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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 9

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Verses 1-2

Luke 9:1-2

Then He called His twelve disciples together

The apostolic authority


Its extent.

2. Its grounds.

3. Its propose.

4. Its limits. (Van Oosterzee.)

Charge of our Saviour to the twelve


1. Not to the heathen. It was more favourable to the progress of Christianity, even among the Gentiles, that the Jews should be first instructed, because, as they already believed in the unity and attributes of God, and possessed the prophecies, they were much better fitted than any other nation, at the commencement of Christianity, to be the instructors of the world.

2. Nor to the Samaritans, although, in travelling from Judaea to Galilee, it was necessary to pass through their country. Our Saviour foresaw that when the Jews should adopt the Christian religion the new benevolent spirit which that religion would diffuse among them would banish all national animosities, and dispose them to contribute with delight to spread the knowledge of Christianity among the Samaritans, and henceforth to acknowledge them as brethren.

THE PREPARATION THEY WERE TO MAKE. It is, rather, the preparation they were not to make (Luke 9:3). What could be the reason of this singular prohibition? We answer, that it was evidently the intention of Jesus, in their first mission, to teach them to rely with confidence on the providence of God, who would show them that they were special objects of His care, would cause all their wants to be supplied, and thus to convince them that they were engaged in the business of heaven.


1. Proclaim

(1) the coming of the kingdom;

(2) the need of reformation.

2. While uttering this proclamation, they proved that they had received Divine authority to make it; for they were empowered, during this journey, to perform miracles by curing all sorts of diseases. At the same time, to distinguish them from those impostors who pretended to cure all distempers, the apostles were prohibited from receiving money in the form of rewards or presents: “Freely ye have received, freely give”; acting in this disinterested manner like servants of the God of benevolence, they were not to be confounded with selfish and designing men.

3. As they had been prohibited from carrying with them the usual accommodations for a journey, they were to depend on the hospitality of those whom they visited.

4. They were enjoined to behave with courtesy to every person they visited. They had come to communicate most important information, and it was necessary to secure the most favourable attention. Besides, civility is an essential part of that benevolence which we owe to our neighbours; and he that is destitute of it neglects to use the means of cultivating the kindly feelings in himself, and in those with whom he associates.

5. When repulsed, they were to shake off the dust from their feet--a significant action which was evidently intended to leave a salutary impression. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

A host of heralds

When we are told that Jesus Christ sent His disciples forth to “preach the kingdom of God,” the word Luke uses means to herald. All Christians are heralds when they speak of the coming of their King. And the characteristics of heralds, before any other persons, are just these: they cannot be inconspicuous, and they must not be timid. Hence, ancient sovereigns used to dress their heralds in unusual and showy garments, so as to attract attention wherever they went; and they furnished them with horns and trumpets, so as to enable them to make a noise which should compel people to hear them.

1. The chief reproach levelled at the Church by the wild race of wicked men around us is that we are not sincere in our professions of longing for the coming of Christ’s kingdom. They laugh at a host of heralds so tame and bashful. Why do Christian people never speak up honestly, and do their avowed errands like men?

2. Of course, the proper reply to all this violence is not found in any waste of furious declamation or any massing of forcible logic. Our remedy under such hateful attacks is found in undertaking at once the work which is urged. We shall never hear any more about our derelictions in duty if we are patiently doing duty.

3. Now, it ought to be remembered that this plan of promulgation of the gospel was the choice of an infinitely wise God. There can be no doubt that it would have been an easy thing for Him just to convert the world at a stroke by an irresistible impulse of the Holy Spirit’s influence; no doubt He could have turned men’s hearts into obedient holiness by some suddenness of Divine disclosure ministered possibly through a song of hosts of angels. But He chose to take time for it, and he chose to put the ultimate accomplishing of such a work into the hands of Christian men and women.

4. It might be well to dwell a moment upon the great grace of God towards us in granting such a favour. Next to being rich and imperial ourselves, it certainly would be very fine to be the almoner of an emperor distributing his wealth to the poor. There was wonderful benediction to us in that God fashioned a form of practical evangelization, which would allow play for all kinds of characteristic human endowments. By putting these into rapid and repetitious service, all of those who love Him would share in the grand result.

5. Moreover, the wisdom of such an arrangement can never be questioned. Making men heralds to other men would economize force in exercise, for it would build up intelligence and grace as it exhausted it. Personal activity in doing good promotes growth in all Christian excellence. Love increases by just loving. Hope enlivens itself by just hoping. Zeal gets on fire, and keeps on fire, by just arousing the heat. Knowledge is augmented in all cases more by the effort of teaching others than by simply studying for one’s self alone. To the man who rightly uses the five or ten talents extra talents are given from the Lord’s money.

6. Right here, therefore, let us find an explanation of that low state of hypochondriac feeling which oppresses some Christians. They need spiritual exercise. Wilberforce was asked, once when he was labouring hardest, if he had in these times no anxiety, as he used to have, concerning his soul’s interests; and he replied, “I do not think about my soul; I have no time for solicitude concerning self; I have really forgotten all about my personal salvation, and so I have no distress.”

7. It is possible, therefore, that sometimes it may become actually necessary for the Church itself to be taught by alarm. The heralds may have grown listless. A real sense of peril is of value. “Oh, do that on our souls,” prayed Richard Baxter once, “which Thou wouldst have us do on the souls of others!” Once when Napoleon was crossing the Alps, his army grew laggard, and held back. He ordered the music to play, as if on parade. This was enough for most veterans in the ranks; but he observed that the trumpeters were tame, and their feeble strains of ordinary encouragement were not sufficiently seductive to draw away the minds of the rank and file from the awful weariness of the ascent of the mountain. One regiment especially just toiled along in a spiritless and forlorn array; these he gathered together, and then he ordered the bands to play the home-songs of the peasant people in order that thoughts of sunny scenes behind them might kindle the men’s enthusiasm. Even that failed among some of the sad platoons; and there were some conscripts who only wept beneath an inveterate gloom. Finally, that shrewd commander marshalled the worst of all into one battalion, and put them in the lead. Then suddenly he ordered the trumpets to sound the charge of battle. That was a solitary challenge that no soldier of a French army ever refused. No one could know how they came to be attacked by a foe in the icicles of the high Alps; but is mattered nothing. Wild indeed was the excitement which ran through that hitherto dispirited host, for they supposed the enemy was upon them, and the quick instinct of war instantly flashed along the lines. The very bands played with splendid clangour of brass and shrill screaming of reeds on the frosty air. What that call meant pealing among the ravines was victory! Most men need some sort of inspiration in religious life just to keep them up to duty. Woe to the heralds with trumpets in their hands if they lapse away into a feeble silence! (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Preaching the kingdom

We have here the commission of the twelve apostles.

THEIR AUTHORITY. This they received from the great Head of the Church.


1. Notice the two words used.

(1) Power; the ability to do a thing.

(2) Authority; the lawful right to do it.

2. Two realms referred to.

(1) The spiritual realm of darkness;

(2) the physical realm of human nature.


1. To give spiritual light and comfort.

2. To relieve those who were physically disabled and tortured.

(1) Christ is Physician for both soul and body.

(2) All His ministers should do what they can for the bodies as well as for the souls of men.

THEIR MARCHING ORDERS. They were to be encumbered with nothing superfluous.

THEIR OBEDIENCE. Instructive to us--

(1) in its promptness;

(2) in its exactness;

(3) in its thoroughness. Lessons:

1. Every disciple should be a witnesser for Christ.

2. Though some of the particular things laid down here are not obligatory on us, the prominent features in their equipment are still needed.

(1) The power and authority;

(2) the willingness to give up everything superfluous;

(3) prompt, exact, and thorough obedience.

3. Every one whom Christ sends forth may confidently expect every needed equipment if he ask.

4. Surely the fields are now ripe for the harvest.

5. Let us not only pray that God will send labourers, but be willing to be labourers ourselves. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Missionary work is God’s work

Who would not be a missionary? His noble enterprise is in exact accordance with the spirit of the age, and what is called the spirit of the age is simply the movement of multitudes of minds in the same direction. They move according to the eternal and all-embracing decrees of God. The spirit of the age is one of benevolence, and it manifests itself in numberless ways--ragged-schools, baths and washhouses, sanitary reform, &c. Hence missionaries do not live before their time. Their great idea of converting the world to Christ is no chimera; it is Divine. Christianity will triumph. It is equal to all it has to perform. It is not mere enthusiasm to imagine a handful of missionaries capable of converting the millions of India. How often they are cut off just after they have acquired the language! How often they retire with broken-down constitutions before effecting anything! How often they drop burning tears over their own feebleness amid the defections of those they believed to be converts! Yes! but the small band has the decree of God on its side. Who has not admired the band of Leonidas at the pass of Thermopylae? Three hundred against three million. Japhet, with the decree of God on his side, only three hundred strong, contending with Shem and his three millions. Consider what has been effected during the last fifty years. There is no vaunting of scouts now, no Indian gentlemen making themselves merry about the folly of thinking to convert the natives of India, magnifying the difficulties of caste, and setting our ministers into brown studies and speech-making in defence of missions. No mission has yet been an entire failure. The old world was a failure under Noah’s preaching. Elijah thought it was all up with Israel. Isaiah said, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” And Jeremiah wished his head were waters, his eyes a fountain of tears, to weep over one of God’s plans for diffusing knowledge among the heathen. If we could see a larger arc of the great providential cycle, we might sometimes rejoice when we weep. But God giveth not account of any one of His matters. We must just trust to His wisdom. Let us do our duty. He will work out a glorious consummation. Fifty years ago missions could not lift up their heads. But missions now are admitted by all to be one of the great facts of the age, and the sneers about “Exeter Hall” are seen by every one to embody a risus sardonious. The present posture of affairs is, that benevolence is popular. God is working out in the human heart His great idea, and all nations shall see His glory … Let us think highly of the weapons we have received for the accomplishment of our work. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the casting down of strongholds.” They are--Faith in our Leader, and in the presence of His Holy Spirit; a full, free, unfettered gospel; the doctrine of the Cross of Christ--an old story, but containing the mightiest truths ever uttered--mighty for pulling down the strongholds of sin, and giving liberty to the captives. This work requires zeal for God and love for souls. It needs prayer from the senders and the sent, and firm reliance on Him who alone is the author of conversion. Souls cannot be converted or manufactured to order. Great deeds are wrought in unconsciousness, from constraining love to Christ; in humbly asking, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” in the simple feeling we have done that which it was our duty to do. The effect works, the greatness of which it will remain for posterity to discern. The greatest works of God in the kingdom of grace, like His majestic works in nature, are marked by stillness in the doing of them, and reveal themselves by their effects. They come up like the sun, and show themselves by their own light. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Luther simply followed the leadings of the Holy Spirit in the struggles of His own soul. He wrought out what the inward impulses of his own breast prompted him to work, and behold, before He was aware, he was in the midst of the Reformation. So, too, it was with the Plymouth pilgrims, with their sermons three times a day on board the Mayflower. Without thinking of founding an empire, they obeyed the sublime teachings of the Spirit, the prompt-ings of duty and the spiritual life. God working mightily in the human heart is the spring of all abiding spiritual power; and it is only as men follow out the sublime promptings of the inward spiritual life that they do great things for God. The movement of not one mind only, but the consentaneous movement of a multitude of minds in the same direction, constitutes what is called the spirit of the age. This spirit is neither the law of progress nor blind development, but God’s all-eternal, all-embracing purpose, the doctrine which recognizes the hand of God in all events, yet leaves all human action free. When God has prepared an age for a new thought, the thought is thrust into the age as an instrument into a chemical solution--the crystals cluster around it immediately. If God prepares not, the man has lived before his time. Huss and Wiclif were like voices crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for a brighter future; the time had not yet come. Who would not be a missionary? “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Is God not preparing the world for missions which will embrace the whole of Adam’s family? The gallant steamships circumnavigate the globe. Emigration is going on at a rate to which the most renowned crusades of antiquity bear no proportion. Many men go to and fro, and knowledge is increased. No great emigration ever took place in the world without accomplishing one of God’s great designs. The tide of modern emigration flows towards the West. The wonderful amalgamation of races will result in something grand. We believe this, because the world is becoming better, and because God is working mightily in the human mind. We believe it, because God has been preparing the world for something glorious. And that something will be a fuller development of the missionary idea and work. There will yet be a glorious consummation of Christianity. The last fifty years have accomplished wonders. On the American continent, what a wonderful amalgamation of races we have witnessed, how wonderfully they have been fused into that one American people--type and earnest of s larger fusion which Christianity will yet accomplish, when, by its blessed power, all tribes and tongues and races shall become one holy family. The present popularity of beneficence promises well for the missionary cause in the future. Men’s hearts are undergoing a process of enlargement. Their sympathies are taking a wider scope. The world is getting closer, smaller--quite a compact affair. “The world for Christ” will yet be realized.(David Livingstone, LL. D.)

Authority for missions

When a Roman magistrate was appointed to conduct a campaign he could not even assume the command of an army until he had been invested with the special powers comprehended in the imperium or right of military command. And to this day when governments are called upon to undertake extraordinary enterprises they are in the habit of endowing their officers with extraordinary powers. So Jesus, when sending His disciples to combat with the powers of evil, gave them special authority and miraculous power. (Sunday School Times.)

Insignificant beginnings

Not many years ago the Queen of Great Britain was proclaimed Empress of India. That event was announced throughout India with all the pomp of empire. Contrast with this earthly splendour the manner in which the new kingdom of Christ was proclaimed on earth. Twelve poor disciples preached it in an insignificant province of the Roman Empire. (Sunday School Times.)

A missionary’s healing work

In the first verse of this lesson is a strong reminder of the most efficient style of missionaries to-day. Saying nothing about the power and authority over all devils, to cure diseases is no small part of the modem missionary’s task. It is plain enough to most Christian people who keep up with the general run of accounts from the mission field, that medical training greatly adds to a missionary’s influence. Indeed, it seems almost superfluous to say a word more on the subject. But when one thinks how much physicians are needed among a people where regularly trained physicians do not otherwise exist than through the efforts of the missionaries; how many diseases have been scourges which are quite within the power of medical science; to how many people a physician can gain the access denied to every one else; what opportunities a physician has for making many his grateful friends for life; it will not be wondered that medical training and a physician’s work are wonderful aids in advancing the kingdom. It is no wonder either that Luke, the physician, was particular to notice this branch of the apostolic commission; or that it was actually given by our Lord. Even a quack, or a skilful physician who insists on extortionate fees, is a man of power; though such a one may do the missionary work great harm. He would be feared. Unless he both preaches the kingdom of God--preaches in the old sense, not sermonizes by the hour-glass-and heals the sick, he is worse than useless. (Sunday School Times.)

The call to Christian work

THE CALL TO CHRISTIAN WORK. These twelve apostles were men specially called by Christ, some from their fishing, one from the receipt of custom. We must not think that they were elected to the exceeding privilege of personal relations with Christ. It would be true to say that, through all the ages, God does not elect to privilege, He selects for duty.


1. Every one who is “sent” has a message to deliver. It is a message of sovereign grace. It is a message that has to be set in precise adaptation to men’s needs. It is a message that makes practical demands on all to whom it is addressed.

2. Every one sent is expected to scatter temporal blessings as he goes about doing his higher spiritual work. “Heal the sick” only represents the work of the unusually endowed.

THE SPHERE OF CHRISTIAN WORK. These apostles were bidden go to “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” Lost sheep! They can be found by us all close at hand.

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN WORK. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” True workers for Christ must be heedless of “self”; they must gain full hold and mastery of “self.” (The. Weekly Pulpit.)

A love of preaching

The late Rev. Rowland Hill remarks--“Old as I am, I am just returned from a long missionary ramble; but I feel I am getting old. Oh that I may work well to the last!” In all his journeys, even when he had reached a period beyond that usually allotted to man, he was disconcerted if he did not find a pulpit ready for him every evening. In one of his letters, fixing his days for preaching on his road to some place, he says, “Ever since my Master has put me into office I have ever esteemed it my duty to remember His admonition, ‘As ye go, preach.’” His general answer to invitations to houses on his route was, “I shall be happy to come to you, if you can find me a place to preach in.”

Simplicity in preaching

Arthur Helps tells a story of an illiterate soldier at the chapel of Lord Morpeth’s castle in Ireland. Whenever Archbishop Whately came to preach it was observed that this rough private was always in his place, mouth open, as if in sympathy with his ears. Some of the gentlemen playfully took him to task for it, supposing it was due to the usual vulgar admiration of a celebrity. But the man had a better reason, and was able to give it. He said, “That isn’t it at all. The Archbishop is easy to understand. There are no fine words in him. A fellow like me, now, can follow along and take every bit of it in.”

The mission of the twelve

1. It was one which had for its especial object the welfare of men, both as to soul and body.

2. In His instructions to these first ministers of the gospel, the Master seemed especially to warn them against any needless regard to their own appearance, or any undue considerations for their own comfort or ease. Simplicity, frugality, and paramount regard to their work, were the principles which they were to illustrate, and these have always been considered becoming to true ministers of the gospel in the purest days of the Church. These first apostles were to cultivate warm fraternal fellowship with the people among whom they were to labour, mixing with them and their families in the ordinary intercourse of life, and kindly receiving that hospitality which was freely offered, though never demanded.

3. We are not to consider that these directions of our Lord establish any fixed rules in respect to the support or costume or social relations of His ministers. They were rather adapted to a special and peculiar service; they were conformable to the customs and usages of the times and the country.

4. The injunction to shake off the dust from their feet in leaving a place where they were not welcomed and their teaching was not received, does not inculcate anything like a spirit of denunciation and bitterness, but simply a protest against the unbelief which manifested itself in this manner, and was like the custom, well known to the Jews, of shaking their garments when they came from a heathen city into their own country. The scribes taught that the dust of heathenism defiled those on whom it rested. (E. P. Rogers, D. D.)

Practical suggestions

1. An apostle is a sent one, but not self-sent.

2. A true shepherd must not mistake the love of the fleece for the love for the flock.

3. The Church is to remember that her “angels” are still in the flesh, and require at least an average provision for the needs of the flesh. It is a poor way to advance the spirituality of a minister, to begrudge him his bread.

4. Spirituality is not a thing belonging necessarily to riches or to poverty. All the worldliness is not with the rich. All the spirituality is not with the poor.

5. All true and faithful ministers may justly claim to be in the best sense in an apostolic succession.

6. Ostentation and luxury are a reproach to the ministers of Christ.

7. The Christian missionary emulates his Master, who came as the “sent One” from heaven, “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

8. That is a true and practical Christianity which is not forgetful of the wants of the body while ministering to the necessities of the soul.

9. Every Christian is bound to be a missionary, even though he be not ordained as a preacher. The spirit of missions is the spirit of Christ, and when the whole Church is imbued with that the Lord’s prayer will be answered, “Thy kingdom come.” (E. P. Rogers, D. D.)

The kingdom of God

The whole circle of doctrines taught by Christ revolves about this central point--that He represented to men the kingdom of God. What is this kingdom of God which Jesus preached in His gospel? and how does the knowledge of this kingdom bring us under obligation to repent, and give us encouragement to believe? The answer to these questions must be sought in the meaning of this phrase, as it required to be understood by the Jews of Christ’s own time. To the men whom Christ addressed, the kingdom of God was no new idea; or rather it was no new phrase--but it can hardly be said to have represented any definite idea to a generation that had so far lost the meaning of their own law and history. If we study closely the religion of the Old Testament, we shall find that all its doctrines, laws, and institutions grow out of this fundamental thought, that God, who Himself is pure and spiritual, is the true and only Redeemer of all those who desire to be no more estranged from Him. This truth was formally embodied in the doctrine of a kingdom of God in this world, the nucleus of which was His redeemed people of Israel. The political constitution of Israel as a nation was but a frame for this spiritual kingdom. The true conception of the kingdom stands out m the predictions of Jeremiah concerning the days of the Messiah. When this prophet wrote, the political kingdom had run itself down into disgrace and bankruptcy, through the vices of the kings and the general wickedness of the people; but although the monarchy should be overthrown, and king and people be carried away captive, the kingdom of God in the true Israel--as represented by the prophet and by all believing souls--could not be destroyed. This view of the kingdom of God may be interpreted to us by our familiar conceptions of the national and historical spirit in a people, as distinguished from the form of government and the practical administration of affairs. If, for instance, one loses confidence in a ministry, he does not abandon constitutional government as a failure. It was the spiritual conception of a kingdom within Israel itself--that did not embrace all Israel, and yet was greater than Israel, because it did possess, and should hereafter more and more possess, souls outside the pale of the Jewish commonwealth--that Jeremiah seized so vividly at the very moment when the national monarchy was sinking into nothingness. With this spiritual conception of the kingdom--the presence of God as a Saviour realized to the soul--it is easy to understand how Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God. Coming at a time when the Jews were vassals of the Roman power; when deprived of every symbol of their nationality save their temple and its worship, they were yearning for a deliverer; to the nominal people of God thus subjugated by military rule, yet clinging to the ancient promise of a Messiah who should restore the glory of the theocracy, He said, “I bring to you the good news of the kingdom of God; in Me Jehovah once more comes to you as a Deliverer; the time predicted by Daniel is fulfilled; the new covenant promised by Jeremiah is brought to you in My gospel; repent of the sins that have humiliated and well-nigh destroyed you; renounce your vain hopes of deliverance and trust in Me as your Saviour; repent and believe the gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (J. P. Thomson.)

The kingdom

1. Is within. One becomes a subject of it in his own consciousness.

2. Has laws for the regulation of the life, though purifying and ennobling the heart.

3. Has its privileges. Every subject is treated as a son.

4. Has its rewards, both present and prospective. (J. P. Thomson.)

The twofold mission: preaching and healing

It is in obedience to this mandate that our missionaries, before they go abroad, not only spend a number of years at some theological college where they may prepare themselves for the work of proclaiming the gospel, but generally spend a year or so in the hospitals, gaining some knowledge of medicine that they may alleviate the physical woes of the people among whom their lives are to be spent, and so, it may be, reach the soul through the body. At home the two functions are discharged by different persons, and yet it seems to me that minister and doctor should be in completest sympathy, and recognize each other as severally working towards the same end. Some doctors have I known, who while attending to the physical wants of their patients could find time not only to speak the kindly and reassuring words which come so well from the lips of men who belong to the healing profession, but also to say some word which might point the afflicted one to that great Healer and most beneficent Physician, who is the Redeemer of our whole nature. It is a proof of the close alliance which ought to subsist between preaching and healing, that hospitals are a direct fruit of Christianity. “Neither the religion nor the philosophy of Greece and Rome tended to comfort the poor. The divinities were cruel; the Stoic affected to despise the sufferings of the indigent; the Epicurean took no thought of them. Throughout the vast regions of Mogol, India, and China, the use of hospitals is unknown to this day. In no country did Christianity find such institutions existing. The history of their rise and progress can be traced in few words. In the year 380 the first hospital in the West was founded by Fabiola, a devout Roman lady, without the walls of Rome. St. Jerome says, expressly, that this was the first of all. And he adds that it was a country-house, destined to receive the sick and infirm, who before used to lie stretched on the public ways. The pilgrim’s hospital at Rome, built by Pammachius, became also celebrated. In 330, the priest Zotichus, who had followed Constantine to Byzantium, established in that city, under his protection, a hospital for strangers and pilgrims. St. Basil, who founded the first hospitals of Asia, mentions a house for the reception of the sick and of travellers, near the city of Caesarea, which became afterwards the ornament of the country, and like a second city. St. Chrysostom built several hospitals at Constantinople.” Coming down to modern days, it is significant that the three oldest London hospitals, St. Thomas’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and Bethlehem, were founded about the middle of the sixteenth century, immediately after the Reformation, and that the reign of George II., in which Wesley and Whitefield preached from end to end of the land, was the period at which “a considerable accession was made to the number of English hospitals, and at which society became alive to the value of such institutions.” (J. R. Bailey.)

There is certainly no other feature of the old civilization so repulsive as the indifference to suffering that it displayed. The constant association of human suffering with popular entertainments rendered the popular mind continually more callous. Very different was the aspect presented by the early Church. Charity was one of the earliest, as it was one of the noblest creations of Christianity; and independently of the incalculable mass of suffering it has assuaged, the influence it has exercised in softening and purifying the character, in restraining the passions, and enlarging the sympathies of mankind, has made it one of the most important elements of our civilization. (W. E. H. Lecky, M. A.)

Bodily healing a preparation for spiritual instruction

Although China has reached what some are pleased to call the highest degree of civilization of which a nation is capable without the gospel, it presents, I believe, more physical suffering, for want of medical knowledge, than any other nation on the face of the the earth. The multitudes of sick, and lame, and blind which crowd the streets of this and other cities, are ample evidence of her deplorable condition in this respect. In an institution like this, a good surgeon may almost every day of his life make the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the paralytic whole; besides bringing hundreds together under the most favourable circumstances, to have the gospel preached to them. I might be allowed to give one example of the influence which even one successful case exerts, not only upon an individual or a family, but upon a locality or neighbourhood. Last spring I operated on a man’s eyes for artificial pupil. For several years previously he had only just been able to distinguish day from night, light from darkness. Three days after the operation he was able to read the ordinary character, and on the fifth day he left the hospital. He was a boatman, and lives about half-way to Nankin, on the Northern bank of Yang-tsze river. Two months afterwards he arrived again in Shanghai with his boat, and brought six blind people to the hospital, five men and one woman, from his own neighbourhood, and they not only wanted to have their sight restored, but made enquiries about the Christian religion, which they said their friend who brought them had told them about One man,” continues the doctor in another report, “a shopkeeper, who had been blind for three years, readily submitted to the operation for cataract. I need not say that he was much delighted when, on the twelfth day after it, he was able to read the New Testament character with facility. This man left the hospital in very high spirits, declaring that he would make known the gospel doctrine to all his friends and neighbours.” (Dr. Henderson.)

Delight in preaching

What cross do you suppose I take up in preaching? Just the same kind of a cross a mountain rill takes up that gushes forth all summer long. Why does it gush forth? Because it is its duty? No; because it cannot help it. It is its nature; and it goes ringing down the dell to please itself, not to please the heavens, or the clouds, or anything else--though it may please them all. And it is because it is to me pleasanter than anything else that I preach. I might preach if it was not so pleasant; but I am entitled to no thanks because I preach. The whole professional life of a minister who has health, and a healthy theology, ought to be pleasant. (H. W. Beecher.)

Verse 3

Luke 9:3

Take nothing for your Journey

Travelling without any burden

It is easy travelling if you have no burden.

They were on His business, sent by Him, and He assumed their care, and forbade them to trust themselves, or any other but Him. What a load of care goes off with this, what a burden of responsibility is removed; but what faith and humility is needed! Some of them had been called away from full nets (Luke 5:11), and it takes faith to follow under such circumstances. Many would start if they were permitted to carry the fish, but they are afraid. Afraid--of what, or whom? How strange to their eyes would some of us appear, as we go forth to our work, clothed in rags of self-righteousness and wrappers of pride, loaded with burdens of care and sin? Too much like the Israelites, leaving Egypt with flocks and herds, clothes and kettles, bread and kneading troughs; delivered from bondage, but knowing nothing of the manna, or the water from the rock. Others are afraid to go, fearing to swing off from their earthly base of supplies, and trust the promises of God. But it is all explained in the word, “Lo, I am with you alway.” And what for?

1. Surely to provide. Is He not the Creator? And what would come of all their care if He did not provide? How long would it take them to create a barley-corn, or make a fish?

2. Surely to direct. What would their ignorance have accomplished without Him? And, with such a captain, what need of vexatious study over plans and methods?

3. Surely to lead. In the march through an unknown wilderness, or through a trackless desert, or over an unknown sea, to an unknown port, what progress without a guide and a pilot?

4. Surely to carry all their burdens (Psalms 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7). And, if he wishes to carry them all, why need we refuse or complain? Is it not because He knows our weakness, and because of His strength? And is this all? Oh no! Surely it is because He will be our companion. What are the power and wisdom and riches without the love? “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence “ (Exodus 33:15). (Sunday School Times.)

Apostolic simplicity

The Rev. H. Davies, sometimes called “the Welsh Apostle,” was walking early one Sabbath morning to a place where he was to preach. He was overtaken by a clergyman on horseback, who complained that he could not get above half a guinea for a discourse. “Oh sir,” said Mr. Davies, “I preach for a crown”; “Do you?” replied the stranger; “then you are a disgrace to the cloth.” To this rude observation he returned this meek answer, “Perhaps I shall be held in still greater disgrace, in your estimation, when I inform you that I am now going nine miles to preach, and have but sevenpence in my pocket to bear my expenses out and in; but I look forward to that crown of glory which my Lord and Saviour will freely bestow upon me when He makes His appearance before an assembled world.”

Verse 4

Luke 9:4

And whatsoever house ye enter into

Fireside preaching

They went from town to town, receiving hospitality, or rather taking it for themselves, according to custom.

The guest in the East has many privileges; he is superior to the master of the house, who has the greatest confidence in him. This fireside preaching is admirably adapted to the propagation of new doctrines. The hidden treasure is communicated, and payment is thus made for what is received; politeness and good feeling lend their aid; the household is touched and converted. Remove Oriental hospitality, and it would be impossible to explain the propagation of Christianity. Jesus, who adhered strongly to good old customs, encouraged His disciples to make no scruple of profiting by this ancient public right, probably already abolished in the great towns where there were hostelries. Once installed in any house, they were to remain there, eating and drinking what was offered them, as long as their mission lasted. (Renan.)

Willing hospitality

When travelling in the East no one need ever scruple to go into the best house of any Arab village to which he comes, and he will always be received with profuse and gratuitous hospitality. From the moment we entered any house it was regarded as our own. There is not an Arab you meet who will not empty for you the last drop in his water-skin, or share with you his last piece of black bread. The Rabbis said that paradise was the reward of willing hospitality. (Schottgen.)

Verses 5-6

Luke 9:5-6

Shake off the very dust

No connivance with those who reject the gospel

The Jews were accustomed, on their return from heathen countries to the Holy Land, to shake off the dust from their feet at the frontier.

This act signified a breaking away from all joint participation in the life of the idolatrous world. The Apostles were to act in the same way with reference to any Jewish cities which might reject in their person the Kingdom of God. The rejection of the gospel is not the rejection of a mere theory on which men may innocently entertain different opinions. It is the rejection of a message which, if faithfully received, reveals God, and subdues us to Him, and transforms us into His likeness. It is the refusal of the only remedy for moral evil which God has given to man. And notice that this remedy, being offered to us by men sent by God, may be rejected in rejecting their message or their preaching. The faults or idiosyncrasies of the preached are taken no account of by the Lord. It is one with what He says elsewhere, “He that heareth you, heareth Me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me, and he that dispiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me.” (M. F.Sadler, M. A.)


What can seem of less consequence, or more worthless, than a pinch of dust? You have but to open your fingers and the wind blows it away in a moment and you see it no more. Yet if but one small grain of dust is blown into your eye it will give you a great deal of trouble. One of the terrible plagues of Egypt sprang from a handful of dust, which God commanded Moses to fling into the air. Every little grain scattered into millions and millions of invisible poison-atoms floating through the air; and wherever they settled, on man or beast, dreadful boils and ulcers broke out. In the great deserts of Arabia and Africa the stormy wind sometimes brings such clouds of sand-dust, hot and stifling, that they hide the sun, and make the day as dark as night. The travellers have to lie flat on their faces, and the horses and camels to bend their noses down close to the ground, or they would be suffocated. Sometimes whole caravans have thus perished; and even a great army was once destroyed and buried in these terrible clouds of hot dust. In Egypt, temples and cities have been buried under hills of sand, made up of tiny grains, which the wind has kept sweeping up from the desert for hundreds of years. Very great things, you see, may come from very small things--even from dust. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)

Dust witnessing to the actions of people

Once, in a certain part of Germany, a box of treasure that was being sent by railway was found at the end of the journey to have been opened and emptied of the treasure, and filled with stones and rubbish. The question was who was the robber? Some sand was found sticking to the box, and a clever mineralogist having looked at the grains of sand through his microscope, said that there was only one station on the railway where there was that kind of sand. Then they knew that the box must have been taken out at that station; and so they found out who was the robber. The dust under his feet, where he had set down the box to open it, was a witness against him. Suppose when people take off their shoes or boots when they come home, every grain of dust could have a tiny tongue and tell where it came from! What different stories they would have to tell! “We,” say one little pair of shoes, “are all covered with sand from the sea-shore, where we have been running about all day,” “We,” say a strong, clumsy pair of boots, “have been all day following the plough.” “And we have brought sand from the floor of country cottages”; “and we, dust from the unswept floors of poor garrets”; “and we, mud from many a lane and court and alley.” Well-used shoes these; that are busy day after day, carrying comfort to the poor, and the sick, and the sorrowful. And here are a pair of elegant high-heeled boots with hardly a speck on them, for they have done nothing but step from the carpet to the carriage, and from the carriage to the carpet: I am afraid they have no story worth telling. And here are the village postman’s shoes, stained with mud of all colours, and thick with dust from twenty miles of road and footpath, park sward and farmyard, as he trudged his daily round. Here is a solitary shoe, for its poor old owner has but one leg, and a wooden stump for the other; and it is laden with the dust of the crossing he has been sweeping, for a few pence, all day long. Some people, I am afraid, would rub and wipe their shoes for a long time, as hard as they could, if they thought the dust under their feet would tell tales of where they have been. At every step you take, you bring something away with you and leave something behind. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)

Heralds of Joy

If a herald were sent to a besieged city with the tidings that no terms of capitulation would be offered, but that every rebel without exception should be put to death, methinks he would go with lingering footsteps, halting by the way to let out his heavy heart in sobs and groans; but if instead thereof, he were commissioned to go to the gates with the white flag to proclaim a free pardon, a general act of amnesty and oblivion, surely he would run as though he had wings to his heels, with a joyful alacrity, to tell to his fellow-citizens the good pleasure of their merciful king. Heralds of salvation, ye carry the most joyful of all messages to the sons of men l When the angels were commissioned for once to become preachers of the gospel, and it was but for once, they made the welkin ring at midnight with their choral songs, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.” They did not moan out a dolorous dirge as of those proclaiming death, but the glad tidings of great joy were set to music, and announced with holy mirth and celestial song. “Peace on earth; glory to God in the highest” is the joy-note of the gospel--and in such a key should it ever be proclaimed. We find the most eminent of God’s servants frequently magnifying their office as preachers of the gospel. Whitfield was wont to call his pulpit his throne; and when he stood upon some rising knoll to preach to the thousands gathered in the open air, he was more happy than if he had assumed the imperial purple, for he ruled the hearts of men more gloriously than cloth a king. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 7

Luke 9:7

Herod the tetrarch heard

Herod in perplexity


” This is a singular word. When we have a pictorial dictionary we shall see a very graphic illustration of the meaning of this term. This word διηπόρει imports that the man who was in this condition was perplexed, really stuck in the mud. That is the literal import of the word. He could not move easily, and in all his movement he was trying to escape--now he was moving to the right, then he was moving to the left; now forward, now backward, now sideward; he was making all kinds of motion with a view to self-extrication, and he could not deliver himself from this mood of hesitancy and incertitude. Herod was perplexed about Christ, and curiously perplexed; for his instinct put down his dogma, his conscience blew away as with a scornful wind his theological view of life and destiny. Why was Herod perplexed?--“Because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; and of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again” (verses 7, 8). Why did Herod trouble himself about these dead men? As a Sadducee he did not believe in spirit or in resurrection. If he had been quite faithful and stedfast to his creed, he would have said in answer to all these rumours--Whoever this man may be, he has nothing whatever to do with another world, for other world there is none; as to resurrection, dismiss the superstition and forget it. But Herod had never been in this situation before. Circumstances play havoc with some creeds. They are admirable creeds whilst the wind is in the south-west, and the way lies up a green slope, and birds are singing around us, and all heaven seems inclined to reveal its glories in one blaze: then we can have our theories and inventions and conjectures, and can play the little tricky controversialist with many words: but when the wolf bites us, how is it then? When all the money is lost, when the little child lies at the last gasp, when the doctor himself has gone away, saying it will be needless for him to return--how then? Men should have a creed that will abide with them every day in the week without consulting thermometer or barometer; a creed that will sing the most sweetly when the heart most needs heaven’s music; a great faith, an intelligent, noble, free-minded faith, that says to the heart in its moods of dejection, All will come well; hold on, never despair, never give up; one more prayer, one more day, in a little while. A faith of this kind saves men from perplexity; it gives the life of man solidity, centralization, outlook, hope. It is an awkward thing to have a creed that will not bear this stress. Herod’s Sadduceeism went down when a tap came to the door by invisible fingers. We can do what we will with matter; if the fingers are of bone and flesh they can be smitten and broken; but who can touch invisible fingers? Then what have we to take down by way of comfort? We have declared that we know nothing, and have taken quite lofty pride in our boundless ignorance, but here is a hand at the door, and the door must be answered, and you must answer it. Herod was perplexed, hesitant, now on this side, now on that side; he could not tell what to do. So are men perplexed about Christ to-day who do not believe in Him. It is one of two things in regard to this Son of Man: cordial, loving, positive trust, the whole heart-love poured out like wine into a living flagon; or it is now belief, now unbelief, now uncertainty, now a prayer breathed to the very devil that he would come and take possession of the mind so as to drive out all perplexity and bewilderment. The latter course ends in deepening confusion and darkness. The only thing that will bear the stress of every weight, the collision of every conflict, is faith--simple, loving, grateful faith: Lord, increase our faith. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The might and impotence of the conscience


1. It faithfully reminds of the evil committed.

2. Judges it rightly.

3. Chastises it rigorously.

ITS IMPOTENCE. It is not able--

1. To undo the past.

2. To make the present endurable.

3. To make the future hopeful. (Van Oosterzee.)

Insincere unbelief

That practical unbelief distrusts itself, disavows itself, and punishes itself.

ALL SUCH UNBELIEF, LIKE HEROD’S, DISTRUSTS ITSELF. Scepticism is never wholly satisfied with its own creed; never rests confidently on its own reasonings. So it was with Herod. As a Sadducee, he rejected the doctrine of the Resurrection, whether of angel or spirit. And yet, suddenly startled from his self-possession by an alarm of conscience, he is seen in the text to affirm strongly the truth whose denial was fundamental to his system l Sincere faith is serene, self-possessed, reliant. The traveller on the king’s highway walks calmly and confidently, because he feels that his feet are on adamant; while he, in a marsh or a quicksand, is all restless and excited, through his distrust of the road. This very vapouring of unbelief in behalf of its tenets is significant of insincerity.

That all unbelief, like Herod’s, not only distrusts itself, BUT OFTEN, AND IN THE END, ALMOST ALWAYS DISAVOWS ITSELF! It may clamour against the hard things of revelation, as opposed to its instincts and its reason; yet will ever and anon make practical confession that they seem not unreasonable. This is strikingly exhibited in this history of Herod. Yea, and the text’s illustration on this point goes much further. It shows, not only that the Resurrection is a reasonable doctrine, but that all the Bible teaches as to the effects of that Resurrection upon its subjects is as well reasonable and philosophic. These teachings may be embraced in two particulars--the positive identity, and the greatly enlarged powers and faculties of the Risen Immortal.

1. The Bible affirms this identity. The creature raised from the grave is to be the same creature who goes down into it. Death has no power to destroy or alter human nature. He says, “It is John. It is John the Baptist. He is risen from the dead!”

2. The Bible teaches that, along with this identity, the raised body shall possess powers and faculties very greatly enlarged. Indeed, there is in human nature something instantly responding to the voices of revelation. And it is by reason of this that unlearned and weak-minded Christians do maintain their faith so grandly against all the assaults of philosophic infidelity. They cannot argue for the truth, but they can apprehend it. And this natural moral sense exists originally in all men. The Bible never came to a human spirit that did not at some time respond to its felt truthfulness.

Passing this, observe, That all such unbelief, like Herod’s, POSITIVELY PUNISHES ITSELF. Conscience! Conscience! It was itself a resurrection-power within him! And look at the Tetrarch now! His cheek pale, his lip quivering, his wild eye glaring upon vacancy! He starts from his couch! The wine-cup drops from his hand as he whispers with white lips, “It is John the Baptist--he is risen from the dead!” Ah me! What aileth the Tetrarch there amid princes and nobles? John the Baptist sleeps still in his distant grave. But a simple thought long buried within his murderer’s soul hath been unsepulchred! He thought to silence the living voice of God’s prophet, but that voice in the dark chambers of his soul will wake echoes for ever! Here then we say is a striking illustration of the power of a roused conscience as God’s avenger of sin. I have no room nor necessity here for an argument for retribution. I have only to do with this natural illustration. I am not prophesying what God will do, but only showing what man himself does! It is a favourite postulate, even of the infidel philosophy, that no impression once made on the thinking principle is ever obliterated. And it has doubtless happened unto you all to observe, how some trifling thing--a remark in conversation, the view of a familiar landscape, a strain ofsome longforgotten harmony, yea, a thing so slight as the rustle of a falling leaf, or the breath of a flower’s perfume--has awakened in the mind a long train of recollections. Thoughts long forgotten move again powerfully within us; we are borne away suddenly to other scenes; we live virtually in other times and other conditions. The magic of memory has summoned from the past shadowy forms, faces, voices, it may be of the dead. They rise upon us, they move before us, as life’s great realities, and for the time we are under their mysterious power as our angels or avengers l Now, whether or not conscience be but a modification of memory, certain we are it follows the same great law. Conscience, too, may be beguiled for a season of its avenging power. But this you cannot do--you cannot destroy it. Sin, sin it is, as an operative principle within you, that, by arming conscience with an eye of fire and whip of scorpions, gives to the “worm” its fang, and to the “fires” their fierceness. Believe, if you will, that God is too merciful to make a hell. Yet you know, for you have seen, that every sinful man is making it. This is the law of man’s moral nature, and under it you are all working out your own retribution. You are doing it always, each one for himself. (C. Wadsworth.)

Herod desiring to see Jesus;

It is a striking sentence with which Luke concludes his narrative--“He desired to see Jesus.” We are indeed told that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which the disciples of Jesus saw. Was this Prince of Galilee among those prophets and righteous men, earnestly longing for one glimpse of that mystery, which even angels desire to look into? Was his the desire of a longing holy heart? The evangelist leaves us in no doubt, for his desire was fulfilled; he did see Jesus. And I cannot but think that there is much significancy in the fact that the same writer who records the desire, is the only one who gives us the account of its accomplishment. The aged Simeon, too, desired to see Jesus, and when he saw Him, he said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Certain Greeks, too, came to Philip and said, “Sir, we desire to see Jesus, and when Jesus heard it, He said, The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” Thomas desired to see his risen Lord, and when he saw Him, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Herod desired to see Jesus, and when he saw Him, “he and his men of war set Him at nought and mocked Him!” Herod will once more see Jesus, and it will not be then Herod “mocking Jesus,” but, saith the Lord, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all My counsel, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.” (B. Bouchier, M. A.)

An accusing conscience

When Professor Webster was waiting his trial for murder, he is said to have complained of his fellow prisoners for insulting him through the walls of his cell, and screaming to him, “You are a bloody man.” On examination, the charge was found wholly groundless.
The accusing voices were imaginary--merely the echoes of a guilty conscience.

Conscience awakened

The long-forgotten sin is now remembered. Like the ground-swell after a storm, which, mariners tell us, appears long after the tempest has ceased, and far off from its locus, they come up in awful vividness before us … As when a flash of lightning reveals but for a moment the dangers of the shipwrecked crew, so now there is an awful recollection of all our past transgressions. They have long been covered up, but only covered like the beautiful carvings of some old minister, or the frescoes on its walls were covered, before the hand of the restorer was brought to bear upon them. They were always clear and open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Now we see them for a little with something of the insight that pertains to Him. (J. G. Pilkington.)

Emblem of a troubled conscience

There is a species of poplar whose leaves are often rustled by a breeze too faint to stir the foliage of other trees. Noticing the fact one day when there was scarcely a breath of air, Gotthold thought with himself, “This tree is the emblem of a man with a wounded and uneasy conscience, which takes alarm at the most trifling cause, and agitates him to such a pitch, that he knows not whither to fly.”

A guilty conscience

It gives a terrible form and a horrible voice to everything beautiful and musical without. It is said of Bessus, a native of Pelonia, in Greece:--Being one day seen by his neighbours pulling down some birds’ nests, and passionately destroying the young, they severely reproved him for his illnature and cruelty to those little innocent creatures that seemed to court his protection. He replied that their notes were to him insufferable, as they never ceased twitting of the murder of his father. The music of the sweet songsters of the grove are as the shrieks of hell to a guilty conscience startled from its grave. Let Byron describe its anguish, for who felt it more than he?--

“The mind that broods o’er guilty woes,

Is like the scorpion girt by fire;
In circle narrowing as it glows.
The flames around their captive close,
Till inly searched by thousand throes,
And maddening in her ire,
One sad and sole relief she knows,
The sting she nourished for her foes
Whose venom never yet was vain,
Gives but one pang and cures all pain,
And darts into her desperate brain:
So do the dark in soul expire,
Or live like scorpion girt by fire.
So writhes the mind remorse has riven,
Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven,
Darkness above, despair beneath,
Around it flame, within it death.”

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Torments of conscience:--It is said of Charles IX., that he could never bear to lie awake at night unless his thoughts were diverted by the strains of music in an adjoining apartment; and of Tiberius, it is asserted that he declared to his senators that he suffered death daily.

Bad actions personified

Not in the sky, not in the midst of the sea, not if we enter into the clefts of the mountain, is there known a spot in the whole world where a man might be freed from an evil deed. Each action brings with it its inevitable consequences, which even God cannot change. “In a region of black cold,” says an Eastern sage, “wandered a soul which had departed from the earth, and there stood before him a hideous woman, profligate and deformed. ‘Who art thou?’ he cried. To him she answered, ‘I am thine own actions.’”

Verse 10

Luke 9:10

Aside privately

The profit of restful retirement

I had a friend once (he is now in heaven) who was one of those men that give their whole heart to business, and believe in nothing else on week days, while even on Sundays their worship is, never to be still if they are religious men, but to be doing something from daylight to bed-time.

One summer day the feeling came over him that he would wander away, just for once, into the silence, and take one whole day of perfect rest. It was toward an upland he took his way, wandering by some small lakes of an exquisite beauty, and enjoying every moment of his holiday; until away on in the afternoon, when he had drunk deep of the quietness, and was lying on his face in the grass, happening lazily to lift his head all at once, as by a flash, he saw that one of these lakes could be tapped for his mill-dam, and so give him water enough to tide him over the summer dryness and prevent his wheel from stopping, when it ought to go right on. He went home at sunset, blessing himself for his good fortune as well as for the leisure, which was likely to turn out a better day’s work than he had done for a long time, took a survey of the land next day, and when he told me the story he had made his connection with the new reservoir, and it answered entirely his expectation. I have often thought of my friend’s adventure since then as an illustration of a lesson we are rather loth to learn in this busy land of ours--how springs and reservoirs of blessing may sometimes be opened to us through a perfect quietness we can never find through incessant toil. We do not believe in rest as devoutly as we believe in work. It does not seem possible we can ever do as good service either for God or man to be still as to be stirring. In this intense life we easily believe that to do nothing one whole day is for that day to be nothing. It is as if we should do nothing in a boat alone among the rapids of the St. Lawrence. The majestic motion and contention of the life about us overcomes us so that the gracious word contemplation in the old, sweet sense, is about as strange to the most of us as Sanscrit. We contemplate the very heavens to remember how many millions of miles the sun travels in an hour. Work while it is day is the watchword of our age, and it is always day. Time means the time to do things. “Let us then be up and doing” is indeed our psalm of life. We fight the idea of the philosopher that God cannot have rested on the seventh day and hallowed it, and then often illustrate our own belief by filling the seventh day as full of care as the rest. (R. Collyer.)

Verse 11

Luke 9:11

He received them

Christ welcoming seekers

In the Revised Version we read, “He welcomed them,” in place of, “He received them.

” An instructive improvement, of which we may make evangelical use.

First, may the Holy Spirit help us while we dwell upon THE FACT that Jesus welcomed those who sought Him.

1. We observe, first, that our Lord received all comers at all times. The time mentioned in our text was the most inconvenient possible. He was seeking rest for His disciples, who were weary after their labours. A great sorrow was on them also, for John had been beheaded, and it was meet that they should solace their grief by a short retirement. At this time, too, our blessed Lord desired obscurity; for Herod was inquiring for Him. It was most inconvenient, therefore, to be followed by so great a crowd. Is it not wonderful that under such circumstances our blessed Lord should welcome the insatiable throng? I think, too, that the Master desired just then to hold a conference with His apostles as to the work they had done, and the future which was opening up before them.

2. Our Lord received all sort of comers. They were a motley throng, and I fear that few, if any, of them were actuated by any high or exalted motive. He never rejected any because they were

(1) poor;

(2) diseased;

(3) too young;

(4) too old.

3. Once more: our Lord receives all with a hearty welcome. He did not merely allow the people to come near, tolerating their presence; but “He welcomed them.”

Now I come to use this as AN ENCOURAGEMENT. If Jesus Christ when He was here on earth welcomed all that came at all hours, then He will welcome you, my friend, if you come to Him now; for the circumstances are just the same.

1. You are the same sort of person as those whom Jesus used to welcome. They were good-for-nothing bodies; they were persons that were full of need, and could not possibly bring a price with which to purchase His favour. Are you not just like them?

2. And then there is the same Saviour. Jesus Christ is the same gracious Pardoner as He was in the days of His flesh.

Thirdly, we use our text as A LESSON. If Jesus Christ welcomes all that come to Him, let all of us who are His followers imitate His example, and give a warm welcome to those who seek the Lord. Men are brought to Jesus by cheerfulness far sooner than by gloom. Jesus welcomed men. His looks said, “I am glad to see you.” In winning souls use an abundance of smiles. Have you not seen in one of our magazines an account of seven people saved by a smile? It is a pretty story. A clergyman passes by a window on his way to church. A baby was being dandled there, and he smiled at the baby, and the baby at him. Another time he passed; the baby was there again, and once more he smiled. Soon baby was taken to the window at the hour when he usually passed. They did not know who the gentleman was; but one day two of the older children followed to see where he went on a Sunday. They followed him to church, and as he preached in a winning way, they told their father and mother, who felt interest enough in their baby’s friend to wish to go. Thus in a short time a godless family that had previously neglected the worship of God was brought to the Saviour because the minister smiled at the baby. I never heard of anybody getting to heaven through frowning at the baby, or at any one else. Certain wonderfully good persons go through the world as if they were commissioned to impress everybody with the awful solemnity of religion: they resemble a winter’s night without a moon; nobody seems attracted, nor even impressed, by them except in the direction of dislike. I saw a life-buoy the other day covered with luminous paint. How bright it seemed, how suitable to be cast upon the dark sea to help a drowning man! An ordinary life-buoy he would never see, but this is so bright and luminous that a man must see it. Give me a soul-winner bright with holy joy, for he will be seen by the sorrowing soul, and his help will be accepted. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Healed them that had need--

Real grace for real need


1. All the saved saints confess that they had need of healing through their natural depravity.

2. Many have been led to feel that in addition to ordinary original sin, evil tendencies had in the case of some of us assumed peculiar shapes and dreadful forms of besetting and constitutional sin--quick temper; pride; animal passions, &c. Apart from grace, we had been sinners before the Lord exceedingly. A Scotch gentleman was observed to look very intently upon the face of Rowland Hill: the good old man asked him, “And what are you looking in my face at?” The observer replied, “I have been studying the lines of your face.” “And what do you make out of them?” said Rowland. “Why, I make out,” said he, “that if the grace of God had not changed your heart you would have been a great rascal.” “Ah!” said Rowland, “you have made out the truth indeed.” Many of us have to confess humbly that in us there was pressing need of healing, for if healing had not come, we should not only have been sinful as others, but should probably have taken the lead in iniquity, and been carried away by the wild sweep of inward passion to the utmost excess of riot.

3. Brethren, this need of healing will be confessed by the saints in this further respect, that there was not only in us a tendency to sin, but we had grievously sinned in act and deed before conversion.

4. There was need of healing because, in addition to having sinned, we wilfully continued in it.


1. Because you are inclined to evil.

2. Because of your actual sins.

3. You do not feel this as you ought.

4. You are unable to pray.

5. Your feelings, your desires after good things, are very often damped. Perhaps this morning you are sincerely in earnest, but to-morrow you may be just as careless as ever.

Our third point is to thee, O needy sinner. JESUS CAN SAVE THEE. Christ can save you, for there is not a record in the world, nor has there ever been handed down to us by tradition a single case in which Jesus has failed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Power to heal

A great writer of fiction has remarked that “a man might be a great healer, if he would, without being a great doctor.” We may add, without being a worker of miracles. “A man may be a great healer without being a great doctor.” The doctor, so far as his profession is concerned, has to do chiefly, if not entirely, with diseases of the body. He is as an agent and instrument, the saviour and the healer of the body. As a friend to the patient, he often ministers to the mind and heart; but these services are distinct from his profession Without being a doctor a man may be a great healer.

“Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow?”

Around us all there are sick minds, wounded spirits, broken hearts and diseased souls, to be cured, and healed, and relieved by means which God has given us. Around us all there are wounds in families, wounds in friendships, and wounds in communities, to which we may apply a healing power. “Whole,” “sound,” “healthy,” are words descriptive of but few persons, and of but few households, and of but few communities. In this world of ours there is evidently a great work of healing to be wrought. There is a great need of healing, and there are great healing powers. There is a spiritual disease very like that malady of body known as atrophy. It is a condition of weakness in the direction of evil. The Apostle Paul refers to it when he observes, “When we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” For this disease there is but one physician, and there is but one remedy. The woman of Samaria was a great healer, when she brought the men of her city to the Messiah. All are “healers” who guide men to Jesus. I desire to awaken your ambition to be in this world of sorrow and sin--great healers.

1. You may heal by the tongue. “How forcible are right words.” “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” “The tongue of the just is as choice silver.” “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb.”

2. You may heal by the light of the countenance. Honest laughter has a stirring power. Genuine and kindly smiles have a healing power. A countenance alive with sympathy and bright with love heals.

3. You may heal by the hand, by what the hand may find to do in the sphere of ministration and of service. All help has healing power, if delicately and wisely and kindly administered.

4. You may heal by your purse. Solomon saith, “Money is a defence.” “Money answereth all things.” In the broad work of healing, money is a mighty agent. Without doubt, in some cases almsgiving spreads and confirms moral disease and spiritual sickness. But as buying bread for the hungry and clothes for the naked and medicine for the sick, as procuring dwellings for the homeless, and as relieving the fatherless and the widow, as redeeming from debt those who are under pecuniary obligations to others, money does much in the service of healing.

5. You may heal by your presence. Presence, even though the tongue be silent; presence, even though the hands be tied and bound by inability; presence, even though there be no silver nor gold, has oftentimes a healing power. Presence speaks, for it tells of sympathy; presence cheers, it diverts the thoughts and lessens the burden; presence will sometimes have in it a wealth of consolation.

6. You may heal by your social influence. The respect and esteem which men cherish toward you may be used to serve and to comfort others. Thus did Esther use her influence with the King Ahasuerus, to heal the wound inflicted on the safety and honour of the Jews (Esther 4:13-14).

Influence with those who can serve others is as truly a talent as our individual ability.

7. you may heal by making intercession for others. This is a power which all possess. Its effectiveness is not as manifest as that of other agencies, but without doubt it is as real. There is more of mystery adhering to this agency than to other means, but our faith in it is not less strong. The achievements of prayer, as recorded in holy Scripture, are wonderful, as redeeming life from destruction, as securing the forgiveness of iniquities, and as healing diseases alike of body and of spirit.

8. You may heal by teaching Jesus Christ. To the truth of this saying multitudes in heaven and upon earth bear constant and willing witness. (S. Martin, D. D.)

Verses 13-17

Luke 9:13-17

Five loaves and two fishes

Feeding the five thousand


All the people of God are stewards of the household of faith, and to God must they render an account.

We are to adopt all lawful means by which to escape impending danger. When our Lord was exposed to danger from Herod, though possessed of all power, he adopted human means to escape that danger. We must not allow any fear of encountering perils to deter us from duty.

We ought to esteem no sacrifice too great to be made for Christ and His gospel. The people referred to in the text did not think it too much to leave their comfortable homes; but, forsaking all, went into the desert to listen to Him who spake as never man spake. If called to hazard all, and even our life, for the gospel, let us commit ourselves to God.

Our Lord welcomes all who come to Him by faith. When the people came to Him from the villages round about, He refused none, but healed all who had need.

Wherever true Christianity exists in the heart, it will manifest its presence by a spirit of benevolence. The disciples saw the night coming on, and wished the multitude to be dismissed, that they might retire to the comforts they needed. Christianity rejoices not only in our own salvation, but also in that of others.

When human aid fails, Divine power is made manifest. VII. We should so receive and enjoy the blessings of heaven as to glorify God. When our Lord received the food, He returned thanks for it, and pronounced a blessing upon it.

When the mind reposes by faith on the Saviour, there will be ample supplies of grace and favour. Christ never said to the seed of Jacob, “Seek ye My face in vain.” Conclusion: In all situations of danger let the people put their trust in Jehovah, remembering that He who is for them is much greater than all who can be against them. (J. Henderson.)

Lessons from the miracle of multiplying the loaves

1. We learn from this miracle that it is our duty to do what we can to supply the bodily wants of others.

2. We here learn that those who follow Christ may trust to Him for the necessaries of life.

3. We are here reminded of the duty of what is commonly called “saying grace” at meals This was our Lord’s practice, and it is a duty often enjoined in Scripture.

4. From the particular direction our Lord here gave as to the fragments, we draw the general rule that nothing should be lost, or wasted. To waste our substance is a sinful abuse of God’s gifts. It is one thing to be generous and hospitable; it is quite another to be thoughtless, extravagant, and wasteful. Such wasting is not only offensive to God, but unjust and unkind to our fellow creatures. (J. Foote, M. A.)

Ability developed by responsibility

The vast hunger of the world is a vast responsibility upon the Church and a vast blessing. Christians must supply bread, or the people will perish. The necessity drives them to Christ, compels the bringing forth of their talents and resources, and works enlargement in volume and value.

Christ deals with us on principles of a wise economy, builds his supernatural work on our natural resources, and makes a little do the work of abundance.

Christ always makes that which we have and bring to Him for His blessing adequate for the needs of the hour. He takes us into partnership with Himself both in His work and its rewards.

Weakness made strong in effort for Him. (Anon.)

Food for hungry souls

The Lord helps our souls as He helps our bodies, through the aid of ordained means and sometimes He may cause these means to fall short, and then may supply them as suddenly and abundantly as He multiplied these loaves and fishes. A person may have but little learning--he may be quite unable to read, and may seem to himself as if he did not well understand what he hears--and yet, if he have the fear of God in his heart, and try to live accordingly, he shall eat and be filled with spiritual meat and drink. One good lesson, one verse, one prayer may be a treasure to him which he shall never lose. He may be a good way from Church, he may have few helps at home; but if he really try to make the most of what little he has, God can and will make a good deal of it--to him. Half a prayer remembered as having been learnt in childhood; an old loose Bible or Testament on a shelf; the remembrance of some good Christian formerly known, his sayings, his tone of voice, his manner of coming in and going out--all these and other such things are as the scanty fare of that multitude, which became abundant under His creative hand. (John Keble, M. A.)

Enough for all when Christ distributes



GOD’S METHOD OF SUPPLY TO BODY AND TO SOUL. Ordinary. Miraculous. Moral. (The Weekly Pulpit.)

Christ in a fourfold aspect

Christ in MIRACULOUS BENEFICENCE. Omnipotence is ever instinct with love.

Christ in SOCIAL ORDER. Not a God of confusion.

Christ in FRUGAL ARRANGEMENT. Nothing in nature runs to waste.

Christ in the PATRONAGE OF HOSPITALITY. “Give ye them to eat.” Help each other. Conclusion: Follow Christ in all this. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The miraculous feeding of five thousand

The disciples had just returned from the mission in which they had been engaged, and “ told Him all that they had done.” The considerate Master saw that they were exhausted by the fatigue and excitement of their labours. He accordingly seeks to secure them quiet. This they could not have in Capernaum (see Mark 6:31). They take passage privately in a vessel to a desert place near to Bethsaida. In vain did they look here for solitude. They had been observed by the eager multitude, who followed on foot, and were at the landing-place before them. The Lord has compassion on them, and is solicitous for their physical as well as their spiritual well-being. On finding that there are five loaves and two small fishes, He gives the disciples directions for the orderly arrangement of the multitude into companies; and when all were in perfect order He took the loaves and the fishes, and blessed and brake and gave the disciples to set before the multitude. As they passed from hand to hand, the loaves and fishes multiplied so as to become more than sufficient for the great multitude. Every year in the harvest we see this miracle repeated.

1. Learn that order is Christlike, is Divine.

2. That economy is Divine. All the evangelists are careful to record that they gathered up the fragments left. Liberal profusion and true economy always go hand in hand.

3. Learn to relieve the wants of others even when we have but little. It is ours also to feed the hungry. Especially with the bread of life. (D. Longwill.)

Jesus and His bounty

THE PROBLEM OF THE DISCIPLES. The desert place, the night, the multitude without food, presented a problem that might well constitute a reason for anxiety to any who were of a sympathetic nature. The circumstances were new and surprising, and were such as to test the weakness, or bring out the strength, of their confidence in the Master’s wisdom and power. We all need to be surprised in life. It is the unexpected that shows us what we are. The disciples were perplexed, and very human they were in their perplexity. For the time they seem to have forgotten several things.

1. That the people had followed their Master and not them, and that they were connected with the people through Him. Had the people followed them there would be nothing to do but to send them away. If the case today were between the disciples and the multitude, it would be hopeless.

2. That the Master knew as much, and more, of the multitude than they did.

3. That the Master was moved with compassion towards the people. They had forgotten the most important elements of the problem. They had been looking at the multitude and the night; had been realizing the difficulties very vividly. We, too, look at our multitude, and see the darkness in which they are involved, and tremble as we think of the possible, if not the inevitable issue of what we see. But we do not see the whole when we tremble. God is above the night, and pities all who are in it. God knows, and God pities, and that ought to be enough for our faith, if not for our reason. At length the disciples made their petition, saying, “Send the multitude away.” The very fact that He was there to receive their requests ought to have reminded them of some of the many things which they had forgotten. For if they had thought, had not He much more than they?

THE SOLUTION OF THE MASTER “Give ye them to eat.”

1. The command seemed extravagant, but they knew that it had not been His habit to gather in where He had not scattered abroad. It made them feel how inadequate they were, with the little they had, to obey it. They had only five loaves and two fishes, do as they would, with a multitude to feed. The loaves were, however, just what the people needed. We have all some little which, if wisely used, may be of benefit to our fellows. We have mind, heart, and opportunity.

2. The Master took the five loaves and the two fishes from the disciples, and manifested His great power through that which they gave Him. He brought them into the fellowship of His mystery. He blessed the loaves which they brought. Our first condition of usefulness is to take the little we have to Christ, if we have only the little. That which is blessed by Him is equal to all that life’s occasion demands.

3. After the blessing came the breaking, but it does not seem that the loaves appeared to be more than five after they were blessed.

4. Although there is enough and to spare, there is nothing to be wasted. (J. O. Darien.)

Give ye them to eats--

Duty not measured by our own ability

The narrative suggests and illustrates the following important principle:--THAT MEN ARE OFTEN, AND PROPERLY, PUT UNDER OBLIGATION TO DO THAT FOR WHICH THEY HAVE, IN THEMSELVES, NO PRESENT ABILITY. God requires no man to do, without ability to do; but He does not limit His requirements by the measures of previous or inherently contained ability. He has made provision in many ways for the enlargement of our means and powers so as to meet our emergencies. And He does this on a large scale, and by system--does it in the natural life, and also in the works and experiences of the life of faith.

1. To begin at the very lowest point, it is the nature of human strength and fortitude bodily to have an elastic measure, and to be so let forth or extended as to meet the exigencies that arise. Muscular strength and endurance are often suddenly created or supplied by some great emergency for which they are wanted.

2. So, also, it is in the nature of courage to increase in the midst of perils and because of them, and courage is the strength of the heart.

3. Intellectual force, too, has the same elastic quality, and measures itself, in the same way, by the exigencies we are called to meet. Task it, and for that very reason it grows efficient. It discovers its own force by the exertion of force. All great commanders, statesmen, lawgivers, scholars, preachers, have found the powers unfolded in their calling, and by their calling, which were necessary for it.

4. The same thing is true, and quite as remarkably, of what we call moral power. Not seldom is it a fact that the very difficulty and grandeur of a design, which some heroic soul has undertaken to execute, exalts him at once to such a pre-eminence of moral power that mankind are exalted with him, and inspired with energy and confidence by the contemplation of his magnificent spirit. The great and successful men of history are commonly made by the great occasions they fill. As with David, so with Nehemiah, Paul, Luther. A Socrates, a Tully, a Cromwell, a Washington, all the great master-spirits, the founders and law-givers of empires and defenders of the rights of man, are made by the same law.

5. How childish, then, is it in religion, to imagine that we are called to do nothing save what we have ability to do beforehand; ability in ourselves to do. We have, in fact, no such ability at all, no ability that is inherent, as respects anything laid upon us to do. Our ability is what we can have, and then our duty is graduated by what we can have. This is the Christian doctrine everywhere.

6. This doctrine opposed to two opposite errors:

(1) That of those who think the demand of the religious life so limited and trivial as to require but little care and small sacrifice; and

(2) that of those who look upon them as being so many and so great, that they are discouraged under them. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

Between the Lord of life and the famishing multitudes

1. The multitude in a desert place was representative to the Saviour’s mind of vaster multitudes all over the earth.

2. The bread He supplied for men’s bodies was suggestive of the bread He was to supply for their souls.

3. The position of the disciples, then, is the position of the disciples still--we stand between the Lord of life and the famishing multitudes. We may still hear the words ringing in our ears, “Give ye them to eat.”


1. They have not the knowledge of God.

2. They have not the knowledge of the meaning of life.

3. They have not the knowledge of the gospel.


1. He has compassion on the multitudes.

2. He has provided bread for the multitudes.

3. It is His prerogative to command to give to the multitudes,


1. We are to sympathize with the multitudes.

2. We are to be the medium of communication between Christ and the multitudes in the distribution of bread.

3. We are to distribute to the multitudes in hope.

The day is coming when the Church, turning to its Lord, shall say, “All the famishing multitudes are now fed.” And after its task has been accomplished it will feel so strong in the means of extension, that there will be, as it were, twelve baskets over, out of which many more might have been fed. (R. Finlayson, B. A.)

Confidence in Christ’s power to supply necessity

During the retreat of Alfred the Great, at Athelney, in Somersetshire, after the defeat of his forces by the Danes, the following circumstance happened, which, while it convinces us of the extremities to which that great man was reduced, will give us a striking proof of his pious, benevolent disposition. A beggar came to his little castle there and requested alms, when his queen informed him “that they had only one small loaf remaining, which was insufficient for themselves and their friends, who were gone in quest of food, though with little hopes of success.” The king replied, “Give the poor Christian one halt of the loaf. He that could feed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes can certainly make that half loaf suffice for more than our necessity.” Accordingly, the poor man was relieved, and this noble act of charity was soon recompensed by a providential store of fresh provisions, with which his people returned. (W. Buck.)

Valuable fragments

A carpet from the San Francisco Mint was burned the other day, and yielded £505 worth of gold dust, which had fallen in imperceptible particles during five years’ use. In life take care of the minute things. These particles of gold seemed little indeed as they floated away, but they made a grand total. So it will be in life if we improve every moment of time, every scrap of knowledge, every, degree of influence, every opportunity of being good, getting good, doing good. A wise economy of the grains of gold brings out massive talents some day. Take care and value apparently mean things. The carpet on which men walked in the Mint was sown with gold, although they knew it not. All our common things, tasks, duties, are full of the dust of gold. That on which men trample would yield crowns for their head if they only knew it and walked wisely. Make the best of a life of trifles, and we shall one day be astonished at the splendid result. God will not let our good doings perish, Small as they may be. He will gather up the fragments to our eternal enrichment. The body will dissolve in the crucible of the grave, the earth be burned up as the carpet was, but the fine gold of true human life shall be gathered up in an eternal weight of glory. (Christian Journal.)

Saying grace at meals

Without meaning to say that any precise form, or length, or numeration of particulars, is necessary, the following hints may be given as of general application. A grace is a prayer before, or after meat, which circumstances require to be short, but which ought always to be solemn and earnest, never formal and careless. It most expressly requires an acknowledgment of God as the Author of our mercies, and a petition for His blessing along with them: and, as presented by Christians, it ought, in some way, to refer to the gospel, and spiritual things, and be concluded in the name of Christ. At a solitary meal, the duty must by no means be neglected; and then one’s own private feelings may be more particularly consulted as to the matter. At a social meal, time and circumstances, in what is indifferent, may be, and ought to be, considered; but all present ought to hear what is said, and join heartily in it, else it is no grace, no act of blessing and thanksgiving of theirs. Children ought to be early instructed in the nature of this duty, and taught and accustomed reverentially to discharge it. Nor ought it ever afterwards to be discontinued. The due observance of this pious custom adorns the best furnished table, and ennobles and sweetens the plainest fare. Let no man, who should be expected to discharge this honourable service before others, whether he be minister, or landlord, or other person residing, or taking a lead for the time, be afraid or ashamed so to do. (J. Foote, M. A.)

Ancient graces before meals

From the earliest time our Lord’s act has been taken as a model, and the Jewish custom, being reconfirmed by our Lord’s example, has passed into the practice of Christian people. Examples remain of the early graces, as used both in the Eastern and Western Churches. The “postolical Constitutions” furnish the following as a prayer at a mid-day meal: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who feedest me from my youth up, who givest food to all flesh. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness; that, always having a sufficiency, we may abound unto every good work, in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom be glory and honour and power unto Thee, world without end, Amen.” This prayer, slightly varied, is also given to be said after meals in a treatise improbably ascribed to St. Athanasius. (Biblical things not generally known.)

Divine provision, human distribution

1. Rationalizing tendency to explain away miracles on natural grounds wrong, but like many wrong things, a perversion of that which is right. It is a right and a reverent thing not to suppose a miracle where natural explanation sufficient. Peculiarity of New Testament miracles, which distinguishes them from absurd stories of apocryphal Gospels, that they all have a worthy purpose, and a purpose which could only be attained by the putting forth a supernatural power. But not everything, even in a miracle, is miraculous, for--

2. Christ multiplied the loaves miraculously, but He distributed the provision thus made by natural means, human instrumentality. Necessity for miracle ceased with rendering supply sufficient.

3. We have in this an illustration of the method of God’s working. God does not need human co-operation to enable Him to carry out His purposes. But He chooses that, while the power which makes the provision is of necessity Divine, the instruments of its distribution shall be human. Reason to be found in constitution of human nature and in blessedness of results. Good for recipient that he shall receive from brother-man. More blessed still for distributor.

4. Each disciple would feel it an unspeakable privilege to be made a dispenser of Christ’s beneficence. Can you imagine one holding back? How is it now, with us?

5. The personal responsibility involved in this law of human instrumentality. Suppose one of the disciples had begun to argue with himself that it was folly to give away what they might need for themselves, and had hidden away a loaf in the folds of his robe, may we not imagine that in that case the reverse of the miracle would have been enacted? “What I gave I kept,” etc. (J. R. Bailey.)


“kept giving”; the tense shows the manner in which the increase of bread took place. (A. Cart, M. A.)

Verses 18-20

Luke 9:18-20

Whom say the people that I am?


One of Christ’s conferences with His disciples

OUR LORD’S PRAYER. Brethren, “He ever liveth to make intercession for us,” and if “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” what are we to think of that Intercessor whom the Father heareth always? It was the privilege of Jacob’s family to have a friend at court, and that friend was their own brother. It was the privilege of David to have a friend at court, and that friend was the king’s own son. Ah, Christians, both these are combined in your privilege; you have both in Him who now appears in the presence of God for us.

OUR LORD’S INQUIRY. “He asked them, Whom say the people that I am?” This is a frequent question, arising not only from curiosity, but vanity. It would be indeed well if we were anxious to know what God says of us, for “it is a light thing to be judged of men: He that judges us is the Lord,” and upon His decision depends our happiness or misery. But how frequent is the inquiry, “What do people say of me?” As to some, the answer would be, “Why, nothing at all; they do not even think of you; they do not know enough of you to make you the theme of their discourse.”

“But what do people say of me?” asks another. Why, they say, “Your tongue walketh through the earth; some call you ‘the Morning Herald,’ and others, ‘the Daily Advertiser.’” “But what do people say of me?” asks another. They say that you are very hard-hearted and closefisted; that you are a “busy-body in other men’s matters”; they say that you are such a Nabal that a man cannot speak to you; they say that you are wiser in your own conceit than seven men that can render a reason. It would be well in certain respects if we knew what people say of us--what friends say of us; yes, and what enemies say of us, too. I remember Archbishop Usher says in an address to God, “Lord, bless me with a faithful friend; or, if not, with a faithful enemy, that I may know my faults, for I desire to know them.” But Jesus was meek and lowly of heart; He, therefore, did not ask this question from pride or vanity. Nor did He ask it from ignorance. He knew all the numerous opinions afloat concerning Him. But this question seems designed to affect them, to bind them to Himself, and to furnish them with further instruction upon it.

Observe THE CHARGE here given. “And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.” We should rather have supposed that He would have ordered His disciples to go and publish it, but His thoughts are not as ours; “There is a time for every purpose under the heaven.” It seems to be a general law of heaven, that knowledge of every kind should gradually spread. There are some things which must precede others, and make way for them. It is thus you deal with your children, keeping back for a time things from their knowledge. Thus a wise instructor will do with his pupils, he will teach them as they are able to bear it. And this was the method of our Saviour Himself in dealing with His disciples. Had our Lord then immediately proclaimed Himself as the Messiah, it is easy to suppose what insurrections might have taken place by those who would have endeavoured to make Him a king, and to keep Him from suffering. Besides this, the prohibition was only for a limited period. After His resurrection from the dead He appeared to His disciples, and said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel, beginning at Jerusalem”; and Peter, to whom He here spake, filled Jerusalem with His doctrine, and said to the murderers of the Savour, “God hath made this same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ.”

Observe HIS SUFFERINGS. “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be slain.” You see, first, that He foreknew them. Secondly, He foretold them, to prepare His disciples for their approach. Thirdly, He describes them.

Observe His GLORY. “And be raised the third day.” We have demonstrations in proof of this. See the witnesses as they come before their adversaries. Believers have other kinds of evidences. They have the witness in themselves; they know the power of His resurrection; they have felt it raising them from a death of sin to a life of righteousness; that “like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so should they also walk in newness of life.” (W. Jay.)

The Lord’s question

Who say ye that I am?

1. A question of conscience.

2. A question of controversy.

3. A question of life.

4. A question of the times. (Van Oosterzee.)

Jesus will have His disciples

1. Independently recognize Him as the Christ;

2. Voluntarily confess Him as the Christ. (Van Oosterzee.)

Jesus the Christ

THE WORLD’S JUDGMENT “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So, too, in our own time is there infinite divergence among the builders who reject the chief stone of the corner. To some He is the object of a hatred which, in its malignity, would construe His good as evil--others simply pass Him by as though His claims were unworthy of serious thought--others regard Him with respect and veneration, exhaust the resources of language in their attempts to picture His moral beauty, will do anything but trust in Him as a Saviour. To some He is a man full of imperfections, “in consistency of goodness far below vast numbers of His unhonoured disciples,” to others He is the perfect man, the noblest of all creatures, everything but God. These diversities may be considered under two aspects.

1. The disbelief of the intellect, including all those phases of opinion held by men who distinctly reject the claim of the Lord Jesus to the honours of the Godhead, who do not regard His life and death as the ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God, and who deny that faith in Him is the condition of salvation. There is a certain amount of respect which this theorist is willing to pay to our Lord. He tells us that Jesus has done for religion what Socrates did for philosophy, and Aristotle for science, that He fixed the idea of pure worship, and that He has thus exerted a wondrous power over the heart of humanity. Yet he would have us believe that He was Himself a self-deluded enthusiast, who yielded His mind up to the idea of His own Messiahship, until He was driven, though almost unconsciously, to act a part in order to sustain His own pretensions, and whose miracles, where they are not the pure inventions of His evangelists, were deceptions practised either by Himself or by some too-zealous followers to impose on popular credulity. The power which Christianity exerts cannot be ignored, and it is necessary to give some explanation of the way in which it has arisen. It is simply impossible to persuade the world that it owes some of its mightiest impulses, and has consecrated some of its noblest affections, to a being who, after all, was nothing more than the creation of the too luxuriant fancy and the too fond affection of a few Jewish disciples, who had contrived to throw around the humble life of an unlettered peasant of Galilee the unreal glory of legends and traditions. Rationalists, therefore, set before us a Jesus from whom they would have us believe this marvellous power has proceeded. Jesus of Nazareth would thus be removed from the page of history, but this other Jesus would not take His place.

2. We note a more frequent and formidable antagonism in the unbelief of the heart. Disbelief involves a certain exercise of mind as to the claims of Christianity. Unbelief may be nothing more than simple passive indifference. Disbelief says there is no Christ, no atonement, no redemption. Unbelief says if there be a Christ I will not worship Him; though there be an atonement I care not to seek its blessings; though there be a Redeemer, of His salvation I care not to partake. Disbelief take up an attitude of positive opposition, and would fain disprove the claims of the gospel. Unbelief may often use friendly words, and do some kindly deeds on behalf of the truth--may treat it with seeming reverence, and even make generous contributions for its support--will, in truth, do everything but receive its message and submit to its power. The practical issue is the same. How many different causes serve to create this secret distaste of the heart to the religion of Christ. In some it is the all-absorbing passion of worldliness which holds the spirit back from faith. In others the pride of self-reliance revolts against a scheme of salvation which ascribes nothing to human merit, and therefore leaves no place for human boasting.

THE CHRISTIAN’S CONFESSION. “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And in relation to it we observe--

1. That it is entirely independent of the world’s judgment. The unanimity of the entire world in an adverse opinion ought not to shake, could not shake the un-doubting confidence of a Christian heart in Jesus. What to Peter were the sneers of Sadducees, the scorn of priests and Pharisees, the various opinions that divided the multitude? Even were the intellect confounded, and the arguments of its logic all silenced, and did the reasoning against the authority of the gospel appear unanswerable, the heart, out of the depths of its own consciousness, would cry out, “Still there is a gospel, still there is a Christ, and He is my Saviour, my Lord and my God.”

2. It is the expression of a personal faith. The trust which Christ acknowledges, and over which He rejoices, is that which the soul itself reposes in Him, and which is infinitely more than the acceptance of any creed or the association with any Christian Church. It is nothing less than the man’s own sense of dependence on Christ as a Redeemer. What can be the value of any so-called belief which stops short of this? Orthodoxy, as fair as the marble statue and as cold, as symmetrical in its proportions and as lifeless in its nature, is a wretched substitute for the living trust of a true soul, which may fall into some errors, but has, at least, this one cardinal excellence, that it cleaves to the Lord with full purpose of heart. Such was the spirit that prompted the words of Peter. He was far from being a perfect man.

3. This faith is the fruit of Divine teaching. “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.” Peter had not reached the conviction thus boldly uttered by means of greater intellectual vigour, or in virtue of any special opportunities of observation, but solely through the grace of God. There were others who knew the great facts in connection with the life and ministry of Christ, on whom they had made no such impression as they had produced on him. It was God alone who made him, as He makes all believers, to differ. The prejudices and passions of the heart, which opposed the acceptance of the gospel, will never yield except to a power Divine.

4. The confession is the necessary outward expression of the heart’s inward trust. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” There are various modes by which a man may confess Christ. But there is one act for which no other can be a substitute--unmeaning, nay, rather, self-condemning if it stand alone--but itself the proper supplement to every other deed of holy service. To confess Christ, we must seek to be like Him, but we must also obey Him by bearing His name, and uniting with His people to show forth His death until He come. My brother, are you one of those who shrink from this special confession of Christ? (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

Alone praying

The bloom of the hawthorn or White May looks like snow in Richmond Park, but nearer London, or by the road side, its virgin whiteness is sadly stained. Too often contact with the world has just such an effect upon our piety; we must away to the far-off garden of paradise to see holiness in its unsullied purity, and meanwhile we must be much alone with God if we would maintain a gracious life below. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Alone with God

One Sabbath night (says a Scotch clergyman), after discoursing on a very solemn subject which had stirred my own soul, I took a walk before going home. It was clear starlight, without any moon, and the heavens looked down upon me with all their sublime impressiveness. I found myself unconsciously walking in the direction of the mill. I had not gone far when I met a friend pacing slowly up and down by the side of a stream near his house. As soon as I came up, he said: “Men, I couldna gang hame direct frae the chapel the nicht. After hearing your sermon, I wanted to be alane wi’ God; and I never feel His presence so much as when I am, too, in a nicht like this.”

Praying alone:--A minister, visiting the cottages of the poor, met a little boy who had been taught at school the duty, as well as the privilege of prayer. He said, “Do you love to pray, my little fellow?” “Oh yes, sir!” “But in so small a house, with so large a family, when and where do you pray?” The boy answered, “I go to bed with the others; and when they are asleep, I rise.” “But then you, yourself, must be sleepy; how do you keep awake?” asked the minister. “I wash my hands and face in the pitcher where the cold water is kept; then I do not feel sleepy.”

What men say of Christ

1. Christ did not ask this question for information.

2. He did not ask it because He desired the applause of men.

3. He did not ask it because He intended to form His course according to the reply.

4. But what He did ask it for was that He might ground His disciples in the deepest faith. The answer to His question suggests--




IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE SHOULD HAVE THE TRUE ESTIMATE OF HIM: that of Peter--“The Christ of God.” There is a great difference between believing Him to be the Son of God, and believing Him to be Jesus of Nazareth only.

1. You can never trust Him for your spiritual safety if you believe in Him merely as a man.

2. If you believe in Him only as a man, He can never satisfy the yearnings of your spirit. Who is He then? He is not only the greatest of men, but the Son of the Living God, the Saviour of the world. (Thomas Jones.)

Jesus--the Christ

Peter’s confession remains the central article of the creed of Christendom.


IT IS A FACT THAT JESUS OF NAZARETH LIVED SUBSTANTIALLY AS REPORTED IN THE FIRST THREE EVANGELISTS. I specify these three Evangelists because their testimony is sufficient for the traditional picture of Jesus, and because their testimony is admitted by those who regard the fourth Gospel as a book of later date, and of less strictly historic character. Any one who is suspicious of the substantial accuracy of our Gospels cannot better treat his haunting fear of legend and myth than by a study of the apocryphal Gospels. (R. H. Newton)

The Christ of God: Tokens of the true Saviour

WHAT DID PETER MEAN BY THIS PHRASEOLOGY? Undoubtedly he intended to express his belief that Jesus was the true Messiah.


1. It may be answered that their common sense was sufficient to discover this.

2. Though common sense might convince them of the excellence of the Saviour’s character, they had more--there was a Divine impression on their minds giving clearer sight and more satisfactory conviction (See Matthew 16:17).

3. To this may be added, the discernment arising from their own faith, giving them experience of His faithfulness and goodness.

4. We may add, having more to judge upon than Peter had, we know this is the Christ of God by the effects of His death, the wondrous influence it has had, and still has.

LET US, THEN, TRY OUR PERSONAL HOPES BY THIS DESIGNATION OF THE ONLY SAVIOUR ABLE TO REALIZE THEM. It is only the real Christ of God that saves with a real pardon, a real sanctification, a real crown of glory.

1. Is the Christ of the Socinians the Christ of God?

2. Let us look at the Christ of the Antinomians.

3. There is another sort of Christ spoken of by the self-righteous, who regard the Saviour only as a help, in case they cannot sufficiently help themselves.

4. Are not even believers apt to form notions such as injure the character of the Christ of God? (Isaac Taylor of Ongar.)

Making known the obscured Christ

Not long ago there was a researcher of art in Italy, who, reading in some book that there was a per trait of Dante painted by Giotto, was led to suspect that he had found where it had been placed. There was an apartment used as an outhouse for the storage of wood, hay, and the like. He sought and obtained permission to examine it. Clearing out the rubbish, and experimenting upon the whitewashed wall, he soon detected the signs of the long-hidden portrait. Little by little, with loving skill, he opened up the sad, thoughtful, stern face of the old Tuscan poet. Sometimes it seems to me that thus the very sanctuary of God has been filled with wood, hay, and stubble, and the Divine lineaments of Christ have been swept over and covered by human plastering, and I am seized with an invincible desire to draw forth from its hiding-place, and reveal to men the glory of God as it shines in the face of Christ Jesus! It matters little to me what school of theology rises or what falls, so only that Christ may rise and appear in all His Father’s glory, full-orbed, upon the darkness of this world! (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ the true Messiah

At a solemn disputation which was held at Venice, in the last century, between a Jew and a Christian, the Christian strongly argued from Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks, that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews had long expected, from the predictions of their prophets. The learned rabbi who presided at this disputation was so forcibly struck by the argument that he put an end to the business by saying, “Let us shut up our Bibles, for if we proceed in the examination of this prophecy it will make us all become Christians.” (Bishop Watson.)

Verse 22

Luke 9:22

The Son of Man must suffer many things

Christ foreseeing the Cross


We have here set forth in the first place our LORD’S ANTICIPATION OF THE CROSS. Mark the tone of the language, the minuteness of the detail, the absolute certainty of the prevision. That is not the language of a man who simply is calculating that the course which he is pursuing is likely to end in his martyrdom; but the thing lies there before Him, a definite, fixed certainty; every detail known, the scene, the instruments, the non-participation of these in the final act of His death, His resurrection, and its date--all manifested and mapped out in His sight, and all absolutely certain.

OUR LORD’S RECOGNITION OF THE NECESSITY OF HIS SUFFERING. He does not say “shall,” but “must.” His suffering was necessary on the ground of filial obedience. The Father’s will is the Son’s law. But yet that necessity grounded on filial obedience, was no mere external necessity determined solely by the Divine will. God so willed it, because it must be so, and not it must be because God so willed it. That is to say, the work to which Christ had set His hand was a work that demanded the Cross, nor could it be accomplished without it. For it was the work of redeeming the world, and required more than a beautiful life, more than a Divine gentleness of heart, more than the homely and yet deep wisdom of His teachings, it required the sacrifice that He offered on the Cross.

Now, note further, HOW WE HAVE HERE ALSO, OUR LORD’S WILLING ACCEPTANCE OF THE NECESSITY. It is one thing to recognize, and another thing to accept, a needs-be. This “must” was no unwelcome obligation laid upon Him against His will, but one to which His whole nature responded, and which He accepted. No doubt there was in Him the innocent instinctive physical shrinking from death. No doubt the Cross, in so far, was pain and suffering. But that shrinking might be a shrinking of nature, but it was not a recoil of will. The ship may toss in dreadful billows, but the needle points to the pole. The train may rock upon the line, but it never leaves the rails. Christ felt that the Cross was an evil, but that never made Him falter in His determination to hear it, His willing acceptance of the necessity was owing to His full resolve to save the world. He must die because He would redeem, and He would redeem because He could not but love. So the “must” was not an iron chain that fastened Him to His Cross. Like some of the heroic martyrs of old, who refused to be bound to the funeral pile, He stood there chained to it by nothing but His own will and loving purpose to save the world. And oh I brethren; in that loving purpose, each of us may be sure that we had an individual and a personal share. He must die, because “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

Lastly, notice here our LORD’S TEACHING THE NECESSITY OF HIS DEATH. This announcement was preceded by that conversation which led to the crystalizing of the half-formed convictions of the apostles in a definite creed--“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But that was not all that they needed to know, and believe and trust to. That was the first volume of their lesson-book. The second volume was this, that “Christ must suffer.” And so let us learn the central place which the Cross holds in Christ’s teaching. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

On the humiliation and sufferings of Christ

Why does the Saviour say He “must suffer”?

It was at that time, and in the sense our Saviour then spake it, necessary for this reason, because otherwise the prophecies that went before concerning Him could not have been fulfilled. This reason our Saviour Himself gives (Matthew 26:53; Mark 14:48; Luke 24:26; Luke 24:44). The same reason is alleged also by the apostles in their preaching (Acts 1 Peter 1:10).

The death of Christ was necessary to make the pardon of sin. But the death of Christ was necessary, at least in this respect, to make the pardon of sin consistent with the wisdom of God in His good government of the world, and to be a proper attestation of His irreconcilable hatred against all unrighteousness.

The practical inferences from what has been said are as follows.

1. This doctrine concerning Christ’s dying for our sins is a strong argument for the indispensable necessity of our own repentance and reformation of life.

2. The consideration of Christ’s giving Himself a sacrifice for our sins is, to them who truly repent, an encouragement to approach with confidence to the throne of grace in our prayers to God through Him (Romans 8:32).

3. The death of Christ is a great example to us of patient suffering at any time in well-doing, when the providence of God shall call us to bear testimony in that manner to His truth (1 Peter 3:17). (S. Clarke, D. D.)

Verse 23

Luke 9:23

If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself


What is self-denial?

A very interesting and very important inquiry to us who are already the subjects of Divine grace. Perhaps we have not got too much of it in modern Christianity. I cannot help thinking that our Christianity in these days would be considerably improved if we had a little more of it infused into our daily lives. What is it? It is just when we begin to yearn for the likeness of Christ, and long to be conformed to His image--when we begin to see clearly that the path which the Master trod was one of humiliation and reproach, and that there are plenty of sorrows to be borne, and plenty of difficulties to be battled with--it is just then that Satan will, if he can, prevent even this new-born light arising within our soul, and endeavour to turn that very light into darkness. And he has succeeded only too well in former ages in diverting these religious instincts into a wrong and a mischievous channel. There are two false theories about self-denial which I want to guard you against. First, there have been some who have fallen into the error of thinking that, in some way or another, self-denial has to do with the expiation of our guilt; that the offering of a life of self-denial is a kind of satisfaction to be made to God for all the sins and all the imperfections of human nature. You cannot accept a theory of this kind without its producing at once its natural effect upon your own experience, which will become then and there intensely legal. For your very self-denial will be submitted to in the spirit of bondage; it will be the sufferings of a slave, and of a felon, and not the willing undergoing of hardship on the part of a reconciled and rejoicing child. Yet again; there is another false form of self-denial which is based upon a misconception of our relation to the pleasurable. It is assumed that we are not intended to enjoy pleasure here. Now observe, this is simply a new edition of the ancient lie which was suggested by the great tempter to our first parents in Paradise. “Hath God indeed said that ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden? He has placed you in Eden, surrounded you with delights, amid all these varied trees, and all these delicious and charming fruits: and does that God whom you call “your Father” exhibit any fatherly tenderness towards you in precluding you from the natural gratification of an appetite He has Himself created. How hard must that Father be! How little sympathy there can he in His nature! Can you serve, love, confide in such a God?” This was the venom which was first of all infused into the soul of our first parents. And when such a conception is received, even though it may seem to produce the effect of an austere or self-denying life, it will necessarily have the effect of interfering with our relationships with God. When our views of the character of God are in any way interfered with, and we begin to entertain a false ideal of Him, our whole religious life must suffer from it, because the knowledge of God is the great source both of power and of enjoyment throughout the whole course of our spiritual experience. There is nothing wrong in pleasure in itself; on the contrary. God has “given us all things richly to enjoy”; and yet there may be a great deal of harm in the indulgence of pleasure; and unquestionably a large proportion--perhaps far the largest proportion--of the sins that are committed in human history are committed because men deliberately make up their minds to pursue the pleasurable. Having indicated to you these two false forms of self-denial, let us endeavour to consider, if we really can, what it is that our blessed Lord does teach. First of all, let us take hold of the word, and see if we can learn a lesson from it. The meaning would be more accurately conveyed to our minds, as English people, if we use the word “ignore” instead of “deny.” The word used in the original indicates such a process all would take place where a man would refuse to admit his own identity. Supposing one of us had a property left to us, and we were brought before the magistrate in order that our personal identity might be ascertained; and supposing that we swore before competent authority that we were not the persons we were supposed to be, and that we actually were; such a process would be a denying of ourselves, and in the act of denial we should be ignoring our own natural right, and thus precluding ourselves from the enjoyment of it. The first step, then, in a really Christian life, or rather, shall I say, in the life of a disciple--for I am not speaking now of first principles--of what takes place, for the most part, at conversion: I am speaking of what takes places in point of time subsequently to conversion: at any rate it comes second in order--if we are really willing to be disciples, Jesus says to every one of us, “If any man will come after Me.” Before we go any further, let us ask ourselves, “Is that what we wish to do?” How many a believer, if he were just to speak the honest truth, would say, “Well, my wish is to go to heaven.” Well, that is a right wish; but it is not the highest wish. “My wish is to escape condemnation.” Well, it is a right wish; but it is not the highest wish. Is your heart set upon going after Christ? If our minds are really made up to follow Him, then He points out to us the condition of such a relation: and the first is, “Let him deny himself.” You cannot follow Jesus unless you deny yourself. Why? Because He took the way of self-denial. How did He do it? Was He an ascetic? No. “John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking: the Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Did He ever fast? Yes. And when, and why? When He had a very definite object in doing so: when He did so in pursuance of the Divine direction. Did He ever exclude Himself from society. Yes: but why? Sometimes to spend a short season in prayer: sometimes a whole night, so that He might prepare for some serious conflict with the forces of hell, or that He might fit Himself for doing some special work, as when He named His twelve disciples. There was an object in these outward acts of self-denial. He presented to the view of all a body that was under the control of the mind, and a mind that was under the control of God. Had He no sufferings? A great many. Had He no pain? Greater than ever was borne. How was this? He bore pain with an object. He suffered because He had a purpose in view. How was it inflicted? Did He bring it upon Himself? Nay, verily: as I have already said, He never courted pain. How did it come? It came in the fulfilment of the Father’s will. It came because He would cleave to the path which the Father had laid down for Him. The cross lay in His way, and He took it up: He didn’t go to look for one: He did not manufacture one for Himself: but there it lay in His way, and He raised it. It was a heavier cross than ever you or I will be called upon to bear--a cross so heavy, that His frail, human nature sank beneath its load: even the tender-hearted women who saw Him toiling up to Golgotha with that terrible burden, burst into tears as they saw the Man of Sorrows pass by, as they watched His tottering steps, and beheld Him sinking under the fearful burden. But although the load may not be so heavy, there is a cross for every one of us. We shall not escape it if we follow Him. Have you made up your minds to escape the cross, dear friends? If that is the determination with which you set out on your spiritual pilgrimage, then you must also make up your mind to lose the society of Jesus. He does not say, “ If any man will go to heaven, let him take up his cross”: but He says, “If any man will come after Me. I am going forth on My journey: before Me lie the shadows of Gethsemane, and My vision finds its horizon crowned with the Cross of Calvary. There it stands before Me in all its grim horror. I am going on step by step towards it. Every pulsation of My blood brings Me nearer to it; and I have made up My mind; My will is fixed, My face is set like a flint; the will which reigns within My bosom is the will of the Everlasting God Himself. I am content, My God, to do Thy will. And now this is the course I take: and if any of you want to follow Me, you must go the same road. You can only maintain fellowship with Me by placing your steps where Mine have fallen. ‘If any man,’--whether he be the highest saint, or whether he be only a newborn babe in Christ--‘if any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’” (W. H. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The Christian law of self-sacrifice


1. The Christian law of self-sacrifice is involved in the supreme and universal moral law. Love is, in its essential character, sacrificial. The law of self-sacrifice is only the law of love seen on the reverse. So holy love ascends, from sin and weakness, to Christ the Deliverer, complete in perfection and mighty to save. Thus manifested, it is faith receiving redeeming grace from His willing hand. But this ascending love is in its very nature, an act of self-abandonment and self-devotement. In it the soul accepts its Master, yielding its whole being to the plastic hand of the Perfect One, to receive the impress of His thought and will. It is trust in Him as Saviour: it is complacency in His character, adoration of His perfections, aspiration to be with Him and like Him, submission to His authority, loyalty to His person; but, in every manifestation, it is an act of self-surrender to the mighty and gracious One who is drawing the heart to Himself. The same is the characteristic of love descending and imparting love active in works of beneficence and justice. This needs no argument. I proceed to consider the condition of man under this law.

2. The second ground of the requirement of self-renunciation is the fact that sin is essentially egoism or self-ism. As love is essentially self-abnegation, sin is essentially self-assertion: a practical affirmation of the absurdity that a created being is sufficient for himself; therefore a repudiation, by the sinner, of his condition as a creature, and an arrogating to self of the Creator’s place. It has four principal manifestations, in each of which this essential character appears. It is self-sufficiency, the opposite of Christian faith. It is self-will, the opposite of Christian submission. It is self-seeking, the opposite of Christian benevolence. It is self-righteousness, the opposite of Christian humility and reverence, the reflex act of sin; putting self in God’s place as the object of praise and homage.

3. The third ground of the law of self-sacrifice is the fact that redemption--the Divine method of delivering man from sin and realizing the law oflove--is sacrificial. The substance of Christianity is redemption. Its central fact is the historical sacrifice of the Incarnation and the Cross. Christianity, therefore, as a fact, as a doctrine, and as a life, is a sacrificial religion. Thus the law of self-renunciation is grounded in the essential character of Christianity.

4. We may find a fourth ground of the law of self-renunciation in the constitution of the created universe; for this is an expression of the same eternal love which manifests its sacrificial character in Christ. Here our ignorance does not permit us to construct a complete argument; but glimpses of the law we can trace. It appears in the natural laws of society: a child is brought into the world by its mother’s anguish, and nurtured by parents’ toil and suffering. In turn the child grown up, wears out life, perhaps, in nursing a parent through a long sickness, or in the infirmities of age. It is shadowed even in physical arrange-merits: the dew-drop, which sparkles on a summer’s morning, exhales its whole being while refreshing the leaf on which it hangs. When, in the early spring, the crocus lifts its pure whiteness from beneath the reeking mould, when the iris puts on its sapphire crown, when the rose unfolds its queenly splendour, it is as if each graceful form said: “This is all I have, and all I am; this fragile grace and sweetness--I unfold it all for you.” The wild berries nestle in the grass, or droop, inviting, from the vine, as if saying: “This lusciousness is all my wealth; it is for you.” The apples, golden and red, glowing amid the green leaves, seem to be thoughtfully whispering God’s own words: “A good tree bringeth forth good fruit.” The field submits, without complaint, to be sheared of its yearly harvest mutely waiting the return of blessing at the good pleasure of Him that dresseth it; symbolizing the patient faith of him who does good, hoping for nothing again, except from the good pleasure of God, who is not forgetful to reward the patience of faith and the labour of love; on the contrary, the land which bears thorns and thistles, though it is allowed to keep its own harvest to enrich itself, yet (emblem of all covetousness) is rejected and nigh unto cursing. The sun walks regally through the heavens, pouring abroad day; and the stars shining all night, seemingly say: “We are suns; yet even our opulence of glory we give to others; our very nature is to shine.” Do not say that this is all fanciful. The creation was cast in the mould of God’s love; and each thing bears some impress of the same.

THE PRINCIPLE OR SPRING OF SELF-SACRIFICE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. This is love itself; a new affection, controlling the life and making the acts of self-denial easy. Happiness is not bottled up in outward objects--the same definite quantity to be secured by every man who obtains the object. A man’s affections determine the sources of his happiness: he finds his joy in what he loves; and is incapable of enjoying its opposite. Whether, then, any course of action is to be a source of happiness or the contrary, depends on what the man loves. The upspringing of a new affection, as the love of a first-born child, opens on the soul a new world of joy. But religion is an affection. It is not a sense of duty, under whose lash the soul creeps through its daily stint of service. While sinful affection rules the heart, religion comes to the sinner an outward law, bristling all over with prohibitions, and every touch draws blood; it goes against the grain of every desire and purpose; every object which it presents, and every duty which it requires, is repulsive; it is self-denial from beginning to end. Then the sinner is incapable of finding enjoyment in religion; and to bid him enjoy it, is, to use an illustration from South, as if Moses had bidden the Israelites to quench their thirst at the dry rock, before he had brought any water out of it. But when the new affection wells up in the heart, all this is changed. A new world of action and joy opens to the man. Religion is no longer an outward law, commanding him against his will; but an inward affection, drawing him in the way of his own inclination. This new affection, which is the principle of Christian self-renunciation, is specifically love to Christ, whether existing as faith in Him or devotedness to Him. It is evident, therefore, that Christian self-denial is primarily that first great act of renouncing self in self-devoting love to Christ. It is the surrender of self to Christ in the act of faith. You are liable to think Christian self-denial less than it is: for you think it is giving some of your property, relinquishing some pleasures, drudging through some duties; whereas, it is immeasurably more than this; it is giving your heart; it is giving yourself. It also appears, as to the method of self-denial, that sin is not torn off by force, but drops off through the growth of the new affection; as a man drops his childish plays, not by a self-denying struggle, but because he has outgrown his interest in them. So always self-denial is accomplished, not by a dead lift, but by the spontaneous energy of love. It further appears that self-denial, in the very act of exercising it, is strangely transfigured into self-indulgence; the Cross, in the very act of taking it up, is transfigured into a crown. It is a false charge that Christianity, by the severity of its self-denial, crushes human joy. Had you emancipated a slave, who had touched the deepest abasement incident to that system of iniquity, and had become contented with his slavery; had you educated him and opened to him opportunity of remunerative industry, so that he is now incapable of being happy in slavery, and shudders at his former contentment, would you feel guilty of crushing his happiness, or pity him for the sacrifice which he has made? But he did sacrifice the joys of slavery; yes, and gained the joys of freedom. An emblem this of the sacrifice which Christianity requires. The joys of sin are sacrificed, the joys of holiness are gained: the snow-birds are gone, but the summer songsters are tuneful on every spray within the soul as it bursts into leaf and blossom beneath the returning sun. All religious services once repulsive, prayer and praise formerly frozen words rattling like hail around the wintry heart, all works of beneficence once chafing to the selfish soul, all are now transfigured into joy. Under the power of the new affection, what was once self-denial accords with the inclination; the soul has become incapable of enjoying its former sins, and regards it as self-denial to return to them, shuddering at them as an emancipated slave at his contentment in slavery, as a reformed drunkard, in the enjoyment of virtue, of home, and plenty, at his former hilarious carousals. Only so far as sin yet “dwelleth in us” is the service of Christ felt to be a self-denial or recognized as a conflict. But it will be objected that the innocent, natural desires must be denied in Christ’s service. Here, in justice, it should be said, that self-denial of this kind is incidental to all worldly business, not less than to the service of Christ. Can you attain any great object without sacrifices? Is the enterprising merchant, the successful lawyer, or physician, a man of luxurious ease? It follows, from the foregoing views, that they who enter deepest into the spirit of Christian self-renunciation, are least aware of sacrificing anything for Christ. The more intense the love, the less account of service rendered to the beloved; as Jacob heeded not the years of toil for Rachel through his love for her. Be so full of love that you will take no note of the sacrifices to which love inspires you. Love to Christ, then, is the spring of all acts of self-denial. Love much, serve much. When the tide is out, no human power can lift the great ships that lie bedded in the mud. But when you see the leathery bladders of the sea-weed swinging round, and bubbles and chips float past you upwards, then you know that the tide is turned, and the great ocean is coming to pour its floods into the harbour, to make the ships rise ,, like a thing of life,” to fill every bay and creek and rocky fissure with its inexhaustible fulness. So you may see toils and sacrifices of Christian service seeming too great for your strength; yet if your affections are beginning to flow to Christ, and your thoughts and aspirations are turning to Him, these are indications that love is rising in your hearts, with the fulness of God’s grace behind it, to fill every susceptibility of your being within its Divine fulness, and lift every burden buoyant on its breast. Here we see the fundamental difference between asceticism and Christian self-renunciation. Asceticism is a suppression and denial of the soul’s affections; Christian self-renunciation is the introduction of a new affection displacing the old. The former is a negation of the soul’s life; the latter a development of a new and higher life. The former produces a constrained performance of duty, a restraint of desires which do not cease to burn, a sad resignation to necessary evils; the latter produces a new affection which makes duty coincide with inclination, quenches contrary desires, and quickens to positive joy in the accomplishment of God’s will.

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LAW OF SELFRENUNCIATION IN INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL PROGRESS. I affirm that individual development and social progress depend on the Christian law of self-renunciation. Recurring again to the two phases of a right character, the receptive and the imparting, or faith and works, compare, as to their practical efficacy in developing each of these, the Christian scheme of self-abnegation and redemption, and the infidel scheme of self-assertion and self-sufficiency.

1. As to the receptive phase of character, or faith. Here the aim must be to realize a character marked by reverence for superior power, wisdom, and goodness, and trust in the same; humility, in the consciousness of sin and need; aspirations for the true, the beautiful, and the good; loyalty to superior authority; and that peculiar courage in the vindication of truth and right which springs from loyal confidence in a leader powerful in their defence. This side of a holy character necessarily receives immediate and large development in the Christian scheme of redemption by Christ’s sacrifice and salvation by faith in Him. It presents the objects of trust, reverence, aspiration, and loyalty, not as abstractions, but concrete in the personal Christ; and thus introduces the peculiar and overpowering motive of Christianity, affectionate trust in Christ as a personal Saviour. The philosophy of self-assertion has no legitimate place for this class of virtues. Consequently, carried out it cannot recognize them as virtues, but must leave them to be despised as weaknesses or defects; like those ancient languages which give no name to humility and its family of virtues, and name virtue itself not godliness but manliness. It has given us the pregnant maxim that work is worship, in which it expresses its inherent destitution of the element of faith, and declares that the only availing prayer is our own endeavour. But the impossibility of realizing a perfect character, without this class of virtues, is too apparent to admit of their total exclusion.

2. I proceed to consider the practical efficacy of these contrasted schemes in the sphere of works; in the development of active and imparting love, of the energies of a wise philanthropy. Here it is unnecessary to add to what has already been adduced to show that Christianity is effective in this direction. But leaving these considerations I confine myself to this single suggestion: the self-abnegation involved in the sacrificial character of Christianity is the only effectual preservative of the personal rights of the individual in his devotement to the service of the race. How grandly, in contrast, Christianity develops universal love, in its Divine activity, and yet upholds the individual in his Divine dignity. The Christian surrenders himself, without reserve, to God his Creator and Redeemer; and, in love to Him, freely devotes himself to the service of his fellow-men, a worker, together with God, in the sublime work of renovating the world; a worker, with God, in designs so vast, that the very conception of them ennobles; in enterprises so godlike that labouring in them lifts to a participation in the Divine. He is no longer the tool of society, but its Christ-like benefactor. The very fact that he kneels in entire self-surrender to God, forbids abjectness to man. He will not kneel to man, but he will die for him.

3. Besides the efficiency of these schemes in developing the different phases of character, I must consider their efficacy in developing the natural powers of thought, action, and enjoyment. Here we meet the objection that man cannot be developed by negation and suppression; and that self-denial, being a suppression of the soul’s life, cannot develop it. But this objection is already sufficiently answered; for it has been shown that self-denial is not a negation, but the reverse side of a positive affection. Its power to develop is continually exemplified. The Church and the world are, as the Scriptures represent, antagonistic, not co-ordinate. Each develops the natural powers; but the development which Christianity effects in self-abnegation, is the normal, harmonious, and complete development of man.

Here, then, I must contrast the two types, of progress and of civilization, which the two are fitted, respectively, to produce.

1. In the sphere of intellect, the one gives us rationalism and scepticism; the other, faith and stability.

2. In the sphere of social life, the one develops the outward activity, the other the inward resources. The one stimulates grasping and self aggrandizement; the other, the spiritual life. The one is concerned with what a man gets; the other, with what he is. The one is adequate to make man develop a continent; the other, to develop himself and the continent.

3. In the sphere of political life, the one insists on freedom, the other on justice, mercy, and reverence for God. (S. Harris, D. D.)

Of self-denial

First, I am to show you the NATURE of this duty. Soul and body make up ourselves, and consequently, the powers, inclinations, and appetites, of both are to be restrained; and because the mind and outward man are influenced upon by external objects, these also must in their due measure be denied and renounced. The operations of the soul are to be looked after in the first place; and amongst them the understanding is the leading and principal faculty; and, therefore, if this be taken care of, the rest will be more easily governed. But what is it to deny or renounce our understandings?

1. Such things as are unprofitable and useless to us. Those nice and fond speculations, trifling and impertinent, wanton and curious disquisitions, in ranging after which, the mind is diverted from the more solemn employment of religion, are no ways worthy of a Christian.

2. Much more doth it become us to check ourselves in our inquiring after things that are unlawful for us to pry into; and those are either diabolical arts or Divine secrets. But sanctified minds decline the studying of these impious and diabolical mysteries, following the example of the Ephesian converts, who condemned the volumes of their black art to the flames. No excuse can legitimate our inquisitive search into these hellish intrigues, and our familiar conversing with them. And the latter (I mean Divine secrets) are to be admired and adored, not wantonly pried into. These abstruse and profound intricacies are not arrogantly to be ransacked, lest they confound us with their mighty depth, and quite overwhelm us with their glory. We must not think to bring down these lofty things to the level of our shallow capacities; we must not criticize here, but believe. It is true, reason is the first-born, the eldest and noblest of the faculties; and yet you must not refuse to offer up this darling, to sacrifice this Isaac. Let not reason persuade you to search with boldness into those mysteries which are inscrutable, and which ought to be entertained with silence and veneration. We renounce all modesty and humility when we attempt to fathom this abyss. This being rectified, the will (which is the next considerable operation of the mind) will follow its conduct, and become regular and orderly. This self-denial, as it respects the will, is comprehended in these two things, namely, our submitting to what God doth, and to what He commands. In the next place then, the affections are to be denied, for these are part of a man’s self. But indeed, all of them ought to be tutored and kept in order; their extravagancies must be allayed and charmed, for it is not fit the superior faculties should truckle to these inferior ones; it is absurd and ridiculous that the beast should ride the man, and the slave domineer over the master, and the brutish part have dominion over the rational and Divine. Which leads me to the second main ingredient of the duty of self-denial, viz., the restraining and moderating the bodily and sensual desires. And this discipline consists in setting a strict guard and watch over the bodily senses; for these are so many doors that open to life or death, as the Jewish masters say well. The sight is generally the inlet to all vice. If the motions of intemperance be urgent and solicitous with us, the wise man hath furnished us with an antidote, “Look not upon the wine,” &c. (Proverbs 23:31). The sense of hearing also must be mortified and restrained, for this is another door at which sin and death do enter. We read that Polycarp used to stop his ears at the wicked speeches of heretics. Stop up all the passages and avenues of vice, especially block up these cinque ports by which the adversary uses to make his entrance. Third thing I proposed, in order to the explaining of the nature of selfdenial, viz., that we must give a repulse to all external invitations whatsoever, whereby we are wont to be drawn off from our duty. And of this sort are.

1. Those which our Saviour takes particular notice of and warns us against Luke 14:26). The bonds of nature oblige us to love our relations, but the injunctions of the gospel engage us to love our souls, and Christ much Matthew 10:37). Who sees not that persons are apt to be perverted by their near relatives? The first and early deceit was by this means. Adam, through the enticement of his wife, violated the Divine command. Solomon was corrupted by his wives (1 Kings 11:4), and Jehoram was misled by his (2 Kings 8:18). So it is particularly recorded of Ahab, who sold himself to work wickedness, that “his wife stirred him 1 Kings 21:25). Constantine the Great, in his latter days, by the instigation of his sister Constantia, who favoured the Arians, banished good Athanasius, anal sent for Arius out of exile, and favoured his party. The Emperor Valentinian, by the impulse and artifice of his mother, Justinia, was harsh to the orthodox Christians, and countenanced the Arians. Valens was corrupted by his lady, who was an Arian, and made him such a one as herself. Justinian the emperor was wrought upon by his Queen Theodora, who had a kindness for the Eutychian heresy. Irene, who was empress with her son, another Constantine, caused him to favour the worship of images, she being for it herself; and then the second Nicene council was held, which decreed the adoration of images. And there are almost innumerable other instances to prove that persons are apt to be biassed and led away from their duty by the powerful enchantments of their beloved relations. But he that hath attained to that part of self-denial which I am now treating of will not listen to these charmers, though they charm never so cunningly.

2. Self-denial must show itself in renouncing of vainglory, and all inordinate desires of honours and preferments. Ambrose was preparing for flying, when he was like to be chosen Bishop of Milan. Basil the Great hid himself; Chrysostom declined it as much as he could. Gregory Nazianzen, when he was preferred to the bishopric of Constantinople, soon resigned it and retired to a solitary life at Nazianzum. Ensebius refused to be Bishop of Antioch. Ammonius Perota (mentioned by Socrates) cut off one of his ears, that by that means he might avoid the being preferred to a bishopric; for voluntary maiming themselves in those days made them incapable of that office. Nay, we are told, that a good father died with fear as they were bearing him to his episcopal throne. He died for dread of that which others so long for, and are like to die because they miss of it.

3. The sinful pleasures and delights of the flesh are to be abstained from by all the true practisers of self-denial. An eminent instance of this was Joseph, the modest, the chaste Joseph, who repulsed the solicitations of his mistress.

4. Wealth and riches: when you begin to desire and covet them inordinately; when your hearts are set upon them, when by plain experience you perceive that they damp your zeal for religion, and when the ways you make use of for acquiring them are prejudicial unto, and inconsistent with the keeping of a good conscience, you have no more to do in this case than to quit them with a resolved mind, to part with the unrighteous Mammon for durable and heavenly riches.

5. and lastly, To mention several things together, your self-denial ought to discover itself, in renouncing whatever it is that administers to pride, or lust, or revenge. Thus you see your task in all the several parts and divisions of it. Every Christian for Christ’s sake is to deny his personal self (i.e., his soul, the undue exertments of the understanding, will, and affections; his body, i.e., all its carnal and sensual appetites, so far as they are hindrances to virtue)

; his relative self, his father, mother, wife, friends, and acquaintance, when they tempt him to vice; his worldly self (if I may so call it), houses, lands, goods, possessions, honours, pleasures, and whatever we are wont to set a high value upon; about all these this grace is commendably exercised.

Secondly, it remains now that I convince you of the REASONABLENESS of this doctrine, which will appear from these ensuing particulars.

1. It might be said that there is restraint and hardship in all religions that ever were on foot in the world, and so it ought not to be thought strange in the Christian religion. Concerning the Jews it is notoriously known that their lives commenced with an uneasy and bloody circumcision; and by their Mosaic Law they were tied up to an unspeakable strictness all their lives long. They were forbid some meats which were wholesome enough, and very palatable. And afterwards they stinted themselves as to some drinks, and would by no means taste of the wine of idolatrous nations. They were religiously confined as to their garb and apparel, and to their converse and behaviour, their rites and ceremonies, which rendered their condition very uneasy, and almost insupportable. Should we look into the religion of the Gentiles, that will be found to be clogged with very great severities; and though one would think they should have made it as pleasant and enticing as possibly they could, yet he that takes a survey of some of its rites and laws shall discover inhumane and bloody usages, austere and cruel practices prescribed by them. And even among their wisest and soberest philosophers, restraint and self-denial were ever reputed laudable and virtuous. Some of them refused the richest offers of princes, and others of them voluntarily quitted their estates and revenues, and embraced poverty, and reckoned their greatest wealth to be the contempt of it (of which I shall give you some instances afterwards). At this day the people of Africa, on the coasts of Guinea, do all of them abstain from one thing or other, in honour of their fetishes, their little portable gods. Need ] take notice of the deluded sect of Mahomet, to whom is granted a shameful indulgence in most things, yet their prophet would not give them their freedom as to all things, but peremptorily denied them the pleasure of the grapes and of swine’s flesh. I will not insist here on the superstitious austerities and unreasonable restraints which another sort of men enjoin in their Church, and which are so readily submitted to by great numbers among them.

2. I offer this to your consideration, that there is not any man, sui juris, at his own disposal. If we acknowledge God for our Creator we have upon that very score all the reason in the world to own His right of commanding us. If we received our being from Him, it is but just that all our actions should be governed by Him. Seneca excellently speaks: God is our King and Governor, and it is our freedom to obey Him. On this account it is reasonable that we should not follow our own fancies and humours, and do what we will. But if we consider likewise that we are bought with s price, we may infer thence that we are not our own, but are for ever at the pleasure of Him that ransomed us. A Christian must not do what he would, that is, what his sinful inclinations prompt him to. He must be confined within bounds; he is a person pre-engaged, and must not, cannot be at the beck of every foolish lust. Third consideration, which will evince both the necessity and equity of this Christian duty. To be kept in and confined, to be limited and curbed by holy and just laws, to be commanded to walk by rules, and not to be suffered to be licentious, and to do what we please; this is the most safe, and therefore the most happy condition that can be imagined. It is undoubtedly the greatest kindness that God could confer upon us, to fence us in with laws, and to deny us many things which we eagerly desire; for He sees that what we so exorbitantly crave would be our ruin. How dangerous and mischievous to the world would an unrestrained liberty prove? For as ‘tis a true aphorism of Hippocrates: The more you nourish morbid bodies, the more hurt you do them; so the more you fasten this inordinate desire in your souls, the more you harm and mischief yourselves. You think it may be to stint and satisfy your desires by giving them what they crave; but that is the way rather to increase them. One pleasure doth but make way for another. And besides, the pleasures which some luxurious persons entertain themselves with now will not be pleasures afterwards. The present delights will in time grow out of date, and some others must be sought for.

4. Still by way of reason consider, that to deny ourselves is the fairest and most convincing evidence of the sincerity of our hearts. By this we give an undeniable experiment of the free and plenary consent of our wills. We give a demonstration of the uprightness of our souls by refraining from whatever is forbidden us by the Divine laws. But Abraham was an instance of the contrary temper; very hard things were commanded him, and he obeyed them without disputing; whence there was a full trial made of his sincerity, and that he loved and feared God in the truth of his heart.

5. Natural reason, common prudence, and every day’s practice commend unto us this Divine grace of self-denial Wise men in a tempest are persuaded to throw their richest lading overboard, and commit it to the devouring element; that is, they are willing to part with their goods to save their lives. It is reckoned by us as wisdom, to deprive ourselves of some good and ease for a while; to make sure of a greater and more lasting one afterwards. We expose ourselves to danger that we may be safe. To recover health we submit to unpleasant potions; though the physic proves as hateful as the disease, yet we are reconciled to it, by considering that it will be profitable to our bodies afterwards; by the loss of a limb we are content to secure the whole. Prudence and reason justify all this, and shall they not much more reconcile us to the painful remedies which our great and good Physician prescribes?

6. Let me set before you some great and eminent examples to justify the reasonableness of this duty of self-denial First, let me propound to you the example of Christ Jesus, our blessed Lord and Master. “He pleased not Himself,” saith the apostle (Romans 15:3). And then, what a signal demonstration of self-denial was His Passion and Death. But, besides this, there are other examples, viz., of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and divers holy men, who have been noted for their self-denial. Let me now provoke you to a godly emulation by some instances even of heathen men. If some pagans could arrive to some measure of self-denial by their natural light and reason, surely you, who profess higher principles, will be ashamed to come short of them. Plato tells us of his master, Socrates, that when his friends and relatives, and those who bore a great affection to him, came to him in prison, and wished him by all means to submit to the Senate of Athens, and thereby to save his life; his answer was: “Oh, my Athenians, I must needs profess to you, that I greatly respect and love you; but I tell you plainly, I am resolved to obey God rather than you.” Most divinely spoken, and like a true denier of himself. That was a gallant action which is recorded of Care the younger, a notable Roman captain, who, marching through the hot sands of Lybia, grew extremely thirsty; and when one of his soldiers brought him some water in his helmet, which he had got with great difficulty and pains, he poured it out upon the ground, as a testimony that he could boar thirst as well as his soldiers. Xenophon relates of Cyrus, the King of Persia, that he would not so much as see the fair Panthea, the wife of King Abradaras, who was taken in battle, and reserved on purpose for him by one of his captains. And when one told Cyrus that her beauty was worth the beholding, he answered, that therefore it was much more necessary to abstain from seeing it. And truly this Cyrus is propounded by

Xenophon as one of the greatest instances of self-denial and moderation in all particulars, many of which you’ll find distinctly set down by that excellent historian, who also acquaints us that his soldiers and followers were trained up to severity and abstinence, and the exactest self-denial.

7. and lastly: If we would seriously consider that heaven shall be the reward of self-denial, this would make the performance of this duty easy.

Now, in the third and last place, I will offer those MEANS AND HELPS whereby we may attain to this grace and duty which I have been treating of. If, then, thou wouldest effectually practise this evangelical duty of self-denial which is so excellent and yet so difficult, thou mayest be assisted by such proper helps as these:

1. By daily flying unto God for succour, by praying to be rescued and delivered from thyself, according to that good Father’s devout Litany, “O Lord, deliver me from myself; shield me from my own depraved nature; defend me from my own wild desires and affections; teach me to moderate my passions.”

2. Prayer must be backed with endeavours, and your endeavours must begin within. You must strike at the root, the original cause of all the disorders in your life, viz., your inward lusts and desires. Democritus, who, it is said, put out his eyes as a remedy against lust, did, perhaps, doubly enhance their inveiglement by imagination. Your first business therefore is to correct it within, to regulate your desires and inclinations, and then you may safely look abroad, and not fear any actual or outward exorbitances in your lives.

3. Consider seriously the high calling whereunto God hath called you, and wherein you ought so to behave yourselves, that you do nothing which may disgrace and dishonour your profession.

4. Let us weigh our condition well, and often urge it upon our thoughts, that we are but strangers and pilgrims, and being upon our journey, it would be unreasonable to expect that we should have everything according to our mind.

5. It is requisite that you entertain right notions concerning the things of this world. Lastly, act by a principle of evangelical faith, and you will find that that doth wonderfully facilitate the exercise of self-denial. With a steadfast eye look beyond this present life; pierce through this horizon to another world, and you will easily restrain your sinful appetites and desires, you will overcome all the blandishments, suavities, and allurements of this life. Besides, this is that which promotes and facilitates all our duties, and reconciles us to all difficulties, and renders all estates and conditions welcome, and makes Christians yoke easy and pleasant. It is the most excellent, and it is the most useful grace, and that which renders us masters of ourselves. (J. Edwards, D. D.)

Christians must expect afflictions

Be prepared for afflictions. To this end would Christ have us reckon upon the cross, that we may be forewarned. He that builds a house does not take care that the rain should not descend upon it, or the storm should not beat upon it, or the wind blow upon it; there is no fencing against these things, they cannot be prevented by any care of ours; but that the house may be able to endure all this without prejudice. And he that builds a ship, does not make this his work, that it should never meet with waves and billows, that is impossible; but that it may be light and staunch, and able to endure all weathers. A man that takes care for his body does not care for this, that he meet with no change of weather, hot and cold, but how his body may bear all this. Thus should Christians do; not so much to take care how to shift and avoid afflictions, but how to bear them with an even quiet mind. As we cannot hinder the rain from falling upon the house, nor the waves from beating upon the ship, nor change of weather and seasons from affecting the body, so it is not in our power to hinder the falling out of afflictions and tribulations; all that lies upon us, is to make provision for such an hour, that we be not overwhelmed by it. (T. Manton, D. D.)


It is not what a man takes up, but what he gives up, that makes him “rich towards God.” Now what ought a follower of Jesus to give up for his Master’s sake?

1. Of course every man who would become a Christ’s man must renounce everything that God’s Word and a healthy conscience set down as wrong. All sins are “contraband” at the gateway of entrance to the Christian life. The sentinel at the gate challenges us with the command--“Lay down that sin!”

2. We must give up whatever, by its direct influence, tends to injure ourselves or others. Here comes in the law of brotherly love. The safe side of all questionable amusements is the outside.

3. Give up whatever tends to pamper the passions, or to kindle unholy desires. Paul’s noble determination to “keep his body under,” implies that there was something or other in Paul’s fleshly nature which ought to be kept under. It is also true of almost every Christian that somewhere in his nature lies a weak point, a besetting tendency to sin; and just there must be applied the check-rein of self-denial Even eminent Christians have had to wage constant battle with fleshly lusts. Others have had sore conflict with irritable, violent tempers. When a servant of Christ is willing to take a back seat, or to yield the pre-eminence to others, he is making a surrender which is well-pleasing to his meek and lowly Master. One of the hardest things to many a Christian is to serve his Saviour as a “private,” when his pride tells him that he ought to wear a “shoulder-strap” in Christ’s army.

4. Another very hard thing for most persons to give up, is to give up having their own way. But the very essence of true spiritual obedience lies just here. It is just here that self-sufficiency, and vanity, and waywardness, and obstinacy are to be met. Here they must be sacrificed to that demand of the Master’s, that He shall rule, and not we.

5. The last rule of giving up which we have room for in this brief article is, that time, ease, and money must all be held tributary to Christ. In these days of stylish equipage and social extravagance, how few Christians are willing to give up to Jesus the key to their purses and bank-safes I Too many go through the solemn farce of writing “Holiness to the Lord” on their property, and then using it for their own gratification. (T. L.Cuyler, D. D.)

The necessity of self-denial

ONE’S COMING AFTER CHRIST. This is the thing which some do aim at, and all should.

1. Christ in the world was in the way to His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven (Luke 19:12).

2. Accordingly He was in the world, not as a native thereof, but as a stranger travelling through it, with His face always away-ward from it, home to His Father’s house.

3. Our Lord Jesus made His way to His kingdom through many bitter storms blowing on His face in the world, and is now entered into it Hebrews 12:2).

4. There is no coming into that kingdom, for a sinner, but at His back, in fellowship with Him (John 14:6).

5. There is no coming in at His back into the kingdom, without following Him in the way (Psalms 125:5; John 15:6).


1. Implies two things.

(1) That Christ and self are contraries, leading contrary ways.

(2) That the self to be denied is our corrupt self, the old man, the unrenewed part.

2. Wherein it consists. In a holy refusal to please ourselves, that we may please God in Christ. Hence, in self-denial there is

(1) Faith and hope, as the necessary springs thereof.

(2) A practical setting up of God as our chief end, and a bringing down ourselves to lie at His feet.

(3) An unlimited resignation of ourselves unto God in Christ--“first gave their ownselves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Faith taking hold of God as our God, according to the measure of faith, the whole man is swallowed up in Him; God is all, and we become nothing in our own eyes: the whole soul, the whole man, the whole lot, is resigned to Him.

(4) A refusing to please ourselves in anything in competition with God; but denying the cravings of self, as they are contrary to what God craves of us Titus 2:12).


1. God will lay down the cross for every one who seeks heaven, that they shall have nothing ado but to take it up. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). They shall not need to make crosses tothemselves, nor to go out of their way to seek a cross: God will lay it down at every one’s door. He had one Son without sin, but no son without the Hebrews 12:8).

2. He will lay it down daily to the followers of Christ, that they may have a daily exercise in taking it up, and hearing the cross of the day. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34). A change of crosses may be got, but there will be no end of them as long as we are here.

3. We must not be choosers of crosses. Every one must take up his own, allotted to him by sovereign wisdom.

4. We must not trample on the cross, and step over it, but take it up Hebrews 12:5). The sullen manliness and Roman courage wherewith some bear their crosses is the produce of self-will, not of self-denial, and speaks contempt of God, not submission to Him. When heaven is our party, it becomes us to stoop, and not to make our faces like flint, lest God be provoked to dash us in pieces,

5. Yet neither must we faint at the sight of the cross; for at that rate we will not be able to take it up (Hebrews 12:5).

6. As we must not go off the road of duty to shift the cross, so we must not stand still till it be rolled out of our way, but take it up, and go forward. It is easy going off the way, but not easy coming on again. There are quagmires of sin and sorrow on every side of the cross, where the shifters of it may come to stick (1 Timothy 6:9).

7. We must take up no more for our cross than what God lays down; not what Satan and our own corruptions lay to it: it will be our wisdom to shovel that off in the first place, and we will take up the cross the easier.

8. But however heavy the cross be, we are not to refuse it. Our very life, which of all worldly things is dearest to us, must be laid at the Lord’s feet, and we ready to part with it for Christ.

9. We must yoke with the cross willingly and submissively: God can lay it on us, whether we will or not; but He will have us to stoop, and take it up James 1:2).

10. We must bear it, going evenly under it, till the Lord take it down. It is what belongs to the Lord to take it off; it is our part to take it up. There must be an exercise of patience in our coming after Christ (Luke 21:19).

11. We must follow Christ with the cross on our back. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Erroneous ideas respecting self-denial

There is a current idea that it is a fine thing to go through self-imposed trials--to do what is disagreeable just because it is disagreeable: it is noble to climb Alpine heights--not because the slightest good is to come of your doing so--not because you have the faintest idea of what you are to do when you reach their summit;--but just because it is difficult and dangerous to climb them, and mostmen would rather not. Some people now-a-days appear to think that when our blessed Lord uttered the sublime words which form the text, He meant that we are to be always seeking out a tribe of petty disagreeables--constantly finding out something we don’t like to do, and then doing it: some people, I do believe, have a vague impression in their minds which they have never put into shape, but which really comes to this, that God would be angry if He saw His creatures cheerful and happy. Oh, the wicked delusion! God is love! When will men believe that grand foundation-truth I You may see something like God’s feeling in the kindly smile with which the kind parent looks on at the merry sports of his children, delighted to see them innocently happy. But believe it, brethren, there is nothing the least like God, in the sour, morose look of the gloomy fanatic, as he turns with sulky indignation from the sight of people who venture to be harmlessly cheerful. (A. H. K. Boyd D. D.)

Various particulars in which self-denial must be practised

Let us consider, then, for a little, what is implied in the self-denial to which we are here called. It does not imply a disregard to our own true interest and happiness, for these are always found, at last, to be inseparably connected with the path of duty. But it implies that we are to be denied to ourselves, as depraved and sinful creatures--that we are to be denied to that spirit which would set up ourselves, our own wills, as the rivals of God--that we are to be denied to everything which would, in any way, interfere with our submission and fidelity to Jesus Christ.

1. More particularly, if we are to be the disciples of Christ, we must be denied to our own wisdom. While we are to use the natural wisdom, the reason, which God hath given us, we are not to trust in it as sufficient to show us the way of life. There is more hope of a fool, than of those who are wise in their own conceit. The wisest must not glory in their wisdom.

2. We must be denied to our own righteousness. We must renounce all trust in ourselves, plead guilty before God, and cast ourselves on His free mercy, by faith in His Son’s righteousness.

3. We must be denied to all obviously sinful propensities and habits. Christ is willing to save us from our sins, but He will not save us in our sins.

4. We must be denied, not only to what is obviously sinful, but also to every earthly enjoyment, when it comes into competition with our regard to Christ. We must, for example, be denied to those bodily indulgences which, though in themselves innocent, when under due restraint, become incompatible with spirituality of mind, when felt to be essential, or very important, to our happiness. We must “keep under our bodies, and bring them into subjection.”

5. We must be denied to our reputation. Though we are to value a good name in the world, if it can be had consistently with faithfulness to our Lord; we are cheerfully to forego it, if it cannot be retained but at the expense of our conscience.

6. we must be denied to our friends. Should they attempt so to influence us, we must be denied to their solicitations, allurements, and upbraidings. It sometimes happens that the greatest foes to a man’s salvation, are those of his own household.

7. We must be denied to our property, so as to be ready to undergo any sacrifice of our substance--to our ease, so as to be ready to undergo any torture--to our liberty, so as to be ready to go to prison--and to our very life, so as to be ready cheerfully to lay it down, rather than prove unfaithful to our Redeemer. (J. Foote, M. A.)

Increasing need of self-denial

They who climb lofty mountains find it safest, the higher they ascend, the more to bow and stoop with their bodies; and so does the Spirit of Christ teach the saints, as they get higher in their victories over self-corruption, to bow lowest in self-denial. (W. Gurnall.)


It is reported of Agrippina, “the mother of Nero, who” being told “that if ever her son came to be an emperor he would be her murderer,” she made this reply: “I am content to perish, if he may be emperor.” What she expressed vaingloriously, we should do religiously. “Let us perish, so our neighbours, our relations, and our country, be bettered.” (Archbishop Seeker.)

Joy from self-denial

A man takes a musical instrument, and undertakes to bring up one part of it so that it shall sound louder than any other part. The moment he brings it up so that it sounds a little louder than the others, people say, “Yes, I think I do hear that upper note,” but it is so faint that a person has to put his hand to his ear to hear it. But by and by the man works the instrument so that out rolls this upper note so clearly that, although the under notes are there, everybody says, “Ah, now it has come out, now I hear it; it is all right now.” And a man that denies himself in the truest Christian way does it so that the joy of the upper feelings rolls clear over the pain and suffering of the lower feelings. Where this does not take place, the self-denial is very imperfect. (H. W. Beecher.)

Various forms of self-discipline

Now, it is evident that the selfishness of one man is not the same as the selfishness of another. There is a man whose self lies in his intellect. He makes much of his own intellect. He is always leaning upon it. Now, that man has much to do, to become a very little child--to become a fool--to submit his own intellect absolutely to the teaching of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God--to receive the deept mind-confounding mysteries of the gospel with a perfect simplicity, and to let Christ be all his wisdom. Another man’s self is pleasure. That pleasure may take different forms. It may be in the form of the mere indulgence of his bodily appetites; or it may be in worldly amusements; or it may be in the pride of life; or it may be in money; or it may be in business; or it may be in ambition. Now, if that man think that he can take those things, and the spirit of those things along with him; if he think he can enjoy them and religion, he will find the gate too strait for him to pass, and the road too narrow for him to go. That is the man who must be continually learning to say “No” to himself. He must put the strongest rein upon the neck of his own desires. And even supposing that the pleasures which make that man’s selfishness are of a very quiet, and, you may say, innocent, character, still that man must remember that self-renunciation in this life must not be confined to those things which are sinful, but much more he must practise it in innocent things--for it is a true thing, that most men perish through the unlawful use of lawful things. Therefore that man must deny himself, even, for instance, in his legitimate business--or in his best domestic affection--or in his holiest or purest of all engagements. But there is another form of self, and the more dangerous, because it takes the aspect of religion. When a man has laid down for himself a certain way of salvation, and begins in his own strength, goes on in his own wisdom, and ends in his own glory, turning his self-complacent virtues into saviours. Oh! how that self must be unloved! He denies self at the foundation, because he will have no other foundation but grace: he denies self in the work, because he will know no other but the finished work of his Saviour: he denies self in the end, because he will have no other end but the glory of God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Shirking the cross

Rev. E. Paxton Hood in a sermon, “Crucifixion and Coronation,” said, life means discipline to all of us in some way or other, and if we attempt to shirk our cross, we shall find that God fits one presently somehow or other to our shoulders, the meaning of which we shall find by and by. I am tempted sometimes to throw down the cross; I have said, “No, I won’t have it;” but lo! I have found that although I have thrown it behind me and thought I had eluded and escaped it, there was one which still had to be fitted to the shoulders further on, whether I would or would not. (E. Paxton Hood.)

Self-denial is the first law of grace

-A number of ministers were once dining together after an ordination, and when one of them seemed unduly attentive to the good things before him, he met with the approval of the host, who said, “That’s right! To take care of Self is the first law of nature.” “Yes, sir,” said an old minister sitting near, in reply; “but to deny self is the first law of grace!”

Self-denial is the sign of a Christian

The devil once met a Christian man, and said, “Thou sayest, ‘I am a servant of God.’ What doest thou more than I do? You say that you fast; so do I. I neither eat nor drink.” He went through a whole list of sins, of which he said he was clear; but at last the Christian said, “I do one thing thou never didst, I deny myself.” There was the point in which the Christian came out. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


The mortar with which the swallow builds is the mud from cart-wheels, sides of wells, and such-like places. This it makes more adhesive by moistening it with its own saliva. As the bird parts with a portion of its own substance to cement its nest, so should we be prepared to give up, not that which costs us nothing, but which may involve much self-denial and self-sacrifice on our part, that which we love and cherish most, as Abraham was prepared to offer up Isaac at the bidding of God. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)


That the faith of Christ does in sober truth involve a daily cross-bearing; and that it is agreeable to reason and the Divine nature that thus it should be--this is the proposition which we have to establish.

The words of Christ are of a nature which, it is probable, the disciples by no means appreciated to the full at the time when they were uttered. Since the crucifixion of the Son of God, the Cross has to us associations of the most affecting kind. We cannot hear of taking up a cross without having our thoughts drawn back to the scenes of the last Passover--the street of grief--the fainting Redeemer--Simon the Cyrenian--the hill of Calvary. To take up a cross is to fulfil the spirit of His sacred life in the lowest depth of His humiliation. Let us consider how it fares with man’s intellect when he adopts the religion of the Crucified. It is sometimes the custom to assert that everything is easy and plain in the gospel system; that the heart and the conscience respond at once to its revelations and commandments; that the words of Christ do so awake an echo in the human soul that he who has heard can no more doubt than he can doubt his own existence. We believe all this to be quite wrong. Rather do we believe that there are vast difficulties in the way of a thorough and complete adoption of the truth in Jesus. The Bible represents that such would be the case. This is the meaning of all those passages which speak of the Cross of Christ as “being to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.” This is the explanation of the fact, again and again dwelt on by St. Paul, that “not many wise men after the flesh are called.” This is the ground of that mysterious confession of the Saviour himself--“I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes.” The fact is, the deeper we reflect upon the revelation of God, the more shall we find to baffle and confound. Be ye well assured, that if in your system of religion there is nothing out of your grasp; if everything is according to reason, and nothing beyond it; if you are never called upon to accept upon trust, to believe without sight, then is your system not that of God. It is against reason that this should be. Reason herself cries out that she ought to be baffled in measuring God, that she ought to be shipwrecked on the ocean of His perfection, lost in the profundity of His counsels. It is against revelation, for revelation ever speaks of mortification and self-denial, as requisite in those who accept her. Let Christ be God, acknowledge Him, with St. Peter, to be the Son of the Blessed, and reason echoes His answer, and sets to her seal that it is true. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

But we turn for a brief moment to other illustrations of the text.
Vie consider it indeed, as a verse calculated in an especial degree for the age in which we live: viewed not only with reference to matters of faith, but of practice.
This is not peculiarly an age of cruelty, or rapine, or licentiousness; but it is, we think, preeminently an age when men dream only of pleasing themselves.
To be prosperous is to win applause.
“So long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak good unto thee,” was the proverb of the Psalmist, and it has met with a complete fulfilment in our generation. And very expedient therefore do we reckon it, that we should occasionally turn aside to contemplate a severer model; and remember that it is not the highest law of our being to please ourselves; that even when it involves no positive crime, self-pleasing is not the noblest or safest rule of
man. Who are they who stand forth in the dimness of vanished years--landmarks in the wilderness of time, giant rocks by which we cross the ocean of the past? They are not the men who looked to themselves alone, and followed the impulse of the moment, alike in their serious pursuits and in their sports. These selfish ones have no record among posterity; there is none that remembereth, nor any that regardeth. The living men; they who being dead yet speak, are the men who thought first of others and last of themselves; who were ready to abandon country, and kinsfolk, and friends, to help the poor out of the dust and the feeble out of the mire. But why, amongst Christian people, linger here upon the threshold? deeper and holier thoughts lie beyond. If we are not falsely called, if our whole profession is not a lie, we are followers of Christ. And what of Him our Master and Example, says the apostle? “Even Christ also pleased not Himself.” And if in other things, then in this let us walk according as He walked. We cannot be like Him if we are always in pleasure and never in pain: not like Him if we indulge ourselves in every wish that rises within, in every taste and fancy. More over, to leave undone that which we cannot do, this is not self-denial; not to buy what we cannot pay for, this is not self-denial; not to labour when otherwise we must starve, is not self-denial. These are crosses laid upon us by God’s providence, not crosses which we ourselves take up. Of our own free will we must forego pleasant things, and perform disagreeable tasks, leaving undone for His sake what we might have done, and doing in His name what none could make us do, if we would be like Him who bowed the heavens and came down. So act, young and old, and we tell you not that thus acting ye become shadows in the world of the Son of God Himself; that ye perpetuate His life upon earth; nay, more, we tell you that without so acting, without this self-restraint and selfdiscipline, it is but a false confidence of peace here and hereafter on which ye build. (Bishop Woodford.)

Christ’s terms of discipleship


1. Self-denial.

2. Endurance--Take up his cross daily.

3. Perseverance--“And follow Me.”


1. Because selfishness brings ultimate loss.

2. Because sacrifice brings ultimate salvation.

THE MOTIVE INCULCATED--“For My sake.” (A. F. Barfield.)

Bearing the cross

What is this cross, and how are we to bear it?

THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE INSTRUMENT AND THE SIGN OF SALVATION Are we, then, to understand this literally? No. We must follow the spirit and not the letter. Everywhere the cross is before us, beside us, in us.

THERE ARE THREE WAYS OF BEARING-THE CROSS, OR THE CONTRADICTIONS AND SORROWS WHICH AFFLICT US. I do not here speak of those frivolous spirits which shake off the cross when it presents itself, and seek to escape it by diversions.

1. There are those who carry their cross with anger, with indignation, in revolt against providence or destiny.

2. Others, more reasonable, carry their cross with stoicism, in bearing up against it by a violent reaction of pride or of false dignity.

3. The only way to make suffering profitable is to accept it Christianly, that is, with patience and resignation. (Abbe Bautain.)

The law of daily Christian life

If we mean to be disciples of Christ indeed, we shall have every day--

1. Something to put away for Christ’s sake--“Let him deny himself.”

2. Something to take up and bear for Christ--“Take up his cross.”

3. Something actively to do for Christ’s sake--“And follow Me” (R. Tuck, B A)

Self-denial the test of religious earnestness

Jesus told His disciples that they were not worthy of being His disciples unless they bore the cross for His sake.

1. To us Christians the cross is the symbol of salvation, self-devotion, obedience to our Father, loyalty to our Saviour. But to those who heard Jesus it was a symbol

(1) of terrible pain;

(2) of shame unspeakable;

(3) of the burden of guilt. It is, then, in this light that we must look at what our Lord says of the cross.

2. All this is summed up in the one word self-denial. It is self that makes us shrink from the cross.

3. To guard against mistake let us remember that while we deny ourselves we must follow Jesus. There is a self-denial which is not a following of Jesus.

(1) Men often deny themselves in one respect in order to indulge themselves in another.

(2) Self-denial for its own sake is not a following of Jesus. The way of the cross is the way to heaven, and the crown of thorns prepares for the crown of glory. (Canon Liddell.)

The conditions of service

Penalties accompany prizes. The more holy, resolute, defined the life, the greater the antagonism f religion that lays hold of the deepest depths of thought, that is real, boundless, and inexhaustible, is only to be had on three conditions.

1. “Let him deny himself”--not cripple or degrade self, but govern it.

2. “Take up the cross.” Not your neighbour’s, but your own cross. Take it up; do not walk round it and admit it only, but take it up, every muscle strained; honestly on your shoulders carry it.

3. “Follow Me.” Take the consequences of open avowal. The path is plain. It leads not to the monastery. No more social, loving man ever lived than the Master. Keep in touch with Him; grasp His hand; listen to His voice. (New Outlines on New Testament.)

Following Christ

Those who companied with Jesus while He lived were scarcely in danger of losing their lives. After His death persecution threatened the lives of Christians, and, while the Christian life became more dangerous, the real and Christian living grew more rigid, and the denying of self, which was required by the circumstances of our Lord’s day, grew and expanded until it was made to mean that all bodily delights and joys of the senses and affections were either positively wrong or infirmities which should be discouraged. The ascetic life, not because for the passing moment it might be more prudent or more useful--as, for instance, when the soldier in campaign patiently undergoes privation, eats mouldy bread, and drinks polluted water, not because it is a fine thing to eat such bread and drink such water, but because the circumstances of the campaign demand it--the ascetic life for its own sake was enforced in the Early Church. There is an asceticism for the sake of e higher good which at times may be necessary and most laudable, but the difference is between the mother who goes without food that she may still the hunger of her little ones, and the monk or hermit who reduces himself to an unlovely skeleton because self-denial is intrinsically good. Yes, the spirit of Christianity in this respect became pagan; it was but a new Stoicism without its philosophy. (W. Page Roberts, M. A.)


What is self-denial in its Christian sense? For clearly when we deny ourselves we are the deniers; it is one self denying another self, the real self, clothed with Divine authority, denying the lower and usurping self. It is our soul’s denial of the selfish part of us. It is the supremacy of our sense of right among the multitude of our prompters, or against the resistance of our inclinations. It is the starving and binding up of ungenerous desires, that nobler desires may have free course and be glorified. It is a command over the sensual passions of anger, fear, envy, jealousy, and irritable impatience, that other powers, which bring only strength and joy and love, maybe the masters of our being. If it mortifies a lower self-love, it is that a nobler self-knowledge may lift a meek and strong heart to God. If there were no higher demands of our nature, there would be no reason that the lower ones should be restrained. For self-denial is no monkish virtue; no recluse’s safety; no ascetic’s way of recommending himself to God; no pale, timid shadow shrinking from the light, and denying itself the natural joys of man; no self-inflicted pain, the price paid here for escape from pain hereafter; no abject creeping on the earth that a Power to whom abjectness is pleasing may deign to cast His eye upon us--it is the upward life of a child of God, loving what God loves, refusing to be in bondage to anything that would remove him from the light of his Father’s face. (J. H. Thom.)

And take up his cross daily

Of taking up the cross; or, patience under all kinds of sufferings

There are two great hindrances and impediments of Christianity, the one inward, the other outward.

Ourselves, the second is the afflictions and crosses of the world. The former must be denied, the latter taken up. First, I shall consider the words more generally, and show that it is our duty and concern to entertain with patience and submission the afflictions and crosses of what kind soever which are our allotment in this world. As to the first, namely, the nature of that patience which is required of us under our crosses and afflictions, it contains in it these following things:--First: Christian patience imports a quiet and sedate temper of mind, and shuts out all inward repining and murmuring. Secondly: There is not only a silence of the soul, but of the tongue, which is another ingredient of this duty. This excludes all repining words, all desponding language. Thirdly: In a humble confession and acknowledgment, which is the next exertment of the duty in the text. Fourthly: This duty speaks not only a religious confession and humiliation, but likewise faith and hope, and waiting upon God; a depending on Him for strength to be enabled to bear the cross, and for a happy issue out of it. Fifthly: This virtue is accompanied with cheerfulness and rejoicing, with praising and blessing of God for His fatherly love in afflicting.

I undertook to offer such reasons and arguments as I apprehend may be of force to excite you to the practice of this important duty.

1. Consider, that impatience and fretting are no ease at all to us in our calamities, but, on the contrary, they render our grievances heavier and more intolerable. They do but nail us faster to the cross, and put us to greater and more exquisite pain. The silly bird entangles and hampers itself by its struggling to free itself from the snare wherein ‘tis catched. We never find ourselves bettered by our reluctancy: all that we purchase by it is a more grievous durance. It is observable that the Israelites never found any mitigation of their punishments and judgments by their murmuring against God, but they rather lay the longer under the lash for it.

2. We are to consider on the other side that submission and holy silence are the best way to put a happy period to our afflictions. It is so certainly in the nature of the thing itself, for patience lightens our burden; but it is much more so by the order and appointment of Providence. God is pleased to think thoughts of mercy and deliverance when He beholds our spirits wrought into a humble frame.

3. The serious consideration and persuasion that God is the author and disposer of all our afflictions is another prevalent argument to excite us to a humble submission and resignation.

4. Another is this, that we have provoked God, by our ill behaviour, to inflict these temporal evils upon us.

5. It should be a great support and stay to our minds to consider the vast advantages which accrue to us by the bodily and temporal crosses which are our allotment in this life. Every good man is a gainer by his crosses and distresses. The refiner casts the gold into the fire, not to make it worse, but better, namely, by purifying it.

6. A steady view of future happiness will effectually promote this. Some objections which may be raised in defence, or at least in excuse, of impatience. I begin with the first plea, and that is this: Nobody’s case is so bad as mine; so great are my troubles, so heavy is my burden. I see that many have no afflictions, but I can’t see that any one is visited in that degree that I am.

To which I answer--

1. All persons are generally inclined to think that their own troubles are the greatest, and that none have the like. It is, as it were, natural to men in distress to imagine that none are so miserable as themselves; but they do not know what pressures others lie under and are tormented with. But--

2. Suppose that thy distresses and grievances far exceed those of some others, yet there is no room for impatience if thou considerest these following particulars:

(1) It may be thou hast great and strong lusts, and these must be extirpated by afflictions of that quality. The remedy must be proportioned to the disease. Lesser afflictions would not awaken and rouse thee out of thy security, would not stir thee up to fly to God, and to beg mercy and pardon; even as men do not repair to a physician for a small indisposition, or to a surgeon for a scratch.

(2) Perhaps thou art one on whom God hath bestowed great and vigorous graces, and ‘tis His pleasure that these should be exercised, and the degrees of them manifested. Strong faith and love will endure strong trials. The greater ability and strength thou hast, the greater is the burthen which thou mayest expect to be laid upon thee.

(3) Great afflictions make way for great temporal blessings. When men intend to build high, they lay the foundation very low.

(4) Great afflictions make way for great spiritual blessings; that is, the increase of grace and holiness, and the manifesting them to the world. Abraham’s faith was enhanced by the greatness of his trial, and he became the pattern of belief to all succeeding ages.

(5) It is to be considered that no affliction is so great but God can deliver thee out of it; and ‘tis His usual method to magnify His power and wisdom by delivering His servants out of the greatest. Another complaint is this: My afflictions are many and various, and heaped upon me in great numbers, and this is it that shocks my patience, and even destroys it.

I shall answer--

1. Are not thy sins many, and often repeated? And then ‘tis no wonder that thy crosses are so too. Thou canst not justly complain of the variety of thy grievances, when thou reflectest on the multitude of thy offences.

2. There is sometimes a necessity of the multiplicity of afflictions, because what one cloth not effect another must.

3. If we were used to one sort of affliction only, it would become familiar to us, so that we should not mind it, and consequently it would not be serviceable to us; as sometimes physic of one sort, if often taken, loses its virtue.

4. Let us not immoderately lament and bemoan our condition, as if we were the only persons that had many afflictions heaped upon us. If we look into the sacred records, we shall find that the best and holiest men have been treated after this manner. Their calamities and distresses have been many, and of divers kinds.

5. Are the afflictions of good men many and various? So are their comforts: as the fore-mentioned apostle testifies, “As our sufferings abound, so our consolation also aboundeth” (2 Corinthians 1:5).

6. God is able to rescue us out of many evils and distresses as well as out of a single one. “He delivereth in six troubles, yea, in seven”; that is, in sundry and various troubles (Job 5:5). But the complaint rises yethigher: My afflictions are not only great and many, but long and tedious; insomuch that my patience will be tired out before they leave me,

But consider--

1. Whether they are not short in comparison of the many days and years of ease, health, and plenty that thou hast had.

2. It may be thy sins have been a long time indulged by thee, and then thou hast no reason to repine at the length of thy afflictions.

3. Think of this, that thy afflictions are long, that they may accomplish the work for which they were sent. Thy lusts and evil habits have been long growing, and are now rooted and fastened in thee: wherefore there is need of some lasting cross to root them out.

4. Art not thou conscious to thyself that God hath a long time called thee to repentance, and yet thou hast not been obsequious to that merciful call?

5. Complain not of the length of thy afflictions, seeing they may be serviceable to prevent the eternal and never-failing torments of hell.

6. Thy afflictions are of more than ordinary duration, that they may sufficiently exercise thy faith and all other graces, and make them conspicuous and renowned.

7. Our longest pressures and troubles are but short in comparison of future glory.

This being so hard a work, I will offer to you those means and helps in the use of which, by the Divine assistance, you may be effectually enabled to discharge this difficult duty, if ever the providence of God shall exact it of you.

1. That you may take up the cross, see that you deny yourselves. This makes way for chat, and that can never be done without this. Most rationally, therefore, is self-denial enjoined here by Christ in the first place.

2. That you may suffer death for Christ, prepare yourselves beforehand by your other lesser sufferings.

3. That you may not shrink and fall back in that day when you are called to lay down your lives for Christ consider the absolute necessity of professing His name and owning His cause. Weigh our Saviour’s peremptory words, namely, that if you confess Him before men, He will confess you before His Father; but if you deny Him before men, He will deny you before His Father (Matthew 10:32-33). (J. Edwards, D. D.)

The duty of taking up the cross

It may appear difficult, at first sight, to comprehend the goodness of God in afflicting us, or commanding us to afflict ourselves. Could not He render us holy, without rendering us miserable, by way of preparative? Doubtless He could have done it; and He could have produced all men as He created the first man, at their full growth; but His wisdom has seen it fit that we should pass through the pains and hazards of infancy and youth, in the latter instance; and, in the former, that through tribulation and affliction we should enter into His heavenly kingdom. It is His will; and therefore, though no reason could be assigned, silence and submission would best become us. But there are many.

1. It is obvious to remark that Christianity did not bring afflictions into the world with it; it found them already there. The world is full of them. Men are disquieted, either by the tempers of others, or their own; by their sins, or by their follies; by sickness of body, or sorrow of heart.

2. Let us reflect how it came to be so, and we shall find still less cause of complaint. The misery of man proceeded not originally from God; he brought it upon himself.

3. From what we feel in ourselves, and what we see and hear of others, every person who has thought at all upon the subject must have been convinced that, circumstanced as we are, “it is good for us to be afflicted.” Naturally, man is inclined to pride and wrath, to intemperance and impurity, to selfishness and worldly-mindedness; desirous to acquire more, and unwilling to part with anything. Before he can enter into the kingdom of heaven he must become humble and meek, temperate and pure, disinterested and charitable, resigned, and prepared to part with all. The great instrument employed by heaven to bring about this change in him is the cross. (Bishop Horne.)

The daily cross

It is an INSTRUCTIVE command. Divine commands teach as well as prescribe; and this command teaches--

1. That the Christian’s path in this life is one of continued trial.

2. This command teaches that continued trial arises from the opposition of self to the will of God. The Saviour’s words evidently imply this; showing that the daily bearing of the cross chiefly consists in the daily denying of self.

3. We are taught by this command that the daily trial must not be passively endured merely, but readily borne. Heathen philosophers of old could declaim on the folly of repining under troubles which could neither be prevented nor escaped.

4. This command teaches us that the taking up the daily cross is one eminent and distinguishing mark of true discipleship. “Follow Me,” He saith; “not in speaking with the tongues of men and of angels, not in the gift of prophecy, not in the understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge, not in the faith that could remove mountains; but in the denying thyself in the daily bearing of the cross.” This likens to Christ; this gives a just title to the name of “Christian,” and is a distinguishing mark of true discipleship.

It is a PLAIN command. Surely if any man refuses to follow Christ in the path of self-denial it cannot be because the meaning of the command to do so is hard to be understood; but because he abhors the sacrifice that is required.

It is a WISE command. True wisdom is evidenced by selecting the most suitable means for effecting important ends.

1. One great end of this command is the spiritual and everlasting good of individual men.

2. Another important end of this command is the purity of the universal Church.

It is a GRACIOUS command.

1. It was dictated by faithful kindness.

2. It prescribes the way to real happiness.

3. It calls disciples to tread the same glorious path which Himself had trodden before.

Concluding observations:

1. No man belongs to Christ who is destitute of the spirit required by this command.

2. The meekly bearing of daily crosses is the best preparation for heavier trials.

3. Daily grace is necessary for bearing the daily cross.

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Personal cross-bearing

EACH MAN HAS HIS OWN CROSS. Are there, then, any principles which will guide us in answering the question, “What is my cross?”

1. Anything that hinders your highest life in God must be given up, and to give it up may be your cross.

2. Anything than hinders your largest and fullest service for Christ. One of the most distinguished oculists living in London to-day was a great cricketer in his early years, and after he commenced practice he used to seek in that noble game a relief from the anxiety and pressure of his professional work. He found out, however, very soon, that the game interfered with the steadiness of hand so imperative in a man touching one of the most delicate organs of the human body; he found out, in a word, that he could not be a great oculist and a great cricketer at the same time, and he at once resolved to give up the cricket--it interfered with the serious business of his life. In a higher sense this may be true of us.

EVERY MAN MUST TAKE UP HIS CROSS. Our Lord is not speaking in the text of those crosses which come to us whether we like or not; but of voluntary crosses--self-denials which the soul inflicts on itself. Such crosses we may either take up, or may shut our eyes to them and not see them, or may see them and pass them by. Christ does not compel us to take up our cross. We are free to refuse it. But remember, no man can go to heaven unless he feels the cross somewhere. There must be the cross in us as well as the cross for us. And it is a daily cross, a daily surrender of self. It is easy to make a great sacrifice once; but it is hard to make a little sacrifice every day--and that is what is required. It is the test of our discipleship. If we fail here we fail everywhere. I remember reading--I think it was in the Indian Mutiny--of a siege which the British army conducted; how they captured, after long fighting, the walls of the city they had besieged; but the native garrison within only slowly and stubbornly retreated, fighting their way step by step, until at last they entrenched themselves in the citadel, and there defied the British troops. So it is with us. Who has not known this experience? Self may be beaten by Christ in the outworks of life; it may retreat from Christ; it may yield one point after another; or, to vary the metaphor, you may throw open room after room in the soul to Christ until all the soul is open save one little room: into it self has retreated; there it has entrenched itself. Until Christ is master of that room, He is not master of you. Hold one thing back, you hold all; yield one thing, you yield all. Yes, a man’s cross is just that which he finds it most difficult to yield. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

Taking up one’s cross

This has become a phrase, because it just hits the facts of life. One would like to trace the history of that phrase. But here are samples of crosses which some of you have to take up. A feeble and ailing body which ties you to one place and robs you of many joys--that is a cross. The peevishness or perversity or jealousy of a dweller in your house you cannot escape--that is a cross. To be denied the rank, preferment, or place to which you are entitled, by the mischance of fortune or the arrogance of powerful caprice--that is a cross. The unfaithfulness of friends and the infidelity of those you have done your best to serve--that is a cross. To be childless for some is a cross. Unrequited affection is a cross. The ill deeds of those who are dear to you is a cross. To be misunderstood, maligned, or hindered is a cross. To have your home made so desolate by death that each day stares cold and lonely upon you--that is a cross; and if I were to go on for an hour I should not complete the long sum of the world’s crosses. What are we to do with them all? “Take them up,” says Christ; that is, recognize them as your portion, and bear them uncomplainingly. “Take them up daily,” mark the word! just as you put on your dress. They may chafe you at first, but as you think of Him whose servant you are, and whose eye is your guiding-star, and who Himself set you an example in bearing His cross, the burden will grow lighter until you scarcely feel its pressure. (W. Page Roberts, M. A.)

The cross is near at hand

An old mystic once said a true word: “Never run after a cross, and never run away from one.” No, you need not run after it. The cross is near you, with you, in you, if you will only see it. (G. S.Barrett, B. A.)

The crucial test

Lord Bacon, in his great work, speaks of the supreme value of testing our hypotheses in natural science by what he calls the experi-mentum crucis--the experiment of the cross, or, as we should say, a crucial test. There is a crucial test in the kingdom of Christ.

The dignity of cross-bearing

Till Christ spoke of bearing the cross, the phrase had no special meaning. Under His use it has become proverbial. Cross-bearing is now understood to mean self-denial. A remarkable change of feeling has come about regarding the symbol itself. The cross in those days was a mark of shame. To the apostles it was as abhorrent as are the gallows to-day. But now the cross is honourable. The Crusaders wore the emblem on their clothing; orders of knighthood distinguished themselves by it; churches lift up the symbol as their conspicuous designation; it is even regarded as one of the choicest ornaments of jewellery. This change of sentiment is due to the fact that Christ “endured the cross, despising the shame.” The symbol is honourable; so ought to be that which is symbolized. In fact, self-denial has come to be considered an essential quality of nobility in character. Recently, a company of unbelievers followed one of their number to the grave, bearing over his body the emblem of the cross. The fact was noticed as inconsistent, but they stoutly defended their action, saying that the cross, with that which it symbolized, was worthy to be the distinguishing characteristic of manhood. Christ, the first and great cross-bearer, taught them, no less than all the world beside, this fact. It is heroic. We are thrilled with interest at the effort made to rescue six men imprisoned in a coal-mine. Twelve thousand feet of earth are pierced to reach them; a great body of men are busy, at a great expenditure of money and at risk of life, toiling for five days and nights. At last they are saved, and the land rejoices. Just what was then done to save earthly life the Church must do to save spiritual life. And yet the temptation remains to avoid self-denial. Cross-bearing we love to commend in speech, but shrink from in action. (A. P. Foster.)

Verse 24

Luke 9:24

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it

The gain of loss


WHAT IT IS TO LOSE THE LIFE, The term “lose,” as here employed, is to be understood in the sense of parting with, giving up, surrendering; and when the act is done it is to be treated as something entirely gone, completely lost. You observe another thing here, also, that this is not loss in the ordinary way. Usually when anything is lost, it is either by carelessness, indifference, or bad management, but always against the will of the loser. And even in cases where none of these conditions apply--where the utmost care, attention, and good management are exercised, and losses occur, they would be prevented if possible. But this is not so in the case before us. Jesus says, “Whosoever will lose his life,” or “Whosoever will save his life,” showing that in either case the act is deliberate and willingly done. No man is forced into a sinful life, nor is any man compelled to become a Christian; in both cases the will of the actor is left free and unfettered, hence his responsibility. And it is just here where the test becomes so keen and crucial--the life--the entire life. Men would more readily accept discipleship if the conditions were easier, if they could be met half-way with some compromise. But we are met by men who raise objections to this doctrine of complete and unconditional surrender to Christ. They say it is too hard a thing for human nature to do, that men must be more than human to comply with such conditions. That it is more than human nature in itself can accomplish we freely admit.


1. The gain is present. Self-love, love of the world, or the things of the world, as a primary and all-absorbing principle of the soul, is ruinous to the entire life--the soul. But the man who sets his affections on Christ and things above--such a man saves his soul and secures his interests for eternity. This consecration to Christ brings present gain. A man gives himself up to the service o! God, and what follows? He keeps his life. A

Christian man only can be said to be a living man. He has Divine life in the soul, born of God, re-created after the similitude of the heavenly. Has he not gained then richly, abundantly, yea, transcendently, in giving up his life for Christ’s sake?

2. The gain is eternal. The advantages and pleasures of a Christian life, as they relate to the present only, more than compensate for any sacrifice which that life involves. But see I how rich to repletion is the Divine method of repayments” he shall keep it to eternal life.” “Ye are dead,”--referring to the old nature where death unto sin has been produced--“and your life”--the new creation, or life Divine in the soul--“is hid with Christ in God”--safe, inviolable, doubly secure, kept by Divine power and grace unto the time of eternal redemption. This is the now--the present, the here, of probation and pilgrimage. And are not these honours and immunities the loss of which worlds could not compensate? Oh then t who would not lose the life for Christ’s sake? Loss by Christian service is a misapplied term; there is no real loss, for even in those times when we are apt to think the loss or sacrifice the greatest and most severe--when we have to suffer for conscience’ sake, then the compensating principle is working most vigorously in our lives, giving back to us an increase of riches that gold cannot purchase; advancing, refining, and fitting us for nobler company, and writing for us some fresh record that shall give increased emphasis and sweetness to the Master’s “ Well done” at the last. This subject suggests three thoughts.

1. The present makes the future. The NOW is everything to us.

2. This is the time of preparation. That of retribution.

3. For what, then, are you living--Self or Christ? “ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (J. T. Higgins.)

Gaining life by losing it

The highest life, by thinking of something else than your life at all, of something else than yourself, than either of your own body or your own soul. Quit thinking about yourself and your own life; that is how man shall attain the true life, by losing himself in something else I Now, this is apt to seem a contradiction and a paradox. Is not the first principle in doing anything this--to keep the thing steadily before you and aim right at it? It seems a sort of getting at the true life round a corner; going in one direction in order to get into another. And yet it is not so. See! It is true that with respect to the work man has to do outside himself, “the way to do it is to keep it directly in view, aim consciously at it. But what I want you to notice is, that the moment you come to the operations of mind or life in man himself, not merely in this higher life Christ speaks of, but in almost any part of his nature, in man himself, the opposite principle comes in--this very principle which seems so paradoxical, the principle that losing the life, letting it go, not thinking of it, is the surest way of saving it. This is not only true with regard to coming to the best for one’s soul, it is true of coming to the best even in the commonest faculties and qualities of life. Why, you see the truth of it every day even in such a common thing as the operations of mind and memory. You want the name of a person or of a place. It is something you know perfectly well--you know it, you say, as well as your own name. Yet you cannot recall it; no l and the serious thing is that the harder you try to recall it, the more it won’t come. Dr. W. B. Carpenter tells how some years ago an English bank cashier lost the key of the vault. In the morning it was not on hand. The whole business was at a stand. What must be done? He certainly had it the night before and put it some-where--but where he could not remember. A sharp detective was sent for, and when he had inquired into every circumstance connected with the affair, he said, “The only way is for you to go home and think of something else.” And the man did go home; probably found it very hard work to get interested in anything else but at last something attracted his attention, set him thinking in quite a different direction, and then, almost directly, it flashed into his mind where he had put it--and all was right. Take a higher operation of mind than mere memory. Did you ever try to cross a stream by some rather awkward stepping-stones, or by a rather narrow plank? Or have you tried to walk at some dangerous height? or, in fact, anything requiring a particularly clear, steady head? If you have, you know that it is to be done exactly by not thinking about it. If you begin looking down at the stepping-stones, or at the water, or at the depth beneath you, and thinking about it, and about how you shall go through with it, you are lost. Whereas, if you are so occupied, thinking about something else, that you hardly notice the stepping-stones; if you are on some errand in which you are so eager that you are not thinking of yourself--that losing yourself is your safety--you may go perfectly safely over places and heights that afterwards, when you do come to think about them, will make you dizzy to look at. There, too, life is safest by not thinking about saving it. Take another matter--the preservation of health. One condition of keeping in good health is not to think about your health, but to be wholesomely occupied with quite other thoughts. Think about your health, begin feeling your pulse, watching your symptoms, considering all the things which might possibly be the matter with you, and you may think yourself into an illness. Why do physicians so often order “change of scene” and “ something to distract the mind,” but that the patient may be led to lose himself, and so find the health which he could not gain while anxiously thinking of himself? And so, when there is some epidemic about, how true you constantly see it that “he that will save his life shall lose it.” The most dangerous thing of all is to be constantly thinking and scheming how to escape infection. And so it is even in life’s most tremendous crisis and trials and perils. In those terrible days of persecution, when the Christian might any hour be taken before some magistrate, and have it put to him to say a word or two cursing and denying Christ, or else to be thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre, or put to any cruel torture that happened to have come in fashion-they believed their Master’s words. They didn’t worry themselves about saving life, and they did “find it.” They found it even here--here, as Christ had said, a hundred-fold, even with their persecutions. The life they had was a nobler, happier life, because it was not occupied in thinking of its own safety, and when they lost it, why, they found it elsewhere. Yes; for these are the things which make us feel man’s immortality. It is not when I see men in a mad rush for safety; it is not when I see men setting such store on the mere life that they will sacrifice everything for it, that I am most impressed with life’s deathless quality, but just the opposite. When I road--and every week there is some instance of the kind--of those who inthe wrecked ship or the burning building are content to let life go in order to help others; when I read of such brave men as that lifeboat crew who, a while ago, pushed off into the raging sea out to the stranded ship, and the storm was so awful that their own boat swamped, and eight of them were drowned; or when I hear such a story as that of the colliers in a mine only five miles from my old Lancashire home, where there was one of those awful explosions, and the men from some lower levels came rushing up right into the danger of the deathly afterblast, when the only chance of escape was by another shaft; and one man knew this, and stood his ground there in that dangerous passage warning the men, as they came rushing along, that their only safety was the other way, and when they urged him to go that other way, saying, “No; some one must stay there to guide the others”--ah! these are the things which make you feel that immortality is real. For the moment you touch this--not self-preservation, but self-renunciation--you feel that there is something in such life of quite other sort than that gross matter by which it can be crushed or burned or drowned; something against which those brute substances and forces are as powerless as a sledge-hammer against steam. I know it seems a hard doctrine. The whole spirit of the common world rises up against it. “We must look to ourselves,” men say. Yes, I know how natural this is, and I know that it has its place. I do not want to speak intolerantly or condemnatorily about self-interest. Self-interest, if it is not the highest thing, is one of the useful forces of the world. Self-interest has set man grappling with nature, has taught him the arts of self-protection, has trained him to dig and plant, and spin and weave, has sent him sailing and discovering over the world, has raised the human race from savagism to civilization. Yes, and it has all this, and this kind of thing, to do perpetually. Self-interest is one of the great, strong, permanent forces at the base of life! It is part of nature; but it is not the whole of nature, and it is not the highest nature. Through these self-motives, more and more disciplined and restrained, man should be ever rising higher. The world’s best life and work are always leading on to this higher quality in life and work, of losing self, forgetting self. The very things which begin with self do not come to their best till self is lost, forgotten. If you only want to be a public speaker, well, you may begin your practising for it--perhaps you have to do--by thinking about yourself; but you will never come to any real eloquence till you have got away past that, till in some hour of passionate feeling you have forgotten yourself in your subject. The physician may study medicine in order to earn his own living; “but he will be a poor doctor who does not by and by become so interested in his work, and in trying to do good to his sick patients, that he constantly forgets himself. So with all the real excelling power in life. The real power to do any worthy thing in the world depends upon our loving that thing more than ourselves. The moment you rise to that--forget yourself, think of something else, some one else--that moment your work takes on a higher quality. The merest hand-worker goes to work for his own need, but he will find his work happier, and do it better, whenever he forgets his own interest in thinking of his employer’s interest. And just so the employer carries on his business primarily for his own self-interest. (B. Herferd, D. D.)

Life through death

Men are saved only as they get the better of themselves; the higher self treading down and treading out the lower self. What is virtue but sharp conflict all the way along, and in death alone the victory? If ever we enter heaven, we go in on our shields. To escape with our lives is to lose our lives. To be slain is to live for evermore.

IT IS COMMONLY REQUIRED OF US TO SACRIFICE A LOWER GOOD IN ORDER TO GAIN A HIGHER. Not always, but almost always. The rule is, with regard to the good things of this world, that every man shall take his choice, and then abide by it; selecting some one thing that he wants, and consenting to forego all the rest. The world is thus turned into a vast bazaar, where everything is ticketed and has its price, but where no man makes more than one purchase at a time. Especially true is it that a lower sort of good has to be given up for a higher. If we may not have God and Mammon for our friends, still less may we reverse the order, and have Mammon and God. All that a man may win of earthly good he must be ready to sacrifice, if need be, in order to save his soul. You may call the demand a hard one; but all the analogies of our ordinary life endorse and favour it. As pleasures are trampled on in the chase after gain, and gold has no glitter for a proudly aspiring eye, so is it no more than just and fair that he who would shine as a star in heaven, should be willing to have his light eclipsed and quenched on earth. Pleasure, money, fame--each has its price; and nobody complains of it. The soul, too, has its price. Its redemption is precious. It may cost us all we are worth, and all we covet, to save it. The life temporal may have to be flung utterly away in order to make sure of the life eternal. The men who burnt Polycarp thought they were taking his life. They would have taken it, had they persuaded him to deny his Lord.

BY FIRST SECURING THE HIGHER GOOD, WE ARE PREPARED PROPERLY TO ENJOY THE LOWER, AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO SECURE IT. The principle I wish to emphasize is, that no worldly good of any sort can be well secured, or properly enjoyed, if pursued by itself and for its own sake. This may be seen in our most ordinary life. The man whose aim is pleasure may, indeed, secure it for a while; but only for a while. It soon palls upon his senses, disgusts and wearies him. So of gold. So also of fame. The best way to win renown is not to work for it, not to think of it, but to work for something higher; to work for God and work for man, forgetting self, and, by and by, it will be found that both God and man are helping us. He that most utterly forgets himself is the one most surely and most warmly remembered by the world. General Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States, spent forty years of his life in comparatively obscure, but very faithful, service at our Western outposts; receiving no applause from the country at large, and asking for none; intent only upon doing promptly and efficiently the duties laid upon him. By and by events, over which he had exercised no control, called him into notice upon a broader theatre. And then it was discovered how faithful and how true a man he was. The Republic, grateful for such a series of self-denying and important services, snatched him from the camp, and bore him, with loud acclaim, to her proudest place of honour. And this was done at the cost of bitterest disappointment to more than one, whose high claims to this distinction were not denied, but who had been known to be aspiring to the exalted seat. And so through our whole earthly life--in all its spheres and in all its struggles. To lose is to find; to die is to live. It is so also in our religion. We begin by abjuring all; we end by enjoying all. He that loves God with all his heart, and serves Him with all his powers, working here, with a self-forgetting devotion, in the world where God has planted him; willing to forego pleasure, gain, renown, and everything for Christ, shall find that everything comes back to him--if not in its material fulness, yet in its essential strength and spirit. Am I charged with preaching that “gain is godliness”? Not so, my friend. But godliness is gain. It begins by denouncing and denying all; it ends by restoring all. First it desolates, and then it rebuilds. In conclusion--

1. We may learn the great mistake committed by men of the world in their chase after worldly good. They make it an end. They must reverse the present order of their lives. They must learn to seek first the kingdom of God. They must abandon themselves to the service of Christ.

2. We may learn why it is the happiness of Christians is so imperfect. They have only partially denied themselves; are only partially resigned to the love and service of their Maker. Hence they are still in part devoted to the world and fettered by it blot till the last link is sundered, and their souls entirely absorbed in Christ, can they attain to a perfect joy. Not till they are wholly dead can they wholly live. (R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)

Self-seeking involves a cross equally with self-abnegation

Does the cross terrify you by its dark shadow? Do those nails seem so sharp--that thorny crown so terrible--that spear so pointed--that darkness so heavy? Stay for a moment, while you listen to these solemn words: “What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” You are running away from the cross; but there is a cross being prepared for you. Remember that the cross was the instrument of a felon’s execution; and while you are flying away from the unfriendly shadow, behind the veil there is a ghastlier cross being erected for you. You are asserting your own will, you are loving your own life. You shall “lose it”; and lose it by your own irrational self-love. You have elected to live for yourself; you are running after what you conceive, in your own blindness and deception, to be your own self-interest. Do you not find, even now, O child of the world I that your self-interest is deluding you? The bubbles you grasp burst in your hand; the flowers you gather fade at your touch; as you go along life’s journey you are conscious of the approach--ever becoming more and more terrible--of a cloud of darker sorrow, while the present sense of blank disappointment becomes more and more appalling! Years creep on upon you; the effect of age is felt: the body is shattered as you near the end of your journey; the human strength decays; the joys of life are withered, and, one by one, as your earthly possessions slip from your grasp--then, what then? “Say ye to the wicked, It shall be ill with him, for the rewards of his hands shall be given unto him.” You have fled from suffering into the arms of suffering; you have endeavoured to escape from the cross, you find your portion in the cross for a!l eternity. Thus it is that the man prepares his own doom, and is himself the creator of his own misery. (W. H. H. Aitken, M. A.)


This is one of those sayings of Christ which have aroused in men opinions of the most opposite character. It has been received on one side with scorn, on the other by reverence. It has been considered as a piece of unpractical sentiment; it has been hailed as the very inmost law of all life. Any spiritual theory of life which tends to destroy, and not to assert, the individuality of man is an inhuman theory, and, as such, false. Any explanation of this text must account for the fact of the desire of individuality. We must keep our individuality, but we ought to take care that it is true and not false individuality. The key to distinguish them from each other is given in the text. It speaks of a double nature in man; one which asserts itself, the other which denies it. The first has a seeming life which is actual death; the second has a seeming death which is actual life; and, therefore, if life is inseparably connected with individuality, the development of the selfish nature is false individuality; the development of the unselfish nature is true individuality. Individuality is not isolation. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Losing the life to find it

It was my fortune last year, in going from Torcello to Venice, to be overtaken by one of the whirlwinds which sometimes visit the south. It was a dead calm, but the whole sky high overhead was covered with a pall of purple, sombre and smooth, but full of scarlet threads. Across this, from side to side, as if directed by two invisible armies, flew at every instant flashes of forked lightning; but so lofty was the storm--and this gave a hushed terror to the scene--that no thunder was heard. Beneath this sky the lagoon water was dead purple, and the weedy shoals left naked by the tide dead scarlet. The only motion in the sky was far away to the south, where a palm-tree of pale mist seemed to rise from the water, and to join itself above to a self-enfolding mass of seething cloud. We reached a small island and landed. An instant after, as I stood on the parapet of the fortification, amid the breathless silence, this pillar of cloud, ghastly white, and relieved against the violet darkness of the sky, its edge as clear as if cut out with a knife, came rushing forward over the lagoon, driven by the spirit of the wind, which, hidden within it, whirled and coiled its column into an endless spiral. The wind was only there, at its very edge there was not a ripple; but, as it drew near our island, it seemed to be pressed down upon the sea, and, unable to resist the pressure, opened out like a fan in a foam of vapour. Then, with a shriek which made every nerve thrill with excitement, the imprisoned wind leapt forth; the water of the lagoon, beaten flat, was torn away to the depth of half an inch; and, as the cloud of spray and wind smote the island, it trembled over it like a ship struck by a great wave. We seemed to be in the very heart of the universe at a moment when the thought of the universe was most sublime. The long preparation, and then the close, so unexpected and magnificent, swept every one completely out of self-consciousness; the Italian soldiers at my side danced upon the parapet and shouted with excitement. For an instant we were living in Nature’s being, not in our own isolation. It taught me a lesson; it made me feel the meaning of this text, “Whosoever will lose his life shall find it”; for it is in such scanty minutes that a man becomes possessor of that rare intensity of life which is, when it is pure, so wonderful a thing that it is like a new birth into a new world, in which, though self is lost, the highest individuality is found. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Saved by willing to lose

Two men were sinking a shaft. It was a dangerous business, for it was necessary to blast the rock. It was their custom to cut the fuse with a sharp knife. One man then entered the bucket, and made a signal to be hauled up. When the bucket again descended, the other man entered it, and, with one hand on the signal-rope and the other holding the fire, he touched the fuse, made the signal, and was rapidly drawn up before the explosion took place. One day they left the knife above, and, rather than ascend to procure it, they cut the fuse with a sharp stone. It took fire. “The fuse is on fire!” Both men leaped into the bucket, and made the signal, but the windlass would haul up but one man at a time; only one could escape. One of the men instantly leaped out, and said to the other, “Up wi’ ye; I’ll be in heaven in a minute.” With lightning speed the bucket was drawn up, and the one man was saved. The explosion took place. Men descended, expecting to find the mangled body of the other miner; but the blast had loosed a mass of rock, and it lay diagonally across him; and, with the exception of a few bruises and a little scorching, he was unhurt. When asked why he urged his comrade to escape, he gave an answer that sceptics would laugh at. Well, they may call it superstition or fanaticism, or whatever they choose. But what did this hero say when asked, “Why did you insist on this other man’s ascending?” In his quaint dialect he replied, “Because I knowed my soul was safe: for I’ve gie it in the hands of Him of whom it is said that ‘faithfulness is the girdle of his reins,’ and I knowed that what I gied Him He’d never gie up. But t’other chap was an awful wicked lad, and I wanted to gie him another chance.” All the infidelity in the world cannot produce such a signal act of heroism as that. Carlyle refers to this story in one of the chapters of his “Life of Sterling.”

Verse 25

Luke 9:25

What is a man advantaged

A wreck

Did you ever see a wreck?

I remember being one winter’s night in a little town on the coast of Wales. We were sitting by the fire, cheerful, and we heard, while there, a sudden noise: we looked out into the night; there was a deep fog over the sea; we could scarcely see the cliffs; the wind was very high; there was a drizzling rain; and suddenly we heard the scream of voices; then the boom of the guns over the water; then stillness; then the clatter of feet along the street; the life boat and the life buoy. Human life in danger. We thought we discried the dark mass heaving over the black billows, lit up by the ray of the guns and the blue lights; but the sound of the surf and the roar of the breakers carried all away; they carried her away. That night she struck on the rocks. I walked down in the morning to look at her lying on the beach. I could not help saying, “How human this is; how life-like!” There she lay--the pride and hope of her owners--stripped; masts, sails, shrouds, broken, ragged, torn, gone; and yet much had depended on her. She had been launched with many hopes and expectations. All gone--a melancholy wreck! The winds howled through as they lifted her ragged shrouds. She could not, as once she might have done, repel them and make them her ministers. The sun shone on her, through her cabin windows and port-hole, but awakened no answering glory oil her deck. She was a lost ship--melancholy type of a lost soul. (E. Paxton Hood.)

The loss of the soul

MAN HAS A SOUL.. The soul touches the highest part of the universe. Nature ministers to nature; but nature cannot feed the soul. The fruits, and grapes, and animals cannot contribute to the being of the soul. God, who is its Parent, can alone minister to it. This is that difference between the spirit of the beast which goeth downward, and the spirit of man which goeth upward. “We are dust and Deity,” says a great poet: most true. This is our original Turn into reality the great fact that you have a soul. Did you ever hear how Fichte awoke the consciousness of his hearers? He pointed to the wall, the white wall. “ Gentlemen,” said he, “I want you to think the wall. Have you thought the wall? Now, think the man that thought the wall.” Ah! to do that is to realize to ourselves our soul.


1. Think of its power.

(1) It can sin. It is capable of moral wrong. The soul has had power to disturb the universe.

(2) It can suffer. Oh, how it can suffer, remorse, conscience, despair! Nay, we estimate the greatness of the soul by its power to suffer.

(3) It can think. How it can think! Can be even wild with thought, and rend the poor body as the strong wind rends oaks and rocks!

2. Its duration. For ever: no cessation.

A SOUL MAY BE LOST. Nay, every soul in the world is, in fact, lost. Do you know it? do you feel it? Lost! For there are but two ways in the universe--God’s and man’s. To be lost, is to wander into the far country, and to attempt to feed an angel nature with the husks that the swine eat. Picture to yourselves the man on the dark moor at night among the mountains--amidst the mists--lost. I may mention four causes of the loss of the soul.

1. Ignorance.

2. Error.

3. Passion.

4. A perverted will: underlying the whole.

These are the marks of human nature in its present state. And to be lost, is to love our natural state, and to persist in it. You may remember an incident in the united lives of two men, with whose labours and lives, it may be, you have on the whole little sympathy. When Francis Xavier, the youthful, the eloquent, the noble, was engaged in the pursuits of his varied and wonderful mind, in Paris, in the university, and its more romantic neighbourhood, as he yielded himself to the fascinations mingling around him, there stepped forth and spoke to him a plainly dressed and powerful preacher of lofty bearing and stern deportment, mighty in the assumption of a voluntary poverty--Ignatius Loyola. “Francis,” said he, “‘What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” He would not let the youth go. He attended the hall where Xavier delivered his eloquent prelections; he stood and listened before the orator’s chair; but when the applause had subsided, and the crowd had retired, then he was by the side of the eloquent scholar. He touched him on the shoulder; “Francis,” said he, “‘What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” Noble as he was, Xavier was not rich; his affairs became embarrassed; he needed help. The stern apostle of voluntary poverty did not forsake; he came to him with assistance; he produced mysterious aid; but, as he put the bag into the hands of his friend, he was ready with his old question, “Francis, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” They wandered together by the banks of the Seine; they trod together through its groves of trees, and wound their way into its lovely recesses; but even as the enthusiastic and imaginative Xavier paused, enraptured before the spectacle of some astonishing beauty, some enchanting or spell-compelling spot, the voice thrilled through him: “Francis, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” And the reader knows that earnestness subdued the eloquent scholar, and he became the comrade and the disciple of Ignatius Loyola. You have heard of the Mammoth Cave in America--a world under the ground--how many miles no one can tell, rivers, lakes, chambers, immense territories all in darkness, where the light of the sun never penetrated. But nineteen miles within the cave, 450 feet beneath the soil, there was yet a descent called the Bottomless Pit. Down into that no man would go; they had sounded 150 feet, and yet had not reached the depth; no man would go; the guide refused 500 dollars offered him to go. At length a poor man came, a young man, and he determined he would descend. Ropes were procured, and he descended 150 feet. He walked among those galleries of darkness, alone, through those depths and corridors of gloom; he began to ascend, but as he ascended he stayed to throw himself into an interminable cave on the side of the pit; there as he roamed through its fissures, his light went out--no light--and alone in that gloom--lost! And the light was kindled again; but he found, as he began to ascend, the rope was on fire. Ah! what shall he do now? What think you, ascending--looking up to that faint ray, and the fire burning--burning. But it was extinguished, he was saved. But is it not the very picture of a poor soul? In the deep night, the light extinguished. And sometimes those very powers by which he might ascend,--his passions, his intellect, his will, only kindling to ruin him--affections which might unite to God, turning to fire to separate him for ever.

And why? FOR THE SOUL MAY BE SAVED. Surely no person will say, “What shall I do to be saved?” But if so, I have only to say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And if you say, I cannot believe, in a word, I have only to say--say thou to God, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” Pray, and you shall not fail to obtain the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified. (E. Paxton Hood.)

Save your soul

If temporal affairs impose upon a man a large measure of labour and solicitude, how much more should he exercise the utmost diligence in behalf of his eternal welfare?


1. The chief solicitude of God is for our salvation.

2. The question is of everlasting weal or woe.

3. Therefore Jesus warns us with the most tender anxiety--

(1) To work our salvation before all things.

(2) To work our salvation in all things.

(3) To take care of our salvation at all times, and give it our own personal attention.


1. Everywhere we may observe an all-absorbing care for temporal affairs and earthly possessions.

(1) The heart of man is attached to them; restless his desire to acquire them; great his sorrow at their loss.

(2) All activity of man is centred upon them. Men are grovelling in the dust.

2. Negligence in regard to heavenly things.

(1) No earnest examination of the condition of the soul.

(2) Carelessness in regard to the means of salvation.

3. Men appear to be without conscience in regard to the salvation of others.

(1) Careless parents, educating their children for everything except the one thing necessary.

(2) Cruel seducers, showing heartless indifference to their own and others’ salvation.

4. Let us look back at our past life.

(1) How many opportunities has God granted us to save our souls! Time, the Word of God, misfortunes, &c.

(2) How little is it that we have given to God! What use have we made of our time? For whom have we laboured? Have we laid up treasures for the world to come?

(3) What folly! All our trouble for nothing! We run after the mists and clouds, and neglect that which is everlasting. We frustrate the merciful designs and endeavours of God. (Tourbe.)

Money given as the punishment of avarice

We read of a Spanish general who was so fond of money that the enemies into whose hands he had fallen, tortured and killed him by pouring melted gold down his throat in mockery of his covetousness. So Satan now often makes money unlawfully acquired, the very means of tormenting the miserable beings who have sold their consciences to obtain it. (Family Treasury.)

Bad bargains

A Sunday-school teacher, when speaking about the passage, “Buy the truth, and sell it not,” said that the man who buys the truth, at whatever cost, makes a good bargain. He then asked his boys if any of them remembered an instance in the Scriptures of a bad bargain. These answers were given--

1. “Esau made a bad bargain when he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.”

2. “Judas made a bad bargain when he sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.”

3. “He makes a bad bargain, who, to gain the whole world, loses his own soul.”

The world cannot give peace

There was one living who, scarcely in a figure, might be said to have the whole world. The Roman Emperor Tiberius was at that moment infinitely the most powerful of living men, the absolute, undisputed, deified ruler of all that was fairest and richest in the kingdoms of the earth. There was no control to his power, no limit to his wealth, no restraint upon his pleasures. And, to yield himself still more unreservedly to the boundless self-gratification of a voluptuous luxury, not long after this time he chose for himself a home on one of the loveliest spots on the earth’s surface, under the shadow of the slumbering volcano, upon an enchanting islet in one of the most softly delicious climates of the world. What came of it all? He was, as Pliny calls him, “Tristissimus ut constat hominum,” confessedly the most gloomy of mankind. And there, from this home of his hidden infamies, from this island where, on a scale so splendid, he had tried the experiment of what happiness can be achieved by pressing the world’s most absolute authority and the world’s guiltiest indulgencies into the service of an exclusively selfish life, he wrote to his servile and corrupted senate, “What to write to you, conscript fathers, or how to write, or what not to write, may all the gods and goddesses destroy me, worse than I feel that they are daily destroying me, if I know.” Rarely has there been vouchsafed to the world a more overwhelming proof that its richest gifts are but “fairy gold that turns to dust and dross.” (Archdeacon Earrar.)

A crime against the life of the soul

When, a half-century ago, the famous Kaspar Hauser appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, having been released from a dungeon in which he had been confined from infancy, having never seen the face or heard the voice of man, nor gone without the walls of his prison, nor seen the full light of day, a distinguished lawyer in Germany wrote a legal history of the case, which he entitled, “A Crime against the Life of the Soul.” It was well named But it is no worse than the treatment some men bestow upon their own souls As the poor German youth was at length thrust out into the world for which he was unfitted, with untrained senses in a world of sense, without speech in a world of language, with a dormant mind in a world of thought, so many go out of this world with no preparation in that part of their nature that will most be called into use. (Theodore T. Munger.)

Secure the soul

What wise man would fetch gold out of a fiery crucible, hazard himself to endless woes, for a few waterish pleasures, and give his soul to the devil, as some Popes did for the short enjoyment of the Papal dignity. What was this but to win Venice, and then to be hanged at the gates thereof, as the proverb is. In great fires men look first to their jewels, then to their lumber; so should these see first to their souls to secure them, and then take care of the outward man. The soldier cares not how his buckler speeds, so his body be kept thereby from deadly thrusts. (J. Trapp.)

Verse 26

Luke 9:26

Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me

Shame of Christ, and its consequences



1. In a sceptical rejection of Him as the true Messiah. Jews.


2. In an unbelieving disregard to His demands and authority.

3. In a compromising spirit of conformity to the world.

4. In a neglect of His ordinances, and in avoiding a public profession of Him before men.

5. In an unwillingness to consecrate all we are and have to His service.

THE INEVITABLE RESULTS DECLARED. “Of Him shall the Son of man be ashamed,” &c. The result shall be--

1. That such shall receive a similar return.

2. Christ shall be ashamed of them.

3. He will be ashamed of them in the day of His glory.

4. He will be ashamed of them when the dispensation of grace will have ceased for ever. (J. Burns, D. D.)

False shame


1. Their reason is perplexed by the mystery of His person. Indeed, it may be said that Christ was a mystery in His day both to His disciples and to His enemies. If He had not been a mystery, He would not have been a Saviour. No man who is merely on the level of man both in his intellectual and moral nature can be the Saviour of man. It was because the men of His age did not see this truth that they so stumbled at His words. And men may be offended at Him, and ashamed of Him, still, because of the mystery which attaches to His person. They cannot comprehend it. It combines in one the earthly and the heavenly, the finite and the infinite, the human and the Divine; and reason cannot compass and explain a union of such contrasted properties and attributes. It cannot understand even man himself. Still less can it understand God. And yet it would fain understand the God manifest in the flesh.

2. But this is not all. Some men are ashamed because their pride is humbled by the nature of His work. For what is that work? It is a work which assumes, at the very beginning, the helplessness of man. Christ would never have been known by man as a Saviour but for this helplessness. He did not come to vilify our nature, and make it seem worse than it really is. But He did come to convince the world of sin; and this could not be done without humbling the pride of man.

But let us now consider IN WHAT MANNER MEN MAY SHOW THAT THEY ARE ASHAMED OF CHRIST. There are several ways. The shame of some is seen in their shrinking from the profession of His name. Everywhere you see men shrinking from responsibility, fearing responsibility, declining responsibility. They like to be unattached. They want to feel free. Do not be ensnared in the too common mistake that it is only the becoming a Christian that creates the obligation to live a holy life. That is a duty whether you are or profess to be a Christian or not. Then as to the other aspect of shame, namely, that of shrinking from the responsibility of giving yourself openly to the Church of Christ; you may shrink from it, but the duty remains. We can show our shame of Christ by silence and by compliance. We can show it by silence; by the cowardice with which we hear religion ridiculed, and not rebuke the mocker; by the cowardice which will hear the oath, or the impure and immoral sentiment, and not remind the swearer or the unclean person that neither profanity nor uncleanness will ever enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is too much silence among Christian men when the honour of Christ is at stake. And this is all the sadder when you see how courageous men will be in defence of their friends. But men may show their shame of Christ by compliance, as well as by silence. By compliance I mean doing as the world does, not because it is right, but because the world does it. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

The monstrous shame

1. In the first place, there are people ashamed of Christ’s name. They recoil at the idea of being called Christians. If you should call them worldlings, they would stand that. If you should call them half a dozen other names, they would stand that. But the idea of their being Christians! They are embarrassed. They say: “You are mistaken. Have! ever given any signs of being pious? Did you ever see me weak? Did you ever see me pray? No, sir! I want you to understand that I am not a Christian.” Ashamed of the sweetest name that ever thrilled the lips of men, or woke up the harps of heaven! Ashamed of that name which now costs so little to avow! Ashamed of that name which was the last word on the dying lip of your father, and in the song with which your mother sang you to sleep in those times before the evil days came, when you forgot her counsel and broke her dear old heart!

2. Again: I find that there are people ashamed of Christ in the person of His friends. “John, who was that you were seen going through the street with yesterday?” He, a worldly young man, flushes up and says; “I wasn’t with that Christian man, I just happened to meet him. I wasn’t walking with him.” Ashamed of being associated with those who are living for eternity, but not ashamed of being with those who live for time!

3. Still, further, there are people ashamed of Christ in His book. If you found them reading a novel, or a poem, or an essay, or any worldly book, they would not be embarrassed; but if you come suddenly upon them and find them reading the Bible, how flustered they would be I how excited I how they would try to have you think they were not reading at all. My text intimates that the tide is going to turn after awhile. The same feeling which some men now have toward God, God will have toward them. “Whosoever is ashamed of Me and of My Word, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in His own glory, and of the Father, and of the holy angels.” He comes! He will cry through all the earth and the sea: “ Gather together those people who are ashamed of Me. Fetch up their bodies from the graves. Fetch up their souls from the dungeons. Gather them together.” And, as He looks at the long array of blanched faces, He will be ashamed of them. He will remember their cowardice. He will say: “These are the people who were ashamed of Me. These are the people who, by their comrades and friends, were kept away from heaven, and these are the people who lost their souls. I am ashamed of them, of their sin and cowardice. They cannot sit with My people. They cannot share My royalty. Out with them! Executioners, bind them hand and foot, and cast them into outer darkness. They despised Me. Now, I despise them. Away with them for ever!” (Dr. Talmage.)

On dishonouring Christ


1. An evasion or rejection of those truths which are peculiar to the gospel, because they are hostile to carnal reason.

2. The refusal to make those sacrifices which an attachment to the gospel of Christ must induce, on account of their apparent harshness and severity.

3. An abandonment of the public profession of religion, because of the hatred or hostility which it would excite.

THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH THIS CONDUCT INVOLVES. Those who have treated the Saviour with evil, shall, at His glorious coming, receive evil in return. As they have rendered to Him, it shall be rendered to them again.

1. As to the grounds on which this doom proceeds, they are such as will fully justify the sentence given.

(1) It is an opposition to the essential principles on which the Divine Governor proceeds in the management of His intelligent creatures. A rejection of the rewards of eternity for those of time.

(2) It is base ingratitude against the arrangements of infinite love. It is taking the sceptre of God’s benevolence and dashing it in pieces against His justice.

2. The results which the view of condemnation thus stated should produce.

(1) Engage at once in the service of Christ.

(2) Be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. (J. Parsons.)

Am I ashamed of Christ?

WHAT IT IS TO BE ASHAMED OF CHRIST AND OR HIS WORDS; AND WHAT IS REQUISITE. TO EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE NOT IN SUCH A CASE. Every one who is unwilling to sacrifice his temporal ease and pleasures, or to lay down his life for the sake of Christ, and who neglects to persevere in a steady and uniform course of obedience to His commands, in spite of all opposition and of every indignity that may be cast upon him, is considered--Jesus being His own interpreter--as ashamed of Christ. But somemeek and lowly person, with much humility of mind, and great fear and trembling, may perhaps anxiously and eagerly inquire--not being without hope that he is ready to own his Lord--How must I act in order to prove the sincerity of my desires, and to evidence that such is the language and feeling of my heart? To this it is replied, It is undoubtedly requisite that there should be--

1. A confession of the Lord Jesus.

2. A readiness to defend the Saviour’s cause.


1. The simplicity of the gospel itself. Against this point the men of the world have frequently directed the weapons of their wit and jesting. Thus of old, by the polite and learned Greeks, the doctrines of the gospel were considered as foolishness. And in modern times, the wise of this world affect to sneer at the doctrines of the Cross, and mock at those who espouse truths so humiliating.

2. The character of the age in which the profession of Christ is to be maintained. In the days of our Lord it laboured under this peculiar disadvantage--it was to be professed in an adulterous and sinful generation. Awful as this language may appear, yet it conveys but too striking and faithful a picture of the manners and character of the present age.

3. The sense of fear, under apprehended danger. The cry, as directed against Jesus, that oft falls upon the ear, is, “Away with this fellow from the earth”; and the question that follows upon it is, “Art not thou one of this man’s disciples?” Immediately we begin to fear, and perhaps reply, “We know not the man.” Alas! this shameful fear too often gains the victory, and leads the disciples of Christ to base desertion in the hour of danger.

WHAT WILL BE THE FINAL AND AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF YIELDING TO THE THREATENING DANGER. “Of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels.” It is justly remarked that the day is coming when the cause of Christ will appear as bright and illustrious as it now seems mean and contemptible; for, as Christ had, so His cause shall have a state of humiliation and exaltation. (Essex Remembrancer.)

The folly and guilt of being ashamed of Christ


1. The sentiment of shame. Fear of the world’s laughter and companions’ sneers.

2. The principal causes.

(1) The pain of singularity.

(2) The power of ridicule.

(3) The want of sincerity.

3. The consideration of the effects, as well as the causes of this principle, will assist in explaining its nature. One of the most certain consequences of being ashamed of duty, is to lead to boldness and audacity in vice. Shame is, perhaps, the evidence of a middle character, neither virtuous nor abandoned. It is always accompanied with some remaining reverence for God. But, judging from the licentious face of the world, that other sinners are not subject to the same constraints, it blushes for this sentiment as for a weakness. Endeavouring to cover its belief, or its fears, it assumes a greater show of infidelity and license than perhaps is real. It soon affects to talk in the style of the world, to divert itself with serious persons, and at length with serious things. But conscious insincerity urges them to extremes to cover its own deceptions. And men being prone to form their opinions, no less than to derive their feelings from sympathy, these mutual appearances contribute to create at length, that vice and infidelity to which all, in the beginning, only pretend. It is, besides, a principle of human nature, that pretence itself will ultimately form those dispositions and habits which it continues to affect.


1. Its folly.

(1) In being ashamed of our true glory.

(2) In hoping to avoid, by renouncing religion, an evil which cannot be shunned among men, I mean detraction and ridicule.

(3) In fearing an imaginary evil, that is, reproach for real virtue and piety.

(4) And finally, in exposing ourselves to infinite danger, for the sake of covering a fruitless deception.

2. Its guilt.

(1) In exalting the authority of man above the glory of God.

(2) In ingratitude to Him who was not ashamed of us.

(3) In promoting vice by the pernicious influence of our example. (S. S. Smith, D. D.)

Confessing Christ

St. Augustine relates, in his “Confessions,” that one Victorinus, a great man at Rome, who had many rich heathen friends and relations, was converted to the Christian religion. He repaired to a friend of his, also a convert, and told him secretly that he too was a Christian. “I will not believe thee to be a Christian,” said the other, “until I see thee openly profess it in the church.” “What,” said Victorinus, “do the church walls make a Christian?” But directly the answer came to his own heart--“Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him, also, shall the Son of man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels.” He was ready to bear the scorn and persecution of his heathen friends, that he might honour his Master in a public confession of His name. It cost something to acknowledge Christ in those early days of His church. When Symphorianus, a young Roman, acknowledged himself a believer in Jesus, he was seized and scourged nearly to death, and then dragged away to a place of execution. His heroic Christian mother walked by his side, not shrieking and bewailing his terrible fate, as her mother’s heart prompted, but encouraging and cheering him with such words as these--“Son, my son, remember life eternal! Look up to heaven! Lift up thine eye to Him that reigneth there! Life is not taken from thee, but exchanged for a better.” At these words, the young man’s heart was wondrously cheered, as if God had sent an angel to strengthen him. He went to the block with a face all glowing with holy joy. What power but that of a “living God” could sustain a mother and son in such an hour? What a glorious exchange was such a belief for the dead system of heathen worship in which they had been born! (Biblical Treasury.)

Necessity of confessing Christ before men

Lieutenant Watson, once a gay young aristocrat, was awakened and converted by means of a few earnest words spoken by a brother officer (Captain Hawtry), when he was actually preparing for a ball. Growing rapidly in grace, and confessing Christ from the first and constantly, he was soon led, while serving in the Peninsula, under Wellington, to hold meetings in his own quarters for the soldiers, who were spiritually in a very destitute condition. Many of these were converted, but the officers generally mocked, calling Lieut. Watson “Coachie,” saying he drove the mail.coach to heaven, and cry Lug after him, “Any room for passengers inside or outside to-night?” One officer, however, Lieut. Whitley, a man of refined and scientific mind, behaved differently, and although he reasoned with Watson, he always behaved as a gentleman. The result of quiet conversations was that he became seriously interested in the gospel. “One day,” says Mr. Watson, “on his repeating the question, ‘How am I to get the Spirit?’ I replied, ‘The Lord said, “Ask and ye shall receive.”’ He said, ‘I hope I have asked, though feebly.’ I remarked, ‘Jesus said again, “If a man will be My disciple, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”’ ‘What did He mean by that?’ he said. I told him, ‘You can now have a practical proof. You know we have a public meeting, will you take up your cross and come tonight?’ ‘Anything but that,’ he said. ‘But you must remember the words of Jesus,’ I told him: ‘“Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My doctrine in this sinful generation, of him will I be ashamed when I come in My glory.” ‘Oh,’ he exclaimed, ‘I will go.’ And he went under great exercise of mind.” Of course, the going was greatly blessed to him, and soon after “ the Lord filled him with joy and peace in believing. He now became most valiant for the truth, and ceased not, wherever he was, to speak of Jesus.”

Tom Baird, the carter

Dr. Norman Macleod says: “Tom Baird, the carter, the beadle of my working man’s church, was as noble a fellow as ever lived--God-fearing, true, unselfish. I shall never forget what he said when I asked him to stand at the door of the working man’s congregation, and when I thought he was unwilling to do so in his working clothes. ‘If,’ said I, ‘you don’t like to do it, if you are ashamed’ ‘Ashamed!’ he exclaimed, as he turned round upon me. ‘I’m mair ashamed o’ yoursel’, sir. Div ye think that I believe, as ye ken I do, that Jesus Christ, who died for me, was stripped o’ his raiment on the cross, and that I--Na, na, I’m proud to stand at the door.’ Dear, good fellow I There he stood for seven winters, without a sixpence of pay; all from love, though at my request the working congregation gave him a silver watch. When he was dying from small-pox, the same unselfish nature appeared. When asked if they should let me know, he replied, ‘There’s nae man leevin’ I like as I do him. I know he would come. But he shouldna’ come on account of his wife and bairns, and so ye munna tell him!’ I never saw him in his illness, never hearing of his danger till it was too late.”

Christ’s threefold glory

Not without a purpose, we may reasonably believe, did our Lord take this opportunity of asserting the threefold glory in which He should appear as the anointed Judge of human kind. It becomes us to pause for a few moments, that we may, if possible, distinguish the separate rays of His final manifestation, and then turn them, in their united effulgence, on the cowardly who have been ashamed of their Redeemer. Christ shall come, this is the first assertion, “in His own glory”; and this is especially His glory as Mediator, that glory which accrued to Him as the recompense of His sufferings, when He was “exalted on the right hand of God”; when He “received a name which is above every name,” and was appointed to administer the affairs of this creation, as “head over all things to His Church.” Though the mediatorial kingdom be subordinate to the Divine, and though there is yet to come a day, when all rule, and all authority, and all power having been put down, this kingdom shall be delivered up to the Father--very glorious is it through its appointed duration. There is a glory in it which should especially commend itself to creatures like ourselves; not the glory of the fact, that on a throne of ineffable majesty sitteth one, who, though “found in fashion as a man,” guides every spring and regulates every movement throughout a crowded universe--but the glory of another fact, that this Man won to Himself this unlimited sovereignty, through humbling Himself for our sakes to the death upon the cross; that He exercises it upon our behalf, that He may shield us from the second death which is due to our sins. Christ “shall come in His own glory,” forasmuch as it will be in virtue of His office as Mediator, that He shall ascend the great white throne. And wondrously resplendent may we believe that glory shall be, forasmuch as it is to be proportioned to the depth of His humiliation, and to the intenseness of His agony in the garden and on the cross. But nevertheless, this is only the glory which appertains to Him as man; and stupendously brilliant as a creature may be when God puts upon him as much honour as a finite nature can admit, we still imagine something immeasurably more dazzling when we think of the glory of a being who is uncreated and infinite. Oh! Christ shall not come in His own glory alone--the glory appertaining to Him as Mediator and as man; He shall come also in “the glory of His Father”--the glory of essential Deity, which appertains to Himself as well as to the Father, seeing that He and the Father are one. I know not--tongue cannot express, thought cannot reach--what this glory shall be. It is utterly beyond us even to imagine amanifestation of Divine glory, as distinct from that glory which has been put upon the Son in His creative capacity; but we are distinctly taught the fact, and we know, therefore, that when “the sign of the Son of man” shall be seen in the heavens, and every eye of the earth’s mighty population shall be fastened on the descending Judge, there shall be more discernible than a mere human form, however “clothed with light as with a garment.” It shall be made evident, through some, at present, incomprehensible means, that there is actual Divinity, as well as actual humanity, in the person of Christ; and they who have here striven to prove Him nothing more than a creature, degrading Him to a man, and denying Him to be God, shall read at once their falsehood and their condemnation in that “glory of the Father” which shall be super added to His own glory as Mediator. Neither is this all. There is yet a third glory in which Jesus Christ shall appear--“the glory of the holy angels.” What does this mean? Is it only that the Mediator shall be attended with ten thousand times ten thousand ministering spirits? that the firmament shall be lined with the heavenly host, who shall swell His triumphs, and assist at His coronation as universal Lord? More than this is probably intended, seeing that Christ is to be actually invested with the glory of the holy angels; and this He could hardly be if merely accompanied by their processions. But you are to remember that “all things were made by Christ, and that without Him was not anything made that was made”; and the angels are the loftiest beings in creation, and may justly be taken as its representatives. So that, to come in “the glory of the holy angels” may be to come in the glory of the Creator; there may be some immediate and incontrovertible demonstration of the fact that Christ reared the universe, and replenished with animation the infinite void. Or, again, let it be remembered, that “holy angels “ owe it to Christ that they were confirmed in their allegiance, and are still preserved from apostasy. Then are holy angels a crown upon the brow of the Redeemer, just as the saints who have been ransomed by His blood. Or, once more, the law was given by the ministration of angels. To come, therefore, in the “ glory of the holy angels,” may be to come in the glory of the legal administration; Christ’s “ own glory” being the glory of the gospel, and His Father’s the glory of creation. So that to come in the triple glory is to come to judge men according to those several degrees of light under which they lived--that of nature, that of the law, and, the most glorious, that of the gospel. But, whichever be the more correct interpretation, enough is revealed to set in overwhelming contrast the base presence before which men are ashamed of Christ, and the inconceivable magnificence before which Christ shall be ashamed of men. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Witnessing for Christ

There are three main failures, so to call them, for which Christians will be condemned at the day of account.




Ashamed for being ashamed of Christ

A soldier in hospital three times picked up the hymn, “Will you go?” which was scattered as a tract, and twice threw it down again. The last time he read it, he thought of it, and, taking his pencil, wrote deliberately on the margin these words: “By the grace of God, I will try to go. John Waugh, Company G, Tenth Regiment, P.R.V.C.” That night he went to a prayer-meeting, read his resolution, requested prayers for his salvation, and said: “I am not ashamed of Christ now; but I am ashamed of myself for having been so long ashamed of Him.” He was killed a few months after. How timely was his resolution!

Not ashamed of Christ

I remember hearing of a young convert who got up to say something for Christ in the open air. Not being accustomed to speak, he stammered a good deal at first, when an infidel came right along and shouted out, “Young man, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, standing and talking like that.” “Well,” the young man replied, “I’m ashamed of myself, but I’m not ashamed of Christ.” That was a good answer. (D. L. Moody.)

Verses 28-36

Luke 9:28-36

He took Peter, and John, and James

The Transfiguration




1. Its intent touching Jesus. To strengthen and brace His spirit for the solemn and awful work before Him.

2. Its interest touching Moses and Elias. For them it must have been s new revelation of the wisdom and glory of God in the consummation of His eternal purpose to redeem a ruined world.

3. Its intent touching the three apostles. To rectify their conceptions of the Messiah.


1. It marks the topmost step in the progressive glorification of the manhood of Jesus Christ. His incarnation and His whole life upon earth was a humiliation; but side by side with that humiliation there was going on a process of glorification. From infancy His person had been the centre of a widening circle of epiphanies, manifesting forth the glory which was progressively unfolded within the Tabernacle of His humanity.

2. It may be looked upon as the inauguration of the New Covenant. The law and the prophets, having prepared the way for the new dispensation of grace, mercy, and peace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, now appear as His attendant ministers, at once to bear witness to Him, and to learn from Him the mystery of redemption. Then, having borne their testimony, they give way to Him, and the voice of God proclaims Him the Head and Lord of all.

3. It represents to us the investiture of Jesus Christ as High Priest. The Father was now robing His Son in the sacred garments of His holy priesthood in which he was to offer the great sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and, bearing upon His heart the names of His people, to pass through the veil--that is to say, His flesh--into the Holy of holies in the heavens, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

4. It is, above all, designed to exhibit to us the transcendent value of the sufferings and death of Christ. In the Basilica at Ravenna there is a mosaic of the sixth century, representing in emblematical form the Transfiguration of Christ--a jewelled cross set in a circle of blue studded with golden stars, in the midst of which appears the face of Christ, the Saviour of the world; while from the cloud close by is thrust forth a Divine hand that points to the cross. Those early artists were right in their reading of this sublime event. The Transfiguration sets the cross of Christ in the centre, surrounds it with a radiant firmament of God’s promises and of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and shows us the hand of God Himself, emerging from the cloud of glory, and pointing to the cross, as though God the Father would say to man what John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” &c.

5. It has a prophetic significance. Standing on Hermon with these three apostles, a long vista stretches out before us into the distant future, including in its scope that great day when the Son of God shall take to Himself His power, His mighty power, in order to reign, His kingdom has come at last; and what is the manner of it? It is a kingdom of redeemed men--of men who stand, like Moses and Elias, with Christ in glory, not only redeemed, not only delivered from sin and suffering and sorrow and trial and pain, but transformed and transfigured with that same glory by which the person of Jesus is inwrapped.

6. It has a symbolic import. It symbolizes the transformation and transfiguration of our spirits, our whole reasonable, moral, and spiritual nature into the image of Jesus Christ our Lord.


1. If we desire to behold the glory of the transfigured Redeemer, we must climb with Him the mount of prayer.

2. Learn from this great scene the metamorphic power of prayer. There are holy men and women, even in this our practical age, and amid the practical duties of life, whose spirits are manifestly transformed, who, already in this mortal life, are seen walking with Christ in the white robes of self-renouncing, self-forgetting love. If we ask the secret of this new transfiguration, the answer can only be, “They are men and women who breathe the atmosphere of fervent prayer.

3. Consecration to the path of suffering is the preparation for transfiguration. Oh, the mystery of suffering, the mystery of sorrow, the mystery of bereavement! Oh, the mystery of loneliness and of affliction in this world! But see, it vanishes like the morning mist, as we discover that they who tread the path of suffering are preparing for the Mount of Transfiguration.

4. Learn from this scene the true relation of the contemplative to the active life. We cannot spend our lives on the mountain-top of vision, or of ecstasy, or of contemplation. “It is good to be here,” says the mystic, “beholding the vision of the glory of God.” “It is good to be here,” says the ascetic, “apart from the world, disciplining the soul, striving to obtain purity of heart.” “It is good to be here,” says the student, “revelling in the contemplation of the Divine, beholding the glory of God in history, in philosophy, in revelation.” But we may not thus spend our lives. The voice of God calls us down to grapple with the problems and the duties which wait on every side. Sin is here! sorrow is here; darkness is here; unbelief is here. If God has revealed to us the glory of His Son, it is not that we should give our lives up to its contemplation, but that we should gain thereby inspiration and strength to tread the path of duty or of suffering, that we should consecrate our selves to the work of lightening the darkness, and lessening the suffering, and cleansing the defilement, of the world in which we live. (R. H. McKim, D. D.)

Our Lord’s Transfiguration

TRANSFIGURATION DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE BEEN AN UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE WITH OUR LORD. He was accustomed to go apart to pray--to ascend mountains and spend whole nights in devotion. He was accustomed to meet heavenly beings there. He was accustomed to shine among them as the light. All this we know. But once He took three earthly witnesses, and permitted them to see those angels, who “strengthened Him,” “comforted Him,” “ministered to Him.” Some, at least, of these celestial visitors were seen to be pious men who had lived and tried to do God’s will on earth. One of them certainly had died, and been buried as we must be. Look upon this lantern. Its sides are unflecked crystal. No stain dims their transparency. Each ray of the Drummond light that blazes within them is perfectly transmitted. Such a light in such a body was Jesus Christ when His soul had been kindled by converse with Moses and Elias upon the theme which at His birth made heaven sing.


1. He showed them the source of His strength. Such seasons of communion with heaven are needed by His disciples. We need experiences which remind us that we are citizens of eternity--experiences which will make the events of the markets, of the graveyard, and even wars and rumours of wars, seem insignificant, except so far as they move us to consider the “sign of the Son of Man.”

2. Christ strengthened His disciples to meet the trouble that was coming, by showing them what that trouble meant. The thing of which blind mortals had been ashamed is the thing in which heaven glories! Is it not plain that the three who most needed this lesson were Peter, who had protested most vehemently against the cross, and James and John the throne-seekers? Peter, who will take the sword to assault the High Priest’s servant, and the sons of Zebedee, who would call down fire from heaven after the manner of Elijah before he learned to under stand the power of Christ revealed in the still, small voice? Did not these most need to be taught that the throne of God was the cross?

3. But why did the Master forbid the three to mention the heavenly interview until after He should arise from the dead? Plainly a prominent purpose of the peculiar experience granted them was, to impress their minds with a consciousness of the sympathy of the two worlds. The scene must have made them feel that heaven and earth were adjacent mansions in their Father’s house; that the door was always swinging. As their Master retired at will into celestial companionships, so might they. But this was a lesson they did not need to use while He, their Guide, their Friend, their Saviour, was with them in the world. “Hear ye Him!” was the sole direction they required then. But the time was drawing near when they would need to use the lesson learned upon the mount. That time was not when Jesus hung upon the cross, not even when His body lay in the sepulchre, but when He had risen, and they would be tempted to believe that their continued communion with Him was an illusion, an “idle tale.”

And most of all after the ascension would they need to realize the meanness of heaven and earth. (W. B. Wright.)

The redeeming majesty of the Son of God


1. The scene was a mountain. It is not fanciful to say that mountains seem to have a power of attracting to themselves the great things of men. Natural advantages may account for it in part; symbolism may account for it still more. Physical qualities present a strong claim, spiritual significance a stronger. However some may disesteem the more ethical relations of the material to the mental, we believe that men have been wise in seeking for types as well as space in the outward world, and that their religions, whether of human origin or of Divine origin, as among the Jews, have embodied a deep truth in connecting their sacred scenes and sacred services with “the ancient mountains” and everlasting “hills.” When the Son of God appeared in glory, the earth assisted in his temporary enthronement, and the local accident harmonized with the spiritual import of that august event.

2. The company who witnessed it. These witnesses were enough to attest the reality of the occurrence. But why select them? Why not permit all the apostles to be thus privileged? The answer to this may not be within our knowledge. It is, however, probable that they were more intimately related to the Saviour than the rest. They had a closer fellowship; they could follow Him further; they required a higher preparation. They perhaps loved more, could bear more, and needed more. And thus, as He showed Himself to all of them more than to the world, so He showed Himself to some of them more than to the rest, admitted them to the deeper things of His spirit, and the stranger facts of His history, now permitting them to behold His “sorrowfulness unto death,” and now permitting them to be “eyewitnesses of His Majesty.”

3. The time it took place. A week after the conversation which Christ had with His apostles at Caesarea Philippi, when Peter declared his belief in His Messiahship, and Christ predicted His sufferings. The immediate season was night, for what took place on their descent from the mount, Luke says, was “ on the next day.” Hence the disciples fell asleep. The darkness of the night would add to the solemnity of the scene. And may we not say that the seasons of our greatest glory are commonly connected with gloom, and that the evil of sorrow and shame help the display of the moral lustre of the soul? But the circumstance to which I would especially call attention is that Christ was “praying.” The obvious lesson to be drawn from our Lord’s conduct on this and other occasions is, that not only should we always indulge the spirit of prayer, but that we should enter into the greatest events and experiences with peculiar devotion; that special temptations, special duties, special sufferings, and special good, all call for special wrestling with God; that instruction and strength, fortitude and honour, are to be sought from heaven; that only in prayer can we meet our enemy, only in prayer can we fulfil our vocation, only in prayer can we drink the cup of love, and only in prayer can we gain “the Spirit of glory and of God.”


1. It had immediate reference to the circumstances of Christ and His disciples. Jesus was now entering upon the last and most sorrowful portion of His career. He was probably within a fortnight of His death. It was not the dying, but the attendant circumstances that made the future so distressing to the mind of Jesus. In another sense than that of the disciples, “He feared as He entered the cloud.” He was chastened and oppressed by the anticipation of His peculiar woe. And, doubtless, “ He received from God the Father honour and glory,” on the occasion before us to strengthen Him for the coming conflict. But if the Transfiguration was meant for Christ, it was also meant for the disciples. It was intended to reward and establish the conviction of His Messiahship, which they had lately expressed. It was intended to extend and exalt their conceptions of His character and work.

2. The Transfiguration has a meaning to ourselves, as a type of the redeeming majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1) Christ is glorified. He is personally transfigured in heaven. He is “changed,” and His body is a “glorious “ one, the beauteous type of the restored bodies of all who “die in” Him. This body exists in light. Ineffable brightness invests it. Far different is it from what is below--the seat of infirmities, and pains, and death. Far different is its state from its state below--one of want, exposure, injury, and shame.

(2) The glory of Christ is the glory of One who is appointed the Lord and Lawgiver of man. He is to be “heard.”

(3) It is the glory of One who passed to honour through suffering and death. Most notable is it that the theme of conversation with the glorified messengers was His decease.

(4) It is the glory of One whom both worlds obey and honour.

(5) It is the glory of One in whom all history finds its meaning and its honour. (A: J. Morris.)

Christ’s Transfiguration


1. The time. Luke says, “ about an eight days,” Matthew and Mark, “after six days.” The reconciliation is easy. Matthew and Mark spoke of the space of time between the day of prediction and the day of Transfiguration exclusively; Luke includes them both.

2. The persons chosen to attend Him in this action.

(1) Why three? (Deuteronomy 17:6.) And as John speaks (1 John 5:7-8) of three witnesses in heaven and three on earth, so here are three and three, three from heaven--God the Father, Moses, “and Elias; and three from earth--Peter, James, and John.

(2) Why those three? Many give divers reasons. Peter had led the way to the rest in that notable confession of Christ (Matthew 16:16), and is conceived to have some primacy for the orderly beginning of actions in the college of the apostles. James was the first apostle who shed his blood for Christ (Acts 12:2), and John was the most long-lived of them all, and so could the longer give testimony of those things which he heard and saw, till the Church was well gathered and settled.

3. The place. A high mountain.

(1) For elevation.

(2) For secrecy.

4. The preparative action. Prayer.


1. Its nature. It was a glorious alteration in the appearance and qualities of His body; not a substantial alteration in the substance of it. It was not a change wrought in the essential form and substance of Christ’s body, but only the outward form was changed, being more full of glory and majesty than it used to be or appeared to be.

(1) How His body, now transfigured, differed from His body at other times during His conversing with men. Though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him always, yet the state of His body was disposed so as might best serve for the decency of human conversation; as the sun in a rainy, cloudy day iS not seen, but now as it might cover His Divine nature, it would break out in vigour and strength.

(a) It was not a change or alteration of the substance of the body, as if it were turned into a spiritual substance; no, it remained still a true human mortal body with the same nature and properties it had before, only it became bright and glorious.

(b) As the substance of the body was not changed, so the natural shape and features were not changed, otherwise how could it be known to be Christ, the shape and features were the same, only a new and wonderful splendour put upon them.

(c) This new and wonderful splendour was not in imagination and appearance only, but real and sensible.

(2) How His body transfigured differed from His glorified body.

(a) Partly in the degree and measure, the clarity and majesty of Christ’s glorified body is greater and more perfect. Here is a representation, some delineation, but not a full exhibition of His heavenly glory.

(b) Partly in continuance and permanency this change was not perpetual, but to endure for a short time only, for it ceased before they came down from the Mount.

(c) The subject or seat of this glory differed, the body of Christ being then corruptible and mortal, but now incorruptible and immortal. If Christ’s body had been immortal and impassible, then Christ could not die.

(d) Here are garments, and a glorified body shall have no other garments than the robes of immortality and glory in heaven. Christ shall be clothed with light as with a garment.

2. Its objects.

(1) To show what Christ was. The dignity of His Person and office.

(2) To show what Christ should be; for this was a pledge with what glory He should come in His Kingdom (Matthew 16:27); it prefigured the glory of His second coming.

(3) To show what we shall be; for Christ is the pattern.


1. Be transformed, that you may be transfigured (Romans 12:2). The change must begin in the soul.

2. Be contented to be like Christ in reproaches, disgraces, and neglect in the world, that you may be like Him in glory. Your Lord is a glorious Lord, and He can put glory upon you.

3. To wean our hearts from all human and earthly glory; what is a glorious house to the palace of heaven; glorious garments to the robes of immortality? The glory of Christ should put out the glory of these petty stars that shine in the world, as the sun puts out the fire. We have higher things to mind; it is not for eagles to catch flies, or princes to embrace the dunghill.

4. Since this glory is for the body, do not debase the body, to make it an instrument of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:4). “Possess your vessels in sanctification and honour,” do not offend God to gratify the body, as they Romans 14:13) who make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. Do not spare the body to do God service (Acts 26:7). (T. Manton, D. D.)

And it would be good for us also to be on the mount, for we, too, need to see Jesus transfigured. Some would say, if they were honest, that while they have a certain admiration for Christ, they see nothing transcendent in Him. To them, He is only one among the great--one among great peaks, not the greatest peak of all. They are not on the height where He is to be seen. They must ascend the mount of knowledge and faith, where alone His glory is to be seen. Have we seen this glory of Christ? Some say, “These ‘visions’ are a questionable good; they lead people into saying foolish things.” But notice, it was only Peter who spoke, John and James were silent; Peter would not have spoken so if he had taken time to think, but Peter was always impetuous. What, then, was the good to the disciples? It struck down their prejudices. It silenced all objections to the death of Christ. The Church has come during the last fifty years to enjoy a vision of the Transfiguration of Christ--that is, to see more than in previous centuries the glory of His character and of His death. Christ is more prominent, more precious to the Church than ever before. It has consequently been delivered from many prejudices, and has been prepared for the great trial of anti-christian criticism. It is good for us to be here in this generation. But if this be true of the Church at large, let it be true also of our Own individual lives; you have difficulties about His death. Could you but see His glory these difficulties would vanish away. Or you have trials of various kinds--they will seem insignificant on the Mount of Transfiguration. But how shall we get on to the mount? how obtain these glorious views of Christ? Be guided by the circumstances before us. It comes

(1) by abiding with Christ;

(2) by free communion with Christ;

(3) by increasing devotion to Christ.

The excellence of a great picture or book or character does not always appear at first. So we must have some good knowledge of Christ, some acquaintance with Him. Let there be an earnest study of these Gospels. Be not impatient. See how freely these three talked with Christ, There must not only be thought about Christ, but free talk with Him. (T. Goodrich.)

Christ’s Transfiguration

THE FINAL CAUSE: why Christ was transfigured.

1. The Redeemer of souls lived in great humility upon earth, nay, like an abject worm, to attract the love of the Church; now He changed Himself into this admired excellency, to increase their faith.

2. By this apparition the three disciples saw in what form He would come to judgment.

3. He did represent Himself as the argument and idea of that beautiful reward which the bodies of the just shall have in the general resurrection.

4. For this once Christ looked like a person of Divine authority, that the minds of His disciples might not be cast down with despair at the cross.

5. The fifth and last reason hath a moral use. There is an old man with his corruptions to be metamorphosed in us all, sieur Pelias recoctus, as the fable goes, that Medusa bathed the body of Pelias with certain magical drugs, and from a decrepit old man transmuted him into a vigorous youth. This is a figment; for no man spent his young years so well, to deserve at God’s hands in this world to be young again: but there is a renovation in the spirit of our mind. God will not know us in our own form and filthiness, unless we put on the image of Christ. As Jacob obtained his father’s blessing, not in his own shape, but in the garments of Esau; so we must sue our blessing, having put on the righteousness of Christ; then the Lord will receive His servant, and say unto thee, as Jacob did unto Esau, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God.”

THE EFFICIENT CAUSE: from whence this splendour was derived. Many obscure points will come to light by asking this question: Whether this lightsome beauty like the sun did appear in our Saviour’s face from the beatification of His human soul, or from the union of His Divine nature? First, you must understand, that the great school-man, Aquinas, took the best end of the cause into his hand, when he answered to neither of those two members, but rather to the purpose of the question in this wise, fuit haze qualitas gloria, sed non corporis gloriosi, quia nondum erat immortalis. “This Transfiguration was a quality of glory, but not of a glorified body, because He was not yet passed death, and raised up to be immortal and impassible.” In this distinction is covertly included, that it was not such a brightness as the soul shall communicate to the body, when it is reunited in a joyful resurrection, hut was created at this time by the Divine power, to foretell and shadow what would come to pass with much increase in the kingdom of God. Praelibatio regni Dei fuit haec transfiguratio, says Cajetan: this was but the landskip or pattern of the true happiness which shall be in the kingdom of heaven.

THE EFFECT ITSELF. Alteration in His countenance: whiteness and glistering in His raiment. It is a good thing to be safe under His mercy, the cheerful aspect of His face doth promise that at the least. And doth not this glistering transmutation assure us likewise, that His grace shall shine in our hearts to produce the fruits of life: “The life is the light of men,” says St. John; and by inversion it is true to say, that this light is the life of the soul. Though this which I have said already be much, yet this prospective of admirable light leads us further; for in this transformation the Master did show what liveries of glory the servants should wear when they should dwell with Him in His kingdom for ever. All the light which is in this world is but like a glowworm to the day, in respect of that mirror of marvellous light m the heavenly Jerusalem, where millions of millions of saints shall be gathered together, and every saint shall shine more sweetly and majestically than the whole globe of the sun; what a ravishing object will this be? What an unutterable concurrence of illumination, especially when the sense of the eye shall be perfecter than the eagle’s a thousandfold, and no whir dazzled to behold it? “O Lord, what good things hast Thou laid up for them that fear Thee?” And thus you see what the Transfiguration in our Saviour’s countenance did portend--light of grace in this world; light of glory in the next; and light of mercy and comfort in respect unto them both. I conceive that in the resurrection of the just every countenance which had disfigurement in it, or any monstrous disproportion, shall be new shaped and fashioned. Because that great workmanship of God which abideth for ever shall be conspicuous to all eyes with most exact decency and comeliness. One thing more may yet be expected from me to be spoken of for the finishing of this point. St. Luke says, that “His countenance was altered, and His raiment glistered.” Was that all? Was His face only glorified with light, and not the rest of His body? There are some that hold how His whole body was transfigured and bedecked with light, and that the radiancy of the body did shine through the garments and make them brightsome; and they think that St. Matthew’s text doth favour this opinion, for he speaks of a total transfiguration first, and then of the shining of the face--“He was transfigured before them, and His face did shine as the sun.” The matter is not great which way the truth stands. But I assent to that which is the more probable tenent, that the rays of splendour did issue out from no part of His body, but from His face only. As the face of Christ did bear the greatest share of ignominy at His passion-being buffeted, being spit on, being pricked with thorns--so the honour of His Transfiguration did light upon his face rather than upon any other part of the body, because God’s reward shall make amends in every kind for the despite of Satan. The Jews did strip Him of His garment, and arrayed Him with a robe of scorn, and then led Him to be crucified: so God, to show that His Son deserved no such ignominy, made His garments to shine with unspeakable purity. As lapidaries say of a true diamond, that whereas other precious stones have some colour in their superficies well known by name, as the ruby and sapphire, but the colour of the diamond cannot be well called by any name, there is a white gloss and a sparkling flame mixed together, which shine fairly, but render no constant colour, so we cannot say what manner of show the raiment of our Saviour did make. These two did concur to the composition of the beauty, candour, and lux; a whiteness mixed with no shadow, a light bedimmed with no darkness. (Bishop Hacker.)

Thoughts on the Transfiguration

1. An illustration of the personal character of Jesus, and the connection which exists between eminent devotion and Divine manifestation.

2. The Divine dignity of the Son of God.

3. The susceptibility and the need of Jesus as Son of Man.

4. The importance of Christ’s redemptive work. Of all subjects that they might have chosen, the heavenly visitants talk with Him about His coming death.

5. Christ’s supremacy and authority. “Hear Him.”

6. From the whole incident we may learn--

(1) The weakness and poverty of humanity.

(2) What a grand and glorious thing it may become. (T. Binney.)


1. This event gives us an insight into the unseen world.

2. An assurance of Christ’s Divine personality.

3. The subject of converse was the Atonement.

4. It is quite in accordance with man’s imperfect condition at present, that Peter’s rapture so soon came to a close.

5. The Transfiguration suggests to us the nature of our own condition hereafter. (F. Jacox.)

The mountain where the Transfiguration took place

Where did the Transfiguration take place? An old tradition tells us on Mount Tabor; but though I am always reluctant to refuse assent to these traditions if I can find reason to believe them, yet no traditions are of apostolic authority, and I cannot believe that which assigns the Transfiguration to Mount Tabor. We know that the preceding conversation took place at Csesarea Philippi. Now this is far off from Mount Tabor, but near to that city is a mount which may be called the mount of the Holy Land, the snow-clad mount of Hermon. And what place so fitting for a retreat as that? We have no hint in the Bible of any long journey taken from Caesarea Philippi to Mount Tabor of the tradition, while the solitude which our Lord would naturally seek would not be found there, for Mount Tabor was fortified by stations and garrisons of Roman soldiery. Then, again, the whole setting of the story, according to the imagery of St. Luke, seems to imply that the incident took place on some snow-clad height. Tabor is not snow-clad, but all the year through the heights of Hermon are clad with snow. There is no doubt, then, to me, that one of the lower slopes of Hermon was the scene of the Transfiguration of our Lord. (Canon Body.)

Arguments in favour of Hermon as the scene of the Transfiguration

There can be little doubt that Mount Hermon (Jebel es Sheikh) is intended, in spite of the persistent, but perfectly baseless tradition which points to Tabor. For

(1) Mount Hermon is easily within six days’ reach of Ceesarea Philippi, and

(2) could alone be called a “lofty mountain” (being 10,000 feet high), or “the mountain,” when the last scene had been at Caesarea. Further

(3), Tabor, at that time, in all probability was (Jos. B. J. 1.8, § 7, Vit. 37), as from time immemorial it had been (Joshua 19:12), an inhabited and fortified place, wholly unsuited for a scene so solemn; and

(4) was moreover in Galilee, which is excluded by Mark 9:30. “The mountain’ is indeed the meaning of the name “Hermon,” which being already consecrated by Hebrew poetry (Psalms 133:3), and under its old names of Sion and Sirion, or “breastplate” (Deuteronomy 3:9; Deuteronomy 3:9; Song of Solomon 4:8), was well suited for the Transfiguration by its height, seclusion, and snowy splendour. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Arguments in favour of Tabor as the scene of the Transfiguration

The tradition which has pointed to Tabor has been often contradicted, yet the objections raised against this are, according to our opinion, not well founded. That this tradition existed even in the time of Jerome, and that the Empress Helena for this reason erected a church on Tabor, proves of itself not much, it is true. Yet it may still be called remark able, that tradition designates a place so far distant from Caesarea Philippi, where our Saviour had just before been found (Matthew 16:13). Without sufficient ground in the apostolic tradition, it appears probable that they would not have assumed the theatre of the one event to be so far removed from that of the other. For the other mountains which have been thought of instead of Tabor, viz., Hermon, or Paneas, there is almost less yet to be said. Yet it must not be forgotten that about a week intervened between the Transfiguration and the first prediction of the Passion, in which time the Saviour may very well have traversed the distance from Caesarea to Tabor, which, it is true, is considerable. If the Saviour, moreover, after He left the mountain, returned to Capernaum (Matthew 17:24-27), this town was scarcely a day’s journey from Tabor. The single important difficulty is that raised by De Wette, following Robinson, that at this time there was a fortification on the summit of Tabor. But although Antiochus the Great fortified the mountain, 219 B.C., it is not by any means proved that in the time of Jesus this fortification was yet standing, and though, according to Josephus, this mountain, in the Jewish war, was fortified against the Romans, this, at all events, took place forty years later. Traces of these fortifications are found apparently in the ruins which have since been discovered, especially on the south-western declivity; but in no case is it proved that the whole mountain was built over in the time of Jesus. (Van Oosterzee.)

Why a mountain was chosen for the Transfiguration

A valley is as capable of God’s glory as a mountain, for “God is God of the valleys as well as of the hills,” whatsoever Benhadad, the king of Syria, said to the contrary; but Christ chose this high hill as well for the exercise of prayer, as for the mystery of His Transformation. There may seem to be two intentions that He desired such a place for prayer, quia coeli conspectus liberior, quia solitude major: First, upon the higher ground there is the more free contemplation of heaven, the place to which we lift up our eyes and our hearts in prayer; for though our Lord is everywhere, both in heaven and earth, and under the earth, yet thither we advance our devotions as to the chief throne of His Majesty. Next, our Saviour left a concourse of people beneath, and went to the mountain to pour out His devotions there as in a solitary sequestration, where he should not be troubled. Into such unfrequented hills He did often retire alone, as if He would teach us to bid all the world adieu, and all earthly thoughts, when we utter our supplications before our Heavenly Father: neither doth it seem expedient to act the miracle of the Transfiguration upon a meaner theatre than an exceeding high mountain, to show what ascensions must be in their soul who have a desire to be exalted to God’s glory. (Bishop Hacket.)

We must climb if we would see Christ

Our heart, according to its own evil inclination, cleaves unto the dust like a serpent, our thoughts are of low stature, like Zachaeus; if they will climb up, let it be for no other end, or errand, but, as he did, to see Christ. There are two mountains, says Bernard, which we must ascend, but not both at once. First, there is the mountain where the Son of God did preach (Matthew 5:1-48.), and after that go up to the mountain where He was Transfigured (Matthew 17:1-27.). Non solum meditemur inpraemiis, sed etiam in mandatis Domini: I beseech you first meditate upon the sayings and commandments of God, and afterward upon His Transfiguration, upon the reward of glory: and not, as it is the vain custom of the world, run on presumptuously upon assurance of glorification, and to forget the true order, first to ascend upon the mountain of obedience. (Bishop Hacket.)

The transfiguring look

As Jesus prayed there on the mount, “the fashion of his countenance was altered.” And so we may say that, as man prays--or, in other words, as in any posture man comes in contact with the great realities of religion and of the soul, and expresses his relation to these--the fashion of his countenance alters, the look of humanity is transfigured. I affirm that there is no mode of action, no posture of being, so grand, so hopeful, so pregnant with suggestion, as that of man praying--one in whom culminates the fullest expression of Christian belief and service. It is a transfiguring look, which lifts him above all sin and frailty and dust and shadow, and exhibits him as a child of God and an heir of immortality. Higher than any mere intellectual achievement is this uplifting and surrender of the soul. Newton grasping the firmament in his thought is not so sublime a spectacle as Newton when he kneels and adores. And as with individual instances, so with the collective humanity. Its supreme expression is in the act of faith and worship. Wherever to-day humanity heaves with the great ground-swell of religion, and all outward distinctions dissolve in the light of spiritual relations--I say that there this humanity is transfigured; it is lifted above its sins and miseries and frailty, and all that gives occasion for sceptical distrust. For as man prays--as his nature assumes its highest expression--the shadows of his mortality disappear, and the fashion of his countenance is altered. Even at the risk of some repetition, let me specify that which has now been generally suggested.

I observe, then, in the first place, that the very attitude of religious faith contradicts sceptical theories of human nature.
In trying to estimate the worth and the purpose of any being, it seems reasonable that we should adopt for our standard the highest manifestations of that being.
As an illustration of my meaning, I remark that we estimate any individual man, not by what he may be doing at any specified time, not by the weakness or failure of some particular occasion, but by what he has done in his highest moods, what he is capable of doing at his best.
We do not expect that Demosthenes will always give us an “Oration for the Crown,” that Shakespeare will always write a “Hamlet,” or Tennyson an “In Memoriam.
” But surely it is by these productions, and not their poorest, that we rate such men.
We measure their calibre by their broadest circle of achievement, and stamp the recognition of genius upon that which they have done, and can do, in the full swell of their powers.
Now apply this illustration to classes of being.
There are fools and knaves and tyrants and sensualists; there are such as Caligula and Benedict Arnold and George IV.: but here, also, are Pauls and Fenelons and Florence Nightingales; here
are men and women writing a Christian martyrology in letters of blood and fire on the walls of amphitheatres; here are Latimers and Ridleys holding unblenching hands in the flame; here are Pilgrims clasping Bibles to their breasts as they sail over stormy seas. Nay, let us get away from these scenic instances of history, here, right around you, are poor widows in bare garrets, kneel ing, with God-seeing eyes; here are oppressed and suffering men clinging to their simple belief in an infinite Helper, and feeling the consolation of Jesus breathing upon their sorrow; here are poor brethren of ours, pressed by grievous temptations, lifting up their souls to Him who can make them strong in their moral conflict, and with swift strokes of supplication cleaving down help from the Almighty. Here is a man called to lie down and die, leaving a sick wife, leaving little helpless children; feeling the mortal terror creeping inward to his heart, as the mortal agony creeps over his flesh; but still looking up to the Father, laying hold of immortality, and in that one touch of faith making the coarse sheet that soon is to be his shroud more glorious with heaven’s light than the hearse of Napoleon, rumbling through the streets of Paris and blossoming with a hundred victories. In such, in a thousand ways, here is the spectacle of man praying--man summoning faith and devotion, and taking hold of unconquerablestrength, lifted into unfading light; and, I ask, what do you make of this? I maintain that thus estimating humanity by its highest, not by its lowest attitudes, this weak, sinning, dying creature refutes all sceptical conclusions, and the fashion of its countenance is altered.

I proceed to observe, in the next place, that in this expression of our nature we find a refutation of any extreme claim of action as opposed to worship, and also of science as setting itself in the place of religion. Action cannot occupy the place of prayer. As the very motive power of our action, we need the inspiration and the vision which are revealed to faith. Nor can science be substituted for religion. The soul of man requires a light that we cannot find through the telescope, or at the end of the galvanic wire. It cannot rest or be satisfied with the mere discernment of natural laws. It cannot steer through the mystery of life with no other chart than the physical constitution of man. It needs a heavenly Father and a redeeming Christ. Christ the revealer, Christ the glorified, Christ the transfigured, represents something without ourselves and above ourselves. He presents a point of reconciliation between the human and the Divine, that no one else--no Plato, no Socrates, no oracle of scientific truth, no modern type ofphilanthropy--can give. In the light which streams upon us from the personality of Jesus the fashion of man’s countenance is altered.

In closing, let me say that the fact which we have been considering, not only refutes false theoretical, but unworthy practical conclusions. Construct, in theory, a universe that will justify profaneness or licentiousness, meanness and fraud, lack of principle and lack of love. How awful the system of things in which such lives would be logical conclusions! A universe in which there are no foundations of “eternal and immutable morality,” no source for Divine light like that which shone upon Jesus and from Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration! But if we are children of God and heirs of immortality, what then should be the scope and standard of our lives? Oh, my brethren! if there is a world from which a supernatural splendour fell upon the face of the praying Jesus--if there was such a Jesus, revealing such things to men--if these things are real--it is not merely, the fashion of man’s countenance that alters, but the entire fashion of human life! Then, not those things concerning which men think and act as though they really made up the substance of our being, but those we seek for and cling to in solemn moments, in our best hours and in our last--these are the supreme, the eternal fashion, all else being uncertain and perishable. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Lessons from the Transfiguration

1. One use of this scene was to give to the favoured disciples a clearer idea of the nature of Christ’s kingdom.

2. Another use of this scene was to disclose more than had yet been seen of Christ’s personal majesty and true glory.

3. We may note a third use of the Transfiguration in the confirmation it afforded to the harmony of Christ’s teaching with that of Moses and the prophets.

4. The Transfiguration scene was of use in helping to show the place, in heavenly as well as earthly interest, of the death of Christ.

5. A fifth and very important use of the Transfiguration was in the glimpse it afforded of the heavenly world.

6. The one other use of this wonderful scene to be noticed, is the lesson of patience it teaches, with respect to our earthly temptations, conflicts, and work. (H. M. Grout, D. D.)

Transfiguration during prayer

O the wise God, that would have the glory of transfiguration fall upon Himself at no other time but in the fervour of prayer. Miserable men are those that desire not to be transfigured and to cast off the old man; but more miserable that think to be transfigured without continual prayer. An hypocrite would seem to be a transformed man; Satan would appear to have transformed himself into an angel of light; hypocrites and devils all love to make a show of transfiguration, but they did never pray to God to change their inside, which is nothing but filthiness, and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind; hold on, and cease not to pray, till you be changed into new men. As a distiller keeps his extractions at the furnace till he see them flower and colour as he could wish; so, as long as we feel the relics of the old Adam remaining, especially while we feel them reign and get the dominion over us, we must ply our Saviour day and night with a restless devotion and a flagrant importunity; and I am sure while we pray, not the fashion of our countenance, but the fashion of our heart shall be altered. Well, I pray you remember, that when our Saviour went up into the mountain, as well to be transfigured as to pray, yet the text names this only, that “He went up into the mountain to pray”; that name stands in chief, and drowns the mention of the other business, as if prayer were a greater work than that resplendent Transfiguration. And what needed He to pray, but to bring us upon our knees humbly and frequently before His Father, and our Father. (Bishop Hacker.)

The beauty of Jesus Christ

And what was that glory? What made His face shine? What was the light which enveloped His form? We know that it was the glory of God, a glory not from without but from within, a light shining from the essential beauty of the Godhead within, not flashed from without. The Transfiguration, then, was not a miracle, but a witness of the abiding presence of Christ’s Divinity: His whole Being shone, and like Moses, when gazing day and night upon the image of God till it became, in a measure, stamped upon him, and the “skin of his face shone,” what did He do? Moses, we are told, put a veil over his face to hide it from the people of Israel, and so it was with Christ: He veiled His glory. If He had been outwardly true to what He bore within Him He would have been seen always with His glory unveiled; it would have been about Him in the manger at Bethlehem--transfigured Babe! in His home at Nazareth--transfigured Boy! it would have shone about Him during His ministry in Galilee--transfigured Man! and, at the last, on Calvary’s Cross--transfigured Sufferer! But under the very conditions of coming as man among men, the Godhead within was veiled, and the outcoming of those rays held back which would have made for ever beautiful the Sun of Righteousness. For a moment there is no restraint, for a moment He knows the beauty of repose as in His solitude He holds communion with His Father, and all the beauty from within shines forth, and He is transfigured. The beauty of Jesus Christ! not an outward beauty, such as appeals to the physical part of man. “When we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” He does not stand out as an Apollo of the Greeks or as a Samson of the Bible stories. “As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved.” As the apple-tree, you notice, not as the cedar; yet if there is no physical beauty, there is a beauty of His own in every feature, every action, every part, for the transfiguration beauty was the beauty of God. God had communicated His beauty to His Son, for “in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”--the perfect beauty of an intellect which is permeated with light, of a heart which is filled with love, of a will lifted up wholly to the will of God, of conscience at perfect peace, of an imagination sanctified by the most perfect imagery. For the fact remains, which is so true of Him, and, in a great measure, of our fellow-creatures, that the spirit moulds the countenance. There is such a thing as a saint-like countenance, wherefore where there is the indwelling of the Divine there is a beauty of face and figure, movement, speech, and tone, which nothing else can give. (Canon Body.)

The irradiation of our Lord’s raiment

The evangelists, in their record of the Transfiguration scene, seem to concentrate the attention of Christian people on the irradiated garments in which our Lord’s sacred form was enveloped. Indeed, the description of the irradiation of the garments of Christ is certainly fuller than the description of His transfigured humanity. St. Matthew tells us that “His raiment was white as light”; St. Mark, that “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them”; and St. Luke, as our text reminds us, that “His raiment was white and glistering.” Therefore, in studying the history of the mystery of the Transfiguration our duty is carefully to notice this feature, and to seek to learn the lesson that the glorified beauty of the raiment of Christ teaches us. The scene of the Transfiguration is one which each of us can easily paint for ourselves by an effort of the imagination. Jesus Christ was, no doubt, poorly clad, probably in the garb that a mechanic” was wont to wear in those days. His clothing was not the clothing of “soft raiment,” for “they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses”; not in the palace of a king among a favoured few dwelt the Incarnate Son of God, but in a cottage where His lot was cast among the toiling many; and there He dwelt for thirty years, clothed surely in raiment of the most homely nature, probably made by His mother’s own hands, and woven from the wool of the flocks. And if the raiment of our Lord had no beauty of form or material to make it lovely, so, too, it must have borne signs of wear, the stains and marks of daily toil. Thus clothed, then, our Lord passed to the Mount of Transfiguration; and, whilst He prayed” He was transfigured before them.” The light of the essential Godhead within broke forth, and, lo! as its rays shone through the veil of His humanity, it pierced the poor garments in which He was clothed, which, though worn and stained, now became white with a supernatural whiteness, and, though lacking beauty, now became beautiful with a supernatural beauty. Sweet vision of irradiated garments! what an abiding spiritual meaning it shows forth! St. Augustine, in a notice which occurs in his “ Commentary on the Psalms,” says “The raiment wherewith Christ was clad is His Church.” Sweet, sacred vision of a transfigured Lord associated with an irradiated Church; showing forth the abiding relationship of Christ with His Church through endless ages of glorified eternity, and His closest union with this Church, which He has put on as a mystic garment shining with the glory of His own mystic beauty. In this glorified raiment of Christ we see shadowed forth His Church under all conditions of time and of eternity. The Church exists, and is eternally predestinated in the fulness of time to be the glorified vesture of her Lord; the Church, which is God’s elect, admitted by baptism and by the cleansing waters of the holy font brought into this election, this ecclesia of God. Is not the Church in her making like the garments of our Lord? Mary takes of the wool of the flock, and therewith weaves the raiment which He puts on in all its meanness and poorness, and then glorifies. Just so with the Church. In what is she poor, do you say? Surely her poverty is in the men and women within her who are lacking in purity and in beauty; but our Lord stretches out His hand and brings them into union with Himself; not a hypostatical union, such as the union of the Divine and human natures in Himself, but a sacramental union, which can be severed, like the putting on of the garments with which He was clad. Then, having as it were put them on to lie on His Sacred Heart, He works in them the work of justification, taking from them the soil of guilt, and by the work of renewal ever removing from them all spots and wrinkles, till passing from glory to glory, and going from beauty to beauty, the just become more and more pure in the sight of God. He gives them not only purity but beauty; Christ acts on the pure and makes them lovely; He communicates to them His own Divine beauty, till in time the Church on earth becomes “white and glistering” with the glory He imparts. And what is the glorification of the Church? What is the consummation of sanctification? What is the end of justification? Is not the goal to be absolutely beautiful? is it not that when we awake we may find that we are beautiful even in the sight of God? Yes, in the glorified raiment of Christ we see a pledge of His work in His Church, a pledge which in her perfect day shall be accomplished, yet for its accomplishment it is necessary that her members co-operate with Him in a three-fold way. The members of Christ’s Church must be channels of Divine grace. Men and women touching the garments of Christ were made whole; as, for instance, that poor woman who had suffered for many years from a sad disease, and who stretched forth her hand in the crowd, saying within herself, “If I may but touch His garment I shall be whole”; but Christ said not, “Who touched my raiment?” but “Who touched Me?” (as St. Luke tells us), for His raiment had been but the means of conveying His own healing power: and in the same way Christ has made His Church the instrument through which He distributes truth, and grace, and peace; and if her members would reach forth to her essential glory in eternity they must reach forward to her Divine mission in time, and become, like His garments, channels of His grace to those around. Is it not so? Have you thought that those same garments were probably on the hill of Calvary? But where do we see them then? No longer clothing that sacred form, but thrown at the foot of the cross, given over to the Roman soldiery, His very vesture the prize of a gambling game which they were playing just beneath Him. As with the raiment of Christ so must it be with His Church. The Church can only pass to her Divine glory under the same conditions by which Christ passed to His; the Church must not only imitate Him in His active ministry, but share His sufferings: she, too, must go to her Gethsemane, and pass along her way of sorrow, and hang down upon her cross of shame, and pain, and humiliation; and only as she patiently perseveres in walking on the road of the Cross can she hope to reach to the glory awaiting her above. There is only one ladder from earth to heaven, that is the ladder of our Saviour’s Cross. And it is necessary for us always to keep this vision of the transfigured raiment of Christ before our minds; for this reason, that we never look at any creation of God aright unless we keep in sight the ideal of that creation as it is in the mind of God, otherwise we form a wrong conception of it. God’s ideal cannot be realized here and now. If we look at the world in its present conditions only, should we not find it hard to justify the dealings of God with men? But these conditions are only accidental; sin came into the world, and with it poverty, crime, pain, death. God has mysteriously permitted a temporary marring of His creation, but that which mars it does not come from God, therefore it cannot last. We Christians are saved from being pessimists because we know that the present conditions are not final. There is a time, at the coming of our Lord, when error will be banished by truth, iniquity by righteousness; when universal knowledge mill cover the face of society; when peace shall be the only condition of mind among God’s people. Look with eyes brightened by faith, then, even though we see antichrist developed, yet our hope shall be bright, aye, brighter than before, for the development of antichrist is the very pledge of the coming of Christ. And so, too, with the Ideal of man; none have ever realized, even if they have grasped, their own ideal; and certainly no one can ever have grasped their ideal as it is in the mind of the Creator, far less have carried that out. What is this ideal? is it not conformity to the perfection of God Himself? “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Yet we know by experience that, here and now, we cannot conform to this perfection; and so the Church, here and now, fails to realize her ideal: to-day she is of the earth earthy, as poor, and stained, and marred as the garments of Jesus before they were transfigured by His imparted glory. Often perplexities meet us when we try to reconcile the actual condition of the Church with the ideal. But on the Mount of Transfiguration we see this--that in His own time and way Christ will realize the ideal of His Church. Till then let us live in faith and hope, refusing to let our faith be staggered by the Church’s troubles in time, but giving ourselves up to His service, lying, as His sacred garments did, at the foot of His cross, in sure and confident expectation that He will realize His own ideal, and that in eternity we shall see Jerusalem the Golden, shining with the glory of God and of the Lamb, and the Church, as His vesture, lying on His bosom in closest union with her Lord! (Canon Body.)

Luminous hours

To every one of us, first or last, come these luminous hours. But they are transient. As the Transfiguration on the Mount was designed to teach the disciples how to conduct themselves when the exigencies which were to come upon them should be developed, so these luminous hours which come to all men ought to be used by them to determine their duties and courses. It is when you are on the mountain-top that you should take your land-marks and steer toward them, and when you go down and lose sight of them, keep straight across the valley until you rise so that they greet your vision again. Not when you are in the valley can you tell which way to travel, unless you have learned it on the top of the hill. Another thing. After all the beauty and sublimity of this wonderful miracle wrought upon the person of Jesus Christ, and after all the instruction connected with it, it still comes back to me, in the light of the apostle’s joyful yet sad utterance, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” We are all of us ignorant; we know in part; but the time is drawing near when neither upon this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, nor upon Mount Hermon, nor upon any earth summit, shall we need to receive instruction, or have any luminous hours, or pass through this or that experience; but when we shall stand in Zion, and before God, and shall see Him as He is, and shall be like Him, and shall rejoice with Him for ever and for ever. (H. W. Beecher.)

The Transfiguration

This remarkable story divides into two parts the ministerial life of Christ. It is the central point of His public career. It is connected, in thought, with His baptism by the voice from heaven. It is connected with His death by the conversation with Moses and Elias. We must not forget the appropriateness of the comparison of the whiteness of Christ’s garments to snow, for above the apostles’ heads was the dazzling snow which illuminates the peak of Hermon. Observe--

CHRIST’S LOVE FOR MOUNTAIN-SOLITUDES. This is only one instance out of many, and it brings before us the sensitive humanity of Christ. Christ loved nature. All the world to Him was sacramental. It should be so with us. Celestial messages and grace should flow to us through every sight and sound which touches and exalts the heart.

THE TRANSFIGURING GLORY. It supplies us with a principle. The outward form takes its glory or its baseness from the inner spirit.

THE VISION. Moses and Elias represent the law and the prophets, and Christ is the end of them both. All the revelation given in the past culminated in the revelation which He gave. The glory of the law and of the prophets was fulfilled and expanded in His perfect glory. The whole of the Old Testament, so far as it was spiritual, was taken up into the New. The unity of the Old Testament with the New was declared, and the superiority of the New Testament over the Old.

The apostles not only saw a vision, but they heard A CONVERSATION. Strangely in the midst of radiant glory, of ecstatic joy, intervened the thought of death and sorrow. Learn that eternal life is giving, that eternal joy is the sacrifice of self; that the human is only then transfigured into the Divine life when the pain of sacrifice is felt as the most passionate ecstasy. That is the transfiguration power. That thought transfigures the world of humanity. It is the life of heaven with God. (Stopford A, Brooke, M. A.)


1. The prayers of Christ.

2. The witnesses of the Transfiguration.

3. The manner of the Transfiguration.

4. The appearance of Moses and Elias.

5. The subject of their conversation with Jesus.


1. TO accredit the Divine mission of our Lord.

2. To connect the different dispensations of revealed truth together, to give an authorised sanction to Old Testament announcements, to affix the signet of heaven to all the ancient types and prophecies, and to show that Christ was the glory, the substance, the terminating object of them all.

3. To afford a practical demonstration of man’s immortality.

4. To asssure us that in the life of the world to come we shall know each other. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The prayers of Christ

Communion with God is a condition of spiritual elevation.


1. They presuppose a somewhat advanced condition of the spiritual life.

2. They are fraught with the richest, keenest bliss.

3. They are given not merely for their own sake, but as means to important and practical ends.

WHAT IS THE RELATION WHICH PRAYER SUSTAINS TO THESE ELEVATIONS? The evangelist evidently wishes us to understand that there was a connection between the Saviour’s praying and His being transfigured, that in some way the one was the consequence and the out come of the other.

1. Prayer draws us away from the presence of distracting objects.

2. Prayer relieves us from the pressure of worldly toil.

3. Prayer calls out the finer, better feelings of our nature.

4. Prayer opens to us all the treasures of God’s own being.


1. It is not necessary for our prayers to be consciously and intentionally directed towards this particular end.

2. Let us be thankful that such elevations are possible to us.

3. Let us show our thankfulness by putting ourselves constantly in that prayerful attitude which is the one chief condition of spiritual exaltation. (B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

The Transfiguration

-Christ ever seemed to live in view of the two worlds, even as He belonged to both. The Transfiguration, viewed as an example of intercourse between the seen and the unseen, appears not like a magician’s marvel, based on optical illusions; but an example of what it seems natural should always be--heaven opened, its glory visible, its great inhabitants present to converse, and Peter’s proposition, what we should all feel, natural.

JESUS TRANSFIGURED. Tendency in the inner nature of everything to clothe itself with an appropriate external shape. Hereby was given to the world, for once, a fit investment for His exalted soul, a supreme exposition of the old poet’s lines--

“There shone through all His fleshly dress

Bright shoots of everlastingness.”

JESUS TRANSFIGURED AS HE PRAYED. These words, which mean so much, given only by Luke.

THE TRANSFIGURATIONS OF PRAYER. Such scenes are not repeated. This was given, as the poet says of sunsets--

“that frail mortality may see,

What is? Ah no, but what can be.”

But though the law of conformity between the material and the spiritual be not so closely observed, it tends to fulfil itself everywhere. It is deeply true to-day, that the nature which habitually prays, which habitually seeks heaven, becomes heaven-like; precisely as it is true that the nature which habitually stoops to debasement becomes debased, and its debasement can be read in the countenance. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

The Transfiguration of Christ

This singular and beautiful incident in the life of our blessed Redeemer I propose to set before you in detail, as befitting the occasion of this sermon, and because it is an incident not only most interesting in itself, but also one which presents to us an idea of that transfiguration into glory which we shall ourselves sometime experience, if by perseverance in the faith we attain to the resurrection of the just. It was into a high mountain, St. Mark informs us, that Jesus led the chosen three, Peter and James and John, by themselves apart from the rest. This is the true sense of the passage in St. Matthew: not that the mountain stood apart from other mountains, but that our Lord took with Him three of His disciples apart from the rest. Nevertheless tradition has long asserted this high mountain to be Tabor, a solitary hill indeed, and apart from others--a hill studded with trees, rising like a rounded mass of verdure out of the plain of Galilee to the height only of 1,700 feet. But there stands another hill in Palestine that rises high above all the hills of Palestine, with snow-clad summits towering to an altitude of 10,000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean. It is the hill of Hermon: nay, rather it is a mountain, the only mountain that deserves the name in the Holy Land. The northern barrier it is of the Holy Land; that lofty barrier which “ set the last limit to His wanderings who was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” To some one or other of the southern peaks of Hermon modern research has assigned the scene of the Transfiguration. But leaving the question of place undetermined, we may briefly remark in passing that hills and mountains and high places were often the exalted platforms of exalted events. On Mount Sinai was the law delivered. Up the slopes of Moriah was Isaac led to the sacrifice. On the hill of Rephldim Moses built an altar, and stood with the rod of God in his outstretched hand. From the summits of Ebal and Gerizim sounded the blessings and the curses. Elijah sacrificed on Carmel. On the hill of Zion stood the Temple. “I have looked up to the hills,” we read in the Psalms; and from the Mount of Olives our blessed Lord was wont to look up to heaven, which is God’s hill--from those hallowed heights prayers ascended from Christ, and Christ Himself ascended bodily. But to return to the text--into this high mountain--whether it was Tabor or Hermon, or neither, but some hill country on the shores of lake Tiberias, our Saviour went up. For what purpose? For the purpose of devotion and prayer. St. Luke expressly asserts that “He went up to pray,” and moreover, that “as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and glistering.” “The fashion of His countenance was altered.” For this was a transfiguration, not a transformation: there was no change of form; the shape of the head and the outline of the features, and the symmetry of the body all remained the same; only the figure or fashion of His countenance was altered: and His face did shine, did shine “as the sun”: and His raiment became dazzling white, as the light, white as snow, white as no fuller on earth can whiten. His form, I say, was unaltered, but the fashion of that form underwent a change, His whole sacred person seemed to be living with light, living with the light of the glory which is above the brightness of the sun; this intense unearthly light struggling through the veil of the flesh, streaming through the threads of His raiment, flashing from the inner man to the outer--why so? Why from the inner man to the outer? Because the spirit of Jesus was then rapt in prayer to His Father when His body began to be transfigured. For prayer--fervent prayer--is a great power; it is the silent engine that bends heaven to earth; it is the power which moves the hand which moves the world. The countenance of a holy man rapt in prayer seems to be illumined from within, and is, as it were, a transfiguration begun. It was this surpassing splendour of the heavenly glory which long afterwards again riveted the gaze and dazzled the eye of one of the spectators of this wonderful scene. What St. John afterwards saw, in a trance, in a vision on the Lord’s day, that he was commanded to write. And he wrote, “I saw one, like unto the Son of Man” (the beloved disciple recognized his risen and ascended Master)--“I saw one, like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a shining garment down to the foot and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were as a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and His voice as the voice of many waters, and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” But, brethren, this vision of glory on the heights of the mystic mountain, this brief heaven upon earth in the life of our Lord, this beautiful insertion of a golden link in the iron chain that bound His career, this brilliant intrusion of the Transfiguration into the dreary uniformity of His humiliation, was not without human witnesses. Peter and James and John--the legal number of three--were witnesses of the Transfiguration onthe mount, even as they were afterwards witnesses of the Agony in the garden. On both occasions they slumbered and slept. On the present occasion something there was in the majesty of heaven descending to earth which seems to have overpowered the senses of the chosen three. And yet, while their Master was standing and praying near them in the mount, to watch the light of love looking out of His earnest eyes, to see His soul outpoured in those palms outspread, was enough, one would think, to bring His followers, the chosen three, to their senses and to their knees. Yet it was not so, for they saw but heard not; or if they heard they heeded not; or if they heard and heeded, it was but for a little while. Soon somehow their ears became dull, their spirits drowsy, their eyes heavy; they felt a film of stupor rising and spreading between themselves reclining and their Saviour standing. He in the attitude of’ one praying, they in the posture of men drooping, listless, lethargic, unconcerned, indifferent, with dreamy eyes and heads nodding in a bewilderment. So the disciples slumbered and slept, but their Master watched and prayed. And as they slept and as He prayed, as they slept the sleep that is cousin to death, and He prayed the prayer that is akin to life, then in the dull stupor of their prostration, and in the holy rapture of His supplication, was ushered in the first act in the Divine drama of the Transfiguration. How it was ushered in, what it was, is not recorded. For when the chosen three awoke out of their sleep, the glory had already set in; and they, lifting up their eyes, “beheld the glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.” And they saw also standing in that glory together with Jesus two human forms. The three attendants, Peter and James and John, themselves outside the glory, beheld the two companions of Jesus standing with Him inside the glory. These two human forms, “whether in the body or out of the body,” I know not, were Moses and Elias: Moses the publisher of the law, Elias the chief of the prophets, both of them seen shining in the same light with Christ Himself, who gave the law and sent the prophets. Moses and Elias, admirable to the Jews for their miracles, beautiful to God for their holiness. Moses and Elias, each admitted to conference with God in Horeb; both of them types of Christ; both of them fasters of forty days; both of them dividers of the waters, messengers of God to kings; both of them marvellous in their life, mysterious in their end. A chariot of angels came and took away Elias; he was sought by the prophets and not found. Michael, the archangel, strove with the devil for the body of Moses; and he was sought by his people and not found. But strange to say, both Moses and Elias were destined to be found at last without seeking. Many centuries after their disappearance three fishermen of Galilee found the two prophets of God both together, standing with the Messiah, shining in fellowship with the brightness of His glory on some mountain or other in Galilee. Doubtless, other than human spectators were gazing upon this marvellous scene of the transitory glory. We may well believe that myriads of angels, ever moving on the wings of ministration, on this occasion also clustering around the peaks of Tabor, did in amazement behold Him between two saints transfigured, whom afterwards they beheld in horror between two thieves disfigured. Meanwhile Peter and James and John, from the outer twilight of the sunshine of this world, were looking with an astonished curiosity into that heavenly circle of sevenfold brightness, which ensphered in one glory the shining three, Jesus and with Him Moses and Elias. And as they gazed they heard Moses and Elias speaking--speaking still as of old prophetically and of Christ, for they spake of His decease, or, as St. Luke writes, they “foretold His departure.” This they did, not to inform Him that He was to die, for this He knew long before; nay, He Himself communicated it to them, for He was the Word of the Father, and they were but two voices or echoes of that Word--the two prophets inside thus spake in order that the three disciples outside might hear, and that, hearing from two heavenly witnesses what they had before heard from their Divine Master, they might by the threefold testimony be settled, strengthened, established in the belief of the coming passion. And now behold a bright cloud overshadowed them! The outer skirts of the central glory began to advance--to enlarge their borders and to encompass the chosen three. Peter and James and John stand for a while in the golden suburbs of the heavenly Jerusalem. “A bright cloud overshadowed them.” He who “tempers the wind to the shorn lamb” softened the dazzling brightness with a luminous curtain. Nevertheless, even in the haze of the cloud that relieved the blaze, they were affrighted. The majesty was veiled to them, yet they were afraid. The glory was tempered to them, yet they trembled. But if the subdued flashing of the clouded splendour alarmed them, the thunder of the voice that came out of the cloud appalled them. It was the voice of God! “This is My Son, My Beloved, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.” At the sound of that Divine voice the three disciples fell upon their face and were exceedingly afraid. And Jesus approaching them, as was His wont, did not rebuke them either for their past drowsiness or for their present terror, but gently said, “Arise, and be not afraid.” And lifting up their eyes they saw no one save Jesus only. This was the last scene of this Divine drama. All had now vanished--Moses, Elias, the cloud, the voice, the glory. The mountain remained standing, as it stood before, but not more solid and real than the glimpse of heaven of which it had been the brief stage. Peter and James and John, who had drooped and slumbered, who had gazed upon the scene and wondered, who had heard the voice and had fallen and been raised and comforted, they also remained near the spot. And last, but net least, Jesus, too, remained on the scene; but the beauty of comeliness, the brightness of majesty, the glory of His countenance had departed from Him. This was the second time that He relinquished His glory for us and for our salvation. He was now to outward view just what He was before the change, a man to common eyes of no mark, of no desire. Now, as before, He was in the form of a servant, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He knew what was in store for Him: that from the summits of the glory He must descend into the garden of the agony; from the garden of the agony bearing the cross of shame He must be lifted up on the tree of the curse. That Divine face which had so lately shone with the light of God must be smitten and buffeted and spit upon; that sacred brow and those stainless hands that had just now glistened with a heavenly brightness must be bruised with thorns and pierced with nails; that raiment which had been woven anew with threads of light must be stript from His body and divided as a spoil. As He came down from the mount of the Transfiguration He knew that He must die. He knew as He descended from that happiness that He must descend still further, that henceforth His path lay terribly downward. He knew that He, bearing the nature of all men, must step by step pass down the sleep stair of the humiliation, from the glory to the agony, from the bitter sharp agony to the awful tragedy. He knew that He, the Messiah, the Redeemer of men, the Creator and the Restorer of the world, the Holy One of Israel, the Son of God, must for some hours hang upon the tree, in the daylight a mark of mocking men, in the darkness a butt of scoffing fiends. In this storm of hate, in this wild rage of popular fury, the sea and the waves roaring, cries of blasphemy, shouts of derision shocking His pure ears, from all sides looks of malignant glee, glances of triumphant scorn meeting His meek eyes--He knew that thus and thus He must depart, alone in His passion, abandoned of His fellow-men, deserted by the chosen three, forsaken of the twelve elect, forsaken even in His inmost consciousness of His God. He knew, I say, as He descended from the mount of the Transfiguration that He must die--must die the death of a common malefactor, in order that He might become the common Benefactor of mankind and the propitiation, not only for the sins of His Church, but for the sins also of the whole world. (T. S. Evans, D. D.)

A bore the cloud

An alpine traveller has told us how, one day, he set out from Geneva, in a dense and dripping fog, to climb one of the hills in the range of the Grand Saleve; and how, after ascending for some hours, he came out above the mist, and saw the cloudless sky above him, and around him on every hand the snowy battlement of the glorious mountains. In the valley lay the fog, like a waveless ocean of white vapour; and as he stood on the overhanging crags, he could hear the chime of bells, the lowing of cattle, and the sound of labour coming up from the villages that lay invisible beneath; while now and then, darting up out of the cloudy sea, there came a bird, which after delighting itself awhile in the joyous sunshine, and singing a glad song to greet the unexpected brightness, dived down again and disappeared. Now, what that brief time of unclouded radiance was to the bird which had left the drizzling dulness of the lower world beneath it, that was the experience of the Transfiguration to our Lord Jesus. His earthly life, as a whole, was spent in the valley, beneath the clouds of suffering and sorrow; and it was only at rare intervals that He emerged above it, and stood on the mountain-top in the glorious majesty of His native Godhead. Of such occasions, that of she Transfiguration was, by far, the grandest. It stands alone, even among the marvels of His history, rising above them with as much magnificence as does the mountain on which it took place above the surrounding plain. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The countenance as an index

The human face is a “book where men can read strange matters.” Said Dr. Bellows in a recent sermon: “There is an ecumenical council in the soul of man,” a conflict of opinions good and evil, a debate on the great truths of duty and destiny; and we might carry out the figure and say that the doings of this great council in the soul cannot be kept secret by closed lips, for the face is a bulletin-board that constantly indicates the working of the heart. We have all seen how anguish of heart “disasters the cheeks” and furrows the face, and writes upon it the epitaphs of buried hopes; we have seen “faces tramped as hard as a highway by the hoofs of pain and oppression,” and every one is thus familiar with the fact that sorrow engraves its story in the countenance. But look, also, into the faces that glare at you from the dens of infamy; faces that seem to contain the ruins of the ten commandments; faces that hurt you more than a blow; faces where “from the eyes the spirit wildly peeps”; faces like petrified vices, not a finger-touch of God left whole upon them, and you will realize that vice as well as misery makes its trademark on the visage while it ravages the heart. Great soul-artists always recognize the fact that we are to see the mind in the visage. Dickens makes even the dogs to lead their blind masters up side alleys to escape the cruel face of Scrooge, while on the other hand, the little boy in the churchyard looks with tears into the face of “little Nell,” as her countenance is being transfigured by approaching death to see if she is already an angel, as the neighbours have said she will be soon. (W. F. Crafts.)

Modern transfigurations

But these transfigurations are not out of date. In the sweet hour of prayer, and around the mercy-seat, it is is still true of many a believer, “as he prayed the fashion of his countenance was changed.” I have seen faces that shone with the light of a new experience; faces that caused me to look steadfastly, for they were as the faces of angels by this transfiguration from within. Often I meet a face which is a transfiguration of trust and joy; often I feel the outshining of a mystic glory and peace as I gaze within a face that is itself a gospel, a living epistle known and read of all. Recently there knelt at the altar of mercy a man whose face was horrible with agony and remorse. At length he cried, “My sins are washed away in the blood of the Lamb!” and he looked up beautiful, as it were, with the face of an angel. “The beauty of the Lord our God was upon him.” “Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, he was changed into the same image.”

The transforming power of communion with God

Whether that communion take the form of prayer, or a childlike confidence, or a searching after truth and life, it has this power. Contrast the portraits of Luther and Loyola; George Canning and George IV.; John Milton and Charles I.; or more pertinently still, the portrait of Bunyan, the wild, godless tinker of 1650, with the same Bunyan of twenty years later, the thinking, praying, dreaming maker of laces in Bedford jail for conscience’ sake. Or picture to yourself the appearance of John when the fisherman on the Galilean sea--what his face was when with indignant anger he said,” Shall we call down fire from heaven and consume them?”--and what he was and his face was, when after intimate communion with the Father through Christ Jesus, he stood by the Cross--and what later still, when old and sainted, he repeated his one text and sermon, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (John Christian, D. D.)

Verse 30

Luke 9:30; Luke 9:32

Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease

The decease at Jerusalem






The conference on the Mount

1. What they spake of none could Divine, unless it had been told us, and the Evangelist Luke telleth us, that it was of His death. This argument was chosen--

(1) Because it was at hand. The next solemn mediatory action after this was His death and bloody sufferings; after He was transfigured in the Mount, He went down to suffer at Jerusalem.

(2) This was an offence to the apostles that their Master should die Matthew 16:22-23).

(3) This was the Jews’ stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:23).

(4) This was prefigured in the rites of the Law, foretold in the writings of the Prophets.

(5) It was necessary that by death He should come to His glory, of which now some glimpse and foretaste was given to Him.

(6) The redemption of the Church by Christ is the talk and discourse we shall have in heaven. The angels and glorified saints are blessing and praising Him for this (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12).

(7) It is an instructive pattern to us, that Christ in the midst of His Transfiguration, and the glory which was then put upon Him, forgat not His death. In the greatest advancement we should think of our dissolution. If Christ, in all His glory, discoursed of His death, surely it more becometh us, as necessary for us to prevent the surfeit of worldly pleasures; we should think of the change that is coming, for “Surely every man at his best estate is vanity” (Psalms 39:5). In some places they were wont to present a death’s head at their solemn feasts; merry days will not always last, death will soon put an end to the vain pleasures we enjoy here, and the most shining glory will be burnt out to a snuff.

2. The notion by which His death is expressed, His decease ἔξοδον, which signifies the going out of this life into another, which is to be noted.

(1) In respect unto Christ His death was an “exodus,” for He went out of this mortal life into glory, and so it implieth both His suffering death, and also His resurrection (Acts 2:24).

(2) With respect to us; Peter (2 Peter 1:15) calls His death an “exodus.” The death of the godly is a “going out,” but from sin and sorrow, to glory and immortality. The soul dwelleth in the body as a man in a house, and death is but a departure out of one house into another; not an extinction, but a going from house to house.

3. The necessity of undergoing it. “Accomplishing.”

(1) His mediatorial duty, with a respect to God’s ordination and decree declared in the prophecies of the Old Testament, which, when they are fulfilled, are said to be accomplished. Whatsoever Christ did in the work of redemption was with respect to God’s will and eternal decree (Acts 4:28).

(2) His voluntary submission which He should accomplish, noteth His active and voluntary concurrence; it is an active word Dot passive, not to be fulfilled upon Him, but by Him.

(3) That it was the eminent act of His humiliation; for this cause He assumed human nature. His humiliation began at His birth, continued in His life, and was accomplished in dying; all was nothing without this, therefore there is a consummation or perfection attributed to the death of Christ Hebrews 10:14). (T. Manton, D. D.)

A revelation of the heavenly life

Moses and Elias are standing humbly in the presence of Jesus Christ (as He had once sat at the feet of the Rabbi in the Temple), holding converse with Him, acknowledging all their ignorance, telling Him all their perplexities, responding to Him with the response of perfect assent to His every utterance. Of what did they speak! They spoke of “His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” This word “decease” should, in my opinion, have a larger application; it is the same word as St. Peter used when he spoke of the death which he was about to die, which is also translated as “decease”; it should be rather “exodus.” We may be certain of this; it was not merely of the historic fact of Christ’s death of which they spoke, they wanted to know the deep meaning underlying that fact, and this could only be understood when His death was studied in connection with the many mysteries before and after. Of this, of all those mysteries which found their centre in the Cross of Calvary, did they speak on the Mount of Transfiguration, and thus revealed to the apostles and to us what is the heavenly life of which our life here is the prelude, what is that eternal state to which we are all rapidly journeying. First, then, it is of primary importance to consider that heaven is a state rather than a locality. Don’t misunderstand me. I do not say there is no space which we call heaven to-day, no space where that sacred humanity still exists which the Incarnate Saviour took upon Himself, and which has since been in some sense subject to laws of creaturely existence, and therefore subject to space. Wherever Jesus Christ is there is heaven, and yet if you ask where this heavenly life will be lived, in what locality the heavenly life will be lived, then I shall answer that probably, though of this no one can be certain, probably the sphere of that life will be mainly this earth. The last vision in the Apocalypse is not the vision of the Church ascending, but her advent on the “new earth.” “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Insignificant as this planet is in the wonderful cosmos, yet it has been chosen among God’s creations as the scene in which the great mystery of love should be carried out, in which the incarnate life of the Son of God should be lived; out of the dust of this earth His sacred body was formed, on this earth He lived His life, on this earth He died His death, and from this earth He ascended into heaven, and carried into the presence of the Father, to be for ever there, the body formed of the dust of this earth. This earth is the scene of the humiliation of Jesus Christ, of the humiliation of His Church, of the whole family of mankind; is it not likely to be the centre of that plan in which the glory of Jesus Christ, the glory of His Church and of mankind, shall be consummated? I state, then, as a pious opinion, that this earth will be the centre of that life of bliss which the glorified Church will live. And where more fitting? We have no reason to believe that the great work of Redemption has been carried out in any of the other worlds in God’s great plan of creation, nor do we even know that those worlds are inhabited by living souls. And yet the great question is, not where shall that heavenly life be spent, but what is that life? And the answer is plainly and distinctly given in the Revelation which we are studying, that the heavenly life is a state of conformity to God. Church life is revealed to us as lived under three conditions, of which two are present conditions and one future: the first is the militant life on earth; the second is the waiting life in paradise--the life of souls waiting in that dear place of rest for the coming of their Lord in glory--and the third is the life of perfect conformity to Jesus Christ. Here we are ever reaching forward to that conformity, and yet none of us can ever be perfect; in paradise I venture to believe that there will be growth for those waiting souls, an ever-increasing conformity with Jesus; for “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” That “perfect day” is the coming of our Lord, when we shall see Him as He is, when we shall be wholly conformed to God, when, waking up after His likeness, “we shall be satisfied.” By the heavenly life we understand that state of glory which is entered on by the resurrection--for as baptism is our birth into the Church militant, so death is our birth into the Church expectant, and the resurrection our birth into the Church glorified. The state of expectation is only over when He, whom we look for, shall appear, and we shall enter into the state of conformity. What is this conformity? I answer, that my perfect conformity is my attainment of my perfect individuality; no one can be perfectly conformed to God in the sense that they can express in themselves every beauty that is in Him; for is it not true that He is the Sun and we are only the stars, and we know that “one star differeth from another star in glory”? Conformity to Christ is this, my perfect realization of the Divine thought for me; God is not mirrored in each member of the Church, but in the whole Church; one ray of His beauty is mirrored in one, and one in another; I was created to reflect one ray; He who created me “telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,” and, as “one star differeth from another,” so one man from another man. If I may say it, the great Creator never uses the same mould twice; having used it once He throws it away, and so the characteristics of one are not the same as another. God has placed me in this world with an individual purpose of life to develop, and any system which takes God’s creations, on whom is stamped individuality, and forces them into the same pattern, is immoral, is a marring of God’s plan. There must be space in His Church: “Thou has set my feet in a large room.” So, when I am truly myself when I can fulfil my highest aspirations, when I can live out my fullest resolves when I can perfectly express the idea of my individual being which God has revealed to me, then at last I have gained conformity to Christ, then I know what it is to rest in the heaven of God. Oh! joy to be my ideal self! joy when conduct shall square with conviction, when conviction shall square with aspiration, and aspiration shall square with resolve! Oh! the utter rest to lie at the feet of Jesus, true to Him because utterly true to myself! Moses will be Moses there, Elias will be Elias there, each before Jesus Christ in His own individuality and personality. But what is the life which awaits me there? The answer comes clearly and distinctly--a life lived in the power of Jesus Christ. The first great hunger of each human creature is heart-hunger, the first great thirst is heart-thirst; if love, then, is our greatest need, be sure of this, God created us to beloved, “and, therefore, He created us to possess and to be possessed by Himself, who is absolute Beauty and perfect Love; and so, whether our love flows out first to those dear ones whom He has given us to love, whether our first love is given to Him or only indirectly to Him, of this be sure, we cannot know heart-rest until we rest wholly in His love.
The time will come when we shall have not only an intellectual but an actual apprehension of His love, when we shall live by sight and not by faith, and as we gaze on the Word Incarnate, the sight of God’s beauty mirrored there will draw up to us His embrace, and the joy of God’s love will attract us to Him eternally. This, then, is heaven, to rest in the love of God. Then if our first great longing is for love, our second is for knowledge. The heart longs for love, the mind for knowledge: and here, in time, we cannot satisfy this longing. The more we know, the more we become conscious of our ignorance; the more we feed the mind, the more it hungers for that which it has not. Here we know “in part.” But there, in the heavenly life, the partial knowledge shall be made complete; and I shall study the truth, not only as it has been revealed, but with the aid of the great First Cause, of God Himself; and as I see God I shall know the rest that comes with the perfect knowledge of the truth as it is in Him. And how shall we study to know God? As we can see the Father only as He is mirrored in the Son, so we can only hear His voice as revealed to us through the Incarnate Word. And our study will surely be the study of those mysteries which gather round His sacred form--the mystery of His Incarnation, the mystery of His Death, the infinite mystery of His Resurrection and of His Ascension (for in each is a manifestation of the Infinite). And so, through all the ages of eternity, there will be an eternal festival--an eternal Christmas, an eternal Lady Day, an eternal Easter, and an eternal Ascension--that I may receive into my mind the meaning of these mysteries, and give back to God my mental satisfaction by uttering heaven’s eternal creed and offering heaven’s ceaseless worship. Then, thirdly, if in heaven the cravings of our heart for love and of our intellects for knowledge will be satisfied, so, too, will our desire for unity. To some the thought of individuality is not attractive; it is not personal isolation they long for, but corporate union. The two ideas are not antagonistic. True, “ the King’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold.” But why? Because each separate thread is of wrought gold. We see in the Revelation how every precious stone was used in the completion of the heavenly city, which could not be perfect without the perfection of each stone; and so here a life of perfected individuality may be the same as a life of perfected unity. Moses and Elias stood side by side, they knew one another, they shared a common study, they asked common questions, they received the common truth, though Peter and James and John, with their own individual characteristics of zeal and love and patience, as they stood there with them, and heard the Voice out of the cloud, “ This is My beloved Son,” knew Moses to be Moses, and Elias Elias; so in heaven ours will be no mere life of individual isolation, in which the enjoyment of personal love, the tasting of personal truth, the offering of personal worship, will be our one thought. No; the perfection of the lives of the saints blends in one perfect communion: there saint with saint holds converse, lives a common life, offers a common worship. (Canon Body.)

Christ crucified

Such words never were, never could with truth and fitness, be applied to any but the one death.

The first point to be noted here is, THE VOLUNTARY CHARACTER OF THIS DEATH. There was no power, no law of nature that made death a necessity to the Lord Jesus. That pilgrimage into the regions of the tomb He could undertake or decline, according to His own pleasure. He died simply because He willed to die. He might have left the world in a very different way. Like His own servant Elias, with whom He conversed of this decease, He might have returned to heaven in a chariot of fire; or, if He must taste death in order that He might be perfectly like unto His brethren, His departure might have been calm and tranquil, in the stillness of home, amid the sympathies and tears of loving friends. Such a death would surely have been sufficient, if the end of His ministry had been simply the manifestation of God in the flesh. Instead of a close so fitting to a life of purity, He chose to accomplish a decease, in which He should be “numbered with the transgressors.” Surely for this there must have been wise and sufficient reason. The fact that He died thus, is the proof that the great design of His advent could be fulfilled only by such a death. With Him it was the centre-fact of His whole history.

THE IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO THIS DEATH. He had work to do in the world beside, a bright example to give; the true ideal of a human life to set before man; a perfect righteousness to win; a thousand blessings to scatter; His own deep love and sympathy with human sorrows to discover: but His great work was this--to die.

THE TRUE MEANING OF THIS DEATH. The New Testament speaks in various ways--sometimes it employs the language of type and symbol--sometimes it gives us distinct and explicit statements but all its representations of this death converge to one point, and enforce one grand idea. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” Here is an expressive metaphor--one whose signification it cannot be hard to discover. What is the meaning of the apostle? The Paschal Lamb died for the deliverance of the nation--through his death the nation escaped the sword of the destroying angel--the animal was slain, the blood was sprinkled, and the people were saved. So was Christ our Passover sacrificed, that we might be delivered--His death is our life--in virtue of His blood of sprinkling we are purified and accepted. “The decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Thus, then, did the man Christ Jesus ever keep before Him that goal of suffering and humiliation to which His steps were tending. Not ignorantly did He rush on perils and death, entering on a path whose end He did not discern until retreat had become impossible. Knowing what the work was, He had deliberately undertaken it, and throughout all its stages, the issue was ever present to His eye. Very early in His ministry did He indicate that He was set apart to this service--was anointed unto sacrifice. (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

Two divisions in the glorified Church

Why were these two men with Jesus in the vision? Is it not because when at length the Church shall reach her state of glory there will be within her two distinct classes? We are told, that when our Lord comes, the “dead in Christ shall rise first,” and at the sound of the trump, and at the call of His voice, the “fields of Paradise” shall be deserted, and they shall all be caught up to meet their Lord in the air, henceforth to seek Him in His beauty and to be His daily delight. But what of those who are not in the “fields of Paradise” at the time of the coming of our Lord? Shall they die? Shall they know that mysterious experience which we call death, the separation of the soul from the body? No, for then it would be a purposeless experience. “They shall not die, but shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and shall be ever with the Lord.” Therefore the glorified Church shall be the assembly of those who, some from life and some from Paradise, are gathered into the presence of Christ. And do we not see these two classes represented in the ancient saints who talked with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses, we know, died; and we remember the cause of his death there in the wilderness, and the mysterious conflict over his body between Michael the archangel and Satan. Elijah died not; he never experienced this crisis of existence, but, we are told, “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” So the two great divisions of the glorified Church are fittingly represented by these two Old Testament characters, one of whom died the most arresting death there recorded, and the other died not. (Canon Body.)

Death an exodus

1. “It is strange how much we can find in that great scene on the Holy Mount, to illustrate this conception, and to impress it on our minds. Look at the speakers--Moses, Elijah, Christ. Was not the death of Moses an exodus? A sacred mystery hangs over the decease of the “Man of God.” “He who died by the kiss of the Eternal” is a not infrequent synonym for Moses in the Rabbinical schools. Elijah, again, was rapt, we are told, and carried up into heaven, as by a whirling cloud of fiery chariots. If, therefore, any of the sons of men should be permitted to pass from the spiritual world to hold converse with Christ in the moment of His glory, these were the two men. They had already and fully achieved the exodus or journey of death, and had passed into the large fair land beyond. “They talked with Him of the exodus He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” If we love and follow Him, we need not doubt that we shall be made partakers of His death in this high sense--that for us, as for Him, death will be an exodus, a journey home.

2. The more we study this conception of death the more instructive and suggestive we shall find it to be. The illustration which the figure suggests, and was intended to suggest, is the exodus of Israel from Egypt. If we consider what that exodus was and implies, if we then proceed to infer that death will be to us very much what their exodus was to the captive Hebrew race, we shall reach some thoughts of death, and of the life that follows death, which can hardly fail to be new and helpful to us. The exodus was a transition from bondage to freedom, from grinding and unrequited toil to comparative rest, from ignorance to knowledge, from shame to honour, from a life distracted by care and pain and fear to a life in which men were fed by the immediate bounty of God, guided by His wisdom, guarded by His omnipotence, consecrated to His service. And if death be an exodus, we may say that, by the gate and avenue of death, we shall pass from bondage to freedom, &c. (S. Cox, D. D.)

The central truth of the Transfiguration

CHRIST GLORIFIED IN CONNECTION WITH HIS DEATH. There are two transfigurations--that of the Mount and that of the Cross; and it is impossible to understand either, save in the light of the other. He who was on the Mount was still the Man of Sorrows, and He who was on the Cross was still the Divine Son. The death on the Cross gave its glory to the mountain-scene; the declaration on the Mount makes the death all-radiant with triumph.



Celestial visitors

When we read of the reappearance of Moses and Elias after their long absence, our first feeling is that of wonder; it is to us a miracle, a strange thing, for the dead do not return. But why view it thus? The wonder is, not that Moses and Elias were seen in the holy Mount, but that the separation between us and the blessed dead should be so complete. Their long unbroken silence is the strange thing when you think of it. We long to know more of them and of the world in which they dwell. We know from this narrative--

1. That human spirits are not annihilated when they disappear from this world.

2. That human spirits have a personal existence after death.

3. We see in Moses and Elias what all faithful souls shall be, when the great redemption is completed--as like unto God as possible. (Thomas Jones.)

The thought of death amid the raptures of the Transfiguration

Jesus was lifted by His rapture above the fear of death. He spoke calmly of His decease with the messengers from the unseen world, whose very presence testified of death conquered and the grave despoiled. His acutest pain was transformed into His highest joy, as the body of His humiliation was transfigured by the glory of heaven; and at that supreme moment, when His life was at the brightest, He could have willingly lain it down, and passed into the dark shadow feared of man. This true to human experience. Jacob on seeing Joseph again--“Now let me die”; Simeon, with the infant Saviour in his aged arms--“Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” And outside the domain of Scripture we find numerous examples of the same strange intermingling of the highest glory of life with the thought of sorrow and death. It is indeed on mounts of transfiguration, when our nature is irradiated by some great joy, that we love to speak of our decease. We fear not to enter into the cloud of death when we are transfigured by the passionate intensity of our feelings. Our joy transforms the pain of dying into its own splendour, as the sun changes the very cloud into sunshine. All thoughtful writers have described this remarkable human experience, AEschylus, in his “ Agamemnon “, pictures the herald returning from the Trojan War as so overjoyed at revisiting his native land that he was willing to die. Goethe represents one of his most beautiful creations--the loved and loving Clara--as wishing to die in the hour of her purest joy; for earth had nothing beyond the rapture of that experience. Shakespeare puts into the lips of Othello, at his joyful meeting with Desdemona, after the perils of his voyage to Cyprus were over, the passionate exclamation:--

“If it were now to die

“Twere now to be most happy: for I fear
My soul hath her content so absolute,
That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.”

It is said of Benjamin Franklin that his exultation was so great when he succeeded in attracting the lightning from the clouds by means of his kite, and thus proving its identity with the electricity of the earth, that he could willingly have died that very moment. Miss Martineau, in her “Retrospect of Western Travel,” describes the grandeur of a storm which she encountered on the Atlantic, as producing a similar triumph over the fear of death. “In the excitement of such an hour,” she says, “one feels as if one would as soon go down in those magnificent waters as die any other death.” I remember, on one occasion, having something of the same feeling. I was travelling at night in a mountain region, when a terrible storm came on. The rain poured in torrents; the thunder pealed among the rocks; flash after flash of lightning linked the hills together, as with chains of fire. A pall of blackness covered the sky from end to end. Hundreds of torrents poured down the heights into a lake, as if direct from the clouds; the sheen of their foam looked weird and ghastly in the illumination of the lightning, and their roar drowning the crash of the thunder; the sound of many waters, here, there, and everywhere, filling earth and sky. Amid all this appalling elemental war, I felt a strange excitement and uplifting of soul, which made me indifferent to danger, careless what became of me. Such moments reveal to us the greatness of our nature, and fill us with the intoxication of immortality. Death in such glorious circumstances seems an apotheosis. He comes to us as it were with the whirlwind and the chariot of fire, to lift us above the slow pain of dying, in the rapture of translation. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

The conference during the transfiguration

In this discourse I shall first direct your attention to the account given of the persons who conversed with our Lord, and then to the subject of their conference.


1. It may be thought that two angels would have rendered the scene more splendid, but there was a peculiar propriety in employing men.

2. They were men of high eminence under the former dispensation.

3. We are told that these visitants appeared in glory. They came from heaven, and though their honour and felicity there were very high, they felt no reluctance to descend to this mountain. They were not called to relinquish their splendour or to cover it with a veil, as our Lord is said to have “emptied Himself,” when he appeared in our world. The glory which invested them must have been very great, since it was visible amidst the brightness spread around our Lord.

4. They talked with Jesus. It is not said that they talked with one another. They descended, not to hold intercourse with the disciples, but with their Master.

Let us now attend to THE SUBJECT OF THEIR CONFERENCE. It was the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.

1. They spake of the moral glory which Jesus should exhibit in His departure. Great was the glory of Moses in the going forth from Egypt.

2. They spoke of the important ends to be gained by His death. It reconciles the mind to labours and sufferings, when we are assured that valuable ends will be gained by them. Let me specify some of these ends. They talked of the glory which would result from His death to all the Divine perfections. The expiation to be made for sin was another end. I must mention further, the salvation to be gained by His death for millions of human beings.

3. We may consider them as speaking of the influence of His death.

4. They spoke of the rewards which would be conferred on Him for His obedience to the death.

Let me now state shortly, some of the reasons why this theme was chosen for conference on the Mount.

1. It was done to animate and invigorate the Son of Man for the scene before Him.

2. We may find another reason for the choice of the topic in its peculiar importance.

3. They talked of this subject for the sake of the disciples.

4. They did it for the benefit of the Church in all ages.

1. Let Christians live more under the influence of this death than ever.

2. Let good men prepare for their departure.

3. Let me call on the disciples of Jesus, with kindred feelings to those of Moses and Elias, to commemorate their Saviour’s decease. And let those who never approach the Lord’s table consider that, were their conduct general, the death of Christ might sink into oblivion on earth. (H. Belfrage.)

Verse 32

Luke 9:30; Luke 9:32

Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease

The decease at Jerusalem






The conference on the Mount

1. What they spake of none could Divine, unless it had been told us, and the Evangelist Luke telleth us, that it was of His death. This argument was chosen--

(1) Because it was at hand. The next solemn mediatory action after this was His death and bloody sufferings; after He was transfigured in the Mount, He went down to suffer at Jerusalem.

(2) This was an offence to the apostles that their Master should die Matthew 16:22-23).

(3) This was the Jews’ stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:23).

(4) This was prefigured in the rites of the Law, foretold in the writings of the Prophets.

(5) It was necessary that by death He should come to His glory, of which now some glimpse and foretaste was given to Him.

(6) The redemption of the Church by Christ is the talk and discourse we shall have in heaven. The angels and glorified saints are blessing and praising Him for this (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12).

(7) It is an instructive pattern to us, that Christ in the midst of His Transfiguration, and the glory which was then put upon Him, forgat not His death. In the greatest advancement we should think of our dissolution. If Christ, in all His glory, discoursed of His death, surely it more becometh us, as necessary for us to prevent the surfeit of worldly pleasures; we should think of the change that is coming, for “Surely every man at his best estate is vanity” (Psalms 39:5). In some places they were wont to present a death’s head at their solemn feasts; merry days will not always last, death will soon put an end to the vain pleasures we enjoy here, and the most shining glory will be burnt out to a snuff.

2. The notion by which His death is expressed, His decease ἔξοδον, which signifies the going out of this life into another, which is to be noted.

(1) In respect unto Christ His death was an “exodus,” for He went out of this mortal life into glory, and so it implieth both His suffering death, and also His resurrection (Acts 2:24).

(2) With respect to us; Peter (2 Peter 1:15) calls His death an “exodus.” The death of the godly is a “going out,” but from sin and sorrow, to glory and immortality. The soul dwelleth in the body as a man in a house, and death is but a departure out of one house into another; not an extinction, but a going from house to house.

3. The necessity of undergoing it. “Accomplishing.”

(1) His mediatorial duty, with a respect to God’s ordination and decree declared in the prophecies of the Old Testament, which, when they are fulfilled, are said to be accomplished. Whatsoever Christ did in the work of redemption was with respect to God’s will and eternal decree (Acts 4:28).

(2) His voluntary submission which He should accomplish, noteth His active and voluntary concurrence; it is an active word Dot passive, not to be fulfilled upon Him, but by Him.

(3) That it was the eminent act of His humiliation; for this cause He assumed human nature. His humiliation began at His birth, continued in His life, and was accomplished in dying; all was nothing without this, therefore there is a consummation or perfection attributed to the death of Christ Hebrews 10:14). (T. Manton, D. D.)

A revelation of the heavenly life

Moses and Elias are standing humbly in the presence of Jesus Christ (as He had once sat at the feet of the Rabbi in the Temple), holding converse with Him, acknowledging all their ignorance, telling Him all their perplexities, responding to Him with the response of perfect assent to His every utterance. Of what did they speak! They spoke of “His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” This word “decease” should, in my opinion, have a larger application; it is the same word as St. Peter used when he spoke of the death which he was about to die, which is also translated as “decease”; it should be rather “exodus.” We may be certain of this; it was not merely of the historic fact of Christ’s death of which they spoke, they wanted to know the deep meaning underlying that fact, and this could only be understood when His death was studied in connection with the many mysteries before and after. Of this, of all those mysteries which found their centre in the Cross of Calvary, did they speak on the Mount of Transfiguration, and thus revealed to the apostles and to us what is the heavenly life of which our life here is the prelude, what is that eternal state to which we are all rapidly journeying. First, then, it is of primary importance to consider that heaven is a state rather than a locality. Don’t misunderstand me. I do not say there is no space which we call heaven to-day, no space where that sacred humanity still exists which the Incarnate Saviour took upon Himself, and which has since been in some sense subject to laws of creaturely existence, and therefore subject to space. Wherever Jesus Christ is there is heaven, and yet if you ask where this heavenly life will be lived, in what locality the heavenly life will be lived, then I shall answer that probably, though of this no one can be certain, probably the sphere of that life will be mainly this earth. The last vision in the Apocalypse is not the vision of the Church ascending, but her advent on the “new earth.” “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Insignificant as this planet is in the wonderful cosmos, yet it has been chosen among God’s creations as the scene in which the great mystery of love should be carried out, in which the incarnate life of the Son of God should be lived; out of the dust of this earth His sacred body was formed, on this earth He lived His life, on this earth He died His death, and from this earth He ascended into heaven, and carried into the presence of the Father, to be for ever there, the body formed of the dust of this earth. This earth is the scene of the humiliation of Jesus Christ, of the humiliation of His Church, of the whole family of mankind; is it not likely to be the centre of that plan in which the glory of Jesus Christ, the glory of His Church and of mankind, shall be consummated? I state, then, as a pious opinion, that this earth will be the centre of that life of bliss which the glorified Church will live. And where more fitting? We have no reason to believe that the great work of Redemption has been carried out in any of the other worlds in God’s great plan of creation, nor do we even know that those worlds are inhabited by living souls. And yet the great question is, not where shall that heavenly life be spent, but what is that life? And the answer is plainly and distinctly given in the Revelation which we are studying, that the heavenly life is a state of conformity to God. Church life is revealed to us as lived under three conditions, of which two are present conditions and one future: the first is the militant life on earth; the second is the waiting life in paradise--the life of souls waiting in that dear place of rest for the coming of their Lord in glory--and the third is the life of perfect conformity to Jesus Christ. Here we are ever reaching forward to that conformity, and yet none of us can ever be perfect; in paradise I venture to believe that there will be growth for those waiting souls, an ever-increasing conformity with Jesus; for “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” That “perfect day” is the coming of our Lord, when we shall see Him as He is, when we shall be wholly conformed to God, when, waking up after His likeness, “we shall be satisfied.” By the heavenly life we understand that state of glory which is entered on by the resurrection--for as baptism is our birth into the Church militant, so death is our birth into the Church expectant, and the resurrection our birth into the Church glorified. The state of expectation is only over when He, whom we look for, shall appear, and we shall enter into the state of conformity. What is this conformity? I answer, that my perfect conformity is my attainment of my perfect individuality; no one can be perfectly conformed to God in the sense that they can express in themselves every beauty that is in Him; for is it not true that He is the Sun and we are only the stars, and we know that “one star differeth from another star in glory”? Conformity to Christ is this, my perfect realization of the Divine thought for me; God is not mirrored in each member of the Church, but in the whole Church; one ray of His beauty is mirrored in one, and one in another; I was created to reflect one ray; He who created me “telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,” and, as “one star differeth from another,” so one man from another man. If I may say it, the great Creator never uses the same mould twice; having used it once He throws it away, and so the characteristics of one are not the same as another. God has placed me in this world with an individual purpose of life to develop, and any system which takes God’s creations, on whom is stamped individuality, and forces them into the same pattern, is immoral, is a marring of God’s plan. There must be space in His Church: “Thou has set my feet in a large room.” So, when I am truly myself when I can fulfil my highest aspirations, when I can live out my fullest resolves when I can perfectly express the idea of my individual being which God has revealed to me, then at last I have gained conformity to Christ, then I know what it is to rest in the heaven of God. Oh! joy to be my ideal self! joy when conduct shall square with conviction, when conviction shall square with aspiration, and aspiration shall square with resolve! Oh! the utter rest to lie at the feet of Jesus, true to Him because utterly true to myself! Moses will be Moses there, Elias will be Elias there, each before Jesus Christ in His own individuality and personality. But what is the life which awaits me there? The answer comes clearly and distinctly--a life lived in the power of Jesus Christ. The first great hunger of each human creature is heart-hunger, the first great thirst is heart-thirst; if love, then, is our greatest need, be sure of this, God created us to beloved, “and, therefore, He created us to possess and to be possessed by Himself, who is absolute Beauty and perfect Love; and so, whether our love flows out first to those dear ones whom He has given us to love, whether our first love is given to Him or only indirectly to Him, of this be sure, we cannot know heart-rest until we rest wholly in His love.
The time will come when we shall have not only an intellectual but an actual apprehension of His love, when we shall live by sight and not by faith, and as we gaze on the Word Incarnate, the sight of God’s beauty mirrored there will draw up to us His embrace, and the joy of God’s love will attract us to Him eternally. This, then, is heaven, to rest in the love of God. Then if our first great longing is for love, our second is for knowledge. The heart longs for love, the mind for knowledge: and here, in time, we cannot satisfy this longing. The more we know, the more we become conscious of our ignorance; the more we feed the mind, the more it hungers for that which it has not. Here we know “in part.” But there, in the heavenly life, the partial knowledge shall be made complete; and I shall study the truth, not only as it has been revealed, but with the aid of the great First Cause, of God Himself; and as I see God I shall know the rest that comes with the perfect knowledge of the truth as it is in Him. And how shall we study to know God? As we can see the Father only as He is mirrored in the Son, so we can only hear His voice as revealed to us through the Incarnate Word. And our study will surely be the study of those mysteries which gather round His sacred form--the mystery of His Incarnation, the mystery of His Death, the infinite mystery of His Resurrection and of His Ascension (for in each is a manifestation of the Infinite). And so, through all the ages of eternity, there will be an eternal festival--an eternal Christmas, an eternal Lady Day, an eternal Easter, and an eternal Ascension--that I may receive into my mind the meaning of these mysteries, and give back to God my mental satisfaction by uttering heaven’s eternal creed and offering heaven’s ceaseless worship. Then, thirdly, if in heaven the cravings of our heart for love and of our intellects for knowledge will be satisfied, so, too, will our desire for unity. To some the thought of individuality is not attractive; it is not personal isolation they long for, but corporate union. The two ideas are not antagonistic. True, “ the King’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold.” But why? Because each separate thread is of wrought gold. We see in the Revelation how every precious stone was used in the completion of the heavenly city, which could not be perfect without the perfection of each stone; and so here a life of perfected individuality may be the same as a life of perfected unity. Moses and Elias stood side by side, they knew one another, they shared a common study, they asked common questions, they received the common truth, though Peter and James and John, with their own individual characteristics of zeal and love and patience, as they stood there with them, and heard the Voice out of the cloud, “ This is My beloved Son,” knew Moses to be Moses, and Elias Elias; so in heaven ours will be no mere life of individual isolation, in which the enjoyment of personal love, the tasting of personal truth, the offering of personal worship, will be our one thought. No; the perfection of the lives of the saints blends in one perfect communion: there saint with saint holds converse, lives a common life, offers a common worship. (Canon Body.)

Christ crucified

Such words never were, never could with truth and fitness, be applied to any but the one death.

The first point to be noted here is, THE VOLUNTARY CHARACTER OF THIS DEATH. There was no power, no law of nature that made death a necessity to the Lord Jesus. That pilgrimage into the regions of the tomb He could undertake or decline, according to His own pleasure. He died simply because He willed to die. He might have left the world in a very different way. Like His own servant Elias, with whom He conversed of this decease, He might have returned to heaven in a chariot of fire; or, if He must taste death in order that He might be perfectly like unto His brethren, His departure might have been calm and tranquil, in the stillness of home, amid the sympathies and tears of loving friends. Such a death would surely have been sufficient, if the end of His ministry had been simply the manifestation of God in the flesh. Instead of a close so fitting to a life of purity, He chose to accomplish a decease, in which He should be “numbered with the transgressors.” Surely for this there must have been wise and sufficient reason. The fact that He died thus, is the proof that the great design of His advent could be fulfilled only by such a death. With Him it was the centre-fact of His whole history.

THE IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO THIS DEATH. He had work to do in the world beside, a bright example to give; the true ideal of a human life to set before man; a perfect righteousness to win; a thousand blessings to scatter; His own deep love and sympathy with human sorrows to discover: but His great work was this--to die.

THE TRUE MEANING OF THIS DEATH. The New Testament speaks in various ways--sometimes it employs the language of type and symbol--sometimes it gives us distinct and explicit statements but all its representations of this death converge to one point, and enforce one grand idea. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” Here is an expressive metaphor--one whose signification it cannot be hard to discover. What is the meaning of the apostle? The Paschal Lamb died for the deliverance of the nation--through his death the nation escaped the sword of the destroying angel--the animal was slain, the blood was sprinkled, and the people were saved. So was Christ our Passover sacrificed, that we might be delivered--His death is our life--in virtue of His blood of sprinkling we are purified and accepted. “The decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Thus, then, did the man Christ Jesus ever keep before Him that goal of suffering and humiliation to which His steps were tending. Not ignorantly did He rush on perils and death, entering on a path whose end He did not discern until retreat had become impossible. Knowing what the work was, He had deliberately undertaken it, and throughout all its stages, the issue was ever present to His eye. Very early in His ministry did He indicate that He was set apart to this service--was anointed unto sacrifice. (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

Two divisions in the glorified Church

Why were these two men with Jesus in the vision? Is it not because when at length the Church shall reach her state of glory there will be within her two distinct classes? We are told, that when our Lord comes, the “dead in Christ shall rise first,” and at the sound of the trump, and at the call of His voice, the “fields of Paradise” shall be deserted, and they shall all be caught up to meet their Lord in the air, henceforth to seek Him in His beauty and to be His daily delight. But what of those who are not in the “fields of Paradise” at the time of the coming of our Lord? Shall they die? Shall they know that mysterious experience which we call death, the separation of the soul from the body? No, for then it would be a purposeless experience. “They shall not die, but shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and shall be ever with the Lord.” Therefore the glorified Church shall be the assembly of those who, some from life and some from Paradise, are gathered into the presence of Christ. And do we not see these two classes represented in the ancient saints who talked with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses, we know, died; and we remember the cause of his death there in the wilderness, and the mysterious conflict over his body between Michael the archangel and Satan. Elijah died not; he never experienced this crisis of existence, but, we are told, “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” So the two great divisions of the glorified Church are fittingly represented by these two Old Testament characters, one of whom died the most arresting death there recorded, and the other died not. (Canon Body.)

Death an exodus

1. “It is strange how much we can find in that great scene on the Holy Mount, to illustrate this conception, and to impress it on our minds. Look at the speakers--Moses, Elijah, Christ. Was not the death of Moses an exodus? A sacred mystery hangs over the decease of the “Man of God.” “He who died by the kiss of the Eternal” is a not infrequent synonym for Moses in the Rabbinical schools. Elijah, again, was rapt, we are told, and carried up into heaven, as by a whirling cloud of fiery chariots. If, therefore, any of the sons of men should be permitted to pass from the spiritual world to hold converse with Christ in the moment of His glory, these were the two men. They had already and fully achieved the exodus or journey of death, and had passed into the large fair land beyond. “They talked with Him of the exodus He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” If we love and follow Him, we need not doubt that we shall be made partakers of His death in this high sense--that for us, as for Him, death will be an exodus, a journey home.

2. The more we study this conception of death the more instructive and suggestive we shall find it to be. The illustration which the figure suggests, and was intended to suggest, is the exodus of Israel from Egypt. If we consider what that exodus was and implies, if we then proceed to infer that death will be to us very much what their exodus was to the captive Hebrew race, we shall reach some thoughts of death, and of the life that follows death, which can hardly fail to be new and helpful to us. The exodus was a transition from bondage to freedom, from grinding and unrequited toil to comparative rest, from ignorance to knowledge, from shame to honour, from a life distracted by care and pain and fear to a life in which men were fed by the immediate bounty of God, guided by His wisdom, guarded by His omnipotence, consecrated to His service. And if death be an exodus, we may say that, by the gate and avenue of death, we shall pass from bondage to freedom, &c. (S. Cox, D. D.)

The central truth of the Transfiguration

CHRIST GLORIFIED IN CONNECTION WITH HIS DEATH. There are two transfigurations--that of the Mount and that of the Cross; and it is impossible to understand either, save in the light of the other. He who was on the Mount was still the Man of Sorrows, and He who was on the Cross was still the Divine Son. The death on the Cross gave its glory to the mountain-scene; the declaration on the Mount makes the death all-radiant with triumph.



Celestial visitors

When we read of the reappearance of Moses and Elias after their long absence, our first feeling is that of wonder; it is to us a miracle, a strange thing, for the dead do not return. But why view it thus? The wonder is, not that Moses and Elias were seen in the holy Mount, but that the separation between us and the blessed dead should be so complete. Their long unbroken silence is the strange thing when you think of it. We long to know more of them and of the world in which they dwell. We know from this narrative--

1. That human spirits are not annihilated when they disappear from this world.

2. That human spirits have a personal existence after death.

3. We see in Moses and Elias what all faithful souls shall be, when the great redemption is completed--as like unto God as possible. (Thomas Jones.)

The thought of death amid the raptures of the Transfiguration

Jesus was lifted by His rapture above the fear of death. He spoke calmly of His decease with the messengers from the unseen world, whose very presence testified of death conquered and the grave despoiled. His acutest pain was transformed into His highest joy, as the body of His humiliation was transfigured by the glory of heaven; and at that supreme moment, when His life was at the brightest, He could have willingly lain it down, and passed into the dark shadow feared of man. This true to human experience. Jacob on seeing Joseph again--“Now let me die”; Simeon, with the infant Saviour in his aged arms--“Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” And outside the domain of Scripture we find numerous examples of the same strange intermingling of the highest glory of life with the thought of sorrow and death. It is indeed on mounts of transfiguration, when our nature is irradiated by some great joy, that we love to speak of our decease. We fear not to enter into the cloud of death when we are transfigured by the passionate intensity of our feelings. Our joy transforms the pain of dying into its own splendour, as the sun changes the very cloud into sunshine. All thoughtful writers have described this remarkable human experience, AEschylus, in his “ Agamemnon “, pictures the herald returning from the Trojan War as so overjoyed at revisiting his native land that he was willing to die. Goethe represents one of his most beautiful creations--the loved and loving Clara--as wishing to die in the hour of her purest joy; for earth had nothing beyond the rapture of that experience. Shakespeare puts into the lips of Othello, at his joyful meeting with Desdemona, after the perils of his voyage to Cyprus were over, the passionate exclamation:--

“If it were now to die

“Twere now to be most happy: for I fear
My soul hath her content so absolute,
That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.”

It is said of Benjamin Franklin that his exultation was so great when he succeeded in attracting the lightning from the clouds by means of his kite, and thus proving its identity with the electricity of the earth, that he could willingly have died that very moment. Miss Martineau, in her “Retrospect of Western Travel,” describes the grandeur of a storm which she encountered on the Atlantic, as producing a similar triumph over the fear of death. “In the excitement of such an hour,” she says, “one feels as if one would as soon go down in those magnificent waters as die any other death.” I remember, on one occasion, having something of the same feeling. I was travelling at night in a mountain region, when a terrible storm came on. The rain poured in torrents; the thunder pealed among the rocks; flash after flash of lightning linked the hills together, as with chains of fire. A pall of blackness covered the sky from end to end. Hundreds of torrents poured down the heights into a lake, as if direct from the clouds; the sheen of their foam looked weird and ghastly in the illumination of the lightning, and their roar drowning the crash of the thunder; the sound of many waters, here, there, and everywhere, filling earth and sky. Amid all this appalling elemental war, I felt a strange excitement and uplifting of soul, which made me indifferent to danger, careless what became of me. Such moments reveal to us the greatness of our nature, and fill us with the intoxication of immortality. Death in such glorious circumstances seems an apotheosis. He comes to us as it were with the whirlwind and the chariot of fire, to lift us above the slow pain of dying, in the rapture of translation. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

The conference during the transfiguration

In this discourse I shall first direct your attention to the account given of the persons who conversed with our Lord, and then to the subject of their conference.


1. It may be thought that two angels would have rendered the scene more splendid, but there was a peculiar propriety in employing men.

2. They were men of high eminence under the former dispensation.

3. We are told that these visitants appeared in glory. They came from heaven, and though their honour and felicity there were very high, they felt no reluctance to descend to this mountain. They were not called to relinquish their splendour or to cover it with a veil, as our Lord is said to have “emptied Himself,” when he appeared in our world. The glory which invested them must have been very great, since it was visible amidst the brightness spread around our Lord.

4. They talked with Jesus. It is not said that they talked with one another. They descended, not to hold intercourse with the disciples, but with their Master.

Let us now attend to THE SUBJECT OF THEIR CONFERENCE. It was the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.

1. They spake of the moral glory which Jesus should exhibit in His departure. Great was the glory of Moses in the going forth from Egypt.

2. They spoke of the important ends to be gained by His death. It reconciles the mind to labours and sufferings, when we are assured that valuable ends will be gained by them. Let me specify some of these ends. They talked of the glory which would result from His death to all the Divine perfections. The expiation to be made for sin was another end. I must mention further, the salvation to be gained by His death for millions of human beings.

3. We may consider them as speaking of the influence of His death.

4. They spoke of the rewards which would be conferred on Him for His obedience to the death.

Let me now state shortly, some of the reasons why this theme was chosen for conference on the Mount.

1. It was done to animate and invigorate the Son of Man for the scene before Him.

2. We may find another reason for the choice of the topic in its peculiar importance.

3. They talked of this subject for the sake of the disciples.

4. They did it for the benefit of the Church in all ages.

1. Let Christians live more under the influence of this death than ever.

2. Let good men prepare for their departure.

3. Let me call on the disciples of Jesus, with kindred feelings to those of Moses and Elias, to commemorate their Saviour’s decease. And let those who never approach the Lord’s table consider that, were their conduct general, the death of Christ might sink into oblivion on earth. (H. Belfrage.)

Verse 33

Luke 9:33

It is good for us to be here

Raise up your eyes heavenward


If you frequently remember heaven, it will be A GREAT CONSOLATION IN YOUR MANY TRIBULATIONS HERE.

1. Affliction shall be no more.

(1) No separation.

(2) No grief.

(3) No pains.

2. In heaven we shall find an everlasting reward for our tribulations.

If you frequently remember heaven, you will be ENCOURAGED IS THE VARIOUS STRUGGLES OF LIFE.

1. Heaven is your peaceful home.

(1) No enemy.

(2) No struggle.

2. Heaven is the abode of infinite glory. (Joseph Schuen.)

On the top of Tabor

THEY HAD A VISION OF CHRIST’S DIVINITY. Not His distinct, unveiled Godhead--that would have been an insufferable blaze that Jehovah Himself hath told us can no man look upon and live. On the form of a servant He wears His coronation robes, and is at one and the same time a mystery and a revelation--God manifest in the flesh! What an honour and a privilege was this!

THEY HAD A VISION OF GLORIFIED SAINTS. Thou too, my friend, for good or ill, will live on through all the ages. Not only men, but retaining their individuality, in form and feature as in the days of their flesh.

THEY HAD A VISION OF THE FATHER’S PRESENCE. There came a cloud and overshadowed them; not an ordinary cloud, but the bright Shekinahcloud, in which Jehovah did ever manifest His presence--the medium through which He ever made His communications to a favoured few.

THEY SAW A VISION OF JESUS ONLY. This, I think, was the chief end and aim of this great event. (J. J. Wray.)

Our wishes are not always wise

Peter’s instance showeth us two things.

1. That we are apt to consult with our own profit, rather than public good. It is our nature, if it be well with ourselves, to forget others.

2. How much we are out when we judge by present sense, and the judgment of flesh. Well then, let us learn by what measure to determine good or evil.

1. Good is not to be determined by our fancies and conceits, but by the wisdom of God: for He knoweth what is better for us than we do for ourselves.

2. That good is to be determined with respect to the chief good, and true happiness.

3. That good is not always the good of the flesh, or the good of outward prosperity; and therefore certainly the good of our condition is not to be determined by the interest of the flesh, but the welfare of our souls.

4. A particular good must give way to a general good, and our personal benefit to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, and the glory of God.

5. This good is not to be determined by the judgment of sense, but by the judgment of faith; not by present feeling, but future profit. That which is not good may be a means to good. If we come to a person under the Cross, and ask him, What! Is it good to feel the lashes of God’s correcting hand? to be kept poor, sickly, exercised with losses and reproaches, to part with friends and relations, to lose a beloved child? he would be apt to answer, No. But this poor creature after he hath been exercised, and mortified, and gotten some renewed evidences of God’s favour; ask Him then, Is it good to be afflicted? Oh yes, I had been vain, neglectful of God, wanted such an experience of the Lord’s grace. Faith should determine the case when we feel it not. Well then, let us learn to distinguish between what is really best for us, and what we judge to be best. Other diet is more wholesome for our souls than that which our sickly appetite craveth. It is best many times when we are weakest, worst when strongest, all things are good as they help on a blessed eternity, so sharp afflictions are good. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Peter’s rash judgment

I propound six questions on this.

1. Could it be good for them that Christ should entrench Himself in Mount Tabor, and never go to Jerusalem to be crucified? Lord, grant us not our own wishes when we desire evil unto ourselves; for this apostle unwittingly desired as much mischief to fall upon his own head as the devil could wish.

2. And might not Peter counsel Him without offence against this ignominious death? No, my beloved; for it is not to be excused how he knew not the Scriptures, that this was the course appointed for the redemption of the world. The hungry could not eat their bread until it was broken; we could not quench our thirst with the water of life till it was poured out of His wounds.

3. I ask, if that condition of life be well chosen in this world which appears, as this did to Peter, to be exempted from all affliction? Danger is the best sentinel in the world to make us watch our enemies. Fear is the best warning bell to call us often to prayer. Tribulation is the best orator to persuade us to humility.

4. Where shall the dove rest his foot? If we would be contented with the present state we enjoy, yet all things will change, and though all things should remain as they are, and never change, yet we would never be contented. The sea is a new sea every tide, the earth is a new earth every month, or every quarter at the longest distance, the same mutability whirls us about, and the things that we possess. What content then could Peter take in one hill, though it were furnished with a most desirable vision? How quickly would it have cloyed him to have been long there, like a lark, hopping upon one turf of grass? Though God prepare for us a new heaven, and a new earth, yet He must give us a new heart likewise to delight in them for ever. For it is not the object alone, but the disposition of the soul which receives it, that must make us say, “When I awake up after Thy likeness I shall be satisfied with it.”

5. Should we call that good which is appropriated to ourselves, and not communicated to many? When every man is his own end, all things will corns to a bad end. Blessed were those days, when every man thought himself rich and fortunate by the good success of the public wealth and glory. Every man thinks that he is a whole commonwealth in his private family. Can the public be neglected and any man’s private be secure? It is all one whether the mischief light upon him or his posterity. There are some, says Tully, that think their own gardens and fishponds shall be safe when the Commonwealth is lost.

6. To the last question briefly in a word: Could it be the supreme good of man to behold the human nature of Christ only beatified? Surely, the human nature shining as light as the sun was a rare object, that Peter could have been contented with that, and no more, for his part for ever, yet the resolution of the school holds certain, that blessedness consists essentially in beholding the Divine nature which is the fountain of all goodness, and power; and in the fruition thereof, accidentally it consists in beholding Christ’s human nature glorified, and in the consequent delectation. These things must not be enlarged now, because I am prevented by the time. (Bishop Hacker.)

Balloon religion

Peter is in ecstasy amid these surroundings. He desires to remain on the Mount. He says in rapture, “It is good for us to be here.” He would rather remain there for ever, than go down from the mountain and engage in the practical duties of life. But his request is denied him. Sometimes, in revival meetings, you have felt in the same way. There are duties outside of the revival. Longfellow, in one of his poems, pictures a youth, who, in winter, seizes a banner and begins the ascent of a mountain. He gradually leaves behind him the fields, the stores, the workshops, the dwellings, and the neighbours. As he rises higher and higher he shouts, “Excelsior.” His voice grows fainter and fainter, until heard no more. He has gone so high, that the atmosphere in which he moves has become too thin to sustain life, and he dies. So it is no uncommon thing to see professed Christians taking the banner of the Cross and crying, “Hallelujah,” “Amen,” rise higher and higher, emotionally, until they leave behind them this practical world. They lose sight of the duties of every-day life. They are too high up to give much attention to such matters as speaking the truth, keeping their temper, restraining their tongue from slander, and paying their debts. They have become too religious to give much concern to these things. But these persons soon reach an altitude where the atmosphere is too thin for them to live, and they die. It is one thing to be religious on the Mount of Transfiguration, and another thing not to deny our Lord in the world below. Instead of this gushing religion, let us have one that touches the ground. (Irving A. Searles.)

A three-tent heaven

Peter forgot the other disciples, the great world beneath, and the generations yet to come. How narrow and insignificant this proposed heaven, compared with the one seen by the Patmos exile, who beheld “a great multitude which no man could number.” But Peter is not the only follower of Christ who would be satisfied with a little three-tent heaven. This spirit is the death-warrant of missionary enterprise. What shall be said of a Christian who is satisfied if he can only gain heaven for himself, even if the rest of the world is lost? Away with the idea of a three-tent heaven! (Irving A. Searles.)

Holiness in religious assemblies and in every-day life;

1. The wish Peter here expresses is exceedingly natural.

2. It is seemingly pious.

3. It expresses a desire not altogether free from selfishness.

4. Like other selfish wishes, Peter’s was mistaken. “Not knowing what he said” indicates the blind manner in which it was cherished and expressed.

5. We have said enough already to indicate why Peter’s wish was not gratified. But why, if in form it had to be denied, might it not have been granted in substance? Supposing that Peter’s main object in wishing to remain there was the better and holier mood which he would have been able to maintain, why might not the spiritual condition have been granted to him, even though the surrounding circumstances could not be perpetuated? The same questions in effect are sometimes asked now. Say some, “The Lord is able at once to sanctify you wholly.” But to ask why, if God is able to sanctify us, we are not sanctified instantaneously by His power, is very much the same as to ask, why does not God make us other than men? Why does He not change us into things into which He can put whatsoever He pleases, while, for the possession of it, as we have no will in the matter, we shall be entitled to no praise, as for the lack of it we are subject to no blame? The answer is, because He has destined us for something nobler; that, while free to choose the wrong, ours might be the merit of making the right the object of our desires and aspirations, and prayers and strivings, until having, through diligent and untiring effort, gained the victory over evil, and attained to the possession of all that is well-pleasing in His sight, we hear from His lips the eulogy which can never be pronounced on those who are made, only on those who do, and labour, and fight, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” &c. (W. Landels, D,D.)

The overshadowing cloud

Like the clouds that overhang and surround us, so the sorrows of life come and go, and alternate our days with changeful light and shade. Let us gaze at this cloud overshadowing these apostles, that we may learn something of the clouds that may now and hereafter overshadow our hearts.


1. When did it overshadow them? At the moment at which they were witnessing a new and unexpected revelation of the majesty and glory of Jesus. How unlikely that a cloud should then arise!

2. What cloud was it that overshadowed them? It was a cloud of salvation. It came in mercy.


1. Perhaps because it was a cloud.

2. Because there was mystery in the cloud. Their fear implied their deficiency of love.

THE VOICE IN THE CLOUD. The voice of God, testifying to them of Jesus. It was the very testimony they needed, and it was vouchsafed to them in answer to the prayer of Jesus. In all the clouds that overshadow us, in all the sorrows that assail us, there is a Divine voice addressing us; and the design of the testimony is to exalt Jesus in our hearts. (W. T. Bull, B. A.)

The cloud

Our whole happiness and power of energetic action depend upon our being able to breathe and live in the cloud; content to see it opening here and closing there; rejoicing to catch through the thinnest films of it, glimpses of stable and substantial things; but yet perceiving a nobleness even in the concealment, and rejoicing that the kindly veil is spread where the untempered light might have scorched us, or the infinite clearness wearied. (J. Ruskin.)

The fear of the disciples

What is meant by the expression “as they entered the cloud,” will be understood by all of you who have ever climbed to the summit of some high mountain, and may be imagined by those who have seen the lofty peak of some towering hill enveloped in a robe of mist. When, as you stand in the cool air of the mountain-top, the cloud descends upon you, you seem rather to be rising up into it, and as it hides from your view the way you have come, and the wide reach of the surrounding country, you are seized and oppressed with a sense of loneliness and mystery which may well explain what is said of the disciples in the text. And the kind of fear which is here spoken of is just that which is most trying and hardest to bear, that namely of some unknown evil that may befall you in the gloom. We create for ourselves more evils than we are called to endure. We climb the shadows before we reach the hills. To be the slave of presentiments is to deprive life of the pleasure which it was intended to have in store for us, and so to weaken ourselves that when the expected trouble befalls us it crushes and overwhelms us. (J. R. Bailey.)

The voice from the cloud

Is there not rich and consoling meaning to be got out of the fact that the voice spake to the disciples out of the fearful cloud? Does it not show that the cloud itself was the token of the Divine presence? Does it not teach us that the very events and experiences we fear the most may be those which shall most surely bring God nigh to us? The cloud and the voice are inseparably connected in the narrative--the cloud which conceals, and the voice which reveals. It is not that there was a cloud here, and a voice there. It was from the midst of the cloud that the voice came. And, did we but know it, there is a Divine presence in, and a Divine voice issuing from every cloud. Let us learn to be thankful for the cloud, instead of fearful of it, if, without it, we should not hear the reassuring voice. (J. R. Bailey.)

The overshadowing cloud

Think of the cloud as a symbol--



Verses 34-36

Luke 9:34-36

They feared as they entered into the cloud

Entering the cloud


THE GLOOM OF THE CLOUD OFTEN SUCCEEDS THE GLADNESS OF THE LIGHT. Delight even in our divines, experiences is not to be all. These disciples had a hard work to do yet. God has reasons for the darkness as well as for the light.

THE ENTERING INTO THE CLOUD WAS A MATTER OF FEAR. Fear on entering! It is often the first experience that we dread. The awful solitude of Glencoe strikes you most on entering; by degrees, you see colour among the rocks, beauty in the vale. Overcome first fear, and then, as you merge into some dread experience, the mind will become accustomed to the change. No sorrow is so great as it seems.

THERE IS A VOICE IN THE CLOUD, AND IT IS THE VOICE OF GOD. A cloud and a voice! Yes, the conjunction is beautiful even in a human sense. It is under the cloud of misconception that a friend’s voice is all-sustaining; it is under the cloud of some dark trial that the tender tones of love make sweetest music. This was the voice of God. That in itself is deepest solace and truest inspiration. Speak, Lord! Enoch heard that voice when he walked with God. It is a Father’s voice. In the cloud, if we are the children of the world, there will be heard only our own voice--the voice of repining--the voice of distrust--the voice of mourning--or, worst of all, the voice of despair!

THERE IS A SOLITARY VISION AFTER THE CLOUD. They saw “Jesus only.” Beautiful in one sense, though they were disappointed that other visions were gone.

THERE IS A TRANSFIGURATION LAND, WHERE THERE ARE NO CLOUDS. Then the voice will come from the throne, not from the cloud. There are no clouds there; faith needs no more trial; character no more test. Christian transfiguration is not completed here; we are renewed, but not glorified yet. But in ourselves we have a prophecy of perfected life, even the earnest of the inheritance. (W. M. Statham, B. A.)

The overshadowing cloud, and the voice that comes from it

The first thing that claims attention is--

THE OVERSHADOWING CLOUD. It is not necessary for us to go on far in life before we find clouds coming to cast their shadows over us. We know that the elements are there out of which overshadowing clouds are in constant process of formation. And we know too that there are active agents all the time in operation on those elements. There are the rivers and lakes and seas about us, spreading out their broad water surfaces. And there is the sun with his genial beams, turning that water into vapour, and sending it off on its floating voyage through the air, to form into clouds which shall cast their shadows over our pathway. And just so it is in our experience of life in its moral or spiritual aspect. We carry in us, and find around us, the elements and agents that are occupied continually in forming the clouds that come and overshadow us. In the sickness and death of those we love, or in the visitation of personal sickness, in the loss of property, in the disappointment of our reasonable expectations, what clouds arise continually from all these varied sources! How darkly their shadows fall upon us! The apostles were on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus in all the glory of His coming kingdom stood in the midst of them. They stood at the very vestibule of heaven, with all the radiance of its glory beaming around them; and yet, even on that towering summit--a point of elevation in brightness and bliss, such as dwellers on this globe had never reached before--“there came a cloud and overshadowed them.” And so it must be with us. We must expect the clouds to come and cast their shadows over us. This side of heaven we cannot get beyond their reach. “There came a cloud and overshadowed them,” has been descriptive of the experience of God’s people from the beginning. If we look at the lives of Abraham, Job, Jacob, David, or any of God’s servants, as written in the Bible, we see how broad and deep these shadows have lain upon their pathway.

THE FEELING WITH WHICH THIS EXPERIENCE. IS GENERALLY MET. “And they feared as they entered into the cloud.” Nothing is more natural to fallen men than fear in reference to God and eternity. And it is not difficult to point out the causes of it.

1. One of these is our consciousness of sin. Fear cannot find room where sin has not gone before it.

2. There may be a failure to understand the views which the Scriptures give us of God’s providence; or an unwillingness to believe those views. Either of these things will give rise to the fear of which we are speaking. This is the Bible view of God’s providences towards His people. Could anything be brighter, or more cheerful? Then why should Christians fear when the cloud comes? There would be no room for fear if we only had simple faith in these Bible views of providence. Fear springs from the want of faith. In the darkest hour of Luther’s trying life the Elector of Saxony was the only earthly defender who stood by him. For a time it was doubtful whether the Emperor Charles V. might not send an army against the elector and crush him. “Where will you be,” said some one to Luther, “if the emperor should send his forces against the elector?” It was under the sustaining influence of the principle we are now considering that that heroic man sublimely said, “I shall be either in heaven or under heaven.” He could enter the darkest cloud without fear.

THE VOICE FROM THE CLOUD. “There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son; hear Him.” And this is the design of all God’s afflictive dealings with His people. The cloud comes upon us, with its overshadowing gloom, to check us in the too eager pursuit of other things, and to enable us to see Jesus, and understand His character and work. A soldier had lost his right arm from the shoulder during the last war. To an agent of the Christian Commission, who visited him, he said, “It seems to me I cannot be grateful enough for losing my arm. It was dreadful to me at first.” Thus he “feared as he entered into the cloud.” “But,” he continued, it has ended in bringing me to Jesus. And now, I can say with truth, “It is better to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into outer darkness.” Thus God lets the clouds of trial come and overshadow us, that we may be prepared to see the light, and glory, and infinite sufficiency, and preciousness, that are to be found in Christ.

“Sorrow touch’d by love grows bright,

With more than rapture’s ray;

And darkness shows us worlds of light

We never saw by day.”

And then this voice from the cloud quickens to duty, as well as points to Jesus. “This is My beloved Son; hear Him.” Such was David’s experience when he said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Thy word.” The voice from the overshadowing cloud had quickened him in duty. There are two trees. One is growing on a fertile plain, the other is perched high up on the mountain-side. The lowland tree will lean to this side or that, though it be but a summer breeze that bends it, or a bank of cowslips from which its trunk leans aslope. But let the storm and the avalanche do their worst to the hardy pine-tree of the Alps, it will cling to its little ledge on the side of the precipice and grow straight. Its roots point down to the centre of the earth; and the more the storms rock it, the hardier, and the stronger, and the straighter it will grow. And the same law holds in spiritual growth as in that which is natural. The voice from the overshadowing cloud quickens to duty and strengthens for service. And there is no nobler sight to contemplate than that of a child of God, whose confidence in Him cannot be shaken--not fearing when the clouds gather, nor faltering when the tempests burst. And thus we have attempted to speak of the overshadowing cloud; of the fear with which it is entered; and of the voice that comes from it. The cloud, the fear, the voice. There is just one lesson we may carry away with us from the consideration of this subject. It is this: If we are true Christians we never need fear the developments of God’s providences. However darkly the clouds may gather, or however fiercely the storms may burst, they cannot harm us. We need not fear. (R. Newton.)

The cloud and the voice

With a natural cloud the facts we associate are obscurity, dimness, a degree of mystery, a hiding of the light--sometimes very mercifully softening and tempering what would be more dazzling than the delicate organ of sight could bear--yet a body so attenuated, transparent, and movable, that we feel the darkness is transient. It may pass away from the face of the sun; it may be touched by his beams, transfigured to the eye, and made almost like another sun in splendour. Such, under the laws of light and air and water and attraction, are the properties of the cloud in nature. Now, in that succession of special disclosures of the Divine Presence and care for man, of which the Bible is the completest record and Christ the perfect incarnation, it is striking to see how each principal act of revelation is covered with a cloud--a palpable veil of mystery. From the beginning to the end you see the persistent and remarkable reappearance of this symbol. Considering how these different books of the Bible were produced, and what a variety of authors, periods, countries, stages of literary culture, they proceed from, this is more than a coincidence--it is design. It discloses a general truth. As men are brought near to the very sight and feeling of their Lord, an obscurity overshadows them; there is a shrinking; reverence hides the face; the angels even, admitted to the brightest day, veil their eyes with their wings; no sight is clear enough, no faith is bold enough, not to need the screen. “They feared as they entered into the cloud.”

1. Most of our deepest acquaintance with religious truth comes by a discipline of some severity. To pass out of a life of indifference and self-indulgence into one of purity and prayer requires a painful effort. If you can look back to any time when your life took a new starting-point, or rose to a higher aim, you will remember there was some hard conflict connected with it. Suffering is not only the consequence of sin, but the instrument of recovery. It is a means of penitence, and so a minister to the only real peace.

2. The second point on this practical side of the doctrine is that it is when we are entering into this cloud--having only the dark side of it before us, and its damp and chilly folds closing around us--that we are afraid. The purpose of the cloud is to shut out all that we are not meant to see. It is also a kind of background for the heavenly vision. This is only one way of expressing the exact and eternal contradiction of right and wrong. The true life is born by a painful travail.

3. For, thirdly, there comes, as the Evangelist writes, “a voice out of the cloud,” which is sufficient, if we will hearken to it, to guide us through the dark, into the light, where the sun is never dim.

4. “Hear Him.” Hear Him, and He will scatter the cloud from about you with the breath of His mouth. (Bishop Huntington.)

The cloud

The Lord did show that He could frame a better piece of architecture of a sudden than Peter could imagine to build: he spake of three tabernacles, which would be long in piecing together; God in a moment creates one cloud to receive them all better than a hundred tabernacles. Such a one as Moses and the Israelites had in the wilderness to shadow them against all offence. Such things the heathen did drive at in their poetical fictions: but I am sure the Lord is able to pitch a cloud between His chosen and their enemies, that the hand of violence shall not touch them, neither shall any evil come nigh their dwelling.

A cloud did interpose itself to qualify the object of the Transfiguration, and to make it fit for the disciples to behold it: the cloud indeed was very bright, yet it was dark and opacous in respect of Christ’s body, which did exceed the very light of the sun. In this life we must look through a cloud, we must expect to see Him as in a glass darkly, hereafter we shall see Him face to face. Mark the infirmity of man’s nature in this sinful corruptible condition, and let us learn humility; it was not enough that Peter, John, and James were not transformed in the Mount, as Christ was--no, nor as Moses and Elias were, our vile flesh is not receptive of such celestial excellency--but to abase them and us further, a shady cloud opposed itself before their eyes, because we are not fit nor worthy to behold such pure happiness in these days of vanity. “Such knowledge is too excellent for me,” says David, “I cannot attain unto it.”

This cloud was set up for a land-mark to limit curiosity, and to drive men off from approaching too near to pry into the Divine secrets. Where God sets up a cloud it is a manifest sign that those are our bounds, and we must not break them.

And I am sure this reason searcheth the true cause of the cloud as near as any. God the Father in the Old Testament was wont to utter His voice out of the thick clouds of the air, and so He continues His holy will in the gospel, and therefore prepared this cloud to preach from thence the words which follow, “This is My beloved Son,” &c. (Bishop Hacker.)

A cloud of protection

Where God covers anything with a miraculous shadow, it promiseth that the Divine protection is round about it. Leonidas the Grecian was told that his enemies came marching in such full troops against him, that their darts when they threw them up would cover the light of the sun: Leonidas puts it off with this stout Courage, Turn in umbra pugnabimus; “Then we will fight in the shade.” A courageous word, and made very fit for a Christian’s mouth. Believe in the Lord, and we are all under His custody and defence; beseech Him to stretch His wings upon us, and the Holy Ghost will overshadow us, In umbra pugnabimus, to that shadow we betake ourselves to shun the fire of anger, and the heat of con cupiscence; under that shadow will we fight against our ghostly enemies. Why did not the disciples know their own strength and assurance when this cloud did overshadow them? Did not the Lord declare that He took them into His protection? (Bishop Hacker.)

Man and mystery

MAN IN CONTACT WITH MYSTERY. The disciples now stood face to face with “The Cloud.”

1. Every science is an attempt to solve Nature’s mysteries, to discover Nature’s secrets.

2. Nor in the realm of Religion does man have less frequently to do with mystery. In the fact that man has thus to do with mystery, we have a sign of the finiteness of our nature.

MAN ALARMED AT MYSTERY. There are many mysteries, such for instance as some in the physical world, contact with which does not awaken fear. Some in the natural world. As when stupendous nature seems to be the enemy of man, so that it arrays itself in plague, storm, earthquake, against the feeble, the unoffending, the good. Some in intellectual speculation. Those who climb the mountain of inquiry often “fear as they enter the cloud.” Some in personal experience. And there will be death. In the fact that man is thus alarmed at mystery, we have one proof of the sinfulness of our nature. To a pure being mystery would have no dread.

MAN ENLIGTENED IN MYSTERY. But the cloud became a sanctuary; the mystery a revelation. For out of it there came a voice, saying, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him.” So hearing the Divine teaching about the ever-living, ever-present Christ, we connect Him and mystery together thus: Christ is the moral of all mysteries. The cloud settled on the mountain, and enwrapped the three disciples, solely to perfect the revelation of Christ to them. Thus every mystery in human life is meant, and adapted, to train us for Christ. Does mystery discover to us our ignorance, so that we feel as those that grope in darkness, and stretch forth imploring hands, and strain eager eyes for light? That yearning, thus intensified under the pressure of mystery, is a yearning for Christ, “the Light of the World.” Does mystery make us realize our feebleness, so that we feel as a leaf driven before the winds of circumstances, a waif tossed on the waves of the unresting ocean of the material universe, and cry for strength? That cry is for Christ, the arm of the Lord revealed.” Christ is the interpreter of mystery. There are mysteries that He solves for us now by the record of His wonderful words. Christ is the controller of all mystery. Not alone hath He “the keys of death and hell,” though verily these two are among the deepest of all mysteries; but He is the Sovereign of the future, for to Him “is subject the world to come.” (U. R. Thomas)

The Lord Jesus as Mediator

1. From the occasions upon which this voice came from heaven; at His Baptism, which was Christ’s dedication of Himself to the work of a Redeemer and Saviour, and now at His Transfiguration, to distinguish Him from Moses and the other prophets, and publicly to instal Him in the mediatory office.

2. The matter of the words show His fitness for this office, for here you have--

(1) His dignity; not a servant, but a Son (Hebrews 3:5-6).

(2) The dearness between God and Him.

3. His acceptableness to God, who is well-pleased with the design, the terms, the management of it.

This work of Mediator Christ executeth by three offices of King, Priest, Prophet.

That though all the three offices be employed, yet the prophetical office is more explicitly mentioned, partly as suiting with the present occasion, which is to demonstrate that Christ hath sufficient authority to repeal the Law of Moses which the prophets were to explain, confirm, and maintain till His coming. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christ, the great Prophet, must be Head

That Christ is the great Prophet and Teacher of the Church appeareth

1. By the titles given to Him.

(1) He is compared with Moses, the great Lawgiver among the Jews Deuteronomy 18:15).

(2) He is called the Angel or Messenger of the Covenant (Malachi 3:1).

2. By the properties of His office. He has three things to qualify Him for this high office.

(1) Absolute supreme authority; and therefore we must hear Him and hearken to Him.

(2) All manner of sufficiency and power of God to execute this office John 3:34).

(3) There is in Him a powerful efficacy. As He hath absolute authority to teach in His own name, and fulness of sufficiency to make known the mind of God to us; so He hath power to make His doctrine effectual. And when He dealt with His disciples, after He had opened the Scriptures, He opened their understandings (Luke 24:25). So He opened the heart of Lydia Acts 16:14). He can teach so as to draw (John 6:44-45). He can excite the drowsy mind, change and turn the rebellious will, cure the distempered affections, make us to be what He persuadeth us to be. There is no such teacher as Christ, who doth not only give us our lesson, but a heart to learn; therefore to Him must we submit, hear nothing against Him, but all from Him.

About hearing Him; that must be explained also. First, What it is to hear. It being our great duty, and the respect bespoken for Him. In the hearing of words there are three things considerable; the sound that cometh to the ear, the understanding of the sense and meaning, and the assent or consent of the mind. Of the first, the beasts are capable, for they have ears to hear the sound of words uttered. The second is common to all men, for they can sense such intelligible words as they hear. The third belongeth to disciples, who are swayed by their Master’s authority. Secondly, How can we now hear Christ, since He is removed into the heaven of heavens, and doth not speak to us in person. The revelation is settled, and not delivered by parcels, as it was to the ordinary prophets. Now we hear Christ in the Scriptures (Hebrews 2:3-4). Thirdly, The properties of this hearing or submission to our Great Prophet.

1. There must be a resolute consent or resignation of ourselves to His teaching and instruction. All particular duties are included in the general.

2. This resignation of our souls to Christ as a Teacher, as it must be resolute, so it must be unbounded and without reserves. We must submit absolutely to all that He propoundeth, though some mysteries be above our reason, some precepts against the interest and inclination of the flesh, some promises seem to be against hope, or contrary to natural probabilities.

3. It must be speedy. No delay (Hebrews 3:7).

4. Your consent to hear Him must be real, practical, obediential, verified in the whole tenor and course of your lives and actions; for Christ will not be flattered with empty titles: “Why call ye Me Lord, and Master, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Many study Christianity to form their opinions, rather than reform their hearts and practice. The great use of knowledge and faith is to behold the love of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that our own love may be quickened and increased to Him again. If it serve only to regulate opinions, it is but dead speculation, not a living faith.

The reasons why this Prophet must be heard.

1. Because He is the only beloved Son of God.

2. Because the doctrine of the gospel which He speaks is the most sweet, excellent, and comfortable doctrine that can be heard or understood by the heart of man. Uses:

Of conviction, to the carnal Christian for not submitting to Christ’s authority.

1. Do you seriously come to Him that you may have pardon and life?

2. Do you respect the word of the gospel, entertain it with reverence and delight, as the voice of the great Prophet? Do you meditate on it, digest it as the seed of the new life, as the rule of your actions, as the charter of your hopes?

3. Do you mingle it with faith in the hearing, that it may profit you?

4. Do you receive it as the Word of God?

5. Doth it come to you as the Mediator’s word, not in word only, but in power?

6. Do you hear Him universally?

7. Do you hear Him so as to prefer God, and Christ, and the life to come, above all the sensual pleasures and vain delights, and worldly happiness, which you enjoy here?


1. TO excite themselves to obedience by this “hear Him” when dead and lifeless.

2. When you do renounce some beloved lust, or pleasing sin, urge your hearts with Christ’s authority. Remember who telleth you of cutting off your right hand, and plucking out your right eye. How can I look the Mediator in the face, if I should wilfully break any of His laws, prefer the satisfaction of a base lust, before the mercies and hopes offered me by Jesus Christ.

3. In deep distresses, when you are apt to question the comfort of the promises, it is hard to keep the rejoicing of hope, without regarding whose word and promise is it (Hebrews 3:6). (T. Manton, D. D. )

The cloud a blessing

Man is harrassed by groundless fears. Who has ever looked for blessings in a cloud? Were we appointed to collect the riches of the universe, how many would pass by the clouds, as though in their dark and troubled breasts no treasure could be found I How often have we trembled as we have entered into the cloud of bereavement, or sorrowful apprehension; and yet in such a cloud have we heard a voice, as did the trembling disciples l In the cloud which they dreaded they heard the Divine voice; henceforward, then, let us gratefully remember that even a cloud can contain a blessing, and that sometimes fear is but the quaking harbinger of joy. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Keeping a secret

It is a privilege to be trusted. Sometimes the trust is a burden. Few can keep secrets. The disciples were able to do so. We are told concerning one thing that they had seen that they kept it close.

THE SECRET HELD. A vision of Christ’s glory among beings of another world. That vision had been--

1. Instructive.

2. Assuring.

3. Elevating.


1. The spiritual attainments of the disciples were not sufficiently advanced for them to speak freely of what they had seen without some damage to themselves. A sneer of some doubter might have weakened their belief at that time.

2. Christ had enjoined silence. He was in no haste to astonish the world.

3. The outside world was not in a fit state to receive the knowledge of that vision. A time was sure to come when the disciples could speak openly and effectively. Peter doubtless made frequent references to it (2 Peter 1:16). We may remember that--

(1) We have no need to refrain from speaking of what Christ has done in giving us peace.

(2) Whatever witness we bear should be the outcome of a real experience. Anyhow, we should endeavour to let the praise of Christ be on our lips and reflected in our lives. (Homiletic Magazine.)

Verses 37-43

Luke 9:37-43

Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son

The devil’s last throw


OUR HOPES ARE ALL AWAKENED. Here is a poor youth, but bad as he is, terribly possessed as he is, he is coming to Christ. Prayer has been offered for him by his father, and Jesus is near. All looks well! For a hungry man to be coming to a dinner is not enough: he must actually reach the table and eat. For a sick man to be coming to an eminent physician is hopeful, but it is not enough; he must get to that physician, take his medicine, and be restored. That is the point. To be coming to Christ is not enough: you must actually come to Him, and really receive Him; for to such only does He give power to become the sons of God.

OUR FEARS ARE AROUSED. “As he was a-coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him.” How does the devil do this? Well, we have seen it done in this way: When the man had almost believed in Christ, but not quite, Satan seemed to multiply his temptations around him, and to bring his whole force to bear upon him. I have known in addition to all this that Satan has stirred up the anxious one’s bad passions. Passions that lay asleep have suddenly been aroused. Moreover, the man has become thoughtful, and from that very fact doubts which he never knew before have come upon him.

OUR WONDER IS EXCITED. This cure was perfected at once, and it remained with the youth. The Saviour’s cures endure the test of years. “Enter no more into him” preserved the young man by a life-long word of power. I never dare to preach to anybody a temporary salvation. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The corner’s conflict with Satan

THE DEVIL’S DOINGS. When this child came to Christ to be healed, the devil threw him down and tare him.

1. First of all he does this by perverting the truth of God for the destruction of the soul’s hope and comfort.

2. But Satan is not very scrupulous, and he sometimes throws the coming sinner down and tears him by telling horrible falsehoods. Many a time when the soul is coming to Christ, Satan violently injects infidel thoughts.

3. Then if the devil cannot overcome you there, he tries another method; he takes all the threatening passages out of God’s Word, and says they all apply to you.

THE DEVIL’S DESIGN. Why does he throw the coming soul down, and tear it?

1. Because he does not like to lose it.

2. Sometimes, I believe, he has the vile design of inducing poor souls to make away with themselves, before they have faith in Christ.

3. When the soul is coming to Christ he tries, out of spite, to worry that soul.

THE DEVIL’S DISCOVERY. I will give the poor sinner a means of detecting Satan, so that he may know whether his convictions are from the Holy Spirit, or merely the bellowing of hell in his ears.

1. In the first place, you may be always sure that that which comes from the devil will make you look at yourselves and not at Christ.

2. You may discern the devil’s insinuations in another way; they generally reflect upon some attribute of God.

Now, in the last place, we have to consider THE DEVIL’S DEFEAT. How was he defeated? Jesus rebuked him. Beloved, there is no other way for us to be saved from the castings down of Satan but the rebuke of Jesus. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Spiritual power, impaired and restored

SPIRITUAL POWER IS NEEDED FOR THE CASTING OUT OF DEVILS. We, weak men, in our own strength cannot successfully grapple with evil in ourselves or others. You may charm the serpent for a little time. You may tame the wild beast. You may put him into a cage and restrain him in many ways. The sweet music of David did charm to rest the evil spirit of Saul. But the grim fact remains that the foul fiend is not cast out. Every generation has witnessed the failure of man in this unequal struggle with evil. All the forces of civilization are called into eager requisition in the conflict--art, and education, and refinement, and philanthropy, and social reform, and the administration of law. The failure is confessed by the deepest and purest spirits of the Grecian culture. In Rome an iron will entered into conflict with evil, but the failure was more conspicuous still than in Athens. In the East the religious instinct, often under the guidance of gloriously gifted men, has laboured to cast out the spirit of evil. But all the centuries and all the generations have sunk in hopeless failure. We are forced to return to the plain, simple teaching of God’s Book, that we need a power not our own, the power of God to overcome.

1. We need this spiritual power to cast evil out of ourselves. You have often tried self-denial. You have tried occupation and work. You have tried religious duties. You have tried the practice of moral precept.

2. But in like manner we need spiritual power to cast the spirit of evil out of others. The early disciples found it so.

THERE IS NO TRUE SPIRITUAL POWER WITHOUT FAITH. Let us observe, that in order to lose spiritual power it is not necessary to commit a flagrant sin. Samson committed a flagrant sin and lost his strength. The disciples were guilty only of this, that their faith was not vigorous and growing, yet they stand before the world shorn of their strength as completely as Samson when he shook himself as at other times. Observe, again, that the disciples themselves do not appear to have been conscious beforehand of this departure of power. They come down to the scene of work, and like Samson they wist not that their strength had departed from them. Doubtless in their failure it did not occur to them to suspect themselves. What, then, is the first condition of true spiritual power? It is the possession of a living and growing faith. Who are the men who have wielded great spiritual power in all ages? They are the men of faith. The men of unbelief die and are forgotten, even their gifts and accomplishments only serve to build their tomb or write their cold epitaph. But the men of faith are the heroes of the race and the kings of the Church of God. It is given to them like Israel to be princes, having power with God and with men. It is the men of faith who subdue kingdoms, and work righteousness, and stop the mouths of lions. Faith imparts power because it lays hold of the truth, and it is the truth which purifies. It imparts power because it quickens and inspires all the faculties of the soul. It imparts power because it establishes an alliance between God and man, by which Divine help is given in moments of need. It imparts power by means of its innate courage and invincibility.

THERE IS NO LIVING FAITH WITHOUT EARNEST PRAYER. The sequence of spiritual ideas is simple and beautiful. The evil spirit could not be cast out without special spiritual power. Power could not co-exist with unbelief. And now unbelief can be extinguished only by prayer. This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. In these practical and bustling days there is abundant recognition of the value of what is called a working Christianity. Why could not we cast him out? The weeping mother feels the bitterness of this question as she witnesses her wayward boy disregarding her counsels and rejecting her reproof. Why could not I tame the evil passion and guide the wandering feet? Or the sabbath-school teacher wails out the despairing confession of failure at the end of years of busy work with his class. O think, what conquests lie before us if in Christ’s name we be endued with new power from on high. (S. Prenter, M. A.)


Here was a demon of extraordinary strength, and he could be vanquished only by extraordinary prayer and fasting. Fasting is connected with extraordinary spiritual attainments and achievements. These disciples lacked the higher form of prayer, and its profounder spirit. There is a faith which removes mountains; a prayer that unlocks heaven, and vanquishes the powers of hell. But Christ here shows that they are connected with fasting. I would, then, observe that--


1. We turn, first, to the Jewish Church. It is not affirmed whether the patriarchs knew anything of fasting as a religious service; but Moses, in entering into the Mount, to commune with God concerning the foundation of the Old Testament Church, for forty days abstained from food--of course by Divine direction, and by miraculous aid. It is quite remarkable that the three persons who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration had all performed this extraordinary fast of forty days--Moses, Elijah, and Christ. If, now, we look at the several occasions on which it was employed by the devout members and eminent leaders of the Jewish Church, we shall receive a strong impression that it has some connection with the higher exercises, attainments, and achievements, of piety, or with cases of especial appeal to the Most High. When Saul was buried, having been the first King of Israel, and having been slain ingloriously, the people assembled to recover his insulted corpse, and decently inter it. Then they fasted seven days. When David’s child was dangerously ill, he lay on his face, and mourned, with fasting and prayer. The psalmist, speaking of the afflictions brought on him by his enemies, says, “I humbled my soul with fasting.” The great day of atonement, when the people brought their sins particularly to mind, was a day of fasting. Another use of it was to prepare the mind for specially intimate communion with God, or for very important service to the Church. Ezra’s fasts had reference, too, to great reformations; and, in 1 Samuel 7:6, we find a fast to have been the first stage in one of those glorious revivals which refreshed and preserved the ancient Chinch. Another occasion was the looking to God for especial help. When the eleven tribes were driven to the necessity of punishing Benjamin, almost to extermination, they “went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even.” So, when Haman had procured the terrible decree that was to annihilate the Jewish people, Esther, with her maids of honour, gave themselves to fasting and prayer for the deliverance of their people; and with what success, you remember.

2. If we now follow the history of fasting into the times of Christ, the apostles, and the early Christian Church, we see it having the same solemn import and connections. We begin with the Great Exemplar. Jesus did many things as a Jew, or a worshipper under the old theocracy, because that system was not yet abolished. In such matters He is not an example, only so far as the spirit of obedience and order is concerned. But this fasting was not Jewish. It obeyed no law of Moses. It was human. It was spiritual in the highest degree, and a most fitting opening to His glorious ministry, and His wondrous life as the Saviour of men. After the apostolic times, the Church preserved fasting; and, at length, when aiming to fix a uniform observance of sacred seasons, she set apart the time supposed to be the same as that of our Saviour’s fast and temptation in the wilderness, to be solemnized with the anniversary exercise of abstinence. And I believe all her eminent men, of every communion, have been distinguished for this exercise. I do not remember any of any age who considered it as obsolete or useless. Down to the time of the Reformation, no true Christian any more thought of neglecting fasting than prayer. After the Reformation we find two classes: those who chose to confound the Romish abuse with the institution itself, and so despised it; and those who practised it in primitive simplicity. And I repeat my impression that the men most eminent for piety, in every blanch of the Protestant Church, used this means of grace. What, then, is--


1. It is a spiritual service. “Is this the fasting or day for soul-humbling that I have chosen; the mere bowing down of the head like a bulrush, and spreading sackcloth and ashes under him?” No. He says: I require you to fast in spirit; to cease from your injustice and cruelty. So that the abstinence from food, more or less rigid, is but a means to a spiritual end. It may often, indeed, be bodily beneficial to omit a meal, even in good health; but that is not a religious service, it is a medical regimen.

2. Fasting is in no way a meritorious service, nor a magical instrument.

3. It is the expression of an earnest religious purpose. The heart of him who fasts aright is, at the time, peculiarly concentrated. The heart is fixed on one great object, with peculiar earnestness of desire. Moses did not fast for the sake of laying up a store of merit for himself, or for some other person. The founding of God’s Church; the promulgation of Jehovah’s law; the opening of a new stage in the work of redemption; these were the mighty charges lying on his soul. And he fasted, as a natural means of aiding his self-abasement and his spirituality of mind. This earnestness of purpose is seen not only in being fixed on a definite object; but also in the consecration of time and person to that specific object. That is an eminent advantage. Our life is wasted with vague intentions and scattered labours; OUT consciences are cheated with good resolutions that we never find time to execute. By making the object definite, the mind is concentrated, clear, calm, and strong. By fixing the purpose, the character is rendered firm. By executing it, the conscience assumes its proper ascendency, and something definite is attained and accomplished. There is gain in another direction by this setting apart time to accomplish a definite object. Hindrances are removed.

4. It is consonant with peculiar degrees of repentance. Repentance includes a distinct contemplation of our personal sins. To that, such a season is very favourable. It includes sorrow for sin. Indeed, the natural effect of sorrow is to diminish the appetite for food. There is also in repentance a congeniality with fasting, because both express a kind of holy revenge against sin.

5. Fasting accords with a season set apart for peculiar efforts to attain to personal holiness.

6. Fasting agrees, too, with the peculiar exercise of love to Christ. He peculiarly desires that we remember His sufferings. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” His fasting was a part of His suffering, and a part in which we can imitate and share with Him.

7. A peculiar fitness in making a fast to accompany our peculiar onsets on Satan’s kingdom. The first thing we need, in waging the battles of the

Lord, is to believe that there are any battles to fight; that Satan and his demons are realities. Then we need to know that they are too formidable for us; and yet that they are not invincible. This kind can be driven forth, but it must be “by fasting and prayer.” We can become the organs of the Spirit of God by fasting and prayer. We must look to God in our attacks on Satan. And religious fasting is an acceptable service. He accepted it of Moses and Nehemiah, of Jesus and of the apostles. We see how the Church is to become efficient. (E. N. Kirk.)

The devil throwing down

1. Satan endeavours thus to throw down by suggesting perplexing considerations regarding the supposed magnitude of the worldly sacrifices that must be made by the returning sinner.

2. The devil endeavours to throw down the Sinner that is awakened and a-coming to Christ, by false representations of the life of godliness, as if, through imaginary moroseness and austerity, it were adverse to happiness.

3. The devil also endeavours at times to throw down the awakening sinner, by raising doubts in his mind, whether his sins are not too many and aggravated to leave him in hope of their being forgiven. (J. Allan.)

Satan’s rage

Satan hates the slightest approach to Jesus. An old writer says, that Satan, whenever he knows his time is short, exercises his power all the more fiercely; “like an outgoing tenant that cares not what mischief he does” before leaving the house. So with Satan here. Rather than give up the soul, he will tear it, throw it down, make it wallow and foam, insomuch that it is “rent sore,” and “he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.” (F. Whitfield, M. A.)

Inability through not believing

It is said that Admiral Dupont was explaining to Admiral Farragut the reasons why he failed to enter Charleston harbour with his fleet of ironclads. He gave this and that and the other reason. Farragut remained silent till he had ended, and then said, “Ah, Dupont! there is one reason more.” “What is that?” “You did not believe you could do it.” A Church not believing the world’s conversion possible will fail to accomplish it. To win victories for Christ the heart must be hopeful. That which kept Livingstone undaunted, and bore him on through numberless perils, until he died kneeling, with his hands clasped in prayer, was the thought “Africa for Christ!”

Bring thy son hither




Verse 44

Luke 9:44

The Son of Man shall be delivered

Repeated predictions

As the time of our Saviour’s death was approaching, He thought proper to repeat the prophecy of it again and again.

For this various reasons may be assigned.

1. It was necessary to show that the death of Christ was an appointed as well as an important event in the plan of Divine providence.

2. It tended to prove that it was voluntary on the part of Jesus, and not the debt of nature, as it is on the part of those who are merely human.

3. It was necessary for the fulfilment of ancient prophecy, and consequently to prove that Jesus was the predicted Messiah.

4. It was requisite to show that He was a prophet in the highest sense of the word, and that not a part, but the whole future dispensation was thoroughly known to Him.

5. The frequent repetition of the prophecy of His death tended also to prepare the minds of the disciples for what might otherwise have overwhelmed them. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

Verses 46-48

Luke 9:46-48

Which of them should be greatest

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven


Who ARE NOT the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

1. The lofty in birth and the rich in possession have no claim, on such grounds, for this distinction.

2. Nor the loftiest in intellect.

3. Nor yet the man who--

(1) works the most;

(2) suffers the most;

(3) gives the most--in the service of God.

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

1. The humble man.

2. He who is the most docile.

3. He who is most unworldly.

4. He who is most loving in spirit.

5. He who cherishes a forgiving spirit. (T. W. Aveling.)

Unhappiness of striving to be great

“Some time since,” says Dr. Payson, in a letter to a young clergyman, “I took up a little work purporting to be the lives of sundry characters as related by themselves. Two of those characters agreed in remarking that they were never happy until they ceased striving to be great men.”

A child

How children are emblematic of conversion

Let us consider how little children furnish an apt emblem of conversion, or rather, of those who are being converted.

1. More particularly, and in reference to those qualifications in which the disciples now showed that they were very deficient, and yet of which we must all be possessed, if we are to be saved--little children are comparatively humble. Whatever seeds of evil may lurk in their minds, it is almost impossible that they should imagine themselves equal to those who are grown up. They are almost unavoidably sensible of their inferiority and dependence. And this is the state of mind towards God, to which we, as sinners, must be brought. Let us not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think; but let us think soberly. Let us not imagine that we are rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; but let us feel and confess that we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

2. Intimately connected with this disposition of humility is a disposition of teachableness; and of this, too, children are, in a considerable degree, possessed. Aware that their parents and teachers surpass them in knowledge, they look to them that they may learn of them; and they are at first very much disposed to believe and receive, without gainsaying and without doubt, whatever they tell them. In this, too, we mark an essential feature in the character of true converts in relation to God.

3. Once more, here, children are comparatively free from worldliness and ambition. This world does not yet obviously appear to be their idol. They do not form plans or labour for the riches and the honours of public life. They readily associate with their inferiors, and do not aim at surpassing competitors for exalted stations. (J. Foote.)

True greatness

Apparently this was the first occasion on which the spirit of rivalry manifested itself among the disciples of our Lord. Followed close upon a scene which might well raise their hopes of personal distinction. Three of their number had just been witnesses of the Transfiguration; they had seen their Divine Master in that dazzling vesture of glory which betokened His coming accession. And it is conceivable that the special favour conferred upon the three who were admitted to that wonderful vision set all thinking. Then, too, it has been suggested that our Lord’s own promises to His disciples may have served to stir ambitious longings in their hearts.

1. Our Lord rebuked the first exhibition of the competitive spirit among His followers by taking a child and pointing to him as the true pattern of the essential grace of the gospel. The greatest is the humblest.

2. This ideal appeals to the best instincts of the human heart. (Canon Duckworth.)

Children and childhood

It is very good to me, in reading the Bible, to notice how much of the interest and hope of the world is made to depend upon the children that are unborn when the hope springs up. The hope of humanity rests in the children. When the Spartans replied to the king who demanded fifty of their children as hostages, “We would prefer to give you a hundred of our most distinguished men,” it was only an expression of the everlasting value of the child to any commonwealth and to every age. The great hope is always in the new birth. This the deepest reason for the unspeakable loyalty and reverence for children that so constantly filled the heart and life of Christ.

1. If it be true, then, that the hope of the world lies in the cradle, in what relation do we, who are now responsible for this new life, stand to it?

2. If we are wise and faithful to our trust there is in each child the making of a man or a woman who shall be a blessing and be blessed.

3. What is it, then, to receive a child in the name of Christ? This question would need no answer had there not been so many mistakes made about this simple, natural, and beautiful truth.

(1) Have faith in the Son of Man in the child. Guide and govern with best wisdom and love the life that is of the earth, earthy.

(2) Guard and reverence the Son of God in the child--the life that is from above. (R. Collyer.)

Christianity and childhood

Greek art gives us no children. Nay, it is equally true, though perhaps not so surprising, that up to the thirteenth century there were no Gothic children either. It was only when art was touched by Christianity, and when the Madonna and Child became the light of every honest heart and the joy of every pure soul, that pictures of children were possible. The tradition of the Beautiful Child lasted long. Then came a dark period in which children were ground to death by our millwheels, and the wealthy patrons of art could not conceive of the children of the poor except in vice and misery; and it is only now that you are beginning to restore the quiet earth to the steps of children. (Ruskin.)

Unobtrusiveness of the truly great

Travellers tell us that the forests of South America are full of the gem-like humming-bird, yet you may sometimes ride for hours without seeing one. They are most difficult to see when perched among the branches, and almost indistinguishable flying among the flowering trees; it is only every now and then that some accidental circumstance reveals the swarm of bejewelled creatures, and they flash upon the vision in white, red, green, blue, and purple. It is somewhat thus with society--the noblest, the most beautiful characters are not the obtrusive ones. Going through life carelessly, one might think all the people common enough; reading the newspapers, one might suppose the world to contain only bad men; but it may comfort us to remember the truly great and good shun observation and walk humbly with God. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Verses 49-50

Luke 9:49-50

Forbid him not

Casting out devils

This, one of the shortest of the recorded conversations of Jesus, contains but a single remark made in response to a single statement of the disciples.

JESUS WAS HERE DEALING WITH THAT HARDEST CONDITION IN WHICH WRONG AND RIGHT ARE MIXED TOGETHER. There was good in the jealousy of the disciples for Jesus, even though it misled them. There was evil in the narrowness into which it led them. There were four people involved:

1. The man out of whom the devil was being cast. To him the interference of the disciples must have seemed a cruel thing.

2. The man who was casting out the evil spirit. We can understand his bewilderment. Shall I refrain from doing this thing which it is so evident that I have power to do?

3. The disciples. No doubt they were men who rejoiced to see any good work done in the world, and yet they bade this man to cease the work he was doing.

4. Behind all, Jesus Himself, looking upon the whole transaction, and declaring at once, without any hesitation, “forbid him not.”

IS THIS A STORY OF THE CENTURIES AGO, OR IS IT NOT THE STORY OF WHAT IS ALWAYS TAKING PLACE? Wherever Christian men, in very virtue of their loyalty to Christ, incline to limit the operations of His power in the world, there are these four.

EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD MUST BE PLACED EITHER UPON ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER SIDE. Everything that is making the world better is on the side of Christ. Everything that is degrading humanity is against Christ. How clear this principle is! How Jesus is always pointing us to the great test of results.


1. To our personal lives.

2. To our fellowship with Churches around us. There is only one way in which we shall enter into such sympathy with Jesus that we can have His large spirit, and that is by catching that which was in His mind, His soul, the intense value He set upon the end. He rejoices so in the driving out of the devil that any one who would drive out the devil should have His commendation and His praise, His permission to do it, and His thanksgiving that it had been done. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Need for toleration

“Seeing a tree grow somewhat irregular in a very neat orchard,” says Mr. Flavel, “I told the owner it was a pity that that tree should stand there, and that if it were mine I would root it up, and thereby reduce the orchard to an exact uniformity. He replied, that he rather regarded the fruit than the form, and that this slight inconvenience was abundantly preponderated by a more considerable advantage. ‘This tree, which you would root up, hath yielded me more fruit than many of those trees which have nothing else to recommend them but their regular situation.’ I could not,” adds Mr. Flavel, “but yield to the reason of this answer, and could wish it had been spoken so loud that all our conformity men had heard it, who would not stick to root up many hundreds of the best learners in the Lord’s orchard because they stand not in exact order with other more conformable but less beneficial trees, who destroy the fruit to preserve the form.” Such, alas, is the prejudice of our minds, that we are too prone to condemn those who do not view things exactly as we do. We lay down plans and rules for ourselves, and then blame others if they do not follow them. Too often also are we mistaken in our opinions of others, and imagine that they are only cumberers of the ground, when probably they bring forth the fruits of righteousness in greater abundance than ourselves. (W. Buck.)

Verses 51-56

Luke 9:51-56

He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem--

Christ hastening to the cross




THERE WAS IN CHRIST A NATURAL HUMAN SHRINKING FROM. THE CROSS. That steadfast and resolved will held its own, overcoming the natural human reluctance. “He set His face.” All along that consecrated road He walked, and each step represents a separate act of will, and each separate act of will represents a triumph over the reluctance of flesh and blood. We are far too much accustomed to think of our Saviour as presenting only the gentler graces of human nature. He presents those that belong to the stony side just as much. In Him is all power, manly energy, resolved consecration; everything that men call heroism. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Why did Christ go up to Jerusalem?

He went there to precipitate the collision and to make His crucifixion certain. He was under the ban of the Sanhedrim, but perfectly safe as long as He stopped down among the hills of Galilee. He was as unsafe when He went up to Jerusalem as John Huss when he went to the Council of Constance with the Emperor’s safe-conduct in his belt; or as a condemned heretic would have been in the old days if he had gone and stood in that little dingy square outside the palace of the Inquisition at Rome, and there, below the obelisk, preached his heresies. Christ had been condemned in the council of the nation; but there were plenty of hiding-places among the Galilean hills, and the frontier was close at hand, and it needed a long arm to reach from Jerusalem all the way across Samaria to the far north. Knowing that, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and, if I might use the expression, went straight into the lion’s mouth. Why? Because He chose to die. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The face toward Jerusalem

Every step of the Lord Jesus Christ left a footprint for His followers to study. This incident, too often overlooked as unimportant, has some suggestive lessons for the Christian.

1. It teaches that we should never shrink from a path of duty, however many may be the obstacles we encounter.

2. Such an uncompromising religion must not expect any help or hospitality from the world. Jesus found Himself on hostile soil as soon as He set foot in Samaria.

3. It was probably about the time of His repulse by the Samaritans that Jesus delivered those solemn injunctions to His followers about taking up their cross daily if they would be His disciples. He drew a sharp line, and made a clean issue. It is a religion of this fibre that the times demand. Such living brings happy dying. Dean Alford asked that it might be inscribed on his tombstone:

“This is the inn of a traveller on his way to Jerusalem.”

Let us determine so to live that, when Death calls our names on his roll, we may be found with our faces steadfastly set toward “Jerusalem the Golden.” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Steadfastnes in the path of duty

The Master’s example teaches us to march unflinchingly forward in the path of duty, with our faces steadfastly set toward God. This is not an age of heroic Christianity. There is more pulp than pluck in the average Christian professor when self-denial is required. The men and women who not only rejoice in doing their duty for Christ, but even rejoice in overcoming uncomfortable obstacles in doing it, are quite too scarce. The piety that is most needed is a piety that will stand a pinch; a piety that would rather eat an honest crust than fare sumptuously on fraud; a piety that can work up stream against currents; a piety that sets its face like a flint in the straight, narrow road of righteousness. (T. L.Cuyler, D. D.)

Boldness of the decided man

The decisive man walks by the light of his own judgment: he has made up his mind; and, having done so, henceforth action is before him. He cannot bear to sit amidst unrealized speculations: to him speculation is only valuable that it may be resolved into living and doing. There is no indifference, no delay. The spirit is in arms: all is in earnest. Thus Pompey, when hazarding his life on a tempestuous sea in order to be at Rome on an important occasion, said, “It is necessary for me to go: it is not necessary for me to live.” Thus Caesar, when he crossed the Rubicon, burned the ships upon the shore which brought his soldiers to land, that there might be no return. (Paxton Hood.)

The battle-face

Oliver Cromwell’s men just before the battle used to look at their general, and whisper to each other, “See, he has on his battle-face.” When they saw that set, iron face they felt that defeat was impossible. Determined striving towards one point is the best way of gaining that point. Try to walk in a straight line over a field of snow, keeping your eyes fixed on the ground as you walk. When you look back on the track, you find it far from straight. Walk over the field again, this time keeping your eye fixed on some definite point ahead. That will keep you in the straight line, and will save you from fruitless wandering on this side or that. Jesus, keeping the end of His work in view, set His face towards it. So should we do with our work. (Sunday School Times.)

Wilt Thou that we command fire?--

Our Lord and the Samaritans

The conduct of these Samaritans in refusing to receive Christ and His disciples, was, indeed, very sinful; but the transport of rage into which that conduct threw His disciples, or at least some of His disciples, and the proposal which it provoked them to make, were most lamentable and most unchristian. That John, especially, whose usual temper was so gentle and so affectionate, should have been so forward in this affair, is very strange, and ought to be considered as an instructive warning of the necessity for the most charitable and meek to be constantly on their guard against the first risings of prejudice, passion, and false zeal, lest the fierce spirit obtain the mastery over them. They imagined that they were influenced by a purely religious spirit--by a hatred of sin, and a regard to the honour of Christ: whereas, they were really led to make such a proposal by the original prejudice which, as Jews, they indulged against the Samaritans, and, still more, by their now irritated pride, party feeling, blind zeal, personal resentment, violence, and passion.


LET US BEWARE OF RESEMBLING THESE SAMARITANS IN NOT RECEIVING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Though they were not immediately destroyed, yet their sin was great; nay, the very circumstance of the merciful forbearance shown towards them, manifests, with peculiar clearness, the heaviness of the guilt they incurred by rejecting such goodness.

Let us observe how plainly EVERY KIND AND EVERY DEGREE OF PERSECUTION ARE HERE FORBIDDEN. Fire from heaven might prove a doctrine to be true; but fire kindled under any such pretence, by men, or any other species of persecution, could prove nothing but their own bigotry and cruelty. Indeed, such is the constitution of the human mind, that it is ready to call in question, or to suspect, even the truth itself, when any attempt is made to support it by such means.

In all we do, and especially in what we do under the name of religion, LET US CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT WE ARE OF. “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men.”


A visit from Christ

We are not told the name of the village, and it is well the Scriptures are silent on the matter, for the name deserves to be buried in oblivion; and all those who perpetrate such inhumanity should have an opportunity of blotting out such disgrace. Nor do we know who were the messengers whom Christ sent to make ready for Him. Perhaps they were disciples, or followers, or adherents--anyhow, they were doubtless in sympathy with Him. The Saviour, then, desires to become the Guest of men in this world. He is ever sending messengers before His face to prepare His way. Here, then, we have--

PIONEERS--“He sent messengers before His face.” Pioneers in every sphere are those who go in advance and prepare the way, or act as heralds and announce the coming of those who are to follow. His coming is anticipated by the many and varied mercies and blessings of life, even as the glory of day is heralded by the early dawn. The loving Saviour we may be sure is close to the bounties of Providence and the privileges of the gospel. Education, too, is always in advance of Him. He sends it forth on its beneficent mission to give men right ideas, and to awaken in them a sense of need and longing. Education, too, like the sappers and miners, goes forward to remove obstructions, to cut down wild, luxuriant growth, to make a way through the wilderness, and to bridge over the ugly, dangerous chasms. The mercy of grace, religious instruction, the service of the sanctuary, the preaching of the Word--these are like the predictions which went before the Saviour, like the stars of the morning, true harbingers of the coming day. Yes, Jesus Christ is near the Temple and the teaching there--near the institutions and ordinances of worship. He is not far from pain and sorrow, from affliction, bereavement, and death. Now all these pioneers have come to you, my friends; have come to you with a mission in the interests of Christ, and for your eternal good. The question, therefore, arises: How have they been received? What has been the result of their visits?

PREPARATION--“TO make ready for Him.” The pioneers in all time have gone before Christ to prepare His way, and the things of which I have spoken, and which come into our every life, are sent not only to herald the approach of the Saviour, but to help men to realize His nearness with their deep and present need of Him. When the light of the morning comes peeping in at the window, it tells the world that the sun has arisen and will soon flood the earth with brightness and glory. The dawn ever predicts the day, and prepares for it, and it ever seems to say to men, “Give it welcome; up with the blinds; open the windows, and let the light of the day come in.” When the blade, the leaf, the blossom appear, they speak of the coming summer and harvest, and suggest that every barn and granary be got ready. And so when Christ sends His messengers in advance of Him, He desires that they should prepare for Him. There are three things which the pioneers of Christ seek to do--inform, awaken, and command, and all are intended to prepare for a full and hearty reception of Christ. They inform--tell men that Christ, that infinite goodness and love are in the events, in the experiences of life, and that Christ is coming near through them--is thus visiting to bless. They say, “He is coming,” and the soul asks, “Who is He?” Zaccheus, hearing that Christ was to pass that way, had his curiosity aroused, and was thus moved towards the sycamore tree, that He might see Jesus, who He was. They command--coming from Christ and for Him, they declare His will, His requirements; they tell men to make ready for Him, and to give Him welcome and entertainment, to put away prejudice and indifference, to turn out all intruders, and to let the rightful owner of their spirits in; and that they would rightly regard these visitations, and the voices which speak--for they are in truth the voice of Christ--and their message may be summed up in one verse, “Behold! stand at the door and knock.”

PREJUDICE--“They did not receive Him.” The Samaritans did not because of their antipathy to the Jews; they allowed prejudice to overcome discretion, and even reason itself; but they did not know Christ, or they would not have acted thus, nor were they conscious of what they lost by rejecting Him.

PASSING--“They went to another village.” Jesus went from those who were unwilling, to others who were disposed to entertain Him, and this He is doing to-day. Anxious to enter every heart, He passes by the indifferent and obstinate. He does not force Himself upon man. (John James.)

Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of

Intolerance rebuked

1. We may notice here, in the first place, the power and evil of prejudice. The Samaritans seem in general to have been very favourably disposed towards our Lord, as was seen on various occasions. Why, then, did they now refuse to receive Him? It was because He was going up to Jerusalem to the Passover. They claimed that Mount Gerizim was the place where men ought to worship; but our Lord was on His way to worship at the Temple, on Mount Zion, and thus showed that He favoured their old enemies the Jews, and declared His preference far their religion. When Christ came from Judaea to Jacob’s well they kindly received Him. If He would renounce the Jews, become a Samaritan prophet, and teach in their synagogues, they would have welcomed Him most cordially; but forasmuch as “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,” they would have nothing to do with Him. Thus they lost their last opportunity of hearing Jesus, for He was now on His way to be crucified. Nor were the disciples much better in the spirit they displayed than the Samaritans.

2. We may notice, secondly, the mischiefs of a wrong interpretation of Scripture. “Wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, as Elias did?” Now Elias’ conduct was very different from theirs, and his example gave no sanction to their proposed vengeance. Upon a perversion of Scripture, the supreme divinity of Jesus has been denied, the atonement rejected, good works pronounced unnecessary, a future punishment discarded; yea, all the thousand forms of error, and all the monstrous sects of Christendom have been based upon just such a mistake as these disciples made, in pleading the seeming sanction of Elijah’s example, for that which it did not warrant.

3. We have, in the third place, in our Lord’s conduct on this occasion, a beautiful lesson of tolerance towards those who are in error.

4. We may also learn from our Lord’s treatment of these Samaritans, how to estimate the comparative evil of error.

5. We have in the conclusion of this history, the glorious end of the Saviour’s mission. “He came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” His whole work was one of salvation. His miracles were those of healing. His teaching was for the saving of the soul. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Our Lord’s treatment of erroneous zeal


1. This proposal discovers at least some acquaintance with the writings of the Old Testament, for it refers to an event which happened many centuries before, and which is remarkable in the history of Elijah.

2. It appears that the disciples had some distrust of their own judgment, and were willing to submit to Christ’s direction. Their language is, Lord, wilt Thou that we should do this? They would do nothing rashly, nothing but what He approved; and in this they furnish an example worthy of imitation.

3. The language implies strong faith: “Wilt Thou that we command fire from heaven?” The disciples felt persuaded that if the Lord gave authority, the miracle would be performed. They had commanded unclean spirits out of persons, and were obeyed; and why might they not expect the same, if they called for fire from heaven?

4. They had a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge; it was sufficiently fervid, but not well directed. It was promised to the disciples that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that they should be endowed with extraordinary gifts and extraordinary zeal, yet not for the purpose of destroying men’s lives, but to save them.

5. Their zeal expressed great indignation against sin, and in this it was commendable.

6. It was a zeal which expressed great affection for their Lord and Master. To see Him slighted and insulted, shut out of doors, and denied the common necessities and civilities of life, was more than they could bear; they therefore wished to resent such churlish behaviour.

7. There was, however, too much asperity in their zeal, and a want of Christian meekness and charity.

OBSERVE THE TREATMENT THEY MET WITH FROM THEIR LORD: “He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” There is a mixture of mildness and severity in this reproof. He upbraids them with ignorance, and especially ignorance of themselves, and of the motives by which they were influenced.

1. They were unacquainted with the infirmities of their own spirit, the temper they derived from constitutional causes, and which had been insensibly confirmed by habit.

2. They were not aware of the principles and motives by which their present conduct was influenced. The springs of action ought at all times to be severely inspected, because if an action be materially good, it is not morally and intrinsically so, unless it, principle be good also. A corrupt motive depraves and renders unacceptable to God the most laudable actions.


1. From the instance before us we see what a mixture of good and evil there may be in the same persons.

2. If Christ’s immediate disciples, who had the advantage of such instructions and such an example, did not know what manner of spirit they were of, no wonder that so many misapprehensions and mistakes are found amongst us. Who can understand his errors?

3. We see that particular actings of the mind may be wrong, even where the general frame and temper of it is right.

4. Though the disciples did not well know the motives by which they were influenced, yet Christ did, for He searcheth the reins and the heart. He knoweth what is in man, and needeth not that any one should testify. All the Churches shall know this, and He will give to every man according to his works (Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Revelation 2:23). (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The vindictive spirit rebuked

You can’t make Eliases. You may do just the very thing Elias did, and so make the greater fools of yourselves. Elias is sent when the world needs him--son of thunder, son of consolation, each will be sent from heaven at the right time, and be furnished with the right credentials. But how delightful it is to set fire to somebody else! The dynamitard is a character in ancient history. Would it not be convenient for the Church always to have in its pocket just one little torpedo that it could throw in the way of somebody who differed in not what manner of spirit ye are of.” The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love, a spirit of sympathy, a spirit of felicity, a spirit that can weep over cities that have rejected the Son of Man. Then said He, or said the historian--the words might be His, for they are part of His very soul--“For the opinion from somebody else! The Lord Jesus will not have this; He said, “Ye know Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). Tell this everywhere. Go ye into all the world and say to every creature, The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” The strongest man amongst us might devote his life to that sweet, high task. The brightest genius that ever revelled in poem or picture might devote all its energies to the revelation of that sacred truth. There are destroyers enough. Nature itself is often a vehement and unsparing destroyer. We are our own destroyers. There needs to be somewhere a saviour, a loving heart, a redeeming spirit, a yearning soul, a mother-father that will not let us die. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Ungodly nature of revenge

A young man who had great cause of complaint against another, told an old hermit that he was resolved to be avenged. The good old hermit did all that he could to dissuade him; but, seeing that it was impossible, and the young man persisted in seeking vengeance, he said to him, “At least, my young friend, let us pray together before you execute your design.” Then he began to pray in this way: “It is no longer necessary, O God! that Thou shouldst defend this young man, and declare Thyself his protector, since he has taken upon himself the right of seeking his own revenge.” The young man fell on his knees before the old hermit, and prayed for pardon for his wicked thought, and declared that he would no longer seek revenge of those who had injured him.

False zeal

“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of”; that is, ye own yourselves to be My disciples, but do you consider what spirit now acts and governs you?


1. This spirit which our Saviour here reproves in His disciples, is directly opposite to the main and fundamental precepts of the gospel, which command us to “love one another,” and “to love all men,” even our very enemies; and are so far from permitting us to persecute those who hate us, that they forbid us to hate those who persecute us. They require us to be “merciful, as our Father which is in heaven is merciful”; and to “follow peace with all men,” and to “show all meekness to all men.”

2. This spirit is likewise directly opposite to the great patterns and examples of our religion, our blessed Saviour and the primitive Christians.


Religious repulsions

This little exquisite bit of human nature and Divine nature stands recorded in the Bible among a hundred other dramas, brief but significant. The Samaritans and the Jews were two very religious, very conscientious peoples. That they were religious was evident from the fact that they hated each other so thoroughly that they would have no dealings one with another. Of all hatred there is none like religious hatred. The Samaritan was a bastard Jew. When you come to look at the conduct of the Samaritans you naturally feel a good deal of surprise; for it is other people’s inhospitality that surprises us, not our own. But when you turn round and look at the disciples what do you think of them? You have genuine Jewish orthodoxy against the orthodoxy of the Samaritans, and both of them were hatred. I do not wonder that the old Oriental nations sacrificed men to their gods, and that human offerings were burned on their altars. The whole religious world has been burning victims to their gods, their creeds, and their consciences ever since. Of the two here the Jews show to the least advantage. The Samaritans only wanted not to have anything to do with Jesus. The disciples on the other hand, wanted to burn up the Samaritans, to pulverise them to ashes. On the whole, I think the Samaritans were a little more religious than the Jews. What did the Saviour do? He quietly went to another village, but not until He had rebuked these disciples. And see how the rebuke was administered. Not as most of us would have done it. “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,” &c. (H. W.Beecher.)

Misdirected enthusiasm

The next worst thing to being destitute of enthusiasm altogether is to expend it on the wrong objects. As the poet says--

What is enthusiasm? What can it be

But thought enkindled to a high degree,
That may, whatever be its ruling turn,
Right or not right, with equal ardour burn
That which concerns us, therefore, is to see

What species of enthusiasts we be.”

Here was enthusiasm, and enthusiasm for Christ; but it was expending itself in unchristian, and even anti-Christian channels. We are constantly meeting, in our every-day experience, with instances of misdirected enthusiasm. The important thing to do is to discover Christ’s idea of Christianity, and to let our enthusiasm go forth into the same channels in which His was wont to flow. If this be our earnest and constant endeavour, then, although we may sometimes make mistakes, although we may, like the Boanerges, incur the rebuke, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of,” it will be a gentle rebuke--one of pity rather than of condemnation. (Prof. Momerie, M. A. , D. Sc.)

The story of the Sons of Thunder

The Samaritans believed that their copy of the Law was the only authentic one; that God had forsaken Zion and chosen Gerizim, and placed His Name there; that it was in their country that the Messiah was destined to appear, and not in Judaea. It was in connection with this latter article of their belief that the conversation arose which is related in the text. It is the common assumption that what the Samaritan villagers were guilty of was merely a breach of hospitality. I believe there was something far worse. Jesus had been there before, and they had treated Him hospitably then. It is said that before setting out on this journey Jesus sent messengers before His face. It cannot be that these were only couriers, to provide food and shelter. They were heralds, specially sent to tell the Samaritans that the Messiah was coming. It was this that urged them to refuse Him food and shelter. John and James, fresh from the Transfiguration scene, and knowing that He was certainly the Son of God, were indignant at the rejection of His claims, and wanted to call down fire upon the Samaritans. They recalled a passage from Elijah’s history, which seemed to them to furnish a precedent for their conduct. Christ in effect says to them: “Elijah acted according to his lights; you must act up to yours.” Christ did not censure the conduct of Elijah, but He told them that they were forgetting the influence of the spirit of Christianity: “I came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Canon Luckock.)

The Spirit of Christ and of Elijah

Renan tells us that in the pictures of the Greek Church Elijah is usually represented as surrounded by the decapitated heads of the Church’s enemies. And Prescott tells us that in the sixteenth century the brutal inquisitors of Spain tried to justify their fiendish deeds by appealing to Elijah’s act of calling down fire from heaven. They did not understand, or would not, that that act of Elijah’s was for ever condemned by One who was at once Elijah’s Master and Elijah’s God. Elijah, and the old heroes, doubtless, had not learnt to distinguish between the sinner and the sin. It was reserved for after times--it required the teaching of the Son of God Himself to teach men that.The spirit of Elijah was a spirit of justice, of righteous retribution, of terrible vengeance; the spirit of Christ was a spirit of tenderness, of compassion, of love. But, because the religion of Christ is a religion of love, do not fancy that it is therefore a religion of sentimentalism, fit only for weak women and effeminate men. The spirit of Elijah is passed away, replaced by the spirit of Christ, which is a spirit of meekness, but of justice too, and a spirit of hatred against intolerable wrong. (J. Vaughan, B. A.)

Peace and war--from a Christian standpoint


1. It very often springs from vainglory.

2. Or revenge.

3. Or sordid ambition.


1. It tends to the preservation of human life, and happiness, and property, and social order.

2. It allows of the development of all good and great principles, and the progress of mankind in virtue, morality, and piety.

3. Christianity must be on the side of peace, because of its Divine Author and Exemplar.


1. Let us cherish the spirit of peace. The great thing is to have the right temper.

2. Let us pray that our national councils may at all times be controlled and permeated by the spirit of peace.

3. We should labour for Christianity for this amongst other reasons, that it is only through Christianity, and the spread of it, that we shall ever attain to an era of universal peace. (Dawson Burns, M. A.)

On persecution

Persecution for conscience’ sake--that is, inflicting penalties on men merely for their religious principles or worship--is plainly founded on an absurd supposition, that one man has a right to judge for another, in matters of religion.

Persecution is also evidently inconsistent with that obvious and fundamental principle of morality, that we should do to others as we might reasonably desire they should do to us.

Persecution is likewise in its own nature absurd, as it is by no means calculated to answer the ends which its patrons profess to intend by it.

Persecution evidently tends to produce a great deal of mischief and confusion in the world.

The Christian religion, which we here suppose to be the cause of truth, must, humanly speaking, be not only obstructed but destroyed, should persecuting principles universally prevail.

Persecution is so far from being required or encouraged by the gospel, that it is directly contrary to many of its precepts and indeed to the whole genius of it. (P. Doddridge, D. D.)

To save

Christ, the Saviour of human life

We may regard the text in the light of a prophecy. Whatever Christ announced as the purpose of His coming, was to be accomplished upon earth throughout successive ages. The Saviour of human life--this is the character which Christ here assumes to Himself, or of which He predicts, that it will be proved to belong to Him, as the religion He was about to establish makes way among men. Now there is nothing more interesting than the tracing the temporal effects which have followed the introduction of Christianity. We shall not now enter upon this wide field of inquiry; but our text requires us to consider Christianity as beneficial under one special point of view--as making provision for the saving of human life.

1. It has done this by overthrowing the tenets and destructive rites of heathenism.

2. By contributing to the civilization of society, it has, in many ways, spread a shield over human life.

3. Add to this the mighty advances which have been made under the fostering sway of Christianity, in every department of science.

4. There is, however, a far higher sense, in which our Lord might affirm that He had come to save human life. You are to bear in mind that death, bodily death, had entered the world, as the direct and immediate consequence of Adam’s transgression, and that the counteracting this consequence, was one chief object of the mission of our Redeemer.

5. Now we have treated our text as though the word “life” were to be Literally taken, or interpreted with reference exclusively to the body; but it is often very difficult to say whether the original word denotes what we mean by the immortal principle and spiritual part of man, which never dies, or merely the vital principle--that, through the suspension of which the body becomes lifeless. And if the words before us may be applied to the destruction and the salvation of the soul, as well as of life in the more ordinary sense, it is indispensable that we say something of them in this their less obvious meaning. “I live,” said the great apostle, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”; and life indeed it is, when a man is made “wise unto salvation”--when, having been brought to a consciousness of his state, as a rebel against God, he has committed his cause unto Christ, who “was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” It is not “life”--it deserves not the name, merely to have power of moving to and fro on this earth, beholding the light and drinking in the air. It may be life to the brute, but not to man--man who is deathless, man who belongs to two worlds--the citizen of immensity, the heir of eternity. But it is “life,” to spend the few years of earthly pilgrimage in the full hope and certain expectation of everlasting blessedness--to be able to regard sin as a forgiven thing, and death as an abolished--to anticipate the future with its glories, and the judgment with its terrors, and to know assuredly, that He who shall sit upon the throne, and “gather all nations before Him,” reserves for us a place in those “many mansions “ which He reared and opened through His great work of mediation. It is life to live for eternity; it is life to live for God; it is life to have fellowship with what the eye hath not seen, and the ear hath not heard. And this life Christ came to impart; He came to give life to the soul. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ’s mission


1. TO open up a new era under a dispensation of unbounded mercy.

2. This mission of our Lord’s did not interfere with the course of nature, or natural law. It refers to our spiritual life.


1. The first is that of not being satisfied with any other life than that which Christ came to give or to save.

2. Another duty is that of encouraging feelings of charity towards others.

3. That the object of our Saviour’s mission has been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will be so hereafter, is indisputable. (W. D. Horwood.)

The Son of Man the Saviour of life

Christ came into the world both as Destroyer and Saviour. He came to “destroy the works of the devil.” He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. The preservation of human life was characteristic of our Lord’s public ministry. And Christianity in its very nature is a lifesaving religion. Consider three or four of the great destructive agencies at work in the world, and the way in which Christianity opposes itself to them in principle, and practically proves itself victorious over them.

WAR. The late Dr. Dick calculated, in 1847, that from the earliest period down to that year 14,000,000,000 of human beings had fallen in battle. Christianity condemns war and inculcates peace.

SLAVERY. Here we have another great scourge of human life. Christianity sets its face against this monstrous iniquity. True that Christ and His apostles did not in a direct manner attempt to abolish it.

Nevertheless, I affirm that Christianity is opposed to slavery, and will prove its death. Jesus Christ came to liberate the captive.

HEATHEN IDOLATRY and its human sacrifices.

INTEMPERANCE. Sixty thousand deaths annually result from the use of intoxicating liquors. Christianity condemns intemperance. Sobriety is enjoined as a Christian virtue. (W. Walters.)

Christ a Saviour

The design of Christ’s coming into our world is here expressed--

NEGATIVELY. Life is exposed to destruction. By sin it was forfeited. By law it is condemned. By justice it is demanded. By death it is claimed.

POSITIVELY. The Son of Man is a Saviour. He came to reveal salvation. He came to procure salvation. He came to bestow salvation. He is coming to perfect salvation.

THE ASSURANCE THE SINNER HAS OF CHRIST’S INTEREST IN HIS SALVATION. Of God’s readiness to give salvation. Of the Spirit’s power to apply salvation. Of the joy a personal salvation secures. “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” (A. Macfarlane.)

Verses 57-62

Luke 9:57-62

Lord, I will follow Thee

Faring wholly with Christ

We have here, in connection, the story of three inquirers who came in turn to Christ.

THE PROVIDENTIAL CONDITIONS OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (Luke 9:57-58). The bold proffers of this scribe were met by the pathetic announcement of what their acceptance involved afterwards.

1. Our Lord’s earthly career was hard and lonely.

2. Christ’s followers were forewarned that they must fare entirely with Him Matthew 10:24; John 5:18-19).

3. Henceforth, therefore, believers were to consider themselves shut up to the lot they had accepted. We have a right to expect all solaces, defences, and sustenances in Christ; but we must rely upon Him for them. Honours and human praises, emoluments and ease, are excluded.

THE SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (verses 59, 60). We are told in Matthew’s Gospel that this man was already instructed to some extent; he was one of Jesus’ “disciples.” The duty was accepted; only a mere human wish was interposed.

1. The Bible employs the tenderest names for its illustrations of relationship between believers and God. “Thy Maker is thy husband.”

2. The purpose of this use of terms seems to be to show that all lower relationships are overridden by the higher.

3. Our Saviour Himself set the fine example of this surrender. More affectionate or devoted child there never lived; but He began to draw aside from all home entanglements as He reached the conscious nearness of His public work.

THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF THE NEW LIFE ARE ABSOLUTELY EXCLUSIVE (verses 61, 62). We cannot help imagining there must have been some deft allusion here to Elisha’s history in this reply of our Lord (1 Kings 19:20). Elisha desired the same privilege, not as an excuse for delay, but only as a tender duty of respect to those who loved him at home. He was actually at the plough when he was called by the casting of Elijah’s mantle upon his shoulders.

1. Gospel experience is generous. It supplies room for all; but those who reject the offer must be left behind.

2. Gospel experience is indivisible. Philosophically speaking, it is impossible for any man to love two things supremely: “No man can serve two masters; ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” That old familiar call, “My son, give Me thine heart,” means the whole heart. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (1 Chronicles 12:33; Psalms 12:2).

3. Gospel experience is uncompromising. All attempts to combine religion with worldliness are injurious (2 Kings 5:18). Naaman asks the privilege of going into the house of Rimmon with a show of devotion so as to keep his place at court.

4. Gospel experience is immortal. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” This part of our nature is what projects itself forward beyond the confines of time. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)

Following Jesus


1. His obedience was prompt.

2. His obedience was characterized by inflexibility of purpose.

3. His obedience was characterized by perfect self-abnegation.



1. He requires that spirit of holy heroism which will cheerfully endure all hardship and opposition for His sake.

2. He requires implicit and prompt obedience.

3. He insists upon the absolute supremacy of His will. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

He who looks back is unfit

Self-examination is wise and well when we try ourselves by tests divinely appointed, and not by ideals of moods and feelings which we conjure up ourselves. Scripture is fertile in tests for self-examination of the right sort. Three kinds of spurious disciples. See whether you are like either of them.

THE DISCIPLE UNREADY FOR SELF-DENIAL. The merely impulsive follower must learn that to be ranged in the company of real disciples means glad share in the Lord’s woe as well as weal. Do we follow our Lord out of such definite and principled yielding of ourselves to Him that we will go where He leads?

THE DISCIPLE ENTANGLED. Christ can accept no second place. He must reign. His kingdom involves our entire and self-consecrating submission. Have we made obedience to Jesus the structural principle of our lives?

THE DISCIPLE IRRESOLUTE. Not ready definitely and at once to set out on the Christian march: there are other things, farewells, &c., which must be first attended to. The emphasis is on that word “first.” Perhaps, when these things which ought to be second have been first done, the man may follow. Plainly, he is doubtfully balancing. He is at cross-purposes, has not organized his life under one masterful principle. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

Three applicants

We may dismiss the old conceit that sought to identify these three persons with three apostles, Judas, Thomas, Matthew. It is hardly credible that these apostles, already named as apostles in this Gospel, would be now introduced here as “a certain man,” “another,” “another.” They would have been mentioned by name, surely, if they had been meant in person. “A certain scribe,” “another of His disciples,” “another”; this is all recorded of them in the Gospels--not enough to identify the individuals, but sufficient to accentuate the cases. One of them, the last of the three, seems to have been shaping for discipleship for some time, and was now making full prefer of it. These men differed apparently in their dispositions. The first seems bold and impulsive, as his loud avowal would show--“I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” The second looks modest and thoughtful, as the piety he expresses toward his father would indicate--“Lord, I will follow Thee, but suffer me first to go and bury my father.” The third appears cautious and calculating; so we infer from his desire to smooth things first with his relations--“Lord, I will follow Thee; but suffer me first to go bid them farewell that are at home at my house.” Again: These persons differed very evidently, in their gospel ideas. They all recognized the Messianic mission of Jesus, but diverged in their thought of its character and aim. The first regarded Him as the Christ certainly, but, like many more, imagined that it was a temporal kingdom, with temporal attendings, that he was aiming at, and that it would be well to be with Him in this aim of His, the direct way to the things of this life; hence his gushing proffer, “I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” The second also regarded Him as the Christ, but perceived His aim to be rather a reign of “spirit and truth” than of might, and, spiritualized as he was, and waiting with the few for “the consolation of Israel,” he would assuredly follow this Son of David when his dying father should be buried and the way all clear; hence also his sincere but delaying request, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but suffer me first to go and bury my father.” The third, like the others, regarded Jesus as the Messiah, and with the second perceived the spirituality of His aim, and felt drawn into sympathy with Him in His spiritual gospel, a follower in heart of His blessed Person. But the flesh shrank where the spirit was willing in him; he would rather not break with his family if he could but go and settle matters with them so as to stand well in their eyes while yet he followed Jesus; hence also his true but somewhat trimming proffer, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell that are at home at my house.” Farther: These men differed, as may be gathered from their sentiments, in the risks they ran of coming short in discipleship--the chief point in the narrative. The first was, without doubt, on his way to serious disappointment; the second was, without perceiving it, asking for a dangerous delay; and the third was, though not very conscious of it, attempting a compromise that would surely prove disastrous. (J. Chalmers, M. A.)

A would be disciple repulsed

We are further informed by Matthew 8:19, that this man was a scribe, consequently a man of education, and of considerable respectability and social importance.

1. His avowal of attachment was unsolicited. To most men this would probably have increased the value of his decision. This spontaneous offer must be the dictate of a sincere and honest heart. But lie who knows what is in man penetrated all the disguises and subtle reserves within, and discerned the real bias, the ulterior motives, and mean and mercenary views of this adventurer. There was no conscious need of the Saviour in him; no previous work of the word of Christ upon his heart. The true disciples of Christ are attached to Him by obligations of everlasting gratitude: they have been recipients from Him of the greatest blessings God can bestow and man receive. But this man makes no profession of love.

2. Yet his profession was extensive--“Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” He seems to anticipate some inconvenience, to be prepared for some self-denial, to look at the probability of danger, and to form some estimate of the cost involved. But then it was his own estimate, and altogether erroneous. It was well for him that he was not exposed to the fury of that boisterous night. That very first lesson would have shown that the scribe was ignorant of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.

3. Yet his plans were all laid; he did not solicit any delay. He was ready to step into the boat, to go anywhere--as he thought, and to do anything, when the Saviour put before him the picture of His own abject condition--“Foxes have holes,” &c. Disappointed and vexed that his overtures ofservice should not be immediately and respectfully accepted, chagrined that he should have stooped to one whose circumstances were so indigent, all the bright prospects that he had cherished in the mind’s eye are dispelled, and he retires, teaching us that those who indulge carnal views of a Christian life have “neither part nor lot in the matter.” What an opportunity he for ever lost of entertaining the King of kings! “Not where to lay Thy head! My house is Thine; eat at my table; sleep on my bed.” And if the gracious Saviour had declined the invitation, He would have accepted the heart from which it came. In some direction or other this miserable scribe was related to the large family of By-ends, who think “to make a gain of godliness”; for it is certain that the Friend of Sinners never did, and never will, reject the approaches of one humble, genuine candidate for His favour. (W. G. Lewis.)

The faithful followers of Christ must expect troubles in this world

1. The time. In Matthew 8:19, it is when Christ had a mind to retire, and had declared His purpose to go into the desert; in Luke, when He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. Both may agree; the one more immediately, the other more remotely; first to the desert, then to Jerusalem.

2. Here is a resolution professed: “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” Where take notice--

(1) Of the ready forwardness of the scribe. He was not called by Christ, but offered himself of his own accord.

(2) Observe the largeness of the offer, and unboundedness of it, “whithersoever”; as indeed it is our duty to follow Christ through thick and thin.

3. Christ’s answer and reply: “And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” By the tenor of Christ’s answer, you may know what ails him, and on what foot he limped; for this is spoken either by way of preparation to enable him to keep his resolution, or rather by way of probation, to try the truth and strength of it; whether it were sincere and sound; yea or nay: us the young man was tried (Mark 10:21). So here, we hear no more of this scribe; our Lord knew how to discover hypocrites. Two things were defective in this resolution.

(1) It was sudden and rash, not weighing the difficulties. They that rashly leap into a profession, usually fall back at the first trial. Therefore we must sit down and count the charges (Luke 14:28).

(2) There was a carnal aim in it. He minded his own profit and honour; therefore Christ in effect telleth him, “You had best consider what you do, for following of Me will be far from advancing any temporal interest of yours.” “He did not discourage a willing follower, but discover a worldly hypocrite,” saith Chrysologus. The doctrine we learn from hence is this:--

They that will sincerely follow Christ, must not look for any great matters in the world, but rather prepare themselves to run all hazards with Him. This is evident--

1. From Christ’s own example; and the same mind should be in all His followers: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” John 17:16). Our estranging of our hearts from the world is an evidence of our conformity to Christ. Christ passed through the world to sanctify it as a place of service; but His constant residence was not here, to fix it as a place of rest; and all that are Christ’s are alike affected. We pass through as strangers, but are not at home as inhabitants or dwellers; and if we have little of the world’s favour, it is enough if any degree of service for God.

2. From the nature of His kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world John 18:3; John 18:6). It is not a kingdom of pomp, but a kingdom of patience. Here we suffer with Christ, hereafter we reign with Him. The comforts are not earthly, or the good things of this world, but heavenly--the good things of the world to come. This was the scribe’s mistake.

3. From the spirit of Christ. His spirit is given us to draw us off from this world to that which is to come (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Use 1. Is information.

(1) With what thoughts we should take up the stricter profession of Christianity--namely, with expectations of the cross. Christ will try us, and the world will hate us; therefore let us not flatter ourselves with an easy passage to heaven.

(2) It informeth us what fools they are that take up religion upon a carnal design of ease and plenty, and will follow Christ to grow rich in the world.

(3) It informs us what an unlikely design they have in hand who would bring the world and Christ fairly to agree, or reconcile their worldly advantages and the profession of the gospel. And when they cannot frame the world and their conveniences to the gospel, do fashion the gospel to the world, and the carnal courses of it.

Use 2. Is instruction. When you come to enter into covenant with Christ, consider--

(1) Christ knoweth what motives do induce you: “He needeth not that any should testify of man, for He knoweth what is in man” (John 2:25).

(2) If the heart be false in making the covenant, it will never hold good. An error in the first concoction will never be mended in the second Deuteronomy 5:29).

(3) That Christ cannot but take it ill that we are so delicate and tender Of our interests, and so impatient under the cross, when He endured so willingly such great things for our sakes.

(4) If you be not dead to the things of the world, you are not acquainted with the virtue and power of Christ’s cross, and have not a true sense of Christianity, cannot glory in it as the most excellent profession in the world Galatians 6:14).

(5) We are gainers by Christ if we part with all the world for His sake Mark 10:29-30); therefore no loss should seem too great in obeying His will. Certainly a man cannot be a loser by God.

(6) All worldly things were confiscated by the Fall, and we can have no spiritual right to them till we receive a new grant by Jesus Christ, who is the heir of all things (1 Corinthians 3:23). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The warning to an ill-calculating professor

This man was in his proffer animated by the hope of temporal good with Jesus. Far back in his mind was the thought of the restored kingdom of David under this his Messianic Son, and of a name and a place and no small honour therein by His side; and the glowing thought produces the loud but ill-calculating profession, “I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” Could the Lord Jesus receive such mistaken profession as this? Would He allow this man to become His disciple from so spurious a motive, and under so erroneous an expectation? Did not the man need a word of warning to save him from the disappointment he was positively courting, and to set him right as to what he might reckon on in the kingdom he was seeking to enter? Yes, the man needed such a word, and gets it, plain and direct and strong: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” As if He would say, “You would follow because you expect worldly good with Me. You are mistaken; for worldly good I reject for Myself, and promise not to My followers. Poor and despised and rejected I am among men; and so will My followers be for long time to come. If you receive My Word and abide in it, then shall you be My disciple indeed; and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free. But, as to other things, count the cost; reproach will be your lot with Me rather than honour; poverty will be your burden with Me instead of wealth; you must suffer with Me if you would reign with Me.” In this way did the Lord Jesus strip this man of his worldly notion in seeking to follow Him and throw him back from all worldly consideration on to spiritual conviction if he would be His disciple. And in similar way does He ever seek to check in seekers all worldly motive for following Him--and many there are in every age who need such checking as to their profession of the name of Christ. One man thinks it will advance his worldly prospect if he become a Christian; another thinks it will gain him reputation and a character in life; another thinks it will open to him a wider sphere of acquaintances and friends; and so, without any particular conviction as to their need of Christ as their Saviour, they join themselves to Him people and call themselves by His name. But it is unworthy motive this in every form of it. It is the desire of the multitude of whom He said, “Ye seek Me because ye did eat of the loaves,” and He declines now as He declined then to be followed on any such terms. He will have you follow Him for Himself, because of His grace, and not for any worldly advantage, if you are to be with Him in the gospel; and He sends you back into your hearts with the summary check, “The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head,” to see if you will take your lot with Him without reserve. He leaves you no choice, friend, but unreserved surrender if you would be His. (J. Chalmers, M. A.)

The election of Christ

There are words here that seem harsh. Stern they may be; harsh they cannot be.

THEY ARE DISCRIMINATING, which harsh words never are. No one was more regardful of individual differences than Christ.

THEY ARE DISCRIMINATING, SO FAR AS WE CAN SEE, IN THIS WAY: The second case stands on a different footing from the first and third. In two respects.

1. The reply in the second case is more stern and uncompromising; because--

2. There was in this case a distinct call, The first and third were volunteers.

IT IS NOT TO BE SUPPOSED, THAT THOSE REJECTED THUS, IF REJECTED, WERE EXCLUDED. All are not chosen for such lonely work. He only gave some to be apostles. There are diversities of gifts. The many are called; the few are chosen. Man is called; men are chosen. Thank God, we all find our level sooner or later. (P. T. Forsyth, M.A.)

The true interpretation of religion

From this passage we may naturally consider THE GREAT NUMBER WHO REGARD RELIGION AS SIMPLY A POETIC EMBELLISHMENT, AN AESTHETIC SPECIES OF ETHICS, AN ACCOMPLISHMENT. The New Testament idea of religion is no such thing as this. That idea is that religion is life itself. No man ever got religion; if he ever had any, he lived it. To follow Christ is not a mere polish of things that are substantial, valuable, and needful in this life: it is the reconstruction of the whole man upon a higher pattern.

THE IDEA IS CURRENT THAT RELIGION IS A LIMITATION AND RESTRICTION INSTEAD OF AN ENJOYMENT AND AN EXALTATION, that it is, therefore, to be put off as long as it is safe to put it off. You can begin to be a Christian instantly. But you cannot accomplish it instantly. The work is progressive; it is life-long; but when once entered upon heartily it is the sweetest, the noblest, and the best work with which life can concern itself.

From the passages read we may LEARN THE WAY IN WHICH MEN ARE ACCUSTOMED, WHEN FROM VARIOUS CONSIDERATIONS THEY ARE MOVED TO A CONSIDERATION OF HIGHER THINGS, TO TREAT THEIR ASPIRATIONS AND THEIR LUMINOUS HOURS. The two or three instances which are grouped together here, represent men that either are moved to follow, or are called to follow, the Christ-life; and the invitation is, in the second case, the same as if it had been an impulse proceeding from the party himself. You will observe, then, from the whole attitude of Christ, and from what we know of His nature, that He saw through the hollow pretences of these men. One wanted to follow Him with the expectation of loaves and fishes, and honours, and prerogatives. Another wanted to follow Him; but he wanted first to go home and bury his father. The inspiration was not strong enough to constitute a spring of action and of life. The guise of filial piety. Christ’s reply--spiritualizing it was, “Let men that do not care for the kingdom of God perform the rites of sepulture; as for you, follow Me.” And then, in the other case in which the man was willing to follow Christ, he wanted to go back and say “good-bye” to his father and mother, and brothers and sisters, before he went. This was almost frivolous; for the following of Christ could not be a separation from all that was dearest to him in this life. As it was then, so it is now. Mostly these alleged reasons of doubt, of occupation, of pleasure, and of bias are simple excuses. Men do not wish to enlarge their lives. They are content with smallness. Sin has beggared them. They not only are living upon penurious doles on the lower plane of life, but they are content to live so. I say to every one that has been wandering, and is wandering, and yet at times is haunted with longings, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you”: but seek that first; seek it in earnest; seek it at once; seek it with all your heart; make it your life; and then life will be a thousandfold greater, fuller, and richer to you. (H. W. Beecher.)

Testing sincerity

After the siege of Rome, in 1849, Garibaldi issued to his followers this appeal: “Soldiers, your efforts against overwhelming odds have been unavailing; I have nothing to offer you but hunger, thirst, hardship, and death; let all who love their country follow me.” And hundreds of Italian youths did follow him, because they loved him and because they loved their country; and, therefore, they could endure trial with greater joy than any selfish pleasures could bestow. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

The poverty of Christ

Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh, became celebrated as an opponent of the shameless mendicant orders in the fourteenth century. During one of his visits to London he found the ecclesiastics warmly discussing the subject of the poverty of Jesus; and being asked to preach on the subject, he taught as follows:--“Jesus Christ, during His sojourn upon earth, was always a poor man; but He never practised begging as His own spontaneous choice. He never taught any one to beg. On the contrary, Jesus taught that no man should practise voluntary begging.” (Reformation Anecdotes.)

Enduring hardship

When Felix Neff undertook the pastorate of the High Alps, a neat cottage was built for him at La Chalpe, one of the few pleasant spots in his vast parish. But his anxiety to reach all his scattered people was such, that two or three days in each month was all that he spent there. With a staff in his hand and a wallet on his back, he travelled from this starting-point twelve miles westward, sixty eastward, twenty southward, and thirty northward. While strength lasted, he did not allow himself a single day of repose, and never slept three successive nights in the same bed.

Verses 59-60

Luke 9:59-60

Let the dead bury their dead

Christ’s invitation put off

We have now before us one of those who excuse themselves from immediate compliance with the Saviour’s demands--“Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

” Perhaps you have beensometimes disposed to pity this man, and to think it rather a hard case that such an act of charity and necessity should be denied. Never fear, my brethren, for the character of Christ. It was an Eastern proverb, “When I have buried my father I will do so-and-so.” Mark that the man does not say his father was already dead. Had that been the case, he must, at this very time, have been engaged in the funeral preparations instead of joining the crowd in the Saviour’s presence. The interment of the dead was required to take place before the sunset of the day on which they expired. He had an aged sire who could not live long, and when he was gone, and the property divided--in other words, at his own leisure--he would be a Christian. He is a type of the large class who want heaven in their own time and on their own terms. (W. G. Lewis.)

Following Christ the great business of life

THAT THE ATTAINMENT AND PRACTICE OF TRUE RELIGION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS IN WHICH WE CAN BE ENGAGED. It is so, because it is the necessary preparation for a happy immortality. We have commenced a course of being that shall never end. Our faculties, now in their infancy, and but just budding, shall exist and expand for ever and ever. If so, then man’s great concern should be to secure a blissful immortality.

THAT TO THIS GREAT BUSINESS OF RELIGION ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD BE MADE TO GIVE WAY. This second proposition is the necessary sequence of the first. If religion is the most important business, then everything else should yield to it. You conduct your temporal business on this principle. You endeavour to ascertain the relative importance of each department, and you make the lesser bend to the greater. (J. H. Beech.)

No excuse against a speedy obeying Christ’s call

The reasons of Christ’s refusal. Christ would show hereby--

1. That all human offices and duties must give place to the duty we owe to God. Duty to parents must be observed, but duty to God must be preferred before that or anything whatsoever.

2. He would teach us hereby that the ministry requires the whole man, even sometimes the omission of necessary works, much more superfluous: “Give thyself wholly to these things” (1 Timothy 4:15). The words are now explained; the practical notes are these two--First, that nothing in the world is a matter of such great weight as to be a sufficient excuse for not following of Christ. Secondly, that those who are called to follow Christ should follow Him speedily, without interposing any delays. For the first point, that nothing in the world is a matter of such great weight as to be a Sufficient excuse for not following of Christ, I will illustrate it by these considerations.

1. There are two sorts of men. Some understand not their Lord’s will, others have no mind to do it (Luke 12:47-48). Some understand not the terms of the gospel; they think to have Christ and the pleasures of the flesh and the world too.

2. They that have no mind to follow Christ put off the matter with dilatory shifts and excuses. To refuse altogether is more heinous, and therefore they shift it off for a time. Non vacat is the pretence--I am not at leisure. Non placer, I like it not, is the real interpretation, disposition, and inclination of their hearts, for excuses are always a sign of an unwilling and backward heart. When they should serve God there is still something in the way, some danger, or some difficulty which they are loth to encounter with. Secondly, that those who are called to follow Christ should follow Him speedily, without interposing any delays.


1. Ready obedience is a good evidence of a sound impression of grace left upon our hearts. When our call is clear, there needeth no debate or demurring upon the matter.

2. The work goeth on the more kindly when we speedily obey the sanctifying motions of the Spirit, and the present influence and impulsion of His grace. To adjourn and put it off, as Felix did (Acts 24:25), doth damp and cool the work--you quench this holy fire; or to stand hucking with God, as Pharaoh did, the work dieth on your hand.

3. There is hazard in delaying and putting off such a business of concernment as conversion to God. We know not the day of our death, therefore we should get God to bless us ere we die. A new call is uncertain 2 Corinthians 6:1-2). It may be He will treat with us no more in such a warm and affectionate manner. It is a hazard or uncertain if the Spirit of God will put another thought of turning into your hearts, when former grace is despised (Isaiah 55:6).

4. Consider the mischiefs of delaying. Every day we contract a greater indisposition of embracing God’s call. We complain now it is hard; if it be hard to-day, it will be harder to-morrow, when God is more provoked, and sin more strengthened (Jeremiah 13:23). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Christ stimulating sluggish discipleship

This man is one of the people that always see something else to be done first when any plain duty comes before them. Sluggish, hesitating, keenly conscious of other possibilities and demands, he needs precisely the opposite treatment from his lighthearted and light-purposed brother. Some plants want putting into a cold house to be checked; some into a greenhouse to be forwarded. The diversity of treatment, even when it amounts to opposition of treatment, comes from the same single purpose. And so here the spur is applied, whilst in the former incident it was the rein that was needed.

Note, then, first of all, THIS APPARENTLY MOST LAUDABLE AND REASONABLE REQUEST. “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Nature says “Yes,” and religion enjoins it, and everything seems to say that it is the right thing for a man to do. The man was perfectly sincere in his petition, and perfectly sincere in the implied promise that, as soon as the funeral was over, he would come back. He meant it, out and out. If he had not, he would have got different treatment, and if he had not, he would have ceased to be the valuable example and lesson that he is to us. So we have here a disciple quite sincere, who believes himself to have already obeyed in spirit, and only to be hindered from obeying in outward act by an imperative duty that even a barbarian would know to be imperative. And yet Jesus Christ read him better than he read himself; and by His answer lets us see that that tone of mind into which we are all tempted to drop, and which is the characteristic natural tendency of some of us, of being hindered from doing the plain thing that lies before us, because something else crops up, which we also think is imperative upon us, is full of danger, and may be the cover of a great deal of self-deception; and, at any rate, is not in consonance with Christ’s supreme and pressing and immediate claims. The tempter which says “Suffer me first to go and bury my father” is full of danger, never knows but that, after he has got his father buried, there will be something else turning up equally important. There was the will to be read afterwards, you know, and if he was, as probably he was, the eldest son, he would be executor most likely, and there would be all sorts of things to settle up before he might feel that it was his duty to leave everything and follow the Master. And so it always is: “Suffer me first,” and when we get to the top of that hill, there is another one beyond. And so we go on from step to step, getting ready to do the duties that we know are most imperative upon us, and sweeping preliminaries out of the way; and so we go on until our dying day, when somebody else buries us. Like some backwoodsman in the American forests who should say to himself, “Now I will not sow a grain of wheat until I have cleared all the land that belongs to me. I will do that first, and then begin to reap.” He would be a great deal wiser if he cleared and sowed a little bit first and lived upon it, and then cleared a little bit more. Mark the plain lesson that comes out of this incident, that the habit, for it is a habit with some of us, of putting other pressing duties forward, before we attend to the highest claims of Christ, is full of danger, because there will be no end to them if we once admit the principle. And this is true not only in regard of Christianity, but in regard of everything that is worth doing in this world.

Now LOOK AT THE APPARENTLY HARSH AND UNREASONABLE REFUSAL OF THIS REASONABLE REQUEST. It is extremely unlike Jesus Christ in substance and in tone. It is unlike Him to put any barrier in the way of a son’s yielding to the impulses of his heart and attending to the last duties to his father. It is extremely unlike Him to couch His refusal in words that sound, at first hearing, so harsh and contemptuous, and that seem to say, “Let the dead world go as it will; never you mind it, do you not go after it at all or care about it.” But if we remember that it is Jesus Christ who came to bring life into the dead world that says this, then, I think, we shall understand better what He means. I do not need to explain, I suppose, that the one “dead” here is the physical and natural “dead,” and that the other is the morally and religiously “dead”; and that what Christ says, in the picturesque way that He so often affected in order to bring great truths home in concrete form to sluggish under standings, is in effect: “Ay! For the men in the world that are separated from God, and so are dead, in their self-hoed and their sin, burying other dead people is appropriate work for them. But your business, as living by Me, is to carry life, and let the burying alone, to be done by the dead people that can do nothing else.” Now, the spirit of our Lord’s answer may be put thus: It must always be Christ first, and everybody else second; and it must therefore sometimes be Christ only, and nobody else. “Let me bury my father, and then I will come.” “No,” says Christ, “first your duty to Me”; first in order of time, because first in order of importance. And this is His habitual tone, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Did you ever think of what a strange claim that is for a man to make upon others? This Jesus Christ comes to you and me, and to the whole race, and says, “I demand, and I have a right to demand, thy supreme affection and thy first obedience. All other relations are subordinate to thy relation to Me. All other persons ought to be less dear to thee than I am. No other duty can be so imperative as the duty of following Me.” What business has He to say that to us? On what does such a tremendous claim rest? Who is it that fronts humanity, and says: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me?” He has a right to say it, because He is more than they, and has done more than they all, because He is the Son of God manifest in the flesh, and because on the cross He has died for all men. Therefore all other claims dwindle and sink into nothingness before Him. Therefore, His will is supreme, and my relation to Him is the dominant fact in my whole moral and religious character. And He must be first, whoever comes second, and between the first and the second there is a great gulf fixed. Remember that this postponing of all other duties, relationships, and claims to Christ’s claims and relationships, and to our duties to Him, lifts them up, and does not lower them, ennobles and does not degrade, the earthly affections. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Let the dead bury their dead

The meaning of this passage may perhaps be this: “If necessary, leave the dead unburied, but at all events obey My call to go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The Christian should be willing and prepared to leave his dearest dead unburied, or to slight any other tender natural affection, the indulgence of which would be in conflict with a plain command or call of God; not that such a conflict commonly exists, or may be brought about at pleasure, which, so far from being pleasing in the sight of God, is really the sin committed by the hypocrites who said “Corban,” when they ought to have supplied the wants of their dependent parents.

1. There is still a special call of Christ to individuals, not only to believe in Him, but to preach His kingdom. Without attempting to define this call at present, I may observe that it is neither miraculous on one hand, nor a matter of business calculation on the other, but a complete judgment or conclusion to which various elements contribute, such as intellectual and physical capacity, without which a call is inconceivable--providential facilities and opportunities, opening the way to this employment more than to all others--the judgment and desire of others, and especially of those best qualified by character and situation to sit in judgment on the case. I might add a desire for the work, which, in a certain sense, is certainly included in a call, but which is apt to be confounded with a mere liking for the outward part of the profession--for example, with that mania for preaching which is sometimes found in grossly wicked men, and has been known to follow them, not only to their haunts of vice, but to the prison and the madhouse. There is also a desire which results from early habit and association, the known wish of parents, pastors, and other friends, or the fixed inveterate habit of regarding this as a man’s chosen calling, even when every evidence of piety is wanting. The desire which can be referred to any of these causes is entirely distinct from that which God produces in the heart of His true servants, as a part of their vocation to the ministry.

2. This vocation, where it really exists, is paramount to every personal and selfish plan, to every natural affection, even the most tender, which conflicts with it.

3. This conflict is not usually unavoidable, though often so regarded by fanatics. The first duty of the Christian is not to desire or create, but to avoid it; but if unavoidable, his next is to obey God rather than man.

4. Our Saviour did not deal indiscriminately with all cases of desire to enter His immediate service. The remark is at least as old as Calvin, that in this case He repelled the man who wanted to go with Him everywhere, and urged the man to follow Him at once who wanted to go home for what appeared to be most necessary purposes. So far as His example is a guide to us in these things, we are bound, not only to persuade, but to discourage, as the case may be.

5. There is no more danger of excluding those whom God has called by faithful presentation of the whole truth, than there is of preventing the conversion of His chosen ones by showing them the true tests of faith and repentance. The man who can be finally driven back in this way ought to be so driven. He whom God has called will only be confirmed in his desire and resolution by such warnings against self-deception, though he may pass through the discipline of painful doubt and hesitation for a season. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Religious impressions not to be checked

The importance of a prompt and resolute devotedness of mind to the great concern of religion. This is, in other words, to follow Christ; and it includes three things.

1. The candid reception of His revelation.

2. To follow Christ involves a surrender of ourselves to Him as our Saviour and Governor. There must be transactions of a personal nature between every such individual and Christ. First, he must seek to Him, and to God by Him, for reconciliation. Next, he must pay attention to the institutions of Christ. They must have his punctual and cordial regard.

Moreover, every such person must be careful to comply with the moral precepts of the New Testament, as well as its more spiritual injunctions.

3. To follow Christ imports also ardent solicitude for the prevalence of His religion.

The egregrious folly of stifling impressions in favour of such devotedness, by worldly considerations. Our Lord’s language implies this: “Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.” Leave the cares of the world to those who have no such call of God upon their hearts, but by no means postpone compliance with it for their sake. It is peculiarly sinful, then, to stifle religious impressions by the influence of worldly considerations. Yet--

1. Some are prevented from an immediate compliance with their convictions by the notion that there is a happiness to be found in the world, which they, in that case, would be required to abandon. An entire mistake. Religion imposes no gloomy austerities, no unnecessary self-inflictions.

2. Some are prevented from going the full length of their religious convictions by the remonstrances of worldly relatives and friends.

3. The prompt devotedness of other minds is prevented by some particular worldly object of pursuit upon which they are at that moment intent, and which promises, by its attainment, soon to leave them at liberty. But this is the artifice of Satan. It quiets the present alarm; it hinders the heart, at this time, from closing with the call of God. (J. Leifchild.)

Action and grief: a meditation for a churchyard

And are not these strange words for one so loving as our Lord? How mighty was the attractive force of our Lord’s character! When He spake, they were compelled to leave all, and to follow Him.

“Lord, suffer me first.” Ah; that is the cry of nature. “I will come to Thee, but suffer me first.” “First suffer me to be disappointed, and then I will follow Thee; first, build my house upon the sand, and then I will come, O Rock, to Thee. First, worship and waste my affections on the day, and then I will come to Thee.” “Suffer me first”; but Jesus answered, “Follow thou Me.”

1. Follow Me. I am Life, and you seek life, but then you have only death; as long as you linger there, you do but seek the living among the dead.

2. Follow Me. You seek love, and here nothing loves you; that which loved you has gone, and, if you would regain what loved you, you must follow Me.

3. Follow Me. I am not only Life--I am the only Master of the kingdom of life. I am the Way to the life. In following Me, you do not leave behind you merely dead affections; you rise to the true kingdom of the affections. Action, action, action. Life is in action, in following more than in musing. The music of the harp is beautiful, but that has not served the world so well as the music of the hammer; and even all poetry is action--all true poetry is. (E. Paxton Hood.)

Meaning of the prohibition

We are not to suppose, by this prohibition, that Christ disallows or disapproves of any civil office from one person to another, much less of a child to a parent, either living or dying i but He lets us know--

1. That no office of love and service to man must be preferred before our duty to God, to whom we owe our first and chief obedience.

2. That lawful and decent offices become sinful when they hinder greater duties.

3. That such as are called by Christ to preach the gospel, must mind that alone, and leave inferior duties to inferior persons. (W. Burkitt.)

Preach thou the kingdom

There are many of you who are busily engaged in legitimate occupations, and devoting yourselves in various degrees to various forms of good, touching the secular condition of the people around us. May I hint to you, “Let the dead bury their dead; preach thou the gospel”? A Christian man’s first business is to witness for Jesus Christ. And no amount of diligence in legitimate occupations or for the good of others will absolve him from the charge of having turned duties upside down if he says, “I cannot witness for Jesus Christ. I am so busy about these other things.” This command has a special application to us ministers. There are hosts of admirable things that we are tempted to engage in now-a-days, with the enlarged opportunities that we have of influencing men socially, politically, intellectually, and it wants rigid cocentration for us to keep out of the paths which might hinder our usefulness, or, at all events, dissipate our strength. Let us hear that voice ringing always in our ears: “preach thou the gospel of the kingdom.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Our just obligation

These words seem at first harsh and severe. Our Lord’s teaching gives no sanction, however, to the monstrous error that the new life releases men from obligations which they may have found irksome. The common relations of life are a discipline whereby we are trained to spiritual perfection. What did our Lord say, and under what circumstances?

1. The man probably heard of his father’s death when he was with Christ, and wanted to return to the funeral. But the father was dead, and the son could do nothing for him now. If he had neglected him in life, he could not now repair the neglect.

2. Still you say natural affection impels a man to discharge the last offices of love. Yes; but there are reasons which justify a man in being absent from his father’s funeral. This was a very solemn and critical time. The man appears to have been selected as one of the seventy; and if he had gone home, he would have been detained some days by the ceremonial law; his purpose might have been weakened; so even in the hour of his grief he is commanded to do this great service,

3. “Let the dead bury their dead.” Does this show contempt for the unspiritual? No; our Lord never spoke with contemptuous indifference of such; it was his very eagerness that they should rise to a new and better life that led Him to call this man away.

4. The whole narrative suggests that critical moments in a man’s life bring critical duties. If God is near us now in a very special and solemn manner, then that principle enters our life and regulates our duty. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Following Christ


1. By following Christ the disciple is brought into a new relation.

2. At all times the religious relation is more important than the natural one.

(1) It is formed by the will and choice of the individual himself.

(2) It is wider in its sympathies.

(3) It is a relation which will never fail.


1. He has to learn of Him.

2. He has to suffer with Him.

3. He has to move on towards Him.


1. He has the most powerful incentive to work in this world. He has the most glorious hope with regard to the world to come. (H. C. Williams.)

Living preaching

When the Master gave the command, “Go thou and preach,” He meant “Go thou and shine; go thou and bear much fruit; go thou and do good; go thou and teach the poor; go thou and save the drunkard; go thou and heal the sick; go thou and witness for Me; go thou and live out this beautiful and sublime religion of the Cross.”

1. A life of obedience to Christ is the most effective way of glorifying our Saviour. It has been well styled “the strongest manifestation of God to the world.”

2. There is no other preaching of the Word that makes so many converts to the truth.

3. Every man is a preacher, and every life a sermon. What sort of a discourse are you making, you, and you, and you? (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Ways of preaching Jesus

There are a great many ways of preaching Jesus without standing in a pulpit. Wilberforce proclaimed the gospel of love on the floor of the British Parliament, though he never wore a surplice, and never had the ordained hand of a bishop on his honoured head. George Stewart was an apostle of the Cross when he organized a Christian mission for our soldiers’ camps during the civil war in America. John Macgregor was another when he gathered the shoeblack brigade in the streets of London. Hannah More preached Jesus in English drawing-rooms, and Elizabeth Fry in Newgate prison walls, and Sarah Filey amongst the negro freedmen of our Southern plantations. Sometimes God gives a single precept to a man to carry out, as when the Roman Catholic Father Matthew wrought grandly and gloriously for the reformation of Irish drunkards, and William Lothian for the recovery of poor lost women from the streets of Glasgow. Our Lord scatters His commissions with a munificent liberality. The “Dairyman’s Daughter” murmuring the voice of Jesus, till we heard it across the Atlantic; Hannah Burton testifying to the power of Christ to sustain her--all these were most effective preachers of the unsearchable riches of Christ. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Supremacy of duty

An officer who served under Stonewall Jackson, having gone to visit some relatives without applying for leave, was detained late at night by a severe rain-storm. About two o’clock in the morning, hearing a loud shouting at the gate of the house, he rose, and found his brother there with a message that he must report himself at daybreak. He returned immediately, through the drenching rain and mud, to find all quiet at the camp, and the captain not yet risen. Inquiring of the adjutant the meaning of the message, he received for reply: “That is to teach you that a soldier in the face of an enemy has no business away from his post.” (Mackay.)

Verses 61-62

Luke 9:61-62

Looking back--

Danger of religious indecision


This man wished to follow Christ, but there was something of more urgent necessity that must first be attended to. What folly, to put off attention to concerns of soul. Life is uncertain. Every delay is a step towards final impenitence.

2. The person who made this resolution, evidently made it in his own strength. Vain promise. Without grace we cannot follow Christ.

3. The resolution, when formed, seems to depend on the consent of his friends; for, though he speaks only of taking his leave, he probably wished to know whether they approved of the step he was about to take. Had he been influenced by proper motives, instead of leaving them behind, he would rather have endeavoured to bring them with him, to follow Jesus in the way.

4. Instead of following Christ cheerfully and with all his heart, he appeared somewhat dejected at the thought, and must go and take leave of his friends, as if he were about to die, and should see them no more. Such are the melancholy apprehensions which some persons entertain of true religion; they imagine it would be injurious to their worldly interest, and unfit them for the common duties and enjoyments of life, and that therefore they must take a final leave of the concerns of the present world.

5. By going home to his friends, he would expose himself to great temptation, and be in danger of breaking the resolution already formed.

(1) This subject may serve as a warning to those who trifle with the calls of the gospel. Here was a looking back, a lingering after the world, and Christ pronounces such to be unfit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

(2) Nothing but a decided attachment to Christ, and a determination to sacrifice all for His sake, can constitute us His disciples.

(3) Let us beware of the ensnaring influence of worldly connections, and of every inordinate affection; for these, rather than grosser evils, are the ordinary impediments to our salvation (Matthew 16:26). (Theological Sketch-book.)

“Lord, I will follow Thee: but”

Lord, I will follow Thee: but.”

First, here comes a man who says, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but I WANT A LITTLE MORE ENJOYMENT OUT OF LIFE BEFORE I BECOME A CHRISTIAN.” His notion is that religion is decidedly a melancholy affair, and that from the moment that he becomes a follower of Christ, he must bid adieu to all merriment and pleasure. Secretary Walsingham, an eminent statesman in the time of Queen Elizabeth, in the latter period of his life, retired to a quiet spot in the country. Some of his former gay associates came to him, and made the remark that he was now growing melancholy. “Not melancholy,” replied he, “but serious.” The mistake of those frivolous courtiers is precisely the mistake made by thousands, that of confounding seriousness with melancholy. The deepest joy is serious, and being serious is stable. Away with the notion that the pleasures of the world are denied to a believer!

The next objector comes forward and says, “Lord, I would follow Thee; but THE NATURE OF MY BUSINESS PREVENTS ME.” When Adam Clarke was a young man, his employer once bid him stretch short measure to make it enough; but his reply was, “Sir, I can’t do it; my conscience won’t allow me.” He lost his situation, but God found him another. It never pays in the long run to have God against you. It all depends on how your money comes to you, Whether it is better to have it or to want it. Be sure of this, that character and a good conscience are the best capital.

Number three starts up, and, in loud and self-asserting tones, proclaims that he has a mind to be religious, but DOES NOT FIND THAT CHRISTIANS ARE ANY BETTER TITAN OTHER PEOPLE. This is a polite way of hinting that they are possibly a little worse. I met with a case in point only the other day. I was visiting in the same house with a man who had been under deep religious impressions, and was “ almost persuaded,” but he had been repelled by the conduct of certain persons who bore the Christian name. “They were the most unprincipled fellows I ever knew, and their religion disgraced everything they touched.” Stop, my friend; say, their hypocrisy disgraced everything they touched.” To speak the truth, it was not their religion, but their want of religion, that made them the rogues and scamps they were.

“I would be a Christian,” says another, “but YOU KNOW ALL THESE THINGS ARE MATTERS OF MERE SPECULATION. WE CANNOT ARRIVE AT CERTAINTY ON THE SUBJECT OF RELIGION.” The objection is plausible, but it is shallow and insufficient.

1. The evidence in favour of Christianity is far stronger than that demanded in respect to other matters which you daily accept, and in which great interests are involved.

2. That evidence furnishes the fullest demonstration of which the nature of the subject admits.

I am only to name another objection, and it is perhaps the most insidious and fatal” of all. “Lord, I will follow Thee; but--THERE IS NO HURRY; THERE IS TIME ENOUGH.” Remember, a resolution like that, though it quiets conscience, is worth nothing. (J. T. Davidson, D. D.)

The broken column

When you have walked through a cemetery, you have frequently seen over a grave a broken column intended to memorialize the death of some one who was taken away in the prime of manhood, before as yet his life had come to its climax. I shall take that picture of the broken column to represent my text. It is a broken text. You expected me to go on and to conclude the sentence: I have broken it off abruptly. That broken column shall also represent the broken resolutions of full many who were once in a hopeful state. As if prepared to witness a good profession, they said, “Lord, I will follow Thee,” when there came a heavy blow from the withering hand of sin; and the column was broken short with a “but.” So let my text stand. I will not finish it. But so let not your determination stand. The Lord grant by His effectual grace that while you mourn with sincere grief the grave of many a fair resolve which never attained the maturity of true discipleship--cut off with the fatal “but” of indecision; you may now be quickened to newness of life. Thus you shall come to the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ. Thus, as a building fitly framed together and growing to completeness, you shall be made meet for a habitation of God through the Spirit. “Lord, I will follow Thee: but--.” How remarkably does Scripture prove to us that the mentalcharacteristics of mankind are the same now as in the Saviour’s day! We occasionally hear stories of old skeletons being dug up which are greater in stature than men of these times. Some credit the story, some do not, for there be many who maintain that the physical conformation of man is at this day just what it always was. Certainly, however, there can be no dispute whatever among observant men as to the identity of the inner nature of man. The gospel of Christ may well be an unchanging gospel, for it is a remedy which has to deal with an unaltering disease. The very same objections which were made to Christ in the days of His flesh are made to His gospel now. The same effects are produced under the ministry of Christ’s servants in these modern times as were produced by His own ministry. Still are the promised hopes which make glad the preacher’s heart, blasted and withered by the same blights and the same mildews which of old withered and blasted the prospects of the ministry during our Lord’s own personal sojourn in the world.

First, then TO EXPOSE YOUR OBJECTIONS. I cannot tell man by man, what may be the precise let that causes you to draw back, but perhaps, by giving a list, I may be directed to describe full many a case exactly, and with precision. Some there be who say, and seem very sincere in the utterance, “Lord, I would be a Christian, I would believe in Thee, and take up the cross and follow Thee, but my calling prevents it. Such is my state of life that piety would be to me an impossibility. I must live, and I cannot live by godliness, therefore I am to be excused for the present from following Christ.” “Yes, but,” saith another, “if it be not in our calling, yet in my case it is my peculiar position in providence. It is all very well for the minister, who has not to mingle with daily life, but can come up into his pulpit and pray and preach, to make little excuse for men; but I tell you, sir, if you knew how I was situated, you would say that I am quite excusable in postponing the thoughts of God and of eternity. You do not know what it is to have an ungodly husband, or to live in a family where you cannot carry out your convictions without meeting with persecution so ferocious and so incessant, that flesh and blood cannot endure it.” “Besides,” says another, “I am just now in such a peculiar crisis; it may be I have got into it by my sin, but I feel I cannot get out of it without sin. If I were once out of it, and could start again, and stand upon a new footing, then I might follow Christ.” “Yes,” says another, “I would follow Christ; I have often felt inclinations to do so; and I have had some longings after better things: but the way of Christ is too rough for me. It demands that I should give up pleasures which I really love.” “But,” saith another, “that is not my case. I can say I will follow Christ, but I am of such a volatile, changeable disposition, that I do not think I ever shall fulfil my purpose.”

Soul, thou who sayest, “I will follow Christ, but--,” I now come to EXPOSE THINE IGNORANCE AND THE ILL STATE OF THY HEART. Soul! thou hast as yet no true idea of what sin is. God the Holy Spirit has never opened thine eyes to see what an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God, or else there would be no “ buts.” Picture a man who has lost his way, who has sunk into a slough; the waters and the mire are come up to his very throat. He is about to sink in it, when some bright spirit comes, stepping over the treacherous bog, and puts forth to him his hand. That man, if he knows where he is, if he knows his uncomfortable and desperate state, will put out his hand at once. Again: soul, it seems plain to me that thou hast never yet been taught by the Holy Spirit what is thy state of condemnation. Thou hast never yet learnt that the wrath of God abideth on thee. What shall I say more? Yet this once again I will admonish thee. O thou procrastinating, objecting sinner, thou bast never known what heaven is, or else thou wouldst never have a “but.”

LET ME SHOW THEE THY SIN. When thou saidst, “But,” thou didst contradict thyself. The meaning of that rightly read is this, “Lord, I will not follow Thee.” That “but” of thine puts the negative on all the profession that went before it. I wish, my hearers, that this morning you would either be led by grace to say, “I will believe,” or else were permitted honestly to see the depravity and desperate hardness of your own hearts so as to say, “I will not believe in Christ.” It is because so many of you are neither this nor that, but halting between two opinions, that you are the hardest characters to deal with. I know a gentleman of considerable position in the world, who, after having been with me some little time, said, “Now that man is going away, and I shall be just what I was before”; for he had wept under the Word. He compared himself, he said, to a gutta-percha doll; he had got out of his old shape for a little while, but he would go back to what he was before. And how many there are of you of this kind. You will not say, “I will not have Christ”; you will not say, “I will not think of these things.” You dare not say, “I disbelieve the Bible,” or, “I think there is no God, and no hereafter”; but you say, “No doubt it is true, I’ll think of it by and by.” You never will, sinner, you never will, you will go on from day to day, harping that till your last day shall come, and you will be found then where you are now, unless sovereign grace prevent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Conditional discipleship

This third character, like the first, volunteers his declaration of attachment to the Saviour, appending to it a condition--“Lord, I will follow Thee, BUT let me first go bid them farewell, which are at my house.” But--ominous word, treacherous poison, undermining the best resolves, and spoiling the fairest speeches. It is said of Augustine that he used to say, “Lord, convert me, but not yet.” “Lord, I will follow Thee, But I am not yet good enough.” If this be the utterance of real humility, know thou that it is not unworthiness, but unwillingness that alone disqualifies us from following Jesus. It is unconditional determination that He demands. D’Aubigne, the great church historian, says that when he was a student at college, he was much beset by doubts and difficulties in relation to questions connected with Divine truth; and it was his wont to repair to an old Christian, in very humble life, whose rich experience had often served to help the young student. But at length, upon preferring some grave difficulty, D’Aubigne received an unexpected rebuff, for his aged friend replied, “Young man, I shall not answer anymore of these questions of yours. If I settle them one day, new perplexities arise the next day. The great question for you is--‘Do you mean to belong altogether to Christ?’” That is the shortest way of setting at rest these misgivings. Give yourselves to the Saviour, and He will smooth your path, and show the way. (W. G. Lewis.)

The danger of backward looks

This man was in the spirit of true discipleship, resolved to follow Jesus, and actually beginning it. But he felt a desire first to return to his relatives and give his last commission to them, and bid them farewell: “Lord, I will follow Thee; but suffer me first go bid them farewell that are at home at my house.” This request had something of a backward look in it; it indicated somewhat of a desire to trim between Christ and His kindred; at least there was a positive danger in it to the discipleship he had just avowed; for, once away from the Master’s side and among his own unbelieving kindred, he would be beset by them as to the step he was taking; he would be expostulated with and warned against it, and threateningly dissuaded from it; tears, entreaties, influences of all sorts would be brought to bear on him to turn him from his intent and keep him at home as he was wont to be. And then, perchance, his mind would waver, and his resolution become shaken, and his faith fail, or be much unfitted for the high calling of the gospel. This danger the Lord Jesus keenly perceived, and clearly points out: and, while not forbidding him from doing as he desired, yet warns him to beware: “No man,” etc., as if He said, “No man who follows Me can at the same time turn towards the world; if he do so he will fail in his following, perhaps in the way of it, certainly in the work of it. Such trimming is treason to Me, and shows those pursuing it unfit for My kingdom and work.” (J. Chalmers, M. A.)

Fatal delay

Some time since, in a little watering-place in the west of Scotland, I was pointed to a spot where, a few years ago, a sad and strange incident had occurred. Several workmen were engaged in calking the bottom of a vessel that had been drawn up on the sandy beach. On a sudden the cry was raised that the ship was listing over, and all the men started to their feet, and hastened to escape--all but one poor fellow, who was late in stirring, and the huge hulk fell upon him, imprisoning his lower extremities and loins, but leaving head and chest uninjured. At first it was thought there was little danger, for the ship rested gently on him, and the sand was soft. So they tried to shore up the vessel, and willing hands brought ropes, and blocks, and wedges, and earnest strength. But they soon discovered that the thing was impossible, from the nature of the bottom. The man was jammed there, and they could not extricate him. There was just one awful hour before the advancing tide would cover him. Oh! with what agonizing entreaty did he appeal to them to rescue him. It was too late. He saw the tide of death approaching, but he had not the power to rise and escape; and none could deliver him. Another hour; and as the vessel calmly rose and glided on the waters, the pale corpse floating in to shore seemed to preach the solemn lesson, that even a few moments’ delay may be fatal. And so has it happened with many a soul, that, trifling with his season of grace, has resolved to get up and follow Christ at some future day; but that day came, and he could not stir; all capacity for resolve had passed away; his heart was dead and motionless as a stone. If you have but half a desire then to follow Christ, let no “buts” block the way, those flimsy objections which drown so many in perdition, and make you the butt of Satan’s ridicule; but instantly arise, and say with Peter (though in a Divine strength that will not fail you), “Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” (J. T. Davidson, D. D.)

Danger of procrastination

A recent discovery at Pompeii has brought to light the fact of a priest fleeing from the temple when the warning came of the city’s approaching doom. But the treasures of the temple--why should he leave them? He is supposed to have returned to obtain them. Again he sets out, but had not proceeded far before the destruction came and he was lost. Had it not been for the treasures, his life had been spared.

Danger in delay

Caesar had a letter given him by Artimedorus the morning he went to the senate, wherein notice was given him of all the conspiracy of his murderers; so that with ease he might have prevented his death: but neglecting the reading of it, he was slain. What can be done today, therefore, delay not till to-morrow. (W. Buck.)

The virtue of perseverance


1. The unchangeableness of God.

2. The unchangeableness of Divine charity.

3. The nature of virtue.


1. Prayer.

2. Energy.

3. Frequent reception of the Holy Communion.

4. The remembrance of heaven. (Bishop Ehrler.)

The evil of looking back

This man offered himself, but his heart was not sufficiently loosened from the world.

1. His request. He offers himself to be a disciple of Christ, but with an exception--that he might take his farewell at home, and dispose of his estate there, and so secure his worldly interests. You will say, what harm in this request? Elijah granted it to Elisha (1 Kings 19:21). I answer--

(1) The evangelical ministry exceedeth the prophetical, both as to excellency and necessity, and must be gone about speedily without any delay. The harvest was great, and such an extraordinary work was not to be delayed nor interrupted.

(2) If two men do the same thing, it followeth not that they do it with the same mind. Things may be the same as to the substance or matter of the action, yet circumstances may be different. Christ knew this man’s heart, and could interpret the meaning of his desire to go home first.

(3) Those that followed Christ on these extraordinary calls were to leave all things they had, without any further care about them (Matthew 19:21; Matthew 4:19-20; Matthew 9:9). Therefore it was preposterous for this man to desire to go home to order and dispose of his estate and family, before he complied with his call.

(4) In resolution, estimation, and vow, the same is required of all Christians, when Christ’s work calleth for it--“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33).

2. Christ’s answer, which consists of a similitude, and its interpretation joined together.

(1) The metaphor or similitude. Taken from ploughmen, who cannot make straight furrows if they look back. So, to look back, after we have undertaken Christ’s yoke and service, rendereth us unfit for the kingdom of God. Putting our hands to the plough is to undertake Christ’s work, or to resolve to be His disciples. Looking back denotes a hankering of mind after the world, and also a return to the worldly life.

For, first we look back, and then we go back.

1. Upon what occasions we may be said to look back. A double pair I shall mention. The first sort of those:

(1) That pretend to follow Christ, and yet their hearts hanker after the world, the cares, pleasures, and vain pomp thereof.

(2) When men are discouraged in His service by troubles and difficulties, and so, after a forward profession, all cometh to nothing--“If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38). The former is looking back, and this is drawing back. The one arises out of the other; all their former zeal and courage is lost, they are affrighted and driven out of their profession, and relapse into the errors they have escaped. There is a looking back with respect to mortification, and a looking back with respect to vivification.

(a) With respect to mortification, which is the first part of conversion. So we must not look back, or mind anything behind us, which may turn us back, and stop us in our course.

(b) With respect to vivification, or progress in the duties of the holy and heavenly life. So the apostle telleth us--“But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13), etc. Farther progress in holiness is the one thing that we should mind, and that above all other things.

2. How ill it becometh those that have put their hands to the spiritual plough.

(1) In respect of the covenant into which they enter, or the manner of entrance into it, which is by a fixed unbounded resignation of themselves unto God. Till this be done, we are but half Christians.

(2) With respect to the duties of Christianity, or that part of the kingdom of God which concerneth your obedience to Him, you are never fit for these while the heart cleaveth to earthly things, and you are still hankering after the world. A threefold defect there will be in our duties.

(a) They will be unpleasant.

(b) They will he inconstant.

(c) Imperfect in such a degree as to want sincerity.

(3) In respect of the hurt that cometh from their looking back, both to themselves and to religion.

(4) With respect to the disproportion that is between the things that tempt us to look back, and those things that are set before us.

(a) The things that tempt us to look back are the pleasures of sin and the profits of the world. Both are but a temporary enjoymentHebrews 11:25; Hebrews 11:25).

(b) The things that are before you are God and heaven; reconciliation with God, and the everlasting fruition of Him in glory. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The danger of looking back

Many seem disposed to follow Christ, and yet are kept back by their domestic and worldly affairs.

The concerns of religion are so very important, that they admit no excuse nor delay.

1. Religion is the most important concern, infinitely more so than any domestic and worldly concern.

2. Worldly business is no excuse for neglecting religion, because both may go on together, if a man will “guide his affairs with discretion.”

3. To this I add--that business and domestic affairs will flourish the better, if religion be minded as the principal thing.

Those who have engaged in the service of Christ, must be resolute and persevere to the end. Application:

1. How lamentable is the con duct of mankind in general; so widely different from the maxims of our Lord and Master.

2. What great need have we to watch over ourselves, lest domestic affairs hinder us in religion.

3. Let us be solicitous to persevere to the end. (J. Orion.)

Christ demands decision in religion


1. All are interested in reaping the advantages of it.

2. All must alike feel the sad consequences of neglecting it.

3. It is a work that requires immediate attention.

WHEN WE TAKE UP RELIGION WE MUST GO ON WITH IT, and never allow ourselves to be diverted from our object by any worldly considerations. We must be determined to serve Christ faithfully, to serve Him above all, and to serve Him for ever. No reservation; no division of affection or interest between Christ and other things.


Fatal significance of a hind look

The professed Christian, to demonstrate his sincerity, to do his work effectually, and to prove his adaptedness for a higher sphere, must keep his face Zionward. Because, if he looks back, he shows--

1. That he is not deeply interested and fully occupied by the employment in which he is professedly engaged.

2. That the ties of his earthly relationships are stronger than those which bind him to heavenly things.

3. That he has surrendered himself to temptation. Conclusion: As the first look to Christ and the first step towards the Cross are encouraging and hopeful, so the first look away from the Saviour and the first step aside from the path of duty are discouraging, dangerous, appalling. Apostasy is thus reached by an accelerating motion. (Anon.)

Spiritual ploughing

Life is here figured as a field which God has set us to plough.

Upon it THREE CLASSES OF MEN appear.

1. There are those who move without regard to their orders or their duty. Their purpose is to live as easily and pleasantly as possible. They mean to enjoy the present; to enjoy virtuously, if that may be, but to enjoy. What questions may be asked them by and by, they refuse to consider. Of such the text says nothing.

2. There are others trying to plough with their eyes behind them. They have seized the plough in order to be drawn by it to heaven. But they have found life no summer sea over which they can be carried smoothly gliding. They have found it an unbroken prairie that must be ploughed as it is passed. They are continually tripped and thrown by unexpected obstacles. They do not find the joy they crave. When demands upon their energies increase, they are disturbed. When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, “by and by they are offended.” Thus they learn by sad experience that religion which is not wings is always chains.

3. But there are men who begin and continue the Christian life as the instructed ploughman runs his furrow.

Let us mark THREE POINTS IN THE MASTER’S ILLUSTRATION which give reply to certain questions often asked of Christians by the world, by their own hearts, by the Holy Spirit.

1. Why does God’s kingdom come so slowly? Why is the Church not stronger? One could scarcely glance upon the ploughman at his work, remembering Christ’s words the while, and ask these questions twice. The marvel would rather seem to be that the kingdom does increase. Survey the field of Christian ploughmen. Some are absorbed in watching and in criticising other people’s furrows. Some are gazing back upon their own, recalling past experiences, at times anxiously, which is bad; at times proudly, which is worse. How few are eagerly alert to the work they themselves are set to do I How few are even sure that they have furrows to plough!

2. The Lord’s words bring an answer to another question of serious practical import. It is said the Church is losing, if she has not already lost, her hold upon young men. Yet in our Lord’s lifetime it was the young and the strong whom He attracted to Him and gathered round Him. Why is it not so now? Is not an answer found in this, that we no longer preach Him with the old heroic ring? All are not mourners. All are not heavy-laden. There are many who carry life as a hunter bears his gun through an unflushed preserve. Has Christ no words for them? Ay, verily! But how rarely are those words repeated? In the New Testament the Christian is painted, not as one flying from a doomed city, but as a stalwart farmer ploughing the old growths of the old world, until visions of a new earth no less than of a new heaven fill his horizon.

3. One other question presses upon many who read the text. “Let me first go bid them farewell which are at home, at my house.” Was the Master’s reply intended to rebuke the disciple for loving his family--to teach him not to care for wife and child? Altogether the reverse, I think. The man assumed that to follow Christ was to forsake his family. It was the fatal blunder made by most Christians some centuries later, when they conceived that to run away from their duties, and try to save their souls by hiding in caverns or monasteries, without a thought of the world their Master came to deliver, was the proper way to obey Him. To grant the man’s request would have confirmed him in his error. It was needful to teach him that he could effectually care for wife and child only by following with unswerving gaze and unfaltering foot the Lord who gave them to him. No man ever obeyed Christ in singleness of heart without discovering that fact. This disciple, if he obeyed, learned it in due time, and learned it effectually, though when or how he learned it we are not told. (W. B.Wright.)

No looking back

The Saviour’s reply to this man embodies a great principle which regulates the Christian life. As though He said, The meanest occupation in life demands of men fixedness of attention and devotedness of purpose. The ploughman, the oarsman, the helmsman, the engineman, must each have the fixed eye, and so must the Christian man, Without perseverance there is no success in worldly undertakings, and without this not the most resplendent grace can bring a man to heaven. Some turn back at the very commencement of the pilgrimage. The figure of the plough points out the fact to us that labour for Christ is the law of the kingdom. (W. G, Lewis.)

Danger of trifling with religious impressions

While the Holy Spirit pleads with us, when conscience wakes and talks with us, let none of us trifle with the impressions that are made. There is no process so perilous as that by which men come into familiarity with Gospel truth, and go away partially enlightened and imperfectly convinced. How many there are who, like the three men we have been considering, come near to Christ, but are only almost saved. The northern steel is hardened by alternate exposure to heat and cold, and thus often are men’s hearts indurated. They come into the warm atmosphere of the public means of grace, and go out into the world to become less and less approachable by Divine truth. There are not a few who have outlived all power of susceptibility to God’s Word. They could not shed a tear over sin if they would. (W. G, Lewis.)

Putting the hand to the plough

To put the hand to the plough, is to enter ostensibly upon some undertaking, to embark in some pursuit with an apparent purpose of securing its object; and to look back, implies that divided state of mind, and that irresoluteness of purpose which are a virtual abandonment of the end proposed, and are, therefore, fatal to success. We are thus taught that a wavering and undetermined state of mind in religion is as fatal as it is in any other pursuit, that it can never form that character which qualifies for the kingdom of God.

Among those who, in the language of the text, put the hand to the plough and look back may be mentioned the following classes.

1. Those who would become religious were it not that they wish first to secure some worldly good.

2. The same thing is true of those who are prevented from coming to a decided purpose in religion by certain embarrassments and difficulties.

3. The same thing is true of those who, in times of deep affliction, sudden danger, or alarming sickness, have formed resolutions to become religious, and who abandon them on a change of circumstances.

4. The same charge lies against those who have been the subjects of special religious awakening, and who afterward return to stupidity in sin.

Its utter insufficiency to form the Christian character.

1. An undecided purpose in religion is sure, sooner or later, to abandon its object.

2. An undecided, fluctuating purpose in religion greatly impairs the energies of the mind, and thus defeats its object.

3. That an undecided purpose in religion cannot form the Christian character, is evident from the fact that it still leaves the soul as completely under the dominion of sin as if it had no existence.

4. An undecided purpose in religion grieves the Holy Ghost and fearfully exposes to judicial abandonment of God. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

Crooked ploughing

It seems a very easy process to a man who has never tried, as he stands looking over the fence and sees the plough glide smoothly through the field. One would think all you have to do, would be to take hold of the handles and put the point of the coulter in the sod, and then tell the horses to start; but to send the plough through at equal depth of earth, and, without being stopped by stone or stump, make a clear, straight furrow from one end to the other, requires a good deal of care. Many a one has lost his patience in the process, and when he first began to plough, has been knocked flat by the plough handles. Here is a boy that attempts to plough, but instead of keeping his eye on the beam of the plough or on the horses that are dragging the plough, he is looking this way and that, sometimes looking back to the end of the field from which he started. The husbandman comes down in the field and says: “My boy, you will never make a ploughman in that way. You must keep your eye on your work, or I shall discharge you, and put some one else in your place. See here, what a crooked furrow you have been making.” Now it is this illustration that Christ presents in order to show up the folly of that man who, once having started toward heaven, is averted this way and that, often looking back to the place from which he started. (Dr. Talmage.)


If you can dismiss from your minds the figure of the modern farmer, with his polished ploughshare leaving the deep, clean furrow in its wake, and put in its place the figure out of which Jesus made this little picture--the Eastern ploughman doubled over the pointed stick which serves as a plough--you will see at once how vividly the absurdity of a man’s ploughing and looking behind him at the same time would have impressed Christ’s hearers. Even a modern ploughman, with the best modern plough, will make sad work if he do not keep his eyes straight before him. Anyway, that is true of ploughing which is true of any other kind of work. One whose interest is half in front and half behind him will be only a half-way man in anything to which he may set his hand. All good work requires concentration. No good work is done into which a man does not throw himself wholly. A man cannot plough, and be looking behind him half the time. Such a man is not fit for a ploughman. You say, Of course not. That is a law of all good work, that a man cannot do it well with half his attention; but why not, then, a law of work and life in the kingdom of God? We have a great deal yet to learn about the words of Christ; and one of the most important things is, that these apparently commonplace truths and familiar laws which He so often cites are merely sides, or ends if you please, of truths and laws which hold in the whole spiritual world. It is not, that, in this little picture of an incompetent farmhand Christ gives us something like a law of the kingdom of God. He states the law itself. Good work requires the entire committal of the worker. It is the law of Christian service and of ploughing alike. It is this fact which lifts utterances like our text out of the region of commonplace. They seem commonplace where they touch us, but their line runs out to truths which are not commonplace. The law of the plough followed up appears as the law of the kingdom of God. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

Reasons why men look back from the plough

1. I remark, that many surrender their religious impressions because, like this man in the text, they do not want to give up their friends and connections. The probability is that the majority of your friends are not true Christians.

2. Again, I remark, that sometimes people surrender their religious impressions because they want to take one more look at sin. They resolved that they would give up sinful indulgences, but they have been hankering for them ever since, thirsty for them, and finally they conclude to go into them. So there is a man who, under the influence of the Spirit, resolved he would become a Christian, and as a preliminary step he ceases profanity. That was the temptation and the sin of his life. After awhile be says: “I don’t know as it’s worth while for me to be curbing my temper at all times--to be so particular about my speech. Some of the most distinguishedmen in the world have been profane. Benjamin Wade swears, Stephen A. Douglass used to swear, General Jackson swore at the battle of New Orleans, and if men like that swear, I can; and I am not responsible anyhow for what I do when I get provoked.” And so the man who, resolving on heaven, quits his profanity, goes back to it. In other words, as the Bible describes it, “the dog returns to its vomit again, and the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Oh, my friends, there are ten thousand witcheries which, after a man has started for heaven, compel him to look back.

3. I remark, again, there are many who surrender their religious impressions because they want ease from spiritual anxiety. They have been talking about their immortal soul, they have been wondering about the day of judgment, they have been troubling themselves abort a great many questions in regard to religion, and they do not find peace immediately, and they Say, “Here, I’ll give it all up. I will not be bothered any more”; and so they get rest; but it is the rest of the drowning man who, after half an hour battling with the waves, says, “There’s no use; I can’t swim ashore; I’ll drown”; and he goes down. Oh, we do not hide the fact that to become a Christian demands the gathering up of all the energies of the soul. (Dr. Talmage.)

No retreat

When Garibaldi sailed from Genoa in 1860, to deliver Sicily from its oppressors, he took with him a thousand volunteers. They landed at Marsala almost in the face of the Neapolitan fleet. When the commander of Marsala, returning to the port, saw two steamers, he gave immediate orders to destroy them. Garibaldi, having landed his men, looked with indifference, almost with pleasure, upon their destruction. “Our retreat is cut off,” he said exultingly to his soldiers; “we have no hope but in going forward; it is to death or victory.” Which it proved to be we know full well, the brave hero soon returning as complete conqueror.

No retreat possible to the Christian soldier

Among the prisoners taken captive at Waterloo there was a Highland piper. Napoleon, struck with his mountain dress and sinewy limbs, asked him to play on his instrument, which is said to sound so delightfully in the mountains and glens in Scotland. “Play a pibroch,” said Napoleon; and the Highlander played. “Play a march”; it was done. “Play a retreat.” “Na, na,” said the Highlander, “I never learned to play a retreat.”

Never look back

In the East, when men or women leave their house, they never look back, as “it would be very unfortunate.” Should a husband have left anything which his wife knows he will require, she will not call on him to turn or look back; but will either take the article herself or send it by another. Should a man have to look back on some great emergency, he will not then proceed on the business he was about to transact. When a person goes along the road (especially in the evening) he will take care not to look back, “because the evil spirits will assuredly seize him.” When they go on a journey, they will not look behind, though the palan-keen, or bandy, should be close upon them; they step a little on one side, and then look at you. Should a person have to leave the house of a friend after sunset, he will be advised in going home not to look back: “as much as possible keep your eyes closed; fear not.” Has a person made an offering to the evil spirits? he must take particular care when he leaves the place not to look back. A female known to me is believed to have got her crooked neck by looking back. Such observations as the following may be heard in private conversation:--“Have you heard that the Camaran is very ill?” “No; what is the matter with him?” “Matter I why, he has looked back, and the evil spirit has caught him.”

Sermon to young men

A noble resolution frustrated by a “but”! A life full of promise and of hope broken off by a “but”! A crown lost, a kingdom forfeited, an eternity marred by a “but”! A “but” was this man’s ruin, and it may be also yours. I take it in this way, that each one present who is not following Christ may write in his or her own objection.

1. It is possible that with some of you the worldly life seems preferable on the score of pleasure.

2. Or you perhaps say: “At present I am so absorbed in business that I have no time to follow Christ.”

3. Or perhaps that which has kept you back is fear of the reproach or the scorn of others.

4. Or you have formed an intention to follow Christ, but not now. “Let me first go,” dec. Any excuse that will save you from immediate decision! What, think you, is peopling the regions of the lost? Is it crime? No. It is simple neglect of the gospel. Satan asks no more than that you should neglect it. He seeks not that you shall blaspheme it, or that you shall disbelieve it, or that you shall neglect and despise it. He only asks that you will neglect it. If you will only say, “Lord, I will follow Thee, but “ that is all he wants. (H. Wonnacott.)


I will follow Thee, but--

1. Not yet.

2. I will let no one know it (Mark 8:38).

3. I will see how others go (Psalms 42:4).

4. There are so many ways (John 14:6).

5. I have not sufficient conviction (Acts 24:25).

6. I must make myself better (Matthew 9:13).

7. I do not know how (Acts 16:31).

8. It will affect my worldly position (Matthew 16:26).

9. I shall lose my situation (Matthew 6:24).

10. The doctrine of election stands in my way (Hebrews 7:25).

11. I am not certain that Thou wilt forgive and receive me

Jeremiah 31:34).

12. I cannot do certain things which a profession of religion requires of me (Mark 10:21-22).

13. I will wait God’s time (2 Corinthians 6:2).

14. I have not the heart to do it (Psalms 34:18).


1. The propensity of an awakened sinner is to put off conviction day after day.

2. The excuses and promises of the sinner are to ease his conscience.

3. Excuses are enough to prevent submission.

4. Are you ready to cast yourselves into the arms of Jesus Christ? (E. Schnadhorst.)

The power of a “but”

MANY ARE CONTINUALLY SAYING, “LORD, I WILL FOLLOW THEE,” WHO YET DO NOT FOLLOW CHRIST. They have a reverence for sacred things; their head-belief is scriptural and unhesitating; they know both that their lives are wrong and their hearts sinful, and the remedy for the evil; but there is always something in the way of their present decision.


1. With some, as with the man of the text, natural ties. “Let me first go and bid them farewell which are at home at my house.” “A very natural wish!” you say. And so in some circumstances it would be. When Elijah summoned Elisha to follow him, the son of Shaphat said: “Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.” And the prophet, stern man though he was, assented (1 Kings 19:19-20). Why then does Christ act so differently on a similar occasion? We may conjecture that Elisha’s parents would be rather gratified than otherwise that their son should become the servant of the great prophet. The parents of this man who came to Christ, on the other hand, would not, it may be, feel that it was any advance or promotion for their son to give up his occupation and follow the fortunes of the poor carpenter’s son. Christ may then have apprehended that if the man returned home he would never come back, deterred from doing so by the persuasions of his relatives. Elisha was called from the plough to follow the prophets; this man was called from his occupation to put his hand to the plough. “Oh, but it was the gospel-plough,” you say. Yes, but gospel-ploughing was not popular in those days. But whatever it was that rendered this man’s temporary return home a probably permanent one, whatever it was that made it perilous to his spiritual interests to go and bid farewell to his parents, I gather from Christ’s rebuke that it was something which the man knew and knowing, did not consider as he ought. We may be sure that for him to do as he proposed would have been actually to prefer his relatives to Christ, the lesser duty to the larger, his affection to Christ’s claim. Do natural ties ever keep us from following Christ? I am afraid that, in some cases, they do. Unbelieving wife or husband; worldly parent, scoffing brother or sister.

2. Plea of being too young yet.

3. Worldly preoccupations. Must “ get on” in business, provide for family and old age. As if it was not possible to be both diligent in business and fervent in spirit. No man has a right to barter his soul for worldly gain.

“CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE.” Let there be no hindering “but.” Christ suffered no “ but” to come between Him and the fulfilment of His loving purposes for our redemption. Shall we hesitate to follow Him when He bids us? (J. R. Bailey.)


A man’s work is what his will is. If he throws his will into his work, it will be done. If his heart and will are not in his work, it will be but half done. “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

WHAT IS PERSEVERANCE? It is holding out steadily to the end. The question is of two kinds:

1. Active perseverance. The availing ourselves of the lights of truth when we see them.

2. Passive perseverance. When there is perseverance on our part there is also perseverance on God’s part. Perseverance on God’s part a sovereign gift which we cannot merit.

3. This gift of perseverance consists of three things:

(a) The special guidance of God to guard us from running into temptation;

(b) God will guard those whom He guides;

(c) the continual renewal of God’s grace.

How IS PERSEVERANCE LOST? One mortal sin will destroy it. There are sins which are not considered deadly which are in reality more deadly because they contain more subtle poison, e.g., pride, jealousy, anger, sloth.

HOW IS PERSEVERANCE TO BE SUSTAINED? By fidelity to the voice of conscience; by maintaining a delicacy of conscience.

1. Dwell much upon God’s love to you.

2. Meditate upon those who have fallen.

3. Learn that there must be a strong, fervent will throwing itself into perseverance. (Cardinal Manning.)

The plough and the kingdom

The picture of a slouching plough man is the form into which our Lord throws the lesson of the closing section of this chapter.

1. The first man, an enthusiastic volunteer, had conceived of no difficulty in the case. Nevertheless, our Lord will not let a man enter His service without a full knowledge of its conditions. The man shall never have it to say that he was entrapped into sacrifices and labours upon which he did not count.

2. The next man is a ready man, like the first, but a more cautious man. No one would be more ready than Christ to acknowledge such a claim as he urged. But this case was peculiar. When a community, in the old colonial days, was suddenly attacked by the Indians, every man must drop everything else, and go out to repel the savages. He must leave his team unyoked in the field, his plough in the furrow, his sick wife in the house, his dead child or father unburied, and seize his gun, and take his place in the ranks. You are to remember further that this was the man’s only chance to attach himself to Jesus. The Lord was going forth from Galilee to return no more. According to the Jewish law, the pollution from the presence of a dead body lasted seven days. By that time the man’s first enthusiasm would have become chilled, and Jesus would be out of reach. The man evidently thought that it was only a question of a little delay in following Christ; Jesus knew that it was a question of following Him now or never.

3. Then comes a third. He offers himself also; but he, too, is not ready to go at once. He wants to go home and take leave of his family and friends. And in this case, as in the last, Christ assumes that there is a moral crisis. He must decide promptly; and if he decides to follow Christ, he must promptly forsake all, once for all, and follow Him. Christ says to Him, in effect,

“If you go after me, the course is straightforward. If part of your heart is left behind with friends and home and old associations, it is of no use for you to go. You are not fit for the kingdom of God, any more than a man is fit to plough a field who is constantly turning from his plough and his team to look backward.”

1. The lesson of the text is that of committal--the truth, that to follow Christ is to commit one’s self wholly and irrevocably to Christ. This law of entire committal is familiar enough to us in its worldly applications. When you choose a calling in life, it is said of you, “He is going to devote his life to business, or to law, or to medicine.”

2. As a consequence, when you enter your plough in this spirit of entire committal, you agree to take whatever comes in the line of your ploughing, and to plough through it, or round it, and in no case to turn back because of it. The kingdom of God is full of surprises, and you will come upon a good many unexpected things, and hard as they are unexpected. There are curved as well as straight lines in God’s plans, ends reached by indirection as well as directly. A farmer likes to cut straight furrows, but God is more concerned about our making a fruitful field than a handsome one. Any way, straight or crooked, you commit yourself to what comes. God selects the field for us with its conditions; rocks in one man’s field, stumps in another’s. Last week there came into my study a pastor of many years’ standing--a faithful, able, useful servant of God. He told me of sickness and prostration, of burdens lifted in struggling churches, of divisions and dissensions among his people, of final success; and he brought down his hand with emphasis as he said, “I have learned this one thing through it all, that God’s work is bound to go on any way; and that the only thing for us to do is to stand in our place and do our work whatever comes.” My brethren, you all know something about this in your own lives. You have all felt the jar when the plough struck a stone. Not one of you has been able to make straight furrows always. But there is no such thing as failure of faithful work in God’s kingdom. And the simple reason of that is because it is in God’s kingdom, and not man’s.

3. The text presents us with a question of the present, a present responsibility. It is not a question whether you will be fit for heaven by and by, but whether, by absolute and entire committal to Christ, you are fit for the service of the kingdom here and now. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

Christ required implicit consecration, with no mental reservation, no hankering after the old manner of life. (J. P. Thompson.)

Prompt decision

Father Taylor, the sailor preacher, was brought up in a place near the city of Richmond (United States) by a lady to whom he had been given in charge. One day, when he was about seven years old, he was picking up chips for his foster-mother, when a sea captain passed by and asked him if he did not wish to be a sailor. He jumped at the offer, never finished picking up his chips nor returned into the house to bid his friends good-bye, but gave himself to the stranger without fear or thought. As a sailor he underwent many hardships, being at one time a prisoner of war in England; and he finally became, and was for over forty years, pastor of the Seamen’s Bethel, Boston, and an eminent and useful preacher. (Biblical Treasury.)

Duty permits no deliberation

Nero once tried to disgrace some of the great Roman nobles to as low a level as his own by making them appear as actors in the arena or on the stage. To the Roman noble such an appearance was regarded as the extremest shame and disgrace. Yet to disobey the order was death. The noble Florus was bidden thus to appear in the arena; and doubtful whether to obey or not, consulted the virtuous and religious Agrippinus. “Go, by all means,” replied Agrippinus. “Well, but,” replied Florus, “you yourself faced death rather than obey.” “Yes,” answered Agrippinus; “because I did not deliberate about it.” The categorical, imperative “you must,” the negative prohibition of duty, must be implicitly, unquestioningly, and deliberately obeyed. To deliberate about it is to be a secret traitor, and the line which separates the secret traitor from the open rebel is thin as the spider’s web. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Making a way to return

About the time of the reformation a certain bishop who had embraced the new doctrines, and to whom it was therefore of no use, presented a relic (a dead man’s toe) to the Church at St. Nicholas, Switzerland. He made the present conditionally with the power of resuming it if he should return to his old ways. (Sir John Forbes.)

Looking back

The son of Carey, the Indian missionary, went to Burmah-as a missionary, but there he became an ambassador for the Burmese king. He then lived in great worldly pomp and state, but his father mourned that he had so demeaned himself as to stoop from being God’s ambassador to be the ambassador of an Eastern king. All worldly things are only like the shadows of a dream; there is nothing substantial about them. But the honour and blessings which come from God are satisfying and abiding. (H. R. Burton.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/luke-9.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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