiced in Zion’s delivery and Judah’s King. At His birth, angels and shepherds and sages sang His praises. As in some of the old monasteries one choir of monks relieved another choir in order that the service of praise might not cease, so as one generation of the children of God has retired to its rest, another has caught up the glad strains of hosannas to Christ, and in this way they have been perpetuated down the centuries.
III. THERE ARE THOSE, HOWEVER, WHO WOULD INTERRUPT THE PRAISES OF GOD’S PEOPLE: YEA, WORSE, SUPPRESS THEM ALTOGETHER. We learn from our text that this was the desire of the Pharisees on this occasion. Thus, the wicked and unbelieving now would stop all ascriptions of praise to Christ. They would quench the flames of devotion that the Holy Ghost kindles in the hearts of believers. “Praise Nature! Sing odes to the landscape! Worship the beautiful in what your eyes see, the tangible, that of which you have positive knowledge through the certification of your senses! Don’t be wasting your devotion on the unseen, the unknowable, the mythical, the intangible!”--so says the Agnostic. “Do homage to Reason! Let Reason be the object of your worship; its cultivation the effort of your life! What wonders it has accomplished in science and philosophy!”--so says the Rationalist. “Sing of wine, feasting, sensuality! Bacchus is our god. Praise him! Worship him!” says the Profligate. “Sing of wars, and of victories, and of conquests! Apollo is the god whom we worship, and whose praises we resound. Therefore, spread your palms with paeans of triumph at the feet of victors!”--so say Conquerors. Standing erect, with his thumbs thrust in the arm-holes of his vest, his chest thrown forward and his head backward, like an oily, overfed, bigoted Pharisee, “Sing of me,” says the Self-Righteous. “Praise the Saviour!” says the believer, and the call receives a response. (N. H. Van Arsdale.)
The stones would immediately cry out
Guilty silence in Christ’s cause
I. Our Saviour means to intimate, that THIS SILENCE WOULD BE VILE. Let us, then, proceed with this dismal business, and arraign this fearful silence.
1. We tax it, first, with the most culpable ignorance. If you found a man, who was entirely insensible to Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” or Cowper’s “Task,” dead to the touches of Raffael’s pencil, to all the beautiful and sublime scenery of nature, to all that is illustrious and inspiring in human disposition and action, you would be ready to say, “Why, this senselessness is enough to make a stone speak.” But where are we now? Men may be undeserving of the praise they obtain; or if the praise be deserved in the reality, it may be excessive in the degree; but there can be no excess here. It is impossible to ascribe titles too magnificent, attributes too exalted, adorations too intense, to Him who is “fairer than the children of men,” who is the “chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.” Now to be insensible to such a Being as this, argues, not merely a want of intellectual, but of moral taste, and evinces, not only ignorance, but depravity. He who died, not for a country, but for the world, and for a world of enemies--He awakens no emotion, no respect. Shame, shame!
2. We charge this silence, secondly, with the blackest ingratitude I need not enlarge on this hateful vice. The proverb says, “Call a man ungrateful, and you call him everything that is bad.” The Lacedaemonians punished ingratitude. “The ungrateful,” says Locke, “are like the sea; continually receiving the refreshing showers of heaven, and turning them all into salt.” “The ungrateful,” says South, “are like the grave; always receiving, and never returning.” But nothing can equal your ingratitude, if you are silent. For you will observe, that other beneficiaries may have some claim upon their benefactors, from a community of nature or from the command of God; but we have no claim, we are unworthy of the least of all His mercies.
3. We tax this silence with shameful cruelty. We arc bound to do all the good in our power. If we have ourselves received the knowledge of Christ, we are bound to impart it. If the inhabitants of a village were dying of a disease, and you had the remedy, and held your peace; if you saw a fellow-creature going to drink a deadly poison, and instead of warning him you held your peace; if you saw even a poor stranger going to pass over a deep and deadly river, upon a broken bridge, and you knew that a little lower down there was a marble one, and you held your peace; is there a person, that would ever pass you without standing still and looking round upon you and exclaiming, “You detestable wretch, you infamous villain, you ought not to live!” “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.” How is it, then, that we have so much less moral feeling than the lepers had, when they said, “This is a good day,” and reflecting upon their starving babes said, “If we altogether hold our peace, some evil will befall us; let us therefore go and tell the king’s household”?
II. Secondly, our Saviour seems to intimate, that THIS SILENCE IS DIFFICULT. Now we often express a difficulty by an obvious impossibility. The Jews said, “Let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him.” Their meaning was, that they could not believe on Him; for the condition seemed to them impossible. The Saviour here says, “You impose silence upon these disciples, but this is impossible; yes, they will hold their peace when dumb nature shall become vocal, and not before.” “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out;” that is, their principles will actuate them, their feelings must have operation and utterance. If you could enter heaven, you would find that there He attracts every eye, and fills every heart, and employs every tongue. And in the Church below there is a degree of the same inspiration.
1. The impressions that Christ makes upon His people by conviction are very powerful.
2. The impressions He produces by hope are very powerful.
3. The impressions He produces by love are very powerful. He so attaches His disciples to Himself by esteem and gratitude, as to induce them to come out of the world, to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to be willing to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.
III. Our Saviour here intimates further, that THIS SILENCE WOULD BE USELESS. “If,” says He, “those of whom you complain were to hold their peace, you would gain nothing by their silence; there would not be a cessation of My praise, but only a change of instruments and voices; rather than My praise should be suspended, what they decline others would be sure to rise up to perform; if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.”
1. First, we shall glance at the supposed silence.
2. And, secondly, observe the improbable instruments that are employed to perpetuate the testimony. It is not said, “If these should hold their peace the angels would cry out, men would cry out”; no; “the stones would cry out.” Can stones live? can stones preach and write and translate the Scriptures? Can they aid in carrying on such a cause as this? Why not? He can employ, and often does employ, the most unlikely characters. The wrath of man praiseth Him. We see this in the case of Henry the Eighth. It is of great importance to know whether we are God’s servants, or whether we are God’s enemies; but as to Him, He can employ one as well as another. This was the case with Saul of Tarsus. He was a persecutor once; but then he was called by Divine grace, and preach the faith that once he endeavoured to destroy. All the Lord’s people once were enemies: but He found a way into their hearts, and He made them friends. They were all once “stones”; but of these stones God has “raised up children unto Abraham.” They were as hard as stones, as insensible as stones, as cold as stones; but they are now flesh, and every feeling of this flesh is alive to God.
3. Thirdly, notice the readiness of their appearance. “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” “The King’s business requires haste”; both because of its importance, and the fleeting uncertainty of the period in which He will allow it to be performed.
4. Then, lastly, observe the certainty of their appearance, when they become necessary. The certainty of the end infers the certainty of all that is intermediately necessary to it. Upon this principle, our Saviour here speaks; it is, I am persuaded, the very spirit of the passage. “My praise”--as if He should say--“must prevail; and therefore means must be forthcoming to accomplish it, and to carry it on.” Let us, first, apply this certainty as the prevention of despair. Secondly; as a check to vanity and pride. My brethren in the ministry, we are not--no, we are not essential to the Redeemer’s cause. We are not the Atlases upon which the Church depends; the government is upon His shoulders who filleth all in all. Thirdly; as a spur and diligence and zeal. (W. Jay.)
All ought to praise God
Have we not heard, or have I not tom you years ago, of some great conductor of a musical festival suddenly throwing up his baton and stopping the proceedings, saying “Flageolete!” The flageolete was not doing its part of the great musical utterance. The conductor had an ear that heard every strain and tone. You and I probably would have heard only the great volume of music, and would have been glad to listen with entranced attention to its invisible charm, but the man who was all ear noted the absence of one instrument, and throwing up his baton, he said, “Flageolet.” Stop till we get all that is within us into this musical offering. So I want our hymn of praise to be sung by every man, by every power in his soul. (J. Parker, D. D.)
He beheld the city, and wept over it
Christ weeping over Jerusalem
THE EXCLAMATION OF CHRIST, AND HIS TEARS IN THEIR REJECTION TO THE GUILTY CITY.
1. He remembered days of old. On these sinners the object of His mission seemed entirely lost.
2. But with the self-denying love of a patriot, and the grace of a Saviour, He looked beyond His own sufferings, and fixed His eye on theirs. What an appeal to His pity was there I The city was beleaguered and lost--the dwelling of Holiness was laid waste.
3. The sentence is broken and incomplete. It is eloquently completed by the tears, which are the natural language of compassion, and express its intentness beyond all words. What the present might have been!
II. THE BEARING OF THE RECORD ON OURSELVES.
1. There are things which pre-eminently belong to your peace.
2. The period allotted to you for attending to them is definite and brief.
3. Should your day close, and leave you unsaved, your guilt will be great, and your condition remediless.
4. This is a spectacle calling for the profoundest lamentation.
5. The tears of Jesus prow His unextinguished compassion for the guilty. (John Harris.)
The tears of Jesus
I. LOST PRIVILEGES.
“Oh, that thou hadst known the things which belong unto thy peace.”
II. LOST OPPORTUNITIES.--“Even thou in this thy day. Nations and men have their day:
2. Special occasions, as Confirmation.
3. Religious strivings within our own manifold opportunities, which may be prized and used, or neglected and abused.
III. LOST SOULS.--“But now they are hid from thine eyes.” (Clerical World.)
Jesus weeping over perishing sinners
I. THAT GOSPEL BLESSINGS ARE CONDUCIVE TO THE PEACE OF MANKIND, They are the things which belong unto our peace. Here let us more particularly observe--
1. What those things are to which our Lord refers. The blessings of grace in this world. Deliverance--from bondage, condemnation, and guilty fears Psalms 116:16; Isaiah 12:1; Psalms 34:4); and holiness--both of heart and life (Obadiah 1:17; Romans 6:22). The blessings of glory in the eternal state. An eternal life of rest, felicity, honour, and security (Romans 2:6-7).
2. How these things are conducive to our peace. They belong unto our peace as they produce sweet tranquillity of mind (Ecclesiastes 2:26). This arises from peace with God (Romans 5:1); peace of conscience 2 Corinthians 1:12); a peaceable disposition (James 3:18,); the joy of victory (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:37); and the joy of hope Romans 5:2; Romans 14:17). Our text teaches us--
II. THAT THESE BLESSINGS MUST BE KNOWN TO BE ENJOYED. “Oh that thou hadst known,” etc. The knowledge thus necessary must be--
1. A speculative knowledge; that is, we must have a correct view of them as they are exhibited in God’s Word--For we are naturally without them Romans 3:16-18). We must seek them to obtain them (Job 22:21; Isaiah 27:5). And we must understand them in order that we may seek them aright: we must understand the nature of them; the necessity of them; and the way to obtain them (Proverbs 19:2). The knowledge here required must also be--
2. An experimental knowledge. This is evident--From the testimony of inspired apostles (2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 5:19). And from the nature of gospel blessings; spiritual sight, liberty, and health, must be experienced to be enjoyed. Our text teaches us--
III. THAT A SEASON IS AFFORDED US FOR ACQUIRING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THESE BLESSINGS.
1. This season is here called our day, because it is the time in which we are called to labour for the blessings of peace (John 6:27; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 3:14).
2. This season is favourable for seeking the things here recommended; for they are set before us (Deuteronomy 30:19-20); we have strength promised to seek them with (Isaiah 40:31); and we have light to seek them in (John 12:36). Hence, we should also recollect--
3. This season is limited: it is only a day. Our text also teaches us, with respect to gospel blessings--
IV. THAT IT IS GOD’S WILL THEY SHOULD BE ENJOYED BY US. This is certain
1. From the wish of Christ--“O that thou hadst known,” etc. Such a wish we find often repeated by God in His Word, and expressed in the kindest manner; see Deuteronomy 32:29; Deuteronomy 32:29; Isaiah 48:18.
2. From the tears of Christ. These demonstrate the sincerity of His wish Deuteronomy 32:4); the great importance of godliness (1 Timothy 4:8); and the dreadful doom of impenitent sinners (Romans 2:8-9).
3. From the visitations of Christ. He visited us by His incarnation; and He still visits us by the strivings of His Spirit, the gifts of His providence, and the ministry of His Word.
V. THAT ALL WHO SEEK THESE BLESSINGS ARIGHT WILL OBTAIN THEM.
VI. THAT THE REJECTION OF THESE BLESSINGS IS PUNISHED WITH DESTRUCTION. (Theological Sketch-book.)
The tears of Jesus
We are told three times of Christ weeping: in this passage; in John 11:35; in Hebrews 5:7.
1. JESUS WEPT IN SYMPATHY WITH OTHERS. At Bethany.
1. It is not sinful to weep under affliction.
2. The mourner may always count on the sympathy of Jesus.
3. When our friends are mourning, we should weep with them.
II. THE TEAR OF JESUS’ COMPASSION. Text.
1. Observe the privileges which were granted the Jews, and neglected.
2. Observe the sorrow of Jesus for the lost.
III. THE TEARS OF PERSONAL SUFFERING. Probably the Agony in Gethsemane is alluded to in Hebrews 5:7.
1. Think not that because you suffer you are not chosen.
2. Nor that you are not a Christian because you feel weak. (W. Taylor, D. D.)
The tears of Jesus
I. Our Lord, by His tears over Jerusalem proclaims to us THE DUTY OF LOOKING AT THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD IN THEIR TRUE LIGHT, of estimating all that surrounds us, not as it appears to the hope, the fear, the enthusiasm, the pride of many, but as it is viewed in the sight of God, whose judgment shall alone stand, when the false standards and false excitements of the moment have passed for ever away. His tears speak to us the same lesson which He elsewhere taught in words, “Judge not after the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” For there was apparently little to draw forth the tears of our Blessed Lord at that moment. And is it not so now, my brethren? Do we not exult and rejoice in things, and persons, and scenes which would call forth only tears from our Saviour? Oh that we may strive to see things in their true light--that is, in the light of the eternity in which we shall soon find ourselves I oh that we may estimate them, not by the standards of sense and time, but in the true balance of God’s unerring judgment
II. And, secondly, we see, as from other passages of Holy Scripture, THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN, in that sin has the power of calling forth tears from the Saviour in the midst of so much exultation and beauty. Ah! my brethren, nothing is so truly mournful as sin. It is the great evil of life; neither poverty, nor sickness, nor slanderous words, nor the contempt of the world, have any real sting in them apart from this. Take sin away, and the world becomes a Paradise. Take sin away, and the lives of the unfortunate are filled with happiness. It is sin which has cast a blight over existence on every side of us: trace each form of suffering and sorrow around you to its ultimate source, and you will find that source to be sin. Alas! brethren, there are many who come to Church, Sunday after Sunday, and even approach the Holy Communion, and yet know nothing of their own hearts, and the deadly poison of unrepented sin, which dwells within them, and the real peril in which their souls are placed. (S. W.Sheffington, M. A.)
Christ weeping ever Jerusalem
Tears, looked at materially, admit a very ready explanation; they are secreted by a gland, they are drawn from the fluids of the body, and are rounded and brought down by the law of gravitation. The poets give the spiritual meaning, when they call tears the blood of the wounds of the soul, the leaves of the plant of sorrow the hall and rain of life’s winter, the safety valves of the heart under pressure, the vent of anguish-showers blown up by the tempests of the soul. If God had a body He would weep. God does grieve, and ii He had a corporeal nature, tears would not be inconsistent with all the recognized attributes of Deity. There is an eloquence in tears which is irresistible. There is a sacredness in tears which almost forbids the discussion of weeping. There is a dignity in tears which makes them consistent with the utmost intelligence and strength and nobility of character. There are men with hard heads, cold hearts, good digestion, and full purses, who know nothing of tears; but he who values true manhood and spiritual riches will not envy such men. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
1. Jesus wept as a man, as the man Christ Jesus, as the perfect man Christ Jesus. “Behold the man.” To the utmost extent of human sadness was Jesus grieved, when “He beheld the city, and wept over it.”
2. Jesus wept as a Jew. The broadest love may be discriminating, and may include strong individual attachments. Jesus was interested in every land and in every race. No land or race was shut out from His heart. But there were special attachments to Palestine, and strong ties to the holy city.
3. Jesus wept as a teacher. Light had come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And this was the condemnation. He was conscious of a pure heart in His teaching, and He saw the corruption of the human heart in the rejection and contempt of His instructions.
4. Jesus wept as a foreteller, as a prophet. He who was the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person, declared the mind and will and heart of God, when, beholding this doomed city, He wept over it.
5. Jesus wept as the Messiah. He was the woman’s seed promised in Paradise. He was the Shiloh seen by Jacob. He was the prophet revealed to Moses. He was the Prince of peace spoken of by Isaiah. To Him gave all the prophets witness. The law was His shadow. Much was written in the Psalms and prophets concerning Him. His history and character, His words and works, fulfilled various scriptures written by inspired men. His claim to the Messiahship was distinct and full and clear. Yet He was despised and rejected of men. Yet when He came to His own, His own received Him not. This was a sorrow for His Father’s sake. He was the fufilment of His Father’s ancient and oft-repeated promise. He was His Father’s unspeakable gift. What a requital of infinite and eternal love! And this was a sorrow for the people’s sake. Instead of receiving Him they were looking for another. But Jesus knew that theft eyes would fail by looking in vain.
6. Jesus wept as a Saviour. He looked upon those who would not be saved, and wept over them. Measure His sorrow by His knowledge and by His hatred of sin; measure His sorrow by His own freedom from sin; measure His sorrow by the love of His great heart. To see evil, and to be unable to remedy it, is anguish; but to see evil, and to be able and willing to remove it, and to be baffled by the wilfulness and waywardness of the sufferer or of the evil-doer, is anguish keener and deeper still. Jesus knew all this when “He beheld the city, and wept over it.”
7. Jesus wept as God manifest in flesh. The God grieved and the man wept. The Divine nature does suffer, and these tears reveal the fact. The whole nature of the Christ, the Redeemer of men, was sad, when Jesus on this occasion wept. These tears, then, were the tears of a man, a patriot, a teacher, and a prophet. They were the tears of the Messiah and the Saviour and the God-man. They were both human and divine, tears of pity and patriotism, tears of sympathy and of displeasure, tears of a wounded spirit and of a loving soul. (S. Martin, D. D.)
The tears of Jesus
1. The tears of Jesus Christ are compassionate tears. Like His heavenly Father, He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. The office of the Judge is not His willing office. It made Him sorrowful to see men sin. It made Him sorrowful to see men reject the gospel. It made Him sorrowful to see men choose their own misery.
2. Again, the tears of Jesus are admonitory, warning--some have even called them terrible tears. He would not have wept, I think we may say with confidence, merely because a little pain, or a little suffering, or even a little anguish and misery, lay before us. He shrank not from pain: He endured suffering--yea, the death of the Cross. He faced anguish and misery, and flinched not. There was only one thing which Jesus Christ could not endure--or, if He endured it for an hour Himself, certainly could not advise others, nor bear others, to encounter without Him--and that was the real displeasure, the prolonged hiding of the countenance, the actual, terrible, punitive wrath of God. It was because He foresaw that for impenitent, obstinate, obdurate sinners, that He wept these bitter tears. I call them admonitory tears; I will even consent to call them terrific tears. They seem to say to us, “Oh, presume not too far!”
3. I will add another thing. The tears of Jesus were exemplary tears. As He wept, so ought we to weep. We ought to weep tears of sorrow over our sins. We ought to weep tears of repentance over our past lives, over our many short-comings and backslidings, omissions of good and commissions of evil, lingering rebelling obstinate sins, cold poor languishing dying graces. But more than this. We ought to weep more exactly as He wept. He wept not for Himself: so also, in our place, should we.
4. I will add, without comment, a fourth word--the tears of Jesus Christ are consolatory tears. Yes, this, in all their accents, is the sweet undersong--Jesus Christ cares for us. The tears of Jesus are, above all else,consolatory. They say to us, “Provision is made for you.” They say to us, “It is not of Christ, it is not of God, if you perish.” They say to us, “Escape for your life--because a better, and a higher, and a happier life is here for you!” (Dean Vaughan)
Christ weeping over sinners
I. WHAT OUR LORD DID: “He beheld the city, and wept over it.”
1. He wept for the sins they had committed, and the evil treatment which He Himself should receive at their hands.
2. He foresaw the calamities which were coming upon them, and desired not the woful day.
3. Spiritual judgments also awaited them, and this was matter of still greater lamentation.
4. The final consequence of all this also affected the compassionate Saviour; namely, their everlasting ruin in the world to come.
II. Consider WHAT OUR LORD SAID AS WELL AS DID, when He came near and beheld the city--“If thou hadst known,” etc. Here observe--
1. The whole of religion is expressed by knowledge. Not speculative, but such as sanctifies the heart and influences the conduct--the holy wisdom that cometh from above.
2. That which it chiefly concerns us to know is, “the things which belong to our peace.”
3. There is a limit to which this knowledge is confined. “This thy day.”
4. When this time is elapsed, our case will be for ever hopeless: Now the things which belong unto thy peace “are hid from thine eyes!” Improvement.
(1) did Christ weep for sinners; and shall they not weep for themselves? Does not God call us to weeping; and does not our case call for it?
(2) Let us beware of rejecting the gospel, and trifling with our privileges, lest we be given up to final impenitence. Insensibility is the forerunner of destruction:
(3) Let those who are truly acquainted with the things which belong to their peace be thankful, and adore the grace which has made them to differ. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Christ weeping over Jerusalem
I. I observe, in the first place, that THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS, THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR ETERNAL PEACE.
1. It deeply concerns you to know, for example, in what situation you stand, with respect to God and the world to come.
2. Again, it deeply concerns us to know, whether God, by any means, may be reconciled, to those who have set themselves in opposition to His will.
3. Once more, it deeply concerns you to know, what state of mind is required in you, in order that you may profit by the grace and mercy of your dying Saviour.
II. I observe, secondly, that THE SON OF GOD IS MOST AFFECTIONATELY DESIROUS THAT WE SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS.
III. NEVERTHELESS, THE COMPASSION OF CHRIST WILL NOT STOP THE COURSE OF HIS JUSTICE, IF THESE THINGS BE FINALLY DISREGARDED.
1. HOW inexcusable is the thoughtless sinner, who, after all, will not know the things which belong unto his peace!
2. But reflect, on the other hand, how welcome will every returning sinner be! (J. Jowett, M. A.)
The Saviour’s tears over Jerusalem
The sight of Jerusalem, then, as Jesus was about to enter it, suggested the thought of national misery and degradation. He looked on the Temple, the place where the adorations and sacrifices of successive generations had been offered; it was now profaned. He looked on the city, the metropolis of Judaea, and the scene of high solemnities, and it was peopled by transgressors; was soon to be reduced by the might of a conquering power, its streets to be drenched with blood, and its buildings to be razed. Our Lord might chiefly allude to outward calamity, but can we doubt that the moral state of Jerusalem’s inhabitants was what gave Him most concern? The doom spoken of descended as an act of vengeance, inflicted by God. But Jesus thought also of a still more pitiable wreck. He reflected on the consequences of unpardoned sin. It was not merely the overthrow of tower and palace, the destruction of what had been for so long a “house of prayer”; this called not forth an expression of such deep concern. It was principally an idea of the spiritual ruin coming upon such as had transgressed against so much light and warning, and who had resisted such earnest and oft-repeated pleadings.
I. In further speaking from these verses, we may consider, first of all, the words to imply, that the people of Jerusalem HAD ENJOYED A “DAY”--OF GRACE, NOW DRAWING TO A CLOSE--a time which had not been followed by suitable and adequate improvement.
II. Let us consider our Lord’s manifestation of feeling and His words on this occasion, as showing THE IMPORTANCE OF IN TIME ATTENDING TO THE THINGS THAT “BELONG TO OUR PEACE.”
III. It would appear that THERE IS A SET TIME ALLOWED FOR DOING THIS. Though it were true that the spirit of God ceases not to strive with man; though there were not danger of the sinner being wholly given up to his idols, yet to defer so great a work is hazardous and foolish. Is that the best time for turning to God when languor and decay are attacking the frame?
IV. Our Saviour’s declaration, when He bewailed Jerusalem’s impenitence, is A PLEDGE OF HIS CONCERN FOR THE STATE OF SINNERS GENERALLY. Observe how long-suffering He was, saying still, “Turn ye at My reproof.” They had slain His prophets; they were about to shed His blood; they had cast dishonour on the law and appointments of the Most High, provoking Him to anger; yet Jesus’ sorrow showed the grief that filled His soul. These were the words of One who knew no guile, and to whom iniquity was abhorrent. Be encouraged therefore, O sinner, however many thine iniquities and pungent thy sense of guilt, to seek His favour. (A. R.Bonar, D. D.)
Jesus weeping over sinners
I. SIN IS NO TRIFLE.
II. EVERY MAN HAS HIS DAY OF MERCIFUL VISITATION. But mercy has its limits. The day of grace will close.
III. THE SINNER’S DOOM IS SEALED WHEN CHRIST GIVES HIM UP. The die cast salvation beyond reach. Hope gone.
IV. IT IS A LOST SEASON OF MERCY AND OPPORTUNITY THAT WILL SO EMBITTER THE ETERNITY OF THE LOST. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
Tears on beholding a multitude of men
There is always something heart-moving in the sight of a multitude of men. The Persian Xerxes shed tears as he watched the interminable ranks march past him on the way to Greece. The iron Napoleon once melted as he reviewed the vast army which followed him to his Russian campaign. And when the proudest, sternest, and most unfeeling hearts have shown emotion, what should we expect from the pitiful Son of God? Whenever He saw the multitude, and especially the city multitude, He was moved with compassion. That mass of life, heaving and throbbing like a troubled sea; that ceaseless tramp of eager feet and confused roar of innumerable voices; that measureless volume of mingled hope and despair; that infinitely varied array of faces, old and young, careless and anxious, joyous and miserable,--of laughing girls and broken-hearted widows, of jocund joys and haggard old men, with hungry looks; that incongruous procession of wealth and poverty, of want and superfluity, of rags and velvet, of vulgarity and refinement, of respectability and vice, of plump and well-fed life and vagrant homelessness, of purity and shame, of sweet religious hope and dismal despair, of titled splendour and nameless vagabondism, of feet winged with hope climbing to ambition’s goal and of feet hurrying to the dark river to end the tragedy of bitter memories in one last cold plunge; that myriad-headed life, with all its selfish isolations, its fierce loneliness amid the jostling crowd, its every heart knowing its own bitterness or gloating over its own joy, unknown and unsympathized with by its neighbours; that awful race of passion and frenzied quest in which the runners forget that they are immortal souls with God’s image stamped on every face. How was it possible for Him, to whom all souls were dear--all the children of the heavenly Father--how was it possible for Him to look upon that, or think of it, without emotion melting into tears? What man or woman of us can think of it without sharing in its pity and pathetic interest? (J. Greenhough, M. A.)
Christ’s compassion for the Jewish people
I. INQUIRE WHAT THERE WAS IN THE STATE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE, WHICH SO MOVED THE COMPASSION OF OUR LORD. The privileges of the Jewish people were above all lands. They were blessed with a divine theocracy; and to them belonged, amongst other most important privileges, the oracles of God. What could God have done which He had not done for them? The compassion of our Lord was moved, therefore--By their inflexible obstinacy. Theirs was the sin of men who hate the light, lest by it their deeds should be reproved!
2. Inveterate hostility. That greatness and power, when abused, should be hated, would not excite our surprise; but that goodness and mercy, when exercised, should be hated, might well excite our surprise, were it not abundantly proved in their history.
3. By their impending judgments.
II. CONSIDER WHAT THE PRESENT STATE OF THAT PEOPLE CALLS FOR FROM OUR HANDS. (W. Marsh, M. A.)
The tears and lamentations of Jesus
I. First, we are to contemplate OUR LORD’S INWARD GRIEF.
1. We note concerning it that it was so intense that it could not be restrained by the occasion. The occasion was one entirely by itself: a brief gleam of sunlight in a cloudy day, a glimpse of summer amid a cruel winter. That must have been deep grief which ran counter to all the demands of the season, and violated, as it were, all the decorum of the occasion, turning a festival into a mourning, a triumph into a lament.
2. The greatness of His grief may be seen, again, by the fact that it overmastered other very natural feelings which might have been, and perhaps were, excited by the occasion. Our Lord stood on the brow of the hill where He could see Jerusalem before Him in all its beauty. What thoughts it awakened in Him! His memory was stronger and quicker than ours, for His mental powers were unimpaired by sin, and He could remember all the great and glorious things which had been spoken of Zion, the city of God. Yet, as He remembered them all, no joy came into His soul because of the victories of David or the pomp of Solomon; temple and tower had lost all charm for Him; “the joy of the earth” brought no joy to Him, but at the sight of the venerable city and its holy and beautiful house He wept.
3. This great sorrow of His reveals to us the nature of our Lord. How complex is the person of Christ! He foresaw that the city would be destroyed, and though He was divine He wept. While His nature on the one side of it sees the certainty of the doom, the same nature from another side laments the dread necessity.
4. In this our Lord reveals the very heart of God. Did He not say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”? Here, then, you see the Father Himself, even he who said of old, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn,” etc.
5. From a practical lesson, we may remark that this weeping of the Saviour should much encourage men to trust Him. Those who desire His salvation may approach Him without hesitation, for His tears prove His hearty desires for our good.
6. This, too, I think is an admonishment to Christian workers. Never let us speak of the doom of the wicked harshly, flippantly or without holy grief.
7. Let me add that I think the lament of Jesus should instruct all those who would now come to Him as to the manner of their approach. While I appealed to you just now were there any.who said, “I would fain come to Jesus, but how shall I come”? The answer is,--come with sorrow and with prayer, even as it is written, “they shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them.” As Jesus meets you so meet Him.
III. We are now to consider our LORD’S VERBAL LAMENTATIONS. These are recorded in the following words: “Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”
1. First, notice, he laments over the fault by which they perished--“Oh that thou hadst known.” Ignorance, wilful ignorance, was their ruin.
2. The Lord laments the bliss which they had lost, the peace which could not be theirs. “Oh that thou hadst known the things that belong unto thy peace.”
3. But our Lord also lamented over the persons who had lost peace. Observe that He says,--“Oh that thou hadst known, even thou. Thou art Jerusalem, the favoured city. It is little that Egypt did not know, that Tyre and Sidon did not know, but that thou shouldst not know!” Ah, friends, if Jesus were here this morning, He might weep over some of you and say--“Oh that thou hadst known, even thou.”
4. Our Lord wept because of the opportunity which they had neglected. He said, “ At least in this thy day.” It was such a favoured day: they aforetime had been warned by holy men, but now they had the Son of God Himself to preach to them.
5. The Lord Jesus mourned again because He saw the blindness which had stolen over them. They had shut their eyes so fast that now they could not see: their ears which they had stopped had become dull and heavy; their hearts which they had hardened had waxen gross; so that they could not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor feel in their hearts, nor be converted that He should heal them. Why, the truth was as plain as the sun in the heavens, and yet they could not see it; and so is the gospel at this hour to many of you, and yet you perceive it not.
6. Lastly, we know that the great flood-gates of Christ’s grief were pulled up because of the ruin which He foresaw. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The tears of Jesus
Strangely mysterious are these tears! But they were as real as they are mysterious--solemnly and awfully real--the bitterest that ever descended from a grief-stricken countenance. They were the tears of a man, but the expression of Deity; and viewing them in the light of the ancient love and peculiar complacency with which Jerusalem and its inhabitants had been divinely regarded, we may designate them as the tears of disappointed affection. How briny and how many have been such tears, as they have fallen, hot and scalding, from the eyes of broken-hearted weepers! There are the tears of the father, welling up from the depths of parental love, in thinking of his prodigal boy. There are the tears of the mother, wept over a lost daughter--tears that had been less bitter had the green turf received them instead of a memory of shame. Bitter, indeed, are such tears, but not so intensive of sorrow as “the tears of Jesus wept over lost souls.” I have read somewhere of a traveller who found a fragment of an arch among the ruins of Jerusalem; and by calculating on the principles of architectural construction, he proved that the arch, when complete, must have spanned the gulf that was near the city, and have rested on the other side. That ruined arch, to the eye of that traveller, indicated what it originally was, as contrasted with what it then was. Sin in the soul reveals the same thing. In man, apart from sin, we see what the soul was made to be. In sin we see what the soul is--a noble thing in ruins. It is solemnizing to walk amidst the vestiges of some sacred temple--to pick up here and there fragments of what were once objects of beauty and strength; to see in one place pieces of an antique window; in another, the segment of a colossal pillar; elsewhere, a remnant of tracery work, with bits of rich and curious mosaic. But what must have been the emotions of Jesus, as He stood there before the collapsed powers, and contemplated the desecrated sanctities of human temples!--souls once so fair in beauty, and so glorious in strength, that the Creator looked upon them, and “behold, they were very good!” Now so completely a wreck that as the Saviour looked, “He beheld and wept!” How fearful is the power belonging to man! Here we see the Son of God--One whose might and dominion over all material forces, satanic agencies, and physical ailments were absolute. No power stood in His way as a resisting medium save one; and this was a power of resistance that opened the floodgates of soul-sorrow, drew tears from His eyes, and broke forth in the convulsive exclamation: “O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” In the light of these tears what awful responsibility is seen to clothe the human spirit! What power of will!--of a will that can resist the Divine will! “How often would I, but ye would not!” (G. H. Jackson.)
Tears a true mark of manhood
If it really was so, as has been gathered from Epiphanius, that some of the ancient Christians, or persons who bore the name, wished to expunge from the canon of Scripture what is said of the Saviour’s weeping on these two occasions, as if it had been unworthy of so glorious a Person to shed tears, it was very strange, and betrayed at once a sinful disrespect for the inspired Word of God, a leaning to the doctrines of Stoical pride and apathy, and an ignorance of what constitutes real excellence of human character. It is certainly a mark of imbecility to be given to weep for trifling reasons; but to weep occasionally, and when there is an adequate cause, instead of being a weakness, is perfectly compatible with true courage and manly sense, nay, is, in fact, a trait in the character of the majority of the most heroic and stout-hearted men of whom we read, either in sacred or profane history. As examples of this from Scripture may be mentioned, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, David, Jonathan, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, and Paul. Who more firm than the apostle of the Gentiles?--yet he thus writes to the Philippians, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction.” As for King David, that “mighty valiant man, and man of war,” the ancestor, and, in some respects, the type of Christ, it is worthy of notice that he wept at the very place were Jesus now wept; for it is thus written, in the account of his fleeing from Jerusalem, on the rebellion of Absalom, “David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and all the people that were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.” Nor is it foreign to the defence of this act of weeping, as consonant with the character of the brave, to produce the authority of heathen writers. Homer, then, attributes tears to several of his heroes, Virgil to AEneas, and their respective historians to Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cato, Brutus, Marcellus, and Scipio; and one of the Latin poets says, “Nature shows that she gives very tender hearts to mankind, by giving them tears. This is the best part of our disposition or feeling.” Beyond a doubt, the tenderness which our Lord now displayed harmonized with, and set off by contrast, the wonderful resolution which animated Him, when “He turned not back,” but “set His face like a flint” to what was now before Him. (James Foote, M. A.)
The tears of love
I heard the other day of a bad boy whom his father had often rebuked and chastened, but the lad grew worse. One day he had been stealing, and his father felt deeply humiliated. He talked to the boy, but his warning made no impression; and when he saw his child so callous the good man sat down in his chair and burst out crying, as if his heart would break. The boy stood very indifferent for a time, but at last as he saw the tears falling on the floor, and heard his father sobbing, he cried, “Father, don’t; father, don’t do that: what do you cry for, father?” “Ah! my boy,” he said, “I cannot help thinking what will become of you, growing up as you are. You will be a lost man, and the thought of it breaks my heart.” “Oh, father!” he said, “pray don’t cry. I will be better. Only don’t cry, and I will not vex you again.” Under God that was the means of breaking down the boy’s love of evil, and I hope it led to his salvation. Just that is Christ to you. He cannot bear to see you die, and He weeps over you, saying, “How often would I have blessed you, and you would not! “ Oh, by the tears of Jesus, wept over you in effect when He wept over Jerusalem, turn to Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
If thou hadst known, even thou
Christ’s lament over Jerusalem
Let us observe, briefly, that in our Lord’s lament over the doomed city there is to be traced a threefold vein of feeling.
1. The tears and words of Jesus Christ are the tears and words of a true patriot, for Jerusalem was the heart and head of the nation. It was, politically speaking, more what Paris is to France than what London is to England, and although Christ’s ministry had been largely spent in Galilee, we know from St. John’s Gospel that at the great festivals He had laboured often and continuously in the sacred city. It may be thought that there was no place for patriotism in the heart of Jesus Christ--that coming as He did from heaven with a mission to the whole race of men, and with a work to do for each and for all, He could not thus cherish a mere localized and bounded enthusiasm--that, as all had interest in Him, His interest must reciprocally be for all and world-embracing--that as in Him, according to His apostle, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free,” but all are one, so He must have been Himself incapable of that restricted and particular concentration of thought and feeling and action upon the concerns of a single race or district which we practically understand by patriotism. My brethren, there is an element of truth in this. Jesus Christ, although a Jew by birth, belonged by His freedom from local peculiarities to the whole human family. He was, in a higher, more comprehensive, more representative sense than any before Him, human. All that was best, all that was richest in humanity, had its place in Him, and this is, at any rate, one import of the title by which He was commonly wont to speak of Himself as the Son of Man. But His relation to the whole race did not destroy His relation to His country any more than it destroyed His relation to His family--to His mother, to His foster-father, to those first cousins of His who, after the Hebrew manner, are called His brethren. Certainly He subordinated family ties as well as national ties to the claims of the kingdom of God--to His Father’s business as He called it when only twelve years old. But because He kept these lower sympathies, claims, obligations, in their proper place, He did not ignore--He did not disavow them. To Him, as the Son of Mary, His family was dear; to Him, as the Son of David, the history of His country was dear. He would have parted with something of His true and deep humanity had it been otherwise; and therefore when He gazed on the city of His ancestors (for such it was) and saw in vision the Roman conqueror already approaching, and casting up earthworks on that very hill on which He was standing, and then by and by entering the sacred city with fire and sword, nor resting from His work till he had ploughed up the very foundations, till not one stone had been left upon another, His Jewish heart felt a pang of anguish which became tears and words. “If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”
2. But the lamentation of Christ over Jerusalem had a higher than any political or social meaning. The polity of Israel was not merely a state: it was a church as well. It was the kingdom of God among men. It is this which explains the passionate emotion towards Jerusalem which abounds in the Psalter--the joy in her glory, in her beauty, in her world-wide fame--the enthusiasm which can “walk about Zion and go round about her andtell the towers thereof”--the anger deep and strong which cannot forget that in the day of Jerusalem it was Edom which joined in the cry for her destruction--the woe which cannot, which will not, be comforted when she lies before the heathen in her ruin and her desolation. It was as a theocratic kingdom--as we should say, a Church--that Jerusalem and the whole Jewish polity was so dear to the religious Jew; and this aspect of the sacred city underlies those words which Jesus spoke on the road from Bethany. Once more. Jerusalem was not merely a country or a church; it was a hive of men and women: it was a home of souls. Among these, to each of these, the Divine Christ had preached, but had preached in vain it was not the threatened architecture of the Herodian temple which drew tears from those Divine eyes. It was not chiefly the tragic ending of a history rich in its interest and its incident. It was the condition, the destiny, the eternal destiny of the individual men and women of that very generation to which Christ had ministered? What of them? They had heard Him; and what were they after hearing Him? Ah! it was over those souls for which He was presently to shed His blood that Jesus wept His tears. It was souls that for Him made up Jerusalem. And it is in this last sense that our Lord’s words come most closely home to us. Our influence upon our country, upon our portion of the Church, is necessarily very, fractionally small. We are each one as a private soldier in a great army, who has only to obey orders that are given by others; but in our individual capacities it is otherwise. Here as single souls we decide as well as act. Here we are free to make the most of opportunities: we are responsible for doing so. And opportunities come to us as we walk along the path of life, as Christ came to the Jews eighteen centuries ago. They come to us: we see them coming. We know that they are at hand--that they are close upon us. We know--we might know--that they will not be within our reach always--perhaps not to-morrow. It is the time, the solemn time, of our visitation. It is some friend who has brought before us for the first time the true meaning, the true solemnity, the blessedness of life. It is some change of circumstances, some great soul-subduing sorrow which has forced upon us a sense of the transitory nature of all things here below. It is some one truth or series of truths about our Divine Lord, His person, or His work, unknown, or known and rejected before, which has been borne in upon us with a strength and clearness of conviction which we cannot, if we would, possibly mistake, and which involves obedience, action, sacrifice, as its necessary correlatives. It is an atmosphere of new aspirations, of higher thoughts, of longings to be other and better than we are, that has, we know not how, taken possession of us. It is the presence and the breathing, could we only know it, of a heavenly Friend who haunts our spirits that, if we will, He may sanctify them. Christ--in one word--has been abroad by His Spirit in the streets and secret passages of the soul, as of old He was abroad in the by-ways and the temple-courts of Jerusalem; and the question is, Have we welcomed Him?--Have we held Him by the feet, and refused to let Him go except He bless us? We are worse off though we may not trace the deterioration. We have suffered if not without yet assuredly within. We have been tried, and failed; and failure means weakness entailed upon, incorporated into, the system of the soul. (Canon Liddon.)
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
We have here, not only weeping but tearful lamentation, weeping accompanied with voice and words; and the weeper is the God-man, Christ Jesus. Eternal Deity is not an unfeeling Almightiness. He has a heart, and that heart can be touched, and grieved, and moved with compassion, and stirred with emotions.
I. GOD INTENDS GREAT THINGS FOR THOSE TO WHOM HE HAS GIVEN HIS WORD AND ORDINANCES. He had chosen Jerusalem, and set up His temple there, and made it the centre of His most particular dealings with the elect nation, that it might reflect His glory, show forth His praises, and be the crown and rejoicing of the whole earth. The thing meant to be reached and made the everlasting possession of its people, is here summed up by the Saviour in the word “peace; not mere rest from disturbance and strife; nor yet only health and well-being, as the word often denotes in the Old Testament; but that which is the subject of Divine promise, the highest results of God’s mercy and favour, the true Messianic blessing of everlasting freedom from the distresses and consequences of sin, and exaltation to near and holy relationship with God and heaven. And great things are meant for us, even the same things of “peace” which pertained at first to the ancient Jerusalem.
II. THERE IS A DAY OR SEASON WHEREIN TO KNOW AND ATTEND TO THE THINGS THAT RESPECT THIS “PEACE.” And unto us have their forfeited privileges now descended. This is our day, beaming with all the light and blessings which once belonged to the Jews, only marked by an easier ritual and a better economy (Hebrews 12:18-24).
III. THE DAY OF GRACE HAS ITS BOUNDARIES OVER WHICH GOD’S SAVING MERCIES DO NOT FOLLOW THOSE WHO MISIMPROVE THEM. There was a Jewish age which ended in judgment, and the cutting off of those who failed to improve it; and so this present age must also end. The day of grace is limited, on the one side, by the lateness of the period in life at which the gospel comes to a man, and, on the other, by the failure of the faculties necessary to handle and use it. It is also quite possible for one’s day of grace to terminate while yet both reason and life continue. There may be a loss of the external means and opportunities of salvation, or such a separation from them, as for ever to prevent our reaching it. And where there has been long and persistent resistance of grace, habitual suppression of religious convictions and feelings, wilful refusal to fulfil known duty, and persevering withstanding of the influences and impulses of the Spirit of God, there is not only a possibility, but great danger of bringing on a state of callous indifference, and incapacitation which puts the offender beyond the reach of salvation.
IV. THE TERMINATION OF THE DAY OF GRACE, WITHOUT HAVING SECURED THE BLESSING FOR WHICH IT WAS INTENDED, IS AN AWFUL CALAMITY. In the case of Jerusalem it brought tears and lamentations from the Son of God. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The solicitude of Christ for incorrigible sinners
I. SPECIFY SOME OF THE MORE OBVIOUS CHARACTERISTICS OF INCORRIGIBLE MEN. There are several classes of people who, to say the least, are greatly exposed to unyielding impenitence, and who give fearful indication of final ruin.
1. This may be affirmed of men of a sceptical turn of mind. Such men are very apt never to become pious.
2. Another class of persons who are rarely made the subjects of grace are those of notoriously loose and vicious habits.
3. It may also be remarked, that men who are in the habit of making light of sacred things, and trifling with God, seldom become men of piety. If they can scoff at religion, if they can deride its conscientious disciples, there is little reason to believe they will ever become its disciples themselves.
4. In the same melancholy multitude are likewise found all those who are ardently and eagerly attached to the world.
5. There is another class of men who exhibit fearful symptoms of deep degeneracy, and they are those whose chosen companions are the guilty enemies of God and all righteousness. Men cannot habitually associate with those who are destitute of all moral principle, and have no fear of God before their eyes, without partaking of their character.
6. Those persons also give strong indications of being incorrigible, who have become hardened under religious privileges.
7. Still more hopeless are those who have outlived conviction, and resisted the Holy Spirit.
8. There is one class of persons more whose condition is as hopeless as that of any we have mentioned; I mean, the hypocrite and self-deceiver.
II. We proceed, in the second place, to inquire, WHAT THERE IS IN THE CONDITION OF SUCH PERSONS TO EXCITE THE SYMPATHY AND SOLICITUDE OF CHRIST.
1. Their determined rejection of offered mercy. This is like a dagger to Christ’s heart.
2. Their perversion of the means of grace.
3. Their utterly depraved character. And now, in conclusion, I cannot forbear remarking, in the first place, how unlike the Spirit of Christ is the apathy of the people of God in view of the perishing condition of impenitent men. Secondly, our subject strongly enforces, the importance of a diligent and anxious improvement of the day and means of salvation. Once more, in view of our subject, we may not avoid the inquiry, Are there none in this assembly towards whom the Saviour is now exercising the same tender compassion, which He exercised over incorrigible Jerusalem? I only add, in the last place, if such are the compassions of Christ towards guilty sinners, what confidence may we have that He will save all that come to Him. (G. Spring, D. D.)
Christ weeping over Jerusalem
I. WHY DID HE WEEP? It has been supposed that the picture of that approaching ruin and desolation which was coming so rapidly upon the unconscious capital, at once appalled and overwhelmed Him. He sketches that picture in strong and rapid strokes Himself (Luke 19:43-44). And that which added to it an element of profoundest gloom, was the unconsciousness of those whom such a doom was threatening. Scarce a soul in Jerusalem seems to have been greatly sensible either of the national decadence or of its own individual peril. Must it not have been this that made Him weep? I do not doubt that it was an element in that Divine and unmatched sorrow. But that sorrow loses its profoundest significance unless we see that it had another and deeper element still. What is it, that in the thought of a wise and good man costs him the deepest pang when he encounters the waywardness and wrong-doing of his own child? Is it merely that, as he looks forward, he sees the inevitable misery which that waywardness will entail? But you may be sure that such a parent is thinking of something else with a keener anguish still. He is thinking, “What must the nature be that is so insensible to love and duty and goodness!” He is thinking, “What are the moral sensibilities of one to whom baseness and ingratitude and wrong-doing are such easy and instinctive things!” He is thinking, “What have I to hope for from a child whose ruling impulse come out in deeds like these!” And even so, I think, it was with Christ. Nay, we are not left to our surmises. His own words tell us what made Him weep: “If thou thine eyes.” It was this spectacle of human insensibility, of eyes that would not see, and of ears that would not hear, that broke the Saviour down. The love of goodness, the longing for righteousness, the aspiration for nobleness and spiritual emancipation--these were dead in them. And it was this that made Christ weep.
II. And this brings me to that other question suggested by these tears of Christ. WHAT DID THEY MOVE HIM TO DO. Remember, that so far as the Jerusalem of that day was concerned, He Himself intimates the case to have been hopeless. And when that scornful indifference on their part was exchanged at last for a distinctive enmity, with that needless prodigality, as doubtless it seemed even to some of His own disciples, He flung away His life. Flung it away? Aye, but only how soon and how triumphantly to take it again! Such a history is pregnant with lessons for to-day. There are a good many of us, who from the elevation of a thoughtful observation, are looking down on the city in which we live. How fevered and faithless and morally insensible seem multitudes of those who live in it. How can such a one look down on all this and not weep? God forbid that such a spectacle should leave any one of us insensible or unmoved! But when that is said, let us not forget that with Christ weeping was but the prelude and forerunner of working. There were tears first, but then what heroic and untiring toil! I hear men say, no matter what good cause invites their cooperation, “It is of no use. Most men are bound to go to the devil; it is the part of wisdom to get out of the way and let them go as quickly as possible”; and I brand all such cries, no matter in what tones of complacent hopelessness they may utter themselves, as treason against God and slander against humanity. Faithlessness like this is a denial of God, and of goodness as well. And as such, it is an atheism with which no terms are to be made nor any truce to be kept. For, high above our blinded vision there sits One who, as He once wept over Jerusalem and then died for it, now lives for Jerusalem and for all His wayward children, and who bids us watch and strive with Him for those for whom once He shed His blood! And if He is still watching, even as once He wept over His creatures, God forbid that of any human soul you and I should quite despair! And therefore least of all our own souls. And so, while we weep, whether it be over the evil that is in others or in ourselves, our tears will be rainbows, bright with the promise of an immortal hope. Aye, far above the sorrows and the sins of the city that now is, we shall see the splendours of the New Jerusalem that is yet to be. (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
The sinner’s day
I. THAT THE SINNER HAS HIS DAY OF MERCY AND HOPE.
1. It is a period of light. Night is the season of darkness.
2. A period of activity. We must work now, or never.
3. An exceedingly limited period. “ A day.” But a step from cradle to tomb.
4. The present period is our day.
II. THIS DAY IS ACCOMPANIED WITH THINGS WHICH BELONG TO THE SINNER’S PEACE. By peace here we understand the welfare, the salvation of the sinner. The peace of God is the pledge and earnest of every blessing. Now, in this day we have--
1. The gracious provisions of peace. Christ has made peace by His cross, and before us is the cross lifted up.
2. The invitations and promises of peace belong to this day.
3. The means of obtaining peace belong to this day.
III. THAT IF THESE THINGS ARE NOT KNOWN NOW, IN THIS OUR DAY, THEY WILL BE FOR EVER HIDDEN FROM OUR EYES. Now observe--
1. The future state of the sinner is one of night. As such it is a period of darkness.
2. This state of night will be everlasting.
APPLICATION: We learn--
1. That the sinner’s present state is one of probation and mercy.
2. That God sincerely desires the salvation of souls.
3. That all who lose their souls do so by their own impenitency. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Christ’s lamentation over Jerusalem
I. THE EXHIBITION OF CHARACTER WHICH IT GIVES US. Here we perceive--
1. The Saviour’s deep interest in the state of man.
2. The Saviour’s compassion to the chief of sinners.
II. The sentiments it conveys.
1. That there are things belonging to a man’s peace which it becomes him to know.
2. That there is a day in which a man might know these things.
3. That if this day be wasted these things will be hidden from him. (Essex Remembrancer)
Three times in a nation’s history
These words, which rang the funeral knell of Jerusalem, tell out in our ears this day a solemn lesson; they tell us that in the history of nations, and also, it may be, in the personal history of individuals, there are three times--a time of grace, a time of blindness, and a time of judgment. This, then, is our subject--the three times in a nation’s history. When the Redeemer spake, it was for Jerusalem the time of blindness; the time of grace was past; that of judgment was to come.
I. THE TIME OF GRACE. We find it expressed here in three different modes: first, “in this thy day”; then, “the things which belong to thy peace”; and thirdly, “the time of thy visitation.” And from this we understand the meaning of a time of grace; it was Jerusalem’s time of opportunity. The time in which the Redeemer appeared was that in which faith was almost worn cut. He found men with their faces turned backward to the past, instead of forward to the future. They were as children clinging to the garments of a relation they have lost; life there was not, faith there was not--only the garments of a past belief. He found them groaning under the dominion of Rome; rising up against it, and thinking it their worst evil. The coldest hour of all the night is that which immediately precedes the dawn, and in that darkest hour of Jerusalem’s night her Light beamed forth; her Wisest and Greatest came in the midst of her, almost unknown, born under the law, to emancipate those who were groaning under the law. His life, the day of His preaching, was Jerusalem’s time of grace. During that time the Redeemer spake the things which belonged to her peace: but they rejected them and Him. Now, respecting this day of grace we have two remarks to make. First: In this advent of the Redeemer there was nothing outwardly remarkable to the men of that day. And just such as this is God’s visitation to us. Generally, the day of God’s visitation is not a day very remarkable outwardly. Bereavements, sorrows--no doubt in these God speaks; but there are other occasions far more quiet and unobtrusive, but which are yet plainly days of grace. A scruple which others do not see, a doubt coming into the mind respecting some views held sacred by the popular creed, a sense of heart loneliness and solitariness, a feeling of awful misgiving when the future lies open before us, the dread feeling of an eternal godlessness, for men who are living godless lives now--these silent moments unmarked, are the moments in which the Eternal is speaking to our souls. Once more: That day of Jerusalem’s visitation--her day of grace--was short. A lesson here also for us. A few actions often decide the destiny of individuals, because they give a destination and form to habits; they settle the tone and form of the mind from which there will be in this life no alteration. We say not that God never pleads a long time, but we say this, that sometimes God speaks to a nation or to a man but once. If not heard then, His voice is heard no more.
II. THE TIME OF BLINDNESS. If a man will not see, the law is he shall not see; if he will not do what is right when he knows the right, then right shall become to him wrong, and wrong shall seem to be right.
III. THE TIME OF JUDGMENT. It came in the way of natural consequences. We make a great mistake respecting judgments. God’s judgments are not arbitrary, but the results of natural laws. The historians tell us that Jerusalem owed her ruin to the fanaticism and obstinate blindness of her citizens; from all of which her Redeemer came to emancipate her. Had they understood, “Blessed are the boor in spirit,” “Blessed are the meek,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers”; had they understood that, Jerusalem’s day of rum might never have come. Is there no such thing as blindness among ourselves? May not this be OUT day of visitation? First, there is among us priestly blindness; the blindness of men who know not that the demands of this age are in advance of those that have gone before. Once more, we look at the blindness of men talking of intellectual enlightenment. It is true that we have more enlightened civilization and comfort. What then? Will that retard our day of judgment? Jerusalem was becoming more enlightened, and Rome was at its most civilized point, when the destroyer was at their gates. Therefore, let us know the day of our visitation. It is not the day of refinement, nor of political liberty, nor of advancing intellect. We must go again in the old, old way; we must return to simpler manners and to a purer life. We want more faith, more love. The life of Christ and the death of Christ must be made the law of our life. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The things belonging to our peace
I. THERE ARE THINGS WHICH BELONG TO OUR PEACE. Peace has a large signification; it implies not only the inward feeling of the mind, but generally our happiness and welfare. The things which belong to our peace are provided for us and pressed upon our acceptance in the Gospel of Christ. And this peace must be sought for personally by each one on his own behalf. But it concerns his everlasting peace that the sinner should undergo a change of heart.
II. THERE IS A TIME IN WHICH WE MAY SECURE THOSE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR OUR PEACE. Now is that time, and now is the only time. Of to-morrow neither you nor I are secure. Now is the time in which you may seek the Lord, and in which He will be found.
III. THERE IS A TIME WHEN THEY WILL BE FOR EVER HID FROM OUR EYES. There is such a thing as a hard and obdurate heart--there is such a state as final impenitence--there is such a calamitous condition as that of a lost soul. (H. J. Hastings, M. A.)
Christ’s appeal to the heart
I. THIS THY DAY. The day of thy visitation, the day when God’s goodness and grace were especially near thee; the day of dawning hopes and bright promises; the day which, if it had been welcomed and used aright, might have coloured, ennobled, and redeemed all the rest. It was the day when, as youths, we left our father’s house to take our place in the busy world, when thoughts of duty and honour, of true work and faithful service, were fresh and strong in our breasts, when we were resolved, God helping us, there should be no idle hours, no corrupting habits, no dread secrets which could not be breathed or even thought of in the sanctity of the home, or in the presence of our sister or our mother. Or, it was the day when some heavenly vision of the beauty of goodness, of the sacredness of service, of the helpfulness of prayer, of the nearness of God to your innermost soul, filled your heart with its glow and peace, and you longed and vowed ever to cherish the kindly light, ever to obey the heavenly voice, ever to walk with God, and repose in Him. Or, it was the day when, after some sad fall, or after many reckless, wasted years, you came to yourself, you saw from the very edge the precipice to which you had come, you felt keenly and bitterly the misery of the shame into which you had sunk, and, for the first time, Christ’s vision of the face and heart of God, of the Father seeking the poor prodigal, brought penitence and hope; when thoughts of Christ, with His words of forgiveness and help and peace, seemed welcome and consoling to you, as rest at last to the sleep less brain, or kindly, gentle care to the fever-stricken patient.
II. IF THOU HADST KNOWN AT LEAST IN THIS THY DAY. ‘Tis one of the sorrows of life that we spend a lifetime in gaining the needful experience. “ Human experience,” says Coleridge, “ like the stern-lights of a ship at sea, too often only illuminates the faith we have passed over.” The youth does not know the value of the school till alter he has left it, or the comfort and charm of the home till it is broken up and he is alone in the world; the man does not know the value of time, or health, or money, or character, till harsh misfortune or his own fault have deprived him of them; we do not fully realize how much we needed the companionship, example, and sympathy of friends till death has snatched them from us. And so with spiritual blessings and opportunities.
III. THE THINGS THAT BELONG ONTO THY PEACE. The life of Christ in the heart. The service of our heavenly Father here and now. (J. T. Stannard.)
Our day of grace
As God dealt with the city of Jerusalem, so He deals with us as individuals. God has given us a day of grace-has given a time wherein to repent of sin and prepare for another world. This day and this period is circumscribed. It is, as it were, a circle described around us; and when we pass over that boundary., then the day of grace is past and gone; the spirit has ceased to strive, and our doom is fixed for ever. I will illustrate this from history. One of the kings of Syria made war upon Egypt, which was at that time an ally of the Roman republic. When the news reached the Roman senate, they despatched into Egypt two senators, one of whom was a dear friend of the king. They went direct to the camp of the Syrian monarch, who came forth to meet them; but the senator, refusing to recognize him as his friend, at once put him upon his choice--to raise the seige and withdraw his army out of Egypt, or to forfeit his friendly relation with Rome, who would at once send forth her legions and compel him. To this he endeavoured to give an equivocal answer: he would consider over it or he would consider of it at another time. But this was not enough for the Romans; the senator, therefore, with the wand he had in his hand, drew a circle around him on the sand where they stood, and demanded his answer and decision ere he left it. He had to make his choice: he decided to withdraw his army, and then the senator extended his hand and recognized his friend. In a similar way God has drawn a circle around us, and demands us to make a choice. That circle is our day of grace. May we, then, to-day, while it is called today, harden not our hearts, lest God should swear in His wrath we shall not enter into His rest! (A. Jones.)
“In this thy day”
Thy day! If when the sun sets in the west we were not sure whether he would rise on the morrow, oh what an evening it would be! ONE DAY! “Thy day!” How precious! But if the day is allowed to pass, and the work of the day not done, how terrible the sunset! Jerusalem had her day; the day was passing--it was past. Jerusalem did not know her day, and did not notice that it had passed. Jerusalem, with her day done, was laughing: Jesus, looking on lost Jerusalem, wept. This is not of private interpretation--it is written for our sakes. Our city has a day; ourselves have a day. Throughout this day it is peace--your peace--pressing like the air around us. The night cometh, when that light of life is gone. Men mistake the meaning of Emmanuel’s tenderness. It is not tenderness to sin, Men are tender to their own sin, treating it as a spoiled child--blaming it in words, but fondling it all the while; and they think that Christ will turn out such an one as themselves. His grief does not indicate a holding back, a hesitating to cast away the wicked. The earnestness with which the Redeemer strove to snatch the brand from the burning, shows that there is a burning for the brand. The tears He shed over Jerusalem do not prove that He will falter and hesitate to lay her even with the ground when her day is done: if He had thought that Jerusalem might escape in her sin, He would not have wept to see her sinning. No preachers are so terrible as the Redeemer’s tears. (W. Arnot.)
God forbid that any of you should at the last have the dismay of the Scotchwoman of whom I was reading. One night she could not sleep because of her soul’s wandering from Christ. She got up and wrote in her diary: “One year from now I will attend to the matters of my soul.” She retired, but could not sleep. So she arose again, and wrote a better promise in her diary: “One month from now I will attend to the matters of my soul.” She retired again, but found no sleep, and arose again and wrote: “Next week I will attend to the matters of my soul.” Then she slept soundly. The next day she went into scenes of gaiety. The following day she was sick, and the middle of next week she died. Delirium lifted from her mind just long enough for her to say: “I am a week too late. I am lost!” Oh, to be a year too late, or a month too late, or a week too late, or a day too late, or a minute too late, or a second too late, is to be for ever too late. May God Almighty, by His grace, keep us from the wild, awful, crushing catastrophe of a ruined soul. (Dr. Talmage.)
The time of the visitation
Knowing the time of our visitation
I. THE TIME OF OUR VISITATION.
1. The country which has given us birth. We are highly favoured in this respect. We enjoy religious freedom.
2. The dispensation under which we live. Full blaze of gospel sun.
3. The revelation which God has been pleased to give us of His will.
4. The ministry, by which the written Word is explained to the understanding and enforced on the conscience.
II. THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH TIMES OF VISITATION ARE GRANTED. They are granted for purposes of the highest consequence to every one of you.
1. First of all, to be instrumental in accomplishing the conversion of your hearts and lives to God.
2. This entire conversion of your hearts and lives to God, is the foundation of all Christian experience and all Christian practice.
3. And then, as to its final and ultimate object, this “time of visitation” looks forward to your everlasting salvation; for the work of religion is not only to be begun, and it is not only to be proceeded with, but it is likewise to be perfected.
III. OUR NEGLECT OF THESE OPPORTUNITIES. How is it that, notwithstanding we are all favoured with the means of salvation, and with many loud calls to secure the purposes for which they are given to us--how is it that so many amongst even you are as yet unsaved, and “know not the time of your visitation”?
1. I suppose that, in reference to some, it is in consequence of your perseverance in the practice of sin.
2. There are others who know net and do not improve “the time of their visitation,” by reason of their thoughtlessness and inattention to Divine things.
3. There is another reason to be assigned for your not knowing “the time of your visitation”--and that is, indecision and delay. “He that is not with Me,” said Christ, “is against Me.”
4. Then, let me say, further, that all those know not “the time of their visitation,” who, for any reason whatever, do not come to the Lord Jesus Christ to believe with their hearts unto righteousness.
5. Perhaps I ought to say, there are some who know not “the time of their visitation,” by reason of their inconstancy and negligence.
IV. In the last place, we ought to look a little at THE JUDGMENT WHICH, SOONER OR LATER, IS SURE TO OVERTAKE ALL THOSE WHO PERSIST IN DISREGARDING THEIR MEANS AND OPPORTUNITIES. (J. Bicknell.)
The system of the natural world--with all its laws, facts, processes, and events; the system of social life, including the family and civil society; the system of business life, including all proper industries and right occupations, all rightful forms of development, all cares and labours--all these are included in the system of visitations which God employs in His daily education of men, and their treatment and control. In other words, God employs all the apparatus of the natural world, in its results both upon the body and the mind; all the social influences that surround and educate men; all the organizations by which man is drawn out in various industries, and becomes an operative and a creator; all the various events that transpire outside of the mind or its volition, which come up in what we call providences of God; and above all these, the direct gospel system, supervised by God’s personal Spirit. Through all these various influences, God acts upon the human soul; and all these are but parts of God’s one system, for the development, the education, and the elevation of men. The time of God’s visitations has included every period of our lives. They have not been special to youth, to middle life, or to old age. Not only has the Divine economy had respect to the faculties of the soul, but to man as a creature. For example, there are times--and the element of time has entered largely into the system of Divine culture--when they have met us in childhood, with influences appropriate to that period, acting through the easier affections and susceptibilities of early life. I do not believe that there is a man in this house, who, if he were to speak his experience, would not say, “I was subject in my boyhood to times of religious depression.” They say “depression,” though they should rather say religious inspiration and elevation. These were awakenings by which they were lifted up from the dull and the obscure of life, and made to feel something of the invisible, and of the power of the world to come. And as childhood goes into boyhood or early manhood, the Divine strivings do not cease. They may change their form; they may cease to act through the same susceptibilities; they may take hold through the developments of the understanding, the speculations of a man’s reason, or a different and larger reach of the imagination; but, nevertheless, they take hold still in early manhood and middle life. God’s visitations of mercy not only include every one of the faculties of the human soul, and all the periods of time in which a man lives, but are made to act upon men through every gradation and variation of their condition and history. In other words, we are tried in every possible development of our physical state. We are tried by our disappointments; we are tried by our successes! God heaps mercies upon men, and then takes them all away! He blesses, enriches, and establishes men, and then shuts them up, impoverishes, and subverts them! It is remarkable, in respect to these visitations of God, that they do not follow the telescope; they are rather like comets, that come when they please; for when you search for God, “by searching you cannot find Him out.” Such thoughts have come to you unbidden, sometimes in your counting-room, or when you were on a journey, or on the sea; sometimes when you have been in your house all alone, your family in the country; sometimes in trouble and adversity; in various ways--often coming, though never twice alike, as if the Divine phases had sought to present, at different times, different aspects to you. And if, all the way along, you had treasured up these times--precious times of great treasure!--if you had treasured them as you have when you have made a good bargain, or gained a new honour; if you had treasured all these interior peculiarities as you have the exterior--you would find them, I think, almost within speaking distance all the way from childhood to manhood; and although you had never such a consecutive view of the whole, yet really all along you have been subject to such impressions! Under such visitations there is brought very near to men such a thought of the other life, of God’s eternal kingdom and their immortality in it, as may produce very serious practical fruits in them. In view of these facts and illustrations of facts, I remark in closing, first, upon the immensity of the influences which men receive for good--the disproportion in this world between the educating influences for good, and those which sometimes we suspect are for evil. For we are apt to think that this great world is all against goodness, and that men are surrounded by such inducements to evil, such temptations of their passions, that there is an impression that man is so neglected and so set upon at disadvantage, that there is scarcely the evidence of his ever being an object of mercy. Contrariwise, it is a truth that man stands in the midst of a world which is one peculiar and complex educating institution, and what is more, educating in the right direction. The gradual growing effect of the course that I have been speaking of, is worthy of a moment’s attention--the habit of thus resisting the visitation of God’s Spirit upon us. What is the result of having a visitation, and of neglecting it? The general apprehension is, that it offends God, and that man is destroyed vindictively, or penally; but we must look at it more narrowly than that. In the first place, then, I think that it is in respect to our moral susceptibilities as it is in regard to all our senses; they become blunted by repeated perversion. A man can treat his eye in such a way that he shall become blind. He can blunt his hearing so that he shall become deaf. He can injure his tongue so as to have no appreciation of flavours. He can conduct himself so that his whole body may be broken down and destroyed before he is fifty years old. So in respect to a man’s moral nature. A man’s moral susceptibilities may be so dull, that by the time he is fifty years old, these approaches no longer affect him in this world. Anal the effect is, the gradual diminution of moral susceptibility; so that the conjunctions of circumstances, by which the man shall appear to himself to be surrounded, are less and less frequent, because their effect is less and less apparent. What is the state of such a man? What a terrible condition it is for a man to stand in! Ah! when the day of visitation is passed, what has happened?--not alone in those extreme cases, of men who are hardened past all shame and feeling; but what has happened in other cases, where men are not so incorrigible, and not so hard? Is God so angry at them that He ceases to offer them any more mercy? Does He pass them altogether by? Not at all! Oh, the goodness of God! There is just as much summer in the deserts of Arabia as in our American prairies! The sun and the showers of summer are in both places: but it is a desert in one, and it is a growing, luxuriant prairie in the other. There is just as much summer for a sepulchre as there is for a mansion; but the summer sun brings joy and cheer to those in the populous house, where the father and the mother are happy, and all the children are full of glee and joy; while, as it shines upon the sepulchre’s roof, everything is solitary, sad, and still, because there are dead men’s bones within, which the sunlight can never waken! It is just the same in the moral government of God. There is the same provision of light, of air, of warmth, of raiment, in immense abundance; but all these are conjoined with this one invariable, universal necessity--our own appropriation of them. There is unlimited store of good, yet men will starve if they do not appropriate it to themselves. There is an ocean of air, yet men will suffocate if they refuse to breathe. He is resolute for evil. He has been surrounded by Divine influences, but he has continually resisted them, until he has been hardened by the process--until moral susceptibility has died out of him--until he has disorganized his nature--until he has destroyed himself! And when he passes through the brief period of his life--through its rapid rolling months and years--and rises into the presence of God, he stands in condemnation! Then he will not be able to say one word! The long procession of God’s teachings, which were given to draw him away from his immorality; all the Divine influences that have been visited upon him; all these things will then stand out unmistakably and indisputably; and the man will have nothing to say, except this--“I destroyed myself!” (H. W. Beecher.)
Times of visitation
1. And first, I would ask you to go back to the period of your youth. Was not that a “time of visitation?” Do you not remember its freshness, its freedom, its joy?
2. Again: I may speak of those special Divine influences which arc often realized in connection with the services of the sanctuary, and the preaching of God’s Word, as constituting “a time of visitation.”
3. Yet again: there are “times of visitation,” in which the individual is more directly concerned, as separate from all around him. It may be in the church, or it may be at home in the quiet chamber, or it may be in neither, but out under the great dome of heaven, and among the scenes of nature.
4. Once more: there are providential events which may be regarded in the light of a “time of visitation” to those concerned in them. (C. M. Merry.)
The time of visitation
I. WHAT IS A DIVINE VISITATION?
1. The common use of the word associates it with judgment, with judicial infliction of punishment of some sort.
2. Divine visitations are often connected with the purpose of blessing.
3. God visits us, in giving us the fruits of the earth in due season.
4. Visitation means warning. It is in this sense our Lord here describes His own ministry as the “visitation” of Jerusalem. Partly, no doubt, it was a visitation of judgment, yet more was it a visitation of blessing; it brought with it instruction, grace, pardon. His visitation was also a warning against some besetting sins of a very old and settled religion--against formalism, hypocrisy, insincere use of sacred language, insincere performance of sacred duties; and it was especially a warning to the people of Israel, against their taking a wrong turn in their thoughts and aspirations and efforts in the future before them.
II. WHY SHOULD THE FAILURE TO KNOW THE TIME OF VISITATION VERY OFTEN BE FOLLOWED BY SUCH GREAT CONSEQUENCES?
1. Because such failure implies the decline of spiritual interest, which in those who have had any religious training and opportunities is culpable. To believe sincerely in the living God, who interests Himself in His mortal creatures, is to be on the look-out for tokens of His intervention in the affairs of men; in other words, for His visitations. When a Divine visitation comes, it is a touchstone of the interests of souls: it finds some anxious, expectant, willing to recognize and make the most of it, and others, as our Lord said, whose hearts have waxed gross, and whose ears are dull of hearing, and whose eyes are closed. This insensibility to the approach of God in His life and power wounds the heart of God. We cannot forsake Him for anything else with impunity.
2. If God visits in warning, then to neglect His visitation is to neglect conditions of safety against dangers which are before us” So it was now with the Jews. If the Jews had given heed to the teaching of our Saviour the conflict with the Roman authority would never have taken place.
III. THE DIFFICULTY FOR MANY MEN IS TO RECOGNIZE AT THE CRITICAL MOMENT THE FACT THAT GOD IS VISITING THEM. The most vitally important days and weeks in the history of a soul may have little to distinguish them outwardly from other days. It needs the earnest, penetrating recognition of God’s unceasing and loving interest in His creatures to read life aright, whether it be corporate or individual life, to see the moral and spiritual worth of events. It may be said that there is room for a great deal of illusion in this matter of Divine visitation. “We may easily think ourselves more important people than we are; we may imagine that the events of our little lives have a meaning and worth which does not belong to them. Is there any test or criterion of His visitation?” Well, we have first of all to remember that no human life at any moment is other than an object of the deepest interest to God. He who made, He who redeemed, He who sanctified us, does not think any life too insignificant to be visited by Him. The hairs of your head are all numbered; it is impossible that the Infinite Love should ever despise the work of His own hands, the purchase of His own cross. The only question is, whether we are warranted in thinking that His interest and oversight have at a given time reached a special climax or visitation, having exceptional claims on our attention; and we are justified in thinking that this is the case if the truth which such a visitation enforces is in correspondence with the higher truth which we have learned before, though, perhaps, going beyond it, and if the conduct to which we are impelled or encouraged involves self-denial, involves that which is unwelcome or exacting. (Canon Liddon.)
1. God visits a nation, when at a critical moment in its history He bids it maintain some imperilled principle, or do some great act of justice. Perhaps the opportunity has been neglected; it passes, and then the sentence of national decline is written on the pale of history, with the added reason: “Because thou knowest not,” etc.
2. God visits at His own time the several branches of His Church, it may be after long years of apathy and darkness. He visits a church when He raises up in her teachers who insist upon forgotten aspects of truth, who call men from false standards of life; or when He opens great ways of extending His people and of influencing numbers of human beings to seek the things that belong to their peace. If this invitation to better things is set aside, nominally as ii it were the revival of some old superstition, but rather really because it makes an unwelcome demand on the conscience and the will, then the day of visitation passes, and the doom of the church which comes in time is justified in the conscience of its own children: “Because,” etc.
3. Souls are the units of which nations and churches are composed, and God visits a soul when He brings before it a new range of opportunities. One of yourselves, we will say, has been for years recognizing just so much of religious truth as the people about him, and no more; acting just so far upon the duties which it suggests, and no further; your thought and practice are, as we say, conventional--that is to say, they are determined by the average feeling of those among whom you are thrown in life, and not by any personal sense or grasp of religious principle, of what religious principle is, of what is due to it, of what is due to the Infinite and Everlasting God. And then something occurs which appeals to the soul as nothing has appealed to it before, which puts life, destiny and duty, truth, Holy Scripture, the Cross of Christ, the Person of Christ, the garments of Christ, the Church of Christ, before it in quite a new light. It may be a sentence in a letter: it may be a sudden thought which takes possession of you at the time of prayer; it may be a friend who insists on duties which have hitherto been mere phrases to you; it may be that you suddenly find yourself obliged to decide between two courses--one involving sacrifice more or less painful, and the other the surrender of something which your conscience tells you is right and true, and the having to make a decision puts a strain on your moral being, which is of itself a visitation. Or, one who has been intimately associated with you for many years has died; his death has taught you the emptiness of this passing life, it has put you out of heart with the half-hearted religion of past years; in short, this trial, while it presses heavily on your heart, has gone far to make you quite other than what you were. And this is a visitation. God is speaking to your soul, and much depends on your under standing Him, on your resolving and acting and re-fashioning your life accordingly. Much, I say, depends on this; for be sure that it is very serious to have enjoyed such a religious opportunity and to have neglected it. Divine visitation does not leave us where it found us; it always leaves us better or worse. To have been in contact with truth and grace, and to have put it from us, is to be weaker, poorer, worse off--religiously speaking--than we were. When the Divine visitation of the soul has been rejected, then the day of its enemies has arrived; then the legions of hell encamp all around it, the powers of darkness make sure of their victim. There is such a thing as the last chance in the life of a soul. God knows when it has passed by each of us, but one day certainly all of us do, in whatever way, pass it. (Canon Liddon.)
The visitation of Jerusalem
1. This visitation of Jerusalem by its Monarch was unobtrusive. There was nothing of outward pageantry or of royalty to greet the Son of David; there was no royal livery, no currency bearing the king’s image and superscription--all these things had passed into the hands of a foreign conqueror, or in parts of the country, into the hands of princes who had the symbol of independence without its reality. There was not even the amount of circumstance of state which attends the reception of a visitor to some modern institution--a visitor who only represents the majesty of some old prerogative or some earthly throne. As Israel’s true King visits Jerusalem He always reminds us of a descendant of an ancient family returning in secret to the old home of his race; everything is for him instinct with precious memories; every stone is dear to him, while he himself is forgotten. He wanders about unnoticed, unobserved, or with only such notice as courtesy may accord to a presumed stranger. He is living amid thoughts which arc altogether unshared by the men whom he meets as he moves silently and sadly among the records of the past, and he passes away from sight as he came, with his real station and character generally unrecognized, if, indeed, he is not dismissed as an upstart with contempt and insult. So it was with Jerusalem and its Divine Master. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. It may, indeed, be asked whether the unobtrusive character of His visit does not excuse the ignorance of Jerusalem. But, my brethren, there is ignorance and ignorance. There is the ignorance which we cannot help, which is part of our circumstances in this life, which is imposed on us by Providence, and such ignorance as this, so far as it extends, does efface responsibility. God will never hold a man accountable for knowledge which God knows to be out of his reach; but there is also ignorance, and a great deal of it, in many lives for which we are ourselves responsible, and which would not have embarrassed us now if we had made the best of our opportunities in past times, and just as a man who, being drunk, commits a street outrage is held to be responsible for the outrage which he commits without knowing what he is doing, because he is undoubtedly responsible for getting into this condition of brutal insensibility, so God holds us all to be accountable for an ignorance which He knows to be due to our own neglect. Now this was the case with the men of Jerusalem at that day. Had they studied their prophets earnestly and sincerely, had they refused to surrender themselves to political dreams which flattered their self-love and which coloured all their thoughts and hopes, they would have seen in Jesus of Nazareth the Divine Visitor whose coming Israel had for long ages been expecting. As it was, His approach was too unobtrusive for a generation which looked forward to a visible triumph. Thus they knew not the time of their visitation. And the visitation of Jerusalem was final; it was not to be repeated. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers of the Jewish race by the prophets, in these last days spoke unto them by His Son. Those were His last words to His chosen people, the last probation, the last opportunity; we may reverently say that there was no more after that to be done. Each prophet had contributed something which others could not; each had filled a place in the long series of visitations which no other could fill. Already Jerusalem had been long since once destroyed after a great neglected opportunity. The Book of Jeremiah which we have lately been reading in the daily lessons, is one long and pathetic commentary on the blindness and obstinacy of kings, priests, prophets, and people who preceded the Chaldean invasion, and who rendered it inevitable. And still that ruin, vast, and for the time being, utter as it was, had been followed by a reconstruction, that long and bitter exile by a return. But history will not go on for ever repeating events which contradict probability. One greater visitation awaited Jerusalem, one more utter ruin, and each was to be the last. “Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” What is the explanation of that “because”? What is the connection as between cause and affect which it suggests? Does it mean merely that the Jews, having as a people rejected Christ, were punished by the destruction of their city and temple, but that nothing further can be said about it? That the punishment was independent of the crime, although not excessive, and that it might just as easily as not have been something else than what it was, since the punishment was inflicted from without by the Roman army, which, consisting as it did of brave and disciplined pagans, could have no ideas about the spiritual history or responsibilities of a distant Asiatic race? No, brethren; this is not the full or the true account of the case. Here, as elsewhere, God works by laws which we may trace and which are not generally superseded by agencies of a different character. Jerusalem’s ignorance of its visitation by the King Messiah, had a great deal to do as cause with effect with Jerusalem’s ruin. What was the main cause of that ruin? It was, as has been said, that the Jews were under the influence of a false and blind prejudice and ambition. They had made up their minds that their Messiah was to be a political rather than a spiritual king; He was to make Jerusalem the centre of an empire which would hold its own against the legions of Rome; and with this overmastering prejudice in their minds the Jews could not recognize the real Messiah when He came, and the day of their visitation escaped them. Yet it was this same political phrenzy of theirs which ultimately brought them into trouble with the Roman power; and if they had only understood the real meanings of their prejudices, had seen in their Messiah a spiritual monarch, and had accepted Him when He came, the mind of the people would have taken, must have taken, a totally different direction, and the fatal collision with the forces of Rome would never have taken place. (Canon Liddon.)
Illness regarded as God’s visitation
There are two ways of looking at an illness. We may trace it to its second or immediate cause, the infection, the blood-poisoning, the imprudence, the hereditary taint, and there stop; or we may with greater reason look up to Him who is the true Lord of all, the first cause, and who worketh all things by the counsel of His own will; and if we do this last, we must see in an illness a visitation from God. He knows what we want. He sees, it may be, that in us which will never be corrected in the days of rude health and of high spirits; He sees the insensibility to the seriousness of life, to the claims of others, to the true interests of the soul, to the unfathomable love of the Divine Redeemer; and an illness which gives time for prayer, for reflection, for resolution, is a school of discipline. Those who have never had bad health are, it has been truly said, objects of anxiety; those who have had it, and who are none the better for it, are certainly objects of the very deepest concern and compassion. There was a story told many years since of a boat which was getting near the rapids above the Falls of Niagara. The boatmen managed to reach the shore, but, disregarding the advice which was earnestly given them, they put out again into the stream, with the object of crossing to the opposite bank. The current proved too strong for them, and those who had warned them of their danger looked on with a distress which was too great for words while the boat glided down with an ever-increasing speed to the edge of the falls. It is possible, brethren, in what concerns another life, to be in that condition, to have ignored God’s last word of warning, and to be hurrying onwards, under the stress of influences which we cannot any longer resist or control, towards the awful future. Great reason is there for prayer, that at the critical turning-point of our career we may have, in our Lord’s words, eyes to see and ears to hear, that we may distinguish God’s visitations in life from what is ordinary in it; that we may remember that in every life, even in the most highly favoured, there is sooner or later a visitation which is the last. (Canon Liddon.)
Well-known as these words are, there is in them something, when we think of it, unexpected; something different, apparently, from what we should have looked for. The condemnation of the people seems to be put upon a cause somewhat unlike what we might have thought. The Lord does not say, it is because ye are about to crucify the Lord of Glory; or, because ye have been a sinful and stiff-necked people; or, because by your traditions ye have made the Word of God of none effect; or, because ye are hypocrites, or impenitent: though all these things, and many more, were not only true against the people, but had often been alleged by Himself to their condemnation. He does not, I say, allege any of these broad, overt, intelligible sins in this, the last most solemn, irreversible denunciation of their judgment; but He says, “Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation!” God had visited His people, and they knew it not I He had come unto His own, and His own had known Him not He does not even say, that they had pretended not to know Him; but, literally and plainly, that they knew Him not. They might have known Him; they ought to have known Him; but He came, and they knew Him not. Let us learn, then, that men may really be quite ignorant of what they are doing, and yet very guilty, and involved in the heaviest condemnation. But, again, are we to suppose that they did not choose to know; that they might, then and there, by a stronger exercise of will, by some more forcible or candid purpose, have known what they thus wilfully were ignorant of? It is possible that they might; but it is by no means certain: that is, it is by no means certain that much disobedience, much inattention to the constant indications of God’s will vouchsafed to them, much neglect of opportunities, had not set them so much out of the way of forming right judgments on such things, as to make it morally impossible, or, at least, in the highest degree unlikely, that they should come to a right knowledge of the nature of our Lord and the sacredness of His mission. No doubt they had, if we may so speak, a great deal to say for themselves, in their firm and persevering rejection of our Lord and His doctrine; not, indeed, a word of real weight or truth, but a great deal which, urged by men in their state of mind, and addressed to men of their state of mind, would appear to be full of force and cogency. Would they not, feeling no doubt of the sacred validity of their own traditions, look upon Him and describe Him as one who made light of the authority of God, and of Moses, and the ancients? May we not easily suppose with what immense effect they would urge the impolicy of giving any heed to our Lord’s teaching: the impolicy in respect of the Romans; the impolicy in respect of the great impediment which would, by our Lord’s partial success, be thrown in the way of the true, temporal Messias, so long expected? If we suppose that the actions, which we criticize, appeared to the persons who were about to perform them in the same clear and unquestionable light in which we see them, we at once lose, or rather turn into mischief and hurt, the historical examples: we do exactly what the Jews did, when they said, “If we had lived in the times of our fathers, we would not have been partakers in their deeds,” and yet filled up the measure of those very fathers, by doing a deed precisely like theirs in kind, though infinitely worse than theirs in degree. We comfort ourselves by condemning them, while we exactly imitate, or even exceed their sins. We, like them--like all mankind--are perpetually called upon to act; often suddenly--often in cases ofgreat and obvious consequence--often in cases apparently slight, but really of most serious and vital importance to us: the same per plexities and bewilderments as I just described, of feeling, of policy, of liberality and candour, of conscience, of foreseen consequences, rise up around us; we act in more or less uncertainty of mind, but our uncertainties often woefully aggravated by our previous misconduct; and there are many to excuse us, many to encourage us, many to take part with us, and yet, in the sight of God, our act is one, it may be, of clear and undoubted sin. But again, the particular thing of which the Jews were in this instance ignorant, was the visitation of God. Christ had come to them, God had visited His people; and they, blinded by all these various kinds of self-deceit, of long continued disobedience, of inveterate hardness of heart, and neglect of lesser indications of God’s will and presence, had not known Him. Now here again is matter of high concern and warning to us all. For we, too, have our visitations of God; if not exactly such as this great one of Christ coming actually in the flesh, for us to worship or to crucify, according as our hearts recognize and know Him, or disown and rebel against Him, yet visitations many, various, and secret. But it by no means follows that we have known them. Some, indeed, may have been so striking as not to be mistaken. But many, perhaps most, perhaps the most searching and important, may have been absolutely unknown to us. And not less than this seems to be plainly taught by our Lord, where, in the 25th of St. Matthew, He describes the actual scene of judgment. The righteous and the wicked alike seem to be amazed to hear of the matters alleged for their acquittal and condemnation. How unexpected, then, may be to us the voice of judgment! (Bishop Moberly.)
My house is the house of prayer
The purified temple
Regarding the Church as an institution, with its possessions, its laws, its days of worship, its rulers, its teachers, its outward services, we may find for ourselves a lesson in this incident.
And that lesson is, that the spiritual character of the Church is everything, and that its first object is to deepen in men’s hearts the sense of the Divine and the spiritual. When that great end is lost sight of, the Church has parted with her strongest claims upon the world, and it has forfeited also its privilege as a witness for God on the earth. The spiritual influence is the first and chief purpose of the Church of Christ. The lesson of this narrative comes home to us in these days, when so much time and thought are given to the outer framework of Church forms and usages; and that lesson may be needed to correct our spirit of bustling and restless energy in what is at the best only the machinery of spiritual life, and not spiritual life itself. There is no class of men who are more in danger of losing the true meaning of religion than those who are employed in its service. If I were to seek for cases in which spiritual truth had been travestied and turned to not only secular but profane purposes, I do not know that I could find them more readily than in men to whom all sacred words and acts have grown so familiar that they have ceased to express spiritual facts at all. Those who are always engaged in religious works are apt to lose the sense of their sacredness. No man more needs to be on his guard against an unspiritual life than the man who is perpetually employed in spiritual offices. He brings within the courts of God’s house what ought to be left without; he forgets his high spiritual functions in the bustle and care which attend them; and it is really no absolute guarantee of a religious and spiritual life that a man’s profession is the teaching of religion. Christ’s words and acts read us all a lesson, then; they tell us that in the most sacred occupations of life there may be found cares and anxieties which are less religious, and which are apt to swallow up too much of a man’s time and thoughts. There is another temple of a different kind, of which a word may be said. The whole Christian body is, in the words of the New Testament, a temple of God. There is a sacredness in that temple, the spiritual community of Christians, if we would only think of it, much greater than in the Temple of Jerusalem, or in any building devoted to holy uses. And just as the whole Christian community is a temple sacred to God, so each individual heart is in itself a temple where God Most High is honoured and worshipped. (A. Watson, D. D.)
Lessons from Christ’s cleansing of the temple
1. Abuses are apt to creep into the Church. Let us be on our guard against their first introduction.
2. The Church is much indebted, under God, to those who have had the courage to stand forward as real reformers. Hezekiah; Josiah; the English reformers. They are indeed the benefactors of the Church who successfully exert themselves to correct doctrinal and practical errors, and to promote the scriptural administration of ordinances, discipline, and government. Thus, the progress of corruption is arrested, the beauty of Christianity is restored, and the glory of God, and the religious, and even civil, interests of men are promoted.
3. It is the duty of us all, according to our several places and stations, to do what we can to reform whatever abuses may exist in the Church in our own times.
4. Let this purification of the temple lead us to seek the purification of our own hearts.
5. In all we attempt for the benefit of others, or of ourselves, let us imitate the zeal which our Master displayed on this occasion. To be useful to man, or acceptable to God, we must be deeply in earnest--we must have the Spirit of Christ in this respect. Neither fear, nor shame, nor sinful inclination should restrain us in such cases. (James Foote, M. A.)
Christ’s indignation aroused by irreverence
In contemplating this action we are at first sight startled by its peremptoriness. “Is this,” we say to ourselves--“is this He who is called the Lamb of God? He of whom prophecy said that He should neither strive nor cry; He who said of Himself, “Come to Me; I am meek and lowly of heart”? Is there not some incongruity between that meek and gentle character and those vehement acts and words. No, my brethren, there is no incongruity. As the anger which is divorced from meekness is but unsanctified passion, so the false meekness which can never kindle at the sight of wrong into indignation, is closely allied, depend upon it, to moral collapse. One of the worst things that the inspired Psalmist can find it in his heart to say of a man is, “Neither doth he abhor anything that is evil.” Bishop Butler has shown that anger, being a part of our natural constitution is intended by our Maker to be excited, to be exercised upon certain legitimate objects; and the reason why anger is as a matter of fact generally sinful is, because it is generally wielded, not by our sense of absolute right and truth, but by our self-love, and, therefore, on wrong and needless occasions. Our Lord’s swift indignation was just as much a part of His perfect sanctity as was His silent meekness in the hour of His passion. We may dare to say it, that He could not, being Himself, have been silent m that temple court, for that which met His eye was an offence first against the eighth commandment of the Decalogue. The money brokers were habitually fraudulent. But then this does not explain His treatment of the sellers of the doves, which shows that He saw in the whole transaction an offence against the first and second commandments. All irreverence is really, when we get to the bottom of it, unbelief. The first great truth that we know is the solitary supremacy of the Eternal God; the second, which is its consequence, the exacting character of His love. God is said, in the second commandment, to be a “jealous God.” (Canon Liddon.)
Christ dealt immediately with wrong
What He might have done! He might have said, “Well, this temple will one day, and that day not far distant, be thrown down. I shall not interfere with this abuse now, because in the natural order of things it will be overturned along with this structure.” Jesus Christ did not know what it was to trifle so. I don’t know that Jesus Christ knew the meaning of the word expediency, as we sometimes prostitute it. He saw wrong. If that wrong would in five minutes work itself out, that was no consideration to Him. Meanwhile, to Him five minutes was eternity! (J. Parker, D. D.)
The cleansing of the temple
I shall endeavour to call your attention to one or two of the most marked features. And in the first place, I would bid you notice our blessed Lord’s zeal, that zeal of which the Psalmist said, speaking prophetically, “the zeal of Thine house hath even eaten me” Psalms 69:9).
2. But again, the conduct of our Lord shows us the reverence that is due to God’s house. The Jewish temple was emphatically a “house of prayer,” it was a place where God had promised His special presence to those who came to worship. And there are some things which, like oxen and sheep, are things not clean enough to be brought into the temple of God; all evil feelings, and pride, and unkindness, and envy, and self-conceit, and other wicked emotions may not be brought into God’s temple; they must be driven out with scourges, they must not be tolerated. Then also there are some things which, like the doves, though pure in themselves, have no business in the temple of God; the cares of this world, things necessarily engaging our attention at other times, may not enter these doors: God’s church is intended to be as it were a little enclosed spot where worldly things may not enter. But again, the tables of moneychangers must not be here; this is no place for thoughts of gain, it is a profanation of God’s temple to bring them here. And, lastly, Christian brethren, we cannot but be reminded, by our Lord’s cleansing of the temple in the days of His flesh, of that awful cleansing of His temple which will one day take place, when all that is vile and offensive shall be cast out of His temple, and everything that maketh a lie cast into the lake of brimstone. (H. Goodwin, M. A.)
The Louse of prayer
I. Our first inquiry is--WHAT IS OUR LORD’S VIEW AS TO THE PURPOSE AND END WHICH HE DESIGNS HIS EARTHLY TEMPLES TO SERVE? And this is the answer--“My house is the house of prayer.” He calls us here to pray. The work to which He sets us in the sanctuary is mainly devotional.
1. As first, that common or united prayer is needful for man. Prayer itself is almost an instinct of nature. Man must worship. And he must worship in company; he must pray with others.
2. Another observation which the Divine idea in regard to the earthly sanctuary suggests is, that common or united prayer is acceptable to God.
3. Common or united prayer is efficacious to obtain Divine gifts. Otherwise, God would not assign to it so foremost a position in the worship of the sanctuary.
II. MAN’S DEPARTURE FROM THIS DIVINE IDEA ABOUT THE HOUSE OF GOD ON EARTH. “Ye have made it a den of thieves.” There is man’s perversion of God’s design. You know, of course, what the particular sin was which these words of our Lord were intended to reprove. It was the appropriation on the part of these Jews of a portion of the temple enclosure to purposes of worldly barter. This was the way in which the Jewish people lost sight of the Divine idea in regard to their temple. And though it is not possible for men now to commit precisely the same offence, I fear it would not be difficult to trace a corresponding sin, even in the present altered condition of the church. It is possible now to desecrate sacred places and offices to purposes of worldly gain. It is possible to make a traffic of spiritual functions and emoluments. But, my friends, these are not the only things in which a departure from God’s idea about His sanctuary may be marked now. There are others, of another complexion and character, it is true, but not the less to be reprehended. It is to these that I would more especially call your attention.
1. Let me say, then, that some pervert God’s idea by making the house of prayer a house of preaching. With them the sermon is almost everything. They are impatient of all else to get to that. Prayers, and lessons, and psalms, and creeds, are all just to be endured as a sort of preliminary to that.
2. I remark again, that some depart from God’s intention with respect to the sanctuary by making the house of prayer “a house of mere Sunday resort.” They must pass the day somewhere; they must get through it somehow, and so, as it is customary, and seemly, and respectable, they will go to church. They are as well there, they think, as anywhere else; but, alas! this is all.
3. I remark, in the next place, that some pervert this design by making the house of prayer “a house of formal service.” Their service is no more than lip service. (G. M. Merry.)
“My house is the house of prayer
Nor are there wanting examples, in all succeeding ages, of the conscientious and religious regularity with which the faithful ever attended the public means of grace. Thus, for example, “Zacharias and Elizabeth walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” The just and devout Simeon “waited for the consolation of Israel, and came by the Spirit into the temple of the Lord.” These, so striking examples of such excellent men, and the uniform and continuous practice of the faithful in all ages, show that the public worship of God is an institution of Divine authority. That there is a God is the first suggestion of unassisted reason, and that God ought to be worshipped is the foundation and first principle of all religion. Accordingly, we have reason to believe, that public worship began with the beginning of the world, and that it has been continued and maintained in all countries and in all times, and under every form of religion that man has devised or God instituted. The ancient Jews for example, dedicated a seventh part of their time to the service and worship of God. We may also remark, that, from the earliest ages, not only particular times, but also particular places, were set apart and consecrated to these sacred services. In the darkest times of heathen idolatry, when there were “gods many, and lords many,” magnificent temples were built, stately altars erected, costly sacrifices offered, solemn rites celebrated, and the elegant arts of painting and sculpture, poesy and music, were called into the service of dumb idols. In after times, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and had no fixed nor settled abode, the tabernacle was erected by God’s special command, and richly endowed with sacred utensils and ornaments for His solemn worship.
I. PUBLIC WORSHIP IS CALCULATED TO DISPLAY THE GLORY OF GOD. As the court of an earthly monarch derives its dignity from the splendour and number of its attendants, so the church, “the court of the Lord,” shows forth the majesty of the Most High by its multitudes of humble worshippers.
II. PUBLIC WORSHIP IS ALSO CALCULATED TO PROMOTE AND PERPETUATE THE PRACTICE OF PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION. Prayer kindles and keeps up the spirit of piety in the soul. And if the “house of prayer “be thus holy, how great should be the purity of those who frequent it? Here, again, let the royal Psalmist be our director, “Praise is comely for the upright.” (A. McEwen.)
The house of prayer
“My house is the house of prayer.” This is as true of that portion of the holy body which we call the Church visible or militant as it is of the rest. The object of the visible Church is not solely philanthropic, although the Church’s duty is to do good unto all men, specially to them that are of the household of faith. It is not solely the moral perfection of its members, although the purification to Himself of a peculiar people zealous of good works was certainly a main object of its founder; still less is it the prosecution of inquiry or speculation, however interesting about God, because we already know all that we ever really shall know in this state about Him. We have on our lips and in our hearts the faith that was once delivered to the saints. This temple, visible and invisible, is thus organized by its Divine founder throughout earth and heaven to be a whole of ceaseless communion with God; and as its heavenly members never, never for one moment cease in their blessed work, so by prayers, broken though they be and interrupted--by prayers and intercessions, by thanksgiving and praise, private and public, mental and vocal, the holy Church throughout the world doth acknowledge Him who is the common centre of light and love to all its members, whether on this side the veil or beyond it. Into this temple also there sometimes intrudes that which moves the anger of the Son of Man, for this spiritual society has its place among men. It is in the world, although not of it, and it thus sometimes admits within its courts that which cannot bear the glance of the All-Holy. And especially is this apt to be the case when the Church of Christ has been for many ages bound up with the life and history of a great nation, and is, what we call in modern language, established--that is to say, recognized by the State, and secured in its property and position by legal enactments. I am far from denying that this state of things is or may be a very great blessing, that it secures to religion a prominence and a consideration among the people at large, which would else be wanting to it, that it visibly asserts before men the true place of God as the ruler and guide of national destiny; but it is also undeniable that such a state of things may bring with it danger from which less favoured churches escape. To be forewarned, let us trust, is to be forearmed; but whenever it happens to a great Church, or to its guiding minds, to think more of the secular side of its position than they think of the spiritual--more, it may be, of a seat in the Senate and of high social rank than of the work of God among the people; if, in order to save income and position in times of real or supposed peril, there is any willingness to barter away the safeguards of the faith, or to silence the pleadings of generosity and justice in deference to some uninstructed clamour, then be sure that, unless history is at fault as well as Scripture, we may listen for the footfalls of the Son of Man on the outer threshold of the temple, and we shall not long listen in vain. Churches are disestablished and disendowed to the eye of sense, through the action of political parties; to the eye of faith by His interference who ordereth all things both in heaven and in earth, and who rules at this moment on the same principles as those which of old led Him to cleanse His Father’s temple in Jerusalem. (Canon Liddon.)
God’s house a house of prayer
“My house shall be called the house of prayer.” Here is a law for the furniture and equipment; here is a definition of the object and purpose of a material Christian church. There are great differences, no doubt, between the Jewish Temple and a building dedicated to Christian worship; but over the portals of each there might be traced with equal propriety the words, “My house shall be called the house of prayer.” No well-instructed, no really spiritual Christian thinks of his parish church mainly or chiefly as a place for hearing sermons. Sermons are of great service, especially when people are making their first acquaintance with practical Christianity, and they occupy so great a place in the Acts of the Apostles, because they were of necessity the instrument with which the first teachers of Christianity made their way among unconverted Jews and heathens. Nay, more, since amid the importunities of this world of sense and time the soul of man is constantly tending to close its eyes to the unseen, to the dangers which so on every side beset it, to the pre-eminent claims of its Redeemer and its God, sermons which repeat with unwearying earnestness the same solemn certainties about God and man, about the person, and work, and gifts of Christ, about life and death, about the fleeting present and the endless future, are a vital feature in the activity of every Christian Church, a means of calling the unbelieving and the careless to the foot of the cross, a means of strengthening and edifying the faithful. Still, if a comparison is to be instituted between prayers and sermons, there ought not to be a moment’s doubt as to the decision; for it is not said, “My house shall be called a house of preaching,” but “My house shall be called the house of prayer.” Surely it is a much more responsible act, and, let me add, it is a much greater privilege, to speak to God, whether in prayer or praise, than to listen to what a fellow-sinner can tell you about Him; and when a great congregation is really joining in worship, when there is a deep spiritual, as it were an electric, current of sympathy traversing a vast multitude of souls as they make one combined advance to the foot of the eternal throne, then, if we could look at these things for a moment with angels’ eyes, we should see something infinitely greater, according to all the rules of a true spiritual measurement, than the effect of the most eloquent and the most persuasive of sermons. “My house shall be called the house of prayer” is a maxim for all time, and if this be so, then all that meets the eye, all that falls upon the ear within the sacred walls, should be in harmony with this high intention, should be valued and used only with a view to promoting it. Architecture, painting, mural decoration, and the like, are only in place when they lift the soul upwards towards the invisible, when they conduct it swiftly and surely to the gate of the world of spirits, and then themselves retire from thought and from view. Music the most pathetic, the most suggestive, is only welcome in the temples of Christ, when it gives wings to spiritualized thought and feeling, when it promotes the ascent of the soul to God. If these beautiful arts detain men on their own account, to wonder at their own intrinsic charms, down among the things of sense; if we are thinking more of music than of Him whose glory it heralds, more of the beauty of form and colour than of Him whose Temple it adorns, then be sure we are robbing God of His glory, we are turning His Temple into a den of thieves. No error is without its element of truth, and jealousy on this point was the strength of Puritanism, which made it a power notwithstanding its violence, notwithstanding its falsehood. And as for purely secular conversations within these walls, how unworthy are they in view of our Redeemer’s words! Time was, under the first two Stuarts, when the nave of the old St. Paul’s was a rendezvous for business, for pleasure, for public gossiping, so that Evelyn the diarist, lamenting the deplorable state to which the great church was reduced, says that it was already named a den of thieves. Is it too much to say that the Redeemer was not long in punishing the desecration of His Temple? First there came the axes and hammers of the rebellion, and then there came the swift tongues of fire in 1660, and the finest cathedral that England ever saw went its way. Would that in better times we were less constantly unmindful of the truth that its successor is neither a museum of sculpture nor yet a concert-room, and that He whose house it is will not be robbed of His rights with permanent impunity. (Canon Liddon.)
The regenerate soul is a house of prayer
“My house shall be called the house of prayer.” This is true of every regenerate soul. When it is in a state of grace the soul of man is a temple of the Divine presence. “If any man love Me, and will keep My words, My Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” Christ’s throne within the soul enlightens the understanding, and kindles the affections, and braces the will, and while He thus from His presence-chamber in this His spiritual palace, issues His orders hour by hour to its thinking and acting powers, He receives in return the homage of faith and love, a sacrifice which they delight to present to Him. So it is with God’s true servants, but alas! my brethren, if you and I compare notes, what shall we say? Even when we desire to pray we find ourselves in the outer court of the soul surrounded all at once with the tables of the money-changers, and with the seats of the men who sell the doves. Our business, with all its details, follows us in the churches, follows us into our private chambers, follows us everywhere into the presence of our God. Our preparations for religious service, the accidents of our service, occupy the attention which is due to the service itself. Sometimes, alas! we do not even try to make the very first steps towards real prayer, and steps which ordinary natural reverence would suggest; we lounge, we look about us, just as though nothing in the world were of less importance than to address the Infinite and Eternal God. But sometimes, alas! we do close the eyes, we do bend the knee, we try to put force upon the soul’s powers and faculties, and to lead them forth one by one, and then collectively to the footstool of the King of kings; when, lo! they linger over this memory or that, they are burdened with this or that load of care, utterly foreign to the work in hand. They bend, it is true, in an awkward sort of way in the sacred presence beneath, not their sense of its majesty, not their sense of the love and the beauty of God, but the vast and incongruous weight of worldliness which prevents their realizing it. And when a soul is thus at its best moments fatally troubled and burdened about many things, God in His mercy bides His time; He cleanses the courts of a Temple which He has predestined to be His for ever, He cleanses it in His own time and way; He sends some sharp sorrow which sweeps from the soul all thoughts save one, the nothingness, the vanity of all that is here below; and so He forces that soul to turn by one mighty, all-comprehending act to Himself, who alone can satisfy it; or He lays a man upon a bed of sickness, leaving the mind with all its powers intact, but stripping from the body all the faculties of speech and motion, and then through the long, weary hours the man is turned in upon himself; and if there is any hope for him at all, if at that critical moment he is at all alive.to the tender pleadings of the All-merciful, he will with his own hands cleanse the temple; he sees the paltriness of the trifles that have kept him back from his chiefest, from his only good; he expels first one and then another unworthy intruder upon the sacred ground. The scourge is sharp, the resistance it may be persevering; the hours are long, and they are weary, but the work is done at last. (Canon Liddon.)
When Walter Hook (afterwards Dean of Chichester) was Vicar of Coventry, he was once presiding at a vestry meeting which was so largely attended as to necessitate an adjournment to the church. Several persons kept their hats on. The vicar requested them to take them off, but they refused. “Very well, gentlemen,” He replied, “but remember that in this house the insult is not done to me, but to your God.” The hats were immediately taken off.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28